Hough’s text, printed in accompanying volumes, provides information on each tree’s botany and its commercial and medicinal uses. Each volume consists of twenty-four specimen cards and an accompanying text volume, all of which were housed in a slipcase designed to make the set look like a standard printed book. The finished publication ran to thirteen volumes, which were published over a period of twenty-five years. Copies of all thirteen volumes can be found in Special Collections.
In its day, The American Woods was advertised as a resource for “foresters, lumbermen, woodworkers, architects, engineers, and students.” In addition to these purposes, the work now also serves another historic interest: as many of the trees collected and described by Hough have since become endangered or extinct, the set allows one to view specimens of species which are now rare or entirely nonexistent in nature.
Shown in the photograph below are specimens of the American Chestnut (Castanea dentata), a once prolific tree which, between 1904 and 1924, was driven almost to extinction by the chestnut blight, a disease caused by the fungus Cryphonectria parasitica.