I came across the “Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen Employment Services” sign in 2008 as I was building my first Portland restaurant. The sign was built into the wall in the basement of the Hung Far Low building in Old Town Chinatown. The sign was made of metal sheets attached to a wood frame, a traditional sign construction in the decades before the invention of plywood. I brought in our friend and sign historian Lee Littlewood to help us renovate the sign and it now hangs front and center overlooking our 99 taps.
The true history of the “4Ls” organization is a great deal more complex than we understood when we opened in August of 2015. Because of the historic nature of the building that we occupy, our progressive wage structure for our kitchen employees and the history of our sign’s origin, we have received a great deal of interest in our project from both architectural historians and labor historians which has been humbling and gratifying. One labor historian, Norm Diamond, reached out to us to clarify the history of the 4Ls and I thought it was important to include his text in our website.
“The Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen (4Ls) was a unique Northwest organization. It was founded in 1917 during a strike wave in an effort to restore spruce lumber production, needed to build airplanes for the new US Army Air Force. The sign that hung on the front of the 4Ls Portland office in the 1920s now hangs on our wall.
During the summer and fall of 1917, there was a strike underway as both loggers and millworkers demanded an eight hour work day In the case of the men in the woods, the demands included regular paydays, access to showers and latrines, furnished bedding in the camps, and hiring through a legitimate agency rather than the exploitative “sharks” that stole their money.
The Army intervened. By a combination of intimidation and reforms, they broke the strike and enlisted both employers and workers into the 4Ls. The first leadership of the 4Ls consisted of one hundred assigned military officers. Among the approximately one hundred thousand members in the course of the 4Ls history were about twenty five thousand soldiers, the Army Spruce Production Division.”
Norm Diamond, Ph.D
Former President, Pacific Northwest Labor College