NPSHistory.com

CELEBRATING THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CENTENNIAL • 1916-2016
Copyright, Randall D. Payne
Grand Canyon National Park

National Park Service Centennial

pre-1952

1954

current

In the early years of the 20th century Stephen Mather and Horace Albright mounted a vigorous public relations program to protect our National Parks. A public relations campaign led to supportive articles in National Geographic, The Saturday Evening Post, and other popular magazines.

Congress responded as desired, and on August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson approved legislation creating the National Park Service within the Interior Department. The act made the bureau responsible for Interior's national parks and monuments, and such other national parks and reservations of like character as may be hereafter created by Congress. In managing these areas, the Park Service was directed "...to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

NPS centenial logo
NPS Centennial logo

In the century since the founding of the National Park Service the number of parks has grown to over 400 units, while the annual number of visitors to our National Parks is now surpassing 300 million (contrast that to 358,000 in 1916).

Throughout 2016, we presentied a series of monthly features which explored various aspects of the history and evolution of the National Park Service. It was our hope that this information would help to strengthen the preservation and conservation of our historic and natural resources and enlighten the American people to the importance of the heritage represented by the National Park System. All twelve issues of our Centennial Edition are displayed below.


Monthly Features
January: NPS Directors
February: Brief History of the National Park Service

March: Expansion of the 1930s

April: Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

May: Mission 66

June: Alaska Expansion (ANILCA)

July: Shaping the System

August: The American Experience

September: Park Rangers

October: Interpretation and Education

November: Cultural Resource Management

December: Natural Resource Management

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
Mount Rainier National Park


Directors of the National Park Service
Monthly Feature
NPS Photo, HPC-000201, Director Mather, Superintendents and their families. (Superintendents Conference, Mesa Verde, 1925)NPS Directors
Featured Article
Notable Person
J. Horace McFarland
Special Studies
The Antiquities Act of 1906
(Ronald F. Lee, 1970)

Proceedings of the National Park Conference held at Yellowstone National Park September 11 and 12, 1911 (1912)

Dept. of Interior
1889-1913
System Timeline
1872-1916
Historical Photographs
Mount Washburn Lookout, Yellowstone National Park
Books
Brochures
1910s
The parks do not belong to one state or to one section. They have become democratized. The Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national properties in which every citizen has a vested interest; they belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of Florida, as they do to the people of California, of Wyoming, and of Arizona.

Who will gainsay that the parks contain the highest potentialities of national pride, national contentment, and national health? A visit inspires love of country; begets contentment; engenders pride of possession; contains the antidote for national restlessness. It teaches love of nature, of trees and flowers, the rippling brooks, the crystal lakes, the snow-clad mountains peaks, the wild life encountered everywhere amid native surroundings. He is a better citizen with a keener appreciation of the privilege of living here who has toured the national parks.

Stephen Tyng Mather
National Park Service Director (1917-1929)
(From Quotes, 1966)


(From Miniature Portraits — Wildlife of our National Parks, c1940s)

(United States Railroad Administration, 1919)

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
Saguaro National Park


A Brief History of the National Park Service
Monthly Feature
NPS History: Brief
Featured Article
Notable Person
Capt. Charles Young
Special Studies
The Evolution of the National Park System of the United States
(Paul Herman Buck, 1946)

Report on Wind Cave National Park, Sullys Hill Park, Casa Grande Ruin, Muir Woods, Petrified Forest, and Other National Monuments, Including List of Bird Reserves — 1913 (1914)

Administrative History: Organizational Structure of the National Park Service 1917 to 1985 (Russ Olsen, 1985)

1916
System Timeline
1916-1933
Historical Photographs and Art
The Three Tetons (William Henry Jackson)
Books
Brochures
1920s
I earnestly recommend the establishment of a Bureau of National Parks. Such legislation is essential to the proper management of those wondrous manifestations of Nature, so startling and so beautiful that everyone recognizes the obligations of the Government to preserve them for the edification and recreation of the people...every consideration of patriotism and love of Nature and of beauty and of art requires us to expend money enough to bring all of these natural wonders within easy reach of our people. The first step in that direction is the establishment of a responsible bureau, which shall take upon itself the burden of supervising the parks and of making recommendations as to the best method of improving their accessibility and usefulness.

William Howard Taft
President of the United States (1909-1913)
(From Quotes, 1966)


(From Miniature Portraits — Wildlife of our National Parks, c1940s)

(United States Railroad Administration, 1919)

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Expansion of the National Park Service in the 1930s
Monthly Feature
1930s Expansion
Featured Article
Notable Person
Roger Toll
Special Studies
Fauna of the National Parks of the United States No. 1
(George M. Wright, Joseph S. Dixon, Ben H. Thompson, 1933)

Fauna of the National Parks of the United States No. 2 (George M. Wright, Ben H. Thompson, 1935)

Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists' Training Conference Held At Educational Headquarters, Berkeley California November 1 to 30, 1929 (1929)

pre-1952
System Timeline
Reorganization of 1933
Historical Photographs
Grand Canyon National Park (H.T. Cowling photo)
Books
Brochures
1930s
In no other way is the upward trend of our modern civilization so well exemplified as in the establishment, development, and increasing use of our National Park and Monument System.....Where once the best in scenery, as well as in everything else, was reserved for the use of those most favored, and for the pleasure of kings and princes, today every American citizen or visitor to our shores may enjoy the most priceless offerings of nature. Democracy is believed to be still in the experimental stage, but surely any system that institutes and makes successful such a magnificent experiment cannot fail of its ultimate purpose.

Ray Lyman Wilbur
Secretary of the Interior (1929-1933)
(From Quotes, 1966)


(From Miniature Portraits — Wildlife of our National Parks, c1940s)

(United States Railroad Administration, 1919)

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
Congaree National Park


Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the National Park Service, 1933-1942
Monthly Feature
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
Featured Article
Notable Person
Thomas Vint
Special Studies:
The Historic Sites Survey and National Historic Landmarks Program: A History
(Barry Mackintosh, 1985)

The National Historic Preservation Act and the National Park Service: A History (Barry Mackintosh, 1986)

1952-1954
System Timeline
1933-1964
Historical Photographs
Books
Brochures
1940s
The American way of life consists of something that goes greatly beyond the mere obtaining of the necessities of existence. If it means anything, it means that America presents to its citizens an opportunity to grow mentally and spiritually, as well as physically. The National Park System and the work of the National Park Service constitute one of the Federal Government's important contributions to that opportunity. Together, they make it possible for all Americans—millions of them at first-hand—to enjoy unspoiled the great scenic places of the Nation; to know what it was like before it was touched by civilization and before its resources began to be exploited commercially or modified by settlement and by agriculture and industry. The National Park System also provides, through areas that are significant in history and prehistory, a physical as well as spiritual linking of present-day Americans with the past of their country. This cultural attribute is a value in which the National Park Service areas make unique contribution.

Most of the people who visit the parks, whether they realize it or not or whether they put it into words, are impelled to visit them because of the quest for a supreme experience. The gleam of glaciers on a mighty mountain; the shimmering beauty of a lake indescribably blue, resting in the crater of an extinct volcano; the thunder and mist of water falling over sculptured granite cliffs; the colorful chapter in the Book of Time revealed by the strata of a mile-high canyon gashed by a rushing river; the sight of strange, new plants and animals living in natural adaptation to their environment and to each other; the roar of surf waging its eternal battle with the land; the silence that hangs over the ruins of the habitations of forgotten peoples; the lengthening shadows of the towering Sequoias—these and a thousand other vivid impressions are at the heart of the experience that national park visitors travel many miles to seek. All else that they do or that we do in the National Parks is incidental. If we can remember this, we can remain true to our high calling as trustees for the greater things of America.

The young people of today are the lawmakers, the scientists, the industrialists, the conservationists, the cattlemen, and the lumbermen of tomorrow. It is vitally important that they learn today the values of national parks and the principles underlying their preservation. For they will have the say tomorrow as to what becomes of these properties of the people.

Newton B. Drury
National Park Service Director (1940-1951)
(From Quotes, 1966)


(From Miniature Portraits — Wildlife of our National Parks, c1940s)

(United States Railroad Administration, 1919)

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
Crater Lake National Park


The National Park Service and Mission 66 (1956-1966)
Monthly Feature
Mission 66
Featured Article
Notable Person
Conrad L. Wirth
Special Studies
Architecture in the Parks
(Laura Soullière Harrison, 1986)

Mission 66 Visitor Centers: The History of a Building Type (Sarah Allaback, 2000)

National Park Service Rustic Architecture: 1916-1942 (William C. Tweed, Laura E. Soullière and Henry G. Law, 1977)

1954-1999
System Timeline
Reorganization of 1964
Historical Photographs
Pinnacles National Park (H.C. Ryker photo)
Books
Brochures
1950s
In the 1960's resource conservation must concern itself with all actions and activities that affect our overall enviornment—from the pesticide residue in the penguins in the Antarctic to safeguarding the polar bear in the Arctic.

But in our pride and zeal to preserve our monuments, we must always be mindful of the natural environment in which they are placed. Polluted waterways, devastated forests, destruction of the wildlife and natural beauty which once abounded in this great Nation have brought us to a very real, if quiet, crisis.

The hour is late, the opportunities diminish with each passing year, and we must establish here a Common Market of conservation knowledge which will enable us to achieve our highest goals and broadest purposes. With each day that passes the natural world shrinks as we exert greater artificial control over our environment.

Few of us can hope to leave a poem or a work of art to posterity; but working together or apart, we can yet save meadows, marshes, strips of seashore, and stream valleys as a green legacy for the centuries.

Stewart L. Udall
Secretary of the Interior (1961-1969)
(From Quotes, 1966)


(From Miniature Portraits — Wildlife of our National Parks, c1940s)

(United States Railroad Administration, 1919)

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
Everglades National Park


The National Park Service and the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) of 1980
Monthly Feature
Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA)
Featured Article
Notable Person
Olaus J. Murie
Special Studies
Alaska Subsistence: A National Park Service Management History
(Frank Norris, 2002)

The Wolves of Mount McKinley Fauna of the National Parks of the United States No. 5 (Adolph Murie, 1944)

Presenting Nature: The Historic Landscape Design of The National Park Service, 1916 to 1942 (Linda Flint McClelland, 1993)

PARKSCAPE U.S.A.
1968
System Timeline
1964-1972
Historical Photographs
Mount McKinley (now Denali) National Park, 1930s.
(Skinner Collection, ASL)
Books
Brochures
1960s
Our world has changed many times during the ensuing 90-odd years [1872, the founding date of the National Park System], but one constant in this changing world has been our continuing need for parks and quiet places—our need for places of beauty at which we may renew our strength; and our need for places of history where we may draw inspiration from our heritage....

...The National Park idea has been nurtured by each succeeding generation of Americans. Today, across our land, the National Park System represents America at its best.

Each park contributes to a deeper understanding of the history of the United States and our way of life; of the natural processes which have given form to our land, and to the enrichment of the environment in which we live.

George B. Hartzog, Jr.
Director of the National Park Service (1964-1972)
(From Quotes, 1966)


(From Miniature Portraits — Wildlife of our National Parks, c1940s)

(United States Railroad Administration, 1919)

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
Grand Teton National Park


The National Parks: Shaping the System
Monthly Feature
Shaping the System
Featured Articles
Shoshone Cavern NP
Notable Person
John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Special Studies
The National Parks: Index 2012-2016


National Park System Plan — Part One: History, Part Two: Natural History (1972)

Highways in Harmony

Historic Roads in the National Park System (Laura E. Soullière, 1995)

System Timeline
1973-1999
Historical Photographs
Ash Mountain Entrance Sign, Sequoia National Park
Books
Brochures
1970s
The more you come to know the national parks, the more the hidden assets begin to appear. You never come to the end of them. They are seldom the things the eye first sees; they are nearly never the things avowedly sought.

So we see that national parks are really national museums. Their purpose is to preserve, in a condition as unaltered as is humanly possible, the wilderness that greeted the eyes of the first white men who challenged and conquered it. It is to insure that the processes of nature can work, without artifice, upon all the living things, as well as the earth forms, within their boundaries. It is to keep intact in the wilderness areas all the historic and prehistoric evidences of occupation by our predecessors.

Freeman Tilden
(1883-1980)
(From Quotes, 1966)


(From Miniature Portraits — Wildlife of our National Parks, c1940s)

(United States Railroad Administration, 1919)

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
Yellowstone National Park


National Parks: The American Experience
Monthly Feature
National Parks: The American Experience
Featured Article
Notable Person
Isabelle Story
Special Studies
Visitor Fees in the National Park System: A Legislative and Administrative History
(Barry Mackintosh, 1983)

National Parks for the 21st Century — The Vail Agenda, Report and Recommendations to the Director, NPS (1992)

Rethinking the National Parks for the 21st Century (2001)

Public Use of the National Park System, 1872-2000 (Ronald F. Lee, 1968)

National Parks Centennial
1972
System Timeline
2000-2016
Historical Photographs
Community Building, Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park
Books
Brochures
1980s
National Parks are...more than areas of importance for the aesthetic, spiritual, inspirational and educational values inherent in their physiographic and biological features. They are irreplaceable natural laboratories in which scientific studies can be carried out which would not be possible in even the most elaborate and conventional man-made laboratory. In the national parks it is possible to study the structure, interrelations and behavior of biological communities, discover how they are adapted to their environment and compare them with the artificial communities elsewhere created by the clearings, drainage, and contamination, and by the introduction of exotic animals and plants by man. They offer the opportunity to pursue long-term ecological studies difficult if not impossible to conduct elsewhere.

National Academy of Sciences Advisory Committee on Research in the National Parks
The Robbins Report (1963)
(From Quotes, 1966)

The national park idea, the best idea we ever had, was inevitable as soon as Americans learned to confront the wild continent not with fear and cupidity but with delight, wonder and awe.

Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst. Without them, millions of American lives, including mine, would have been poorer. The world would have been poorer.

Wallace Stegner
Marking the Sparrow's Fall: The Making of the American West (1983)


(From Miniature Portraits — Wildlife of our National Parks, c1940s)

(United States Railroad Administration, 1919)

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
Glacier National Park


National Park Ranger: An American Icon
Monthly Feature
Rangers
Featured Article
Notable Person
Frank Kowski
Special Studies
National Park Service Badges and Uniforms
(R. Bryce Workman, 1991-1998)

The National Park Service: Responding to the September 11 Terrorist Attacks (Janet A. McDonnell, 2004)

Norris Soldier Station, Yellowstone National Park Historic Structures Report (Aubrey L. Haines, Charles S. Pope and Erwin N. Thompson, 1969)

NPS 75th Anniversary
1991

Historical Photographs
Ranger Force, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, 1932
Books
Brochures
1990s
The wise use of our natural environment: it is, in the final analysis, the highest form of national thrift—the prevention of waste and despoilment while preserving, improving, and renewing the quality and usefulness of all our resources.

Amid this ferment of change, modern conservationists are faced with a far wider range of problems. The great battle of conservation in the Sixties, the Seventies, and the Eighties; and in the coming Century is no longer solely in the preservation of the spectacular. The real conservation fight of the future lies rather in every nook and cranny of this country—the fight is, for the creation of a livable total environment.

Our resource problems in the 1960's are measured by the flyway of a bird, the length of a river, the half-life of an element, the path of a wind, the scope of the oceans, the shape of our cities. The years ahead will require both public and private conservation statemenship of a high order.

Stewart L. Udall
Secretary of the Interior (1961-1969)
(From Quotes, 1966)


(From Miniature Portraits — Wildlife of our National Parks, c1940s)

(United States Railroad Administration, 1919)

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
Redwood National and State Parks


Interpretation & Education in the National Park Service
Monthly Feature
Interpretation & Education
Featured Article
Notable Person
Dr. Harold Bryant
Special Studies
Park Naturalists and the Evolution of National Park Service Interpretation Through World War II (C. Frank Brockman, from Journal of Forest History, v. 22, January 1978, digital edition courtesy ©The Forest History Society, all rights reserved.)

Field Manual for Museums (Ned J. Burns, 1941)

Museum Curatorship in the National Park Service (Ralph H. Lewis, 1993)

Interpretation for Disabled Visitors in the National Park System (1984)

2001-current
Notable Person
Freeman Tilden
Historical Photographs
Books
Brochures
2000s
The areas administered by the National Park Service have been set aside to preserve a precious part of our national heritage. It is not always realized, however, that this heritage requires sympathetic study and presentation if it is to be of maximum benefit to the public. The interpretative service is designed to fulfill this need and to contribute to the national education and to the maintenance of confidence in the American way of living. This service may well be a potent force in maintaining national equilibrium in the trying times which appear to lie ahead.

Arthur E. Demaray
National Park Service Director (1951)
(From Quotes, 1966)


(From Miniature Portraits — Wildlife of our National Parks, c1940s)

(United States Railroad Administration, 1919)

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
Lassen Volcanic National Park


Cultural Resource Management in the National Park Service
Monthly Feature
Cultural Resources
Featured Article
Notable Person
Roy Appleman
Special Studies
History and Prehistory in the National Park System and the National Historic Landmarks Program
(1987)

Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service (Organization of American Historians, 2011)

African Reflections on the American Landscape: Identifying and Interpreting Africanisms (Brian D. Joyner, 2003)

Asian Reflections on the American Landscape: Identifying and Interpreting Asian Heritage (Brian D. Joyner, 2005)

Hispanic Reflections on the American Landscape: Identifying and Interpreting Hispanic Heritage (Brian D. Joyner, 2009)

LGBQT America: A Theme Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History (Megan E. Springate, ed., ©National Park Foundation, 2016)

Federal Historic Preservation Laws (2006)

2001-current
Historical Photographs
Fort Union National Monument
Books
Handbooks
Historical
...when a society or a civilization perishes, one condition may always be found. They forgot where they came from. They lost sight of what brought them along. The hard beginnings were forgotten and the struggles farther along. They became satisfied with themselves. Unity and common understanding there had been, enough to overcome rot and dissolution, enough to break through their obstacles. But the mockers came. And the deniers were heard. And vision and hope faded. And the custom of greeting became "What's the use?" And men whose forefathers would go anywhere, holding nothing impossible in the genius of man, joined the mockers and deniers. They forgot where they came from. They lost sight of what brought them along.

Carl Sandburg
(1878-1967)
(From Quotes, 1966)


(From Miniature Portraits — Wildlife of our National Parks, c1940s)

(United States Railroad Administration, 1919)

Copyright, Randall D. Payne
Olympic National Park


Natural Resource Management in the National Park Service
Monthly Feature
Natural Resources
Featured Article
Notable Person
George Wright
Special Studies
Biological Research and Management in the National Park Service: A History
(Lowell Sumner, The George Wright Forum, Vol. 3 No. 4, Summer 1983)

Get The Facts, And Put Them To Work: Comprehensive Natural History Research Program For the National Parks (Howard R. Stagner, The George Wright Forum, Vol. 3 No. 4, Summer 1983)

A History of Natural Resources Management Within the National Park Service (Gordon Olson, 1986)

Revisiting Leopold: Resource Stewardship in the National Parks A Report of the National Park System Advisory Board Science Committee (August 25, 2012)

NPS Centennial
2016
Notable Person
Polly Dyer
Historical Photographs
Badlands National Park
Books
Handbooks
Natural History
I think we all agree that a national park is not merely scenery. A national park embodies something that cannot be found everywhere—it embodies history, a way of life, primitive experience, early environment. It has the elements capable of providing that lifting of the spirit for which modern civilization is willing to pay so much. A national park is specifically dedicated to these intangible and imponderable qualities. Above all, natural features in a national perk should have validity.

Olaus J. Murie
(1889-1963)
(From Quotes, 1966)


(From Miniature Portraits — Wildlife of our National Parks, c1940s)

(United States Railroad Administration, 1919)

Centennial Links

George Wright Society's NPS Centennial Essays

A Call to Action

National Park Service Centennial Find Your Park

National Parks Second Century Commission

NPS Advisory Board: Engaging Independent Perspectives for a 21st-Century National Park System

Next Century for Parks

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit (Google Cultural Institute)



Park Videos

Yeah, We're Beautiful (2015)

From Sea to Shining Sea (2007)

National Mall & Memorial Parks (2013)



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