Antedating of "tree hugger" (1965)

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sat Apr 24 02:51:06 UTC 2004

> > But this AP story out of Chicago was ahead of its time.
> >
> > Seeing as how the Chicago papers haven't been digitized, we turn to the
> >
> > 10 Sept. 1965 Appleton(Wi) _Post Crescent_  1/4-5(Newspaperarchive)
> >
> >  <<The battle was between the tree huggers and the city./The
> > city won, 100-0./Conservationist Stuart Chase describes the
> > holding action on the lakefront Thursday:/They started up
> > their chain saws and, with blades whirring, charged at us
> > and cut the trees off right on top of us.  They tried to
> > drop trees on people and waved whirling chain saws at
> > everybody.  If people had been chained to the trees, they
> > would have been cut in half.>>
>Are you sure this date is accurate? The story doesn't seem
>at all like something from 1965, vocabulary aside.

1965 is right and the story appears in several papers on-line.

But "tree huggers" here may not refer metaphorically to "ardent
conservationists" or whatever as we might expect now. These tree huggers
were apparently actually hugging the trees and otherwise getting close to
the trees to discourage the cutting, as I read the item. I suppose this is
the origin of the modern sense?

The literal "hugging" of a tree is nothing new and the on-line papers
provide several pre-1900 examples of "hug a tree", apparently referring to
a man hiding next to a tree or clinging to a tree. I see one item about the
scandalous "hug-and-jump polka" from 1879: "The gentleman stands directly
in front of the lady, puts his right arm clear around her and hugs her as
close as a bear could hug a tree."

-- Doug Wilson

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