Forestry and Furniture


Loggers moving large logs in Winston County, ca. 1940.

Forest Products Department - Beth Stokes Collection


Logs getting ready for transport to sawmill.

Forest Products - Beth Stokes Collection

Logging and Furniture Markets in Mississippi

Settlers in the early 19th century utilized the millions of acres of forest to supply their needs for furniture, fuel, tools, and homes. Sawmills began to appear in populated areas of Mississippi in the mid-1800s, near rivers that would be used for transportation of logs in large rafts. Replacement of reciprocal saws with the more efficient circular saw improved output at mid-1800s sawmills, and development of dry kiln technology allowed expansion of the lumber market for Mississippi lumber. Expansion of railroad lines allowed for shipment of lumber and products outside of the region, and lumber became one of the primary industries for the state, generating as much as a billion board feet of lumber in the early 1900s. Consumption of old-growth timber without replanting led to the decline of forest lands across the region, and the closing of many mills and harvesting operations. The introduction of tree farming and other forest management protocols by early professional foresters established pine plantations across the state and proved that management of timberlands was an economic boon to the lumber industry.
From the mid-1960s on, the furniture industry in Mississippi expanded and remained tightly associated with the lumber industry. Upholstered furniture in particular has been manufactured in Mississippi for many years, along with other products. The furniture industry had a peak of over 31,000 workers, but fell to a low of around half that amount by 2009 when import furniture products dominated the US market and drove many Mississippi manufacturers out of business. The furniture market has since rebounded, with multimillion-dollar investments and expansions of numerous facilities and production staff.
Currently, forested land covers approximately 65% of the state’s land area, and the total forest products industry represents approximately 4.5% of all jobs in Mississippi, and is valued at $12.8 billion annually. The logging and furniture industries represent over 16,000 and 26,000 jobs, respectively, and contribute nearly $6 billion to state revenues annually.

Forestry and Wood Products