The wood known as cedar has long been used in construction, as is illustrated by the references in the Bible to the "Cedars of Lebanon" from which the Temple of Solomon was constructed. The wood in use at the present day called cedar is, of course, not of exactly the same species as was that used in the famous temple, but it is of the same family and possesses the same general characteristics. There are two kinds, the red cedar, and the white cedar, which differ from each other principally in color, the white cedar being grayish brown, while the red cedar is reddish brown.

There are several different kinds of white cedar in use, of which one is known as the canoe cedar. The wood is not very strong, but is light and soft, possessing considerable stiffness and a fine texture. In color it is as mentioned above, grayish brown, the sapwood being, however, of a lighter color than the heartwood. It seasons quickly, is remarkably durable, and does not shrink or check to any great extent. The wood is used in building construction, principally for shingles, for which purpose its durability in exposed positions makes it especially valuable. It is also used for posts and ties.

The trees are usually scattered among others of different kinds, forming occasionally, however, forests of considerable size. They are to be found all through the northern part of the United States and in Canada, also on the Pacific Coast in California, Oregon, and Washington. They also grow to some extent in the southern states. Some of the trees are of small or medium size, while others are very large, especially the canoe cedar of the Northwest.

In addition to the white cedars, there are the red cedars, which are similar to the white cedars but differ from them slightly in the color of the wood, which is reddish brown instead of grayish brown. The red cedars are also of somewhat finer texture than the white cedars. Red cedar is used but little in building construction, but is used extensively in cabinet work for chests and closets which this wood is supposed to render proof against moths. The wood is also used for the making of lead pencils and for cigar boxes, large quantities of timber being used for these purposes every year.

Cedar trees are sometimes subject to a disease similar to wet rot, which attacks the growing tree. This disease does not, however, render them unfit for use in every case, as the disease often disappears as soon as the tree has been cut down, and trees have been known to yield timber which has endured for long periods, although the living tree itself was diseased.