Description (Brief):

On 29 September 1983, Congress established the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution to coordinate commemorative activities for the 200th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution. As part of its wide-ranging efforts, the commission worked with the International Society of Arboriculture and the National Arborist Association (which later changed its name to the Tree Care Industry Association) to identify living witness trees that had been standing at the time of the Constitution’s signing on 17 September 1787. By the time of its termination on 31 December 1991, the commission had designated 61 trees from across the nation as U.S. Constitution Bicentennial witness trees.

Description (Brief)

From 1989 to 2017, this bronze plaque stood before one of those trees: a Ponderosa pine nicknamed “Big Pine” located in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, about 20 miles southwest of Grant’s Pass, Oregon. At the time of its designation, the 250-foot giant was the world’s tallest-known Ponderosa pine. Arborists estimated the tree’s age at over 350 years. Its notoriety, together with the surrounding groves of majestic old-growth forest, had been attracting visitors from around the world. This led the Forest Service to establish the Big Pine Campground near the champion tree.

Description (Brief)

The Oregon-based arborist Michael Oxman nominated the Big Pine as a U.S. Constitution Bicentennial witness tree. The International Society of Arboriculture, which handled the nominations on behalf of the Bicentennial Commission, approved the application in April 1989. Oxman then led the effort to raise the $350 cost of casting and delivering the commemorative bronze plaque. In addition to his personal financial donation, Oxman secured contributions from the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture, Sons of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution, Josephine County Historical Society, Siskiyou Audubon Society, Headwaters, Rogue Valley Arborists Association, Ahola Tree Service, Mountain View Landscaping, Southern Oregon Land Conservancy, Gerald Beranek, and Debbi Sharp.

Description (Brief)

The Forest Service assisted by building a stone pedestal to display the plaque. It also constructed a rustic, split-rail fence around the Big Pine to keep visitors from compacting the soil near the tree. The dedication ceremony took place on 24 June 1989.

Description (Brief)

In 2011, big-tree hunters working in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest discovered another Ponderosa pine that was nine feet taller than Big Pine, which had then grown to a height of 259 feet. Within a few years, however, a pine beetle infestation contributed to the death of the Big Pine. Because of its location, the Forest Service categorized the still-standing giant a “hazard tree” and closed the adjoining Big Pine Campground as a safety precaution.

Description (Brief)

The Forest Service subsequently transferred the bronze plaque to the National Museum of American History. (The transfer was arranged by Matthew Paciorek, District Ranger, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.) Michael Oxman then donated a cache of supporting materials to NMAH—a scrapbook, photographs, and various documents associated with his involvement in gaining recognition of the Big Pine as a U.S. Constitution Bicentennial living witness tree. (see file 2017.3078)

Description (Brief)

One of the photographs features two men standing in front of the Big Pine, with the U.S. Constitution tree plaque between them. The man on the left is Michael Oxman. The mustachioed man on the right is Gerald F. (Jerry) Beranek, a professional tree climber, writer, and video producer.

Date Made: 1987

See more items in: Medicine and Science: Biological Sciences

Exhibition: Giving in America

Exhibition Location: National Museum of American History

Data Source: National Museum of American History

Id Number: 2017.0159.01Catalog Number: 2017.0159.01Accession Number: 2017.0159

Object Name: plaque

Physical Description: bronze (overall material)Measurements: overall: 16 1/2 in x 14 in x 2 1/4 in; 41.91 cm x 35.56 cm x 5.715 cm


Record Id: nmah_1848105

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