The Axe Man

On November 17, 1936, at 11 a.m., Skaneateles hosted Peter McLaren, America’s champion wood chopper, who challenged local men to a contest, saying he would finish cutting a log in less than two-thirds of the time that they could, or he would give them $50. The only caveat was that his challengers could not use a Plumb Axe, his chosen brand. Born in Australia, McLaren rose to fame as a wood chopper, and in 1929 he authored a book on how to wield the axe.

Sponsored by local hardware stores and lumber yards, who doubtless sold Plumb Axes, McLaren toured the country giving demonstrations. The morning of his Skaneateles appearance, he appeared first in Elbridge, at 9 a.m. At this time, McLaren was 50 years old. He said that chopping wood kept him in shape, and who was going to argue?

An ad in Boy’s Life noted that in 200 chopping contests, McLaren only failed four times to cut through a log in half the time of his opponent. McLaren also noted, “I can shave my arm with a Plumb Axe both before and after cutting a 20-inch oak log.” I cannot find the results of McLaren’s challenge here, but in nearby Mexico, N.Y., he cut a 14-inch log in 1 minute 40 seconds. His closest challenger, who McLaren complimented for a game effort, finished in 6 minutes.

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