John Lanzel Kaul, biography c. 1906
[American Lumberman magazine]
  Source: American Lumberman. The Personal History and Public and Business Achievements of One Hundred Eminent Lumbermen of the United States, Third Series. Chicago: American Lumberman, 1906. pp. 265-268. Original courtesy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Texas Transportation Archive
John L. Kaul

The exploitation of a certain wood, or, in other words, the education of a greater number of consumers to its uses, has been the means of bringing honor and reward to many lumbermen. Within the last generation yellow pine, once neglected in the domestic trade, outside of the immediate territory in which it grows, has been given deserved recognition for its utility and has been classed with other woods long considered unequaled. One of the men —and a comparatively young man, at that —who has contributed much to the advancement of yellow pine as a commodity is John Lanzel Kaul, of Birmingham, Alabama.

A half century ago members of the Kaul family became identified with lumbering operations in Pennsylvania, and the younger generation has carried on the business in later years in the South country. John L. Kaul's father, Andrew Kaul, was a conspicuous and successful figure in lumber operations in the Keystone State, where he began in the industry as a woodsman shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War. The son was born October 9, 1866, near St. Marys, Elk County, at the headwaters of the Allegheny River and near the summit of the Allegheny Mountains. His mother was Walburga (Lanzel) Kaul. The home of the family was near a small mill operated by the senior Kaul, its equipment consisting of an old fashioned gang and mulay saw. In this atmosphere of lumbering John L. Kaul was reared, a God-fearing, conscientious and ambitious youth. Like all boys he was eager to take up life's active work, so his father gratified his desire by placing him in the mill when he was but fifteen years old. But a year of work and his association with men of affairs brought home to the boy the realization of his lack of education. With the consent of his father, who was ambitious for the future of his son, young Kaul went to Rock Hill College, at Baltimore, where he studied for four years and supplemented this with a business course at a Poughkeepsie college.

Although scarcely of manhood's estate, Mr. Kaul was given a position in the office of Kaul & Hall, of which firm his father was a member. His college course had prepared him for a quick mastery of the details of the accounting end of the business. He essayed larger responsibilities and more active work in the conduct of the manufacturing business as then carried on. About 1888 he was placed in charge of the lumbering operations of a hardwood mill owned by his father in the vicinity of St. Marys. For a year he managed this work with credit to himself, but even wider opportunities for the exercise of his abilities were to be presented. The timber supply in the western part of Pennsylvania was diminishing to such an extent that another location for the carrying on of the business had to be found. In 1889 Mr. Kaul started on a prospecting trip through the southern coast states for the purpose of finding a suitable tract of timber for investment and development. Several available tracts were found, but it was not until 1890 that Mr. Kaul secured the desired opportunity for an operative investment.

It was in this year that he bought a one-fourth interest in the Sample Lumber Company, at Hollins, Alabama, becoming secretary and treasurer of the concern. The mill operated had an annual capacity of about 12,000,000 feet, while approximately 150,000,000 feet of timber was owned. Here it was that Mr. Kaul received his training in the southern lumber business and realized the possibilities and future of yellow pine.

In 1891, after Mr. Kaul had become identified with the Sample Lumber Company, the holdings of Blanchard, Humber & Co., of Columbus, Georgia, in the Sample company were bought by him in connection with A. Truman, which gave each of them a one-half interest in the stock. A year later Mr. Truman's interest was bought by Mr. Kaul and the concern was renamed the Kaul Lumber Company, three-fourths of the stock of which is held by Mr. Kaul.

Following the reorganization of the company the plant was modernized by the installation of new and additional machinery, increasing the capacity so that by 1900 it was 40,000,000 feet annually. Standing timber aggregating 350,000,000 feet already was owned, and additional investments were made in yellow pine stumpage for the purpose of ensuring a longer life for the mill. Altogether, 800,000,000 additional feet of timber was bought in the name of the Kaul Land & Lumber Company, of which Mr. Kaul is president. This timber is located on the Black Warrior River, in Bibb, Perry and Tuscaloosa counties, Alabama. The timber holdings now exceed 1,000,000,000 feet.

With the Kaul Lumber Company running in good shape, Mr. Kaul, with other well-informed men, began missionary work in the interest of yellow pine lumber in the North. The purpose was to set forth the great value of yellow pine for all uses and to establish a firmer reputation for it than it had ever before enjoyed. At the time this work was started, more than a decade ago, longleaf pine lumber had a comparatively limited field. By persistent efforts along educational lines, suggested by Mr. Kaul and the others interested, many prejudices existing in the northern markets against this wood were eliminated. Mr. Kaul became one of the warmest supporters of the work of the Southern Lumber Manufacturers' Association, serving for several years as vice president for Alabama, and also as a member of the board of directors. He not only gave his moral support to the organization, but aided it financially. That his efforts were appreciated and his ability admitted was acknowledged in his selection for president of the association at the annual meeting held in New Orleans, Louisiana, in January, 1906, at which meeting the organization was given the more distinctive title of the "Yellow Pine Manufacturers' Association."

One of Mr. Kaul's ability and progressiveness was bound to make his mark, in the commercial world of the South. He has become interested in many business enterprises apart from his lumber manufacturing and timber holding operations. He is prominently connected with coal mining interests in Alabama and with other operations of a miscellaneous nature. He is a stockholder and director of the First National Bank of Birmingham, one of the leading financial institutions of the South with a capital of $1,000,000 and a surplus of $500,000. With all his aggressiveness, Mr. Kaul's moves have much of the conservativeness of the North about them, and he is of that type of men to whom the South owes much of its recent prosperity and development.

Mr. Kaul married Miss Virginia Roy Head, a daughter of Judge Head, of Birmingham, a member of the State Supreme Court, on June 18, 1901. Two children have been born of this union, one of whom, a daughter, is living.

Mr. Kaul is of a social disposition. He is a member of many clubs, among them being the Country and the Southern clubs. He is a Hoo-Hoo, having been initiated in the order at a time when its membership was less than 1,000.

Everything pertaining to the welfare of lumbermen and the upbuilding of lumbering has the interest and support of Mr. Kaul. In consideration of his valuable services in other lines he was chosen a member of the executive committee entrusted with the task of raising a fund for the endowment of a chair of applied forestry and practical lumbering in Yale University. Another honor which came to him unsolicited, marking another tribute to his interest in such matters, was his election as vice president of the American Forest Congress. Mr. Kaul himself is a practical lumberman, but the theoretical side appeals to him as well, and anything that tends to conserve the timber of this country enlists his ready sympathy and support.

Text and images were digitized and proofread from the original source documents by Murry Hammond. Contact Murry for all corrections and contributions of new material.