About the Potlatch Lumber Company Photograph Collection


The Potlatch Lumber Company in Potlatch, Idaho, was incorporated in 1903 with Charles Weyerhaeuser named as its first president. It acquired mills in Colfax, Washington and Palouse, Washington before building the largest white pine mill in the world at the Potlatch site in 1904. The company believed that a company town was a necessary investment and a proper step in labor relations and community improvement. When the mill began operating in the fall of 1906, the town consisted of two boarding houses, two schools, a hotel, two churches, a mercantile, bank, post office, and an opera house. Bars and saloons were prohibited in the town, as was gambling. Potlatch attracted many settlers and immigrant families looking for work. The town grew quickly and, for a time, was the second largest town in Latah County.

The mill in Potlatch operated until 1981 when, due to a depressed lumber market, it closed for good. Shortly thereafter, the dismantling of the mill began and the company town was sold to its residents. Though its population has dwindled over the years since the mill’s closure, Potlatch remains a bedroom community for the university towns of Moscow, Idaho and Pullman, Washington.

The Photographs

The photos in this collection are compiled from two different collections housed in the UI Library Special Collections—Potlatch Lumber Company Records, 1901-1979 (MG 135) and Potlatch Corporation Historical Archives, 1900-2007 (MG 457). Due to the inter-relationship of the Potlatch organization, photos in this collection also feature other operations in Latah, Nez Perce, and Clearwater counties.

The records and photographs belonging to the Potlatch Lumber Company were donated to the University of Idaho by the Potlatch Corporation in November, 1983.


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