NPSHistory.com
Mather Plaques — A History


MATHER PLAQUES — A HISTORY
G. Arthur Janssen
August 25, 2016
w/January 25, 2019 revisions

Mather plaque

INTRODUCTION

When it comes to Mather Plaques—

They are spread out from Alaska to the Virgin Islands, Maine to Hawaii.

They cover the gamut of National Parks, Monuments, a Sea Shore, a Lake Shore, Parkways, Memorials, a Preserve, a Battlefield, Recreation Areas, Historical Parks, Historic Sites, three administrative offices, a couple of State Parks, a city park, and two schools.

They are in 16 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

They are in 11 World Heritage Sites.

They are a bit of history; they are a present reminder; they are a challenge for our future.

Visiting them is a journey...

They are America at her best.


STEPHEN TYNG MATHER

Mather
Stephen Tyng Mather

Stephen Tyng Mather (4 July 1867—22 January 1930) was born in California of modest longstanding New England roots. He worked to become a self-made millionaire through the promotion and mining of borax. (Twenty Mule Team Borax was his marketing invention.) Mather was a California outdoor enthusiast, member of the Sierra Club, friend of John Muir, and a sometime mountain climber (Whitney and Rainier among others). His activism, prominence, and organizational abilities led to his appointment as an Undersecretary in the Department of Interior 21 January 1915. After the National Park Service was founded in 1916, he was appointed its first Director in 1917. Horace Albright (a lawyer by trade) became his legal assistant, confidant, colleague and ultimately, his successor. Mather worked tirelessly to create a respected governmental agency and a park system unlike any in the world. An accomplished businessman who was generous to a fault, he seems to have had a charismatic ability to colloquy with politicians, hobnob with his wealthy and influential peers, and consistently he presented a down to earth set of ideals and principles to which many Americans could readily relate and support. Taking this vision of "National Parks," he brought its reality home to America. Indeed, this was "transparency" before the term was fashionable. With a contentious congress and president, Mather crossed party lines with complete abandon to acquire three new National Parks in 1916 alone. Mather's administration had a knack for recruiting remarkably competent superintendents for our National Parks, a number of whom served for long periods of time giving the young Park Service a period of stability and consistency important in its early development. With 59 Park Units under his wing, Mather retired in early 1929 after suffering a disabling stroke and he died a year later in 1930, age 62. Now with more than 400 National Park Units over the globe having a broad range of interpretive activities, investigative projects, and educational services, the legacy of Stephen Mather in the 21st century is simply astounding.


ORIGINS OF THE MATHER MEMORIAL PLAQUE

The Mather Memorial Plaque celebrates this uniquely American legacy. From more than 40 submitted ideas, the memorial tablet was commissioned and funded by the private Stephen T. Mather Appreciation--a group of friends, associates, colleagues, and admirers of Mather from across the Nation. Bryant Baker, a world class sculptor, was chosen as the memorial's artist and he was paid $1,000 for the arts and crafts design. Although Mather and Albright were both opposed to monuments of any sort in National Parks, Albright would not oppose this committee's efforts. True, Mather himself knuckled under to the Sierra Club for their plaque at John Muir's "Hang Nest" cabin site in Yosemite Valley. True, Mather went along with the Powell Memorial on the South Rim. But Mather didn't want world class National Parks cluttered up like some courthouse square. In his vision a National Park was to show itself. National Parks were not the time or place for trivial amusements and trite entertainment.

Gorham Bronze was contracted in 1930 for the first run of 28 bronze plaques—20 for National Parks & Park Service Headquarters, 2 for National Monuments, 1 for Mather Memorial Parkway, 1 for the University of California campus at Berkeley, and 3 for State Parks where Mather had close ties. (That adds up to 27.) 4 July was Mather's birthday and any number of dedications were conducted on that day or close to it in 1932. At the time of Mather's death there were 24 National Parks and 35 National Monuments so less than half of the 59 existing Park Units would get a plaque. As the years passed and other Parks were legislated into existence, a second run of 14 bronze plaques was ordered from Gorham in 1959. The original mold at Gorham had been destroyed, probably during WW II as the company turned to wartime manufacturing. Another master mold was created using the original 1930 plaque from outside of the Director's Office in NPS Headquarters. (This mold is evidently lost as well.) In 1986 the Chief Ranger at Colorado National Monument worked at great lengths to obtain a Mather Plaque for his monument's 75th anniversary. This complicated persistent effort took wildly longer than ever dreamed possible but ultimately it led to a rededication activity of 20 Park Units in 1991, on the 75th anniversary of the National Park Service. The plaque at Wind Cave National Park (then in storage) served to make the master mold for a run of 20 new plaques at Gorham. Gorham Bronze is now closed and the company records are in storage. In late 2014 the Superintendent of Whiskeytown NRA, had a mold made using the Berkeley plaque from which five plaques were cast in 2015 by Valley Bronze in Joseph, OR. The Whiskeytown plaque was dedicated 22 August 2015 on that Park's 50th anniversary. The other plaques have been received at Redwood National & State Parks, Joshua Tree National Park, Saguaro National Park, and Walnut Canyon National Monument to be dedicated in 2016. In March 2016 the National Parks Travelers Club ordered a plaque for Independence National Historical Park, site of this year's annual meeting in August. With the current availability of a master mold good for a few more castings, additional new Mather Plaques are a distinct possibility in the future.

Mather plaque
Valley Bronze (2016)
Indepdenence NHP
(Valley Bronze photo)
Mather plaque
Valley Bronze (2016)
Indepdenence NHP
(Valley Bronze photo)

The National Park Service celebrates its centennial this year, 2016. One hundred years. It is fitting to thoughtfully reflect on those 100 years of growth and maturation. Looking forward, the next 100 years are sure to bring challenges and changes, some good, and perhaps, some not so good. The fledgling Park Service inherited a hodgepodge of 37 park units of sundry sorts on its founding in 1916. One hundred years later in 2016 there are more than 400 hundred Park properties. That sort of growth is simply astonishing! But they aren't just "properties." Each Park is unique and requires individual care, maintenance, protection, research and interpretation. Each comes with the impossible mandated balancing act of "enjoyment of the people" along with "preservation in perpetuity." Each has its own problems and challenges, opportunities and gifts.

What then is the meaning, the relevance of the Mather Plaque for us today? On one level it remains a memorial accolade for a remarkable man and the many accomplishments of his life. Stephen Mather was the right man at the right time with his far sightedness, public spirited zeal, persistence, tact and altruism. Paired with Horace Albright, it was a dream team that lasted 14 years. They established the "bones" of the National Park Service we know today. In time Mather Plaques have come to embody more than simple recognition of a personality. As a founders' tribute they have come to symbolize a great moral code of conservation and conduct for all of us. It is a tie that binds everyone who has protected and cared for our land of culture, history, natural beauty and individual freedom. For all generations, National Parks continue to be a unique expression of this unique American ethic. That we should be part of so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and humility in those who embrace it. And when the shadows grow long for each of us in the evening of our memory, may there always be a National Park for us to come home to.

How many plaques over time have actually been made? Where are they now?
What stories might they tell? And what future plaques will there be?
The adventure is yours to find them.


HE LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE. DEFINING AND ESTABLISHING THE POLICIES UNDER WHICH ITS AREAS SHALL BE DEVELOPED AND CONSERVED UNIMPAIRED FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS. THERE WILL NEVER COME AN END TO THE GOOD THAT HE HAS DONE.

Inscription on Mather Plaques


MEMORIAL MATHER PLAQUES IN THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Yosemite National Park (CA)

Happy Isles Trail in Yosemite Valley. The plaque is located on an enormous boulder adjacent the pedestrian bridge in the middle of the Merced River, between the two islands. It was dedicated here 4 July 1932 with Park Naturalist C. A. Harwell officiating. Ralph L. Phelps representing the Mather Appreciation made presentation of the plaque along with dedicatory remarks. The plaque was accepted by Superintendent C. G. Thomson and he unveiled it. A musical program was provided by the Yosemite Park & Curry Company orchestra for the occasion. Because of Mather's attachment to and familiarity with Yosemite, in many ways this Park was a pioneering experiment—how do you put together a National Park if it has never been done before? Or, was Yosemite Mather's favorite Park? Could be. Mather visited Yosemite at least once a year during his Interior Department tenure. While hospitalized an extended period of time for depression, the only two photos in his room were of Yosemite. This Park gave Mather a fair share of problems but also was the repeated subject of his personal financial generosity starting with purchase of the Tioga Pass Road and construction of the Ranger Club.

Mather plaque
Col. Thompson unveiling plaque at Happy Isles
Yosemite NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Happy Isles
Yosemite NP


Grand Canyon National Park (2) (AZ)

1) South Rim: Mather Point. The 4th of July1932 dedication occurred at the Yavapai Observation Station on the South Rim. It was conducted by Acting Superintendent James Lloyd and attended by Naturalist Eddie McKee and Chief Ranger James Brooks. Arizona Governor George Hunt was the guest speaker. A pine bough wreath was placed on the memorial by 3 year old Sonny Lehnert, grandson of photographer Emery Kolb. A Hopi school girl performed a native dance and D. E. Fuller, chaplain of the American Legion, rendered a prayer. (Meanwhile, Superintendent Tillotson was gallivanting off to Petrified Forest, the Hopi Mesas and Rainbow Bridge with Horace Albright, "Boss" Pinkley, and Lorenzo Hubbell.) Initially mounted on a stone pedestal, the plaque was later bolted to a Kaibab limestone boulder a bit east of the old stone observation building. When the new Park entrance road was constructed in 1953, the plaque on its boulder was moved to Mather Point where arriving motorists were dazzled as the first glimpse of The Canyon exploded across their front windshield. The Mather Point road, parking area, trails, and amphitheater were recently (2010) extensively redesigned and beautifully landscaped in their entirety. In this restoration-reconfiguration, the plaque was again moved on its boulder from its nearby location and placed to the right side of the stairs leading down to the lookout point. It is a stunning setting. In 2014 this plaque was coated with some sort of clear sealer.

Mather plaque
Dedication, 4 July 1932
Grand Canyon NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
South Rim — Mather Point
Grand Canyon NP
Mather plaque
South Rim — Mather Point
Grand Canyon NP

2)North Rim: Mounted on a boulder in front of the North Rim Back Country Office. This plaque was found stored in a shed on the North Rim by a maintenance worker in 1995 while cleaning out the sign shop to make more room. It was in new condition, still in the box. Without asking why or wherefore, it was promptly whanged onto a sandstone boulder. It is not known where the plaque came from, how long it had been there, or why it was sent. No documentation or paper work has ever been found. The shipping crate was burned as fire wood. With an average eleven feet of winter snow, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is only seasonally accessible by vehicle, usually from about May 15 to late October. For a winter visit you will probably have to ski the 42.4 miles each way from the cookie counter in the bakery at Jacob Lake—or, hike 21.5 miles transcanyon lugging the mountaineering snowshoes you will need above the Supai tunnel. (So it remains a mystery. As this totally translocated 1959 plaque has no administrative documentation, one best guess is that it may well have come from Fire Island National Seashore. Two different people at different times noted that Fire Island had a plaque that had never been mounted and was stored in a supply room there for many years. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and a complete Park inventory, folks at Fire Island now don't know anything about that plaque, when it left or where it went—but it isn't there anymore. I have asked both the maintenance supervisor on the North Rim in 1995 and the superintendent at Grand Canyon in 1995 if they knew of anyone with a Fire Island connection? No luck. When I posed this question to a former regional director, before I could finish telling him my troubles, he snapped "That would have been Marks and he'd do a thing like that." (!) Richard W. Marks (8/14/35—10/19/06) had a long distinguished Park Service career. He was a Meritorious Service Award recipient. He was Superintendent at Fire Island from 8/31/75 until 5/3/80. He was Superintendent at the Grand Canyon from 5/4/80 until 12/3/88. Did Marks do it? (Dead men tell no tales.)

Mather plaque
North Rim — Back Country Office
Grand Canyon NP


Mt. Rainier National Park (2) (WA)

1) Longmire Historic District: Grotto adjacent the classic 1928 log Administration Building (now the Wilderness Information Center). Dedicated here 4 July 1932. At some point this plaque has been coated or painted with in a dusty yellow or flat gold color. Architectural drawings of this setting were submitted to other Parks as a fitting example of Mather Plaque exhibition, endorsed by the Mather Appreciation sponsors. (Note: While most National Parks don't have a Mather Plaque, three Parks have had two. Each for a different reason.)

Mather plaque
Longmire Wilderness Information Center
Mount Rainier NP
Mather plaque
Landscape Design for Mather Plaque Location
Park Headquarters
Mount Rainier NP
Mather plaque
Landscape Design for Mather Plaque Location
Park Headquarters
Mount Rainier NP

2) Mather Memorial Parkway: Washington State Route 410 at Tipsoo Lake (Cayuse Pass). This Parkway is a 60 mile scenic drive of which 11.6 miles is within Mt. Rainier N.P. The plaque is on a boulder pedestal along the perimeter walk around the parking lot at the Tipsoo Lake picnic area. This is just inside the east Mt. Rainier N.P. boundary. It was dedicated 2 July 1932 with Washington Governor Roland Hartley and Professor Edmund S. Meany as featured speakers. At that time there were still six foot snow drifts all around so the plaque was not actually mounted until later in the summer when the pass finally thawed out. Since then, it has been moved around 300 yards from its original position along the roadside in Cayuse Pass to Tipsoo Lake in conjunction with subsequent road and picnic area improvements in the 1980's. Creation of the Mather Memorial Parkway began with Mather as a project to embellish and protect Mt. Rainier with a beautiful driving parkway. It involved interagency cooperation of the National Park with the Mt. Baker-Snoqualamie and Wenatchee National Forests so that a fringe of trees along this scenic drive would not be logged off to a clear cut moonscape. Cayuse Pass is normally closed for snow November to May. While this Parkway can, of course, be used for transportation, as a gorgeous drive it is certainly a worthy destination in and of itself. Later named in memory of Mather, it is remains a touching remembrance of the man. November 3, 2008: after several stops to refuel at local establishments along the way, four young sporting locals headed for Tipsoo Lake on a chilly afternoon. According to one of the several changing stories, the intent was snowboarding the next day. It is unclear how the young lady in the group intended to do this clad only in sandals—as she was too intoxicated to remember, perhaps it doesn't matter. In the gathering darkness there was only time enough to build a fire, drink some more, and do a little shooting at some trees, a trail sign and the Mather Plaque with a borrowed 40 caliber pistol. Dark, cold, snowing, and inebriated, the revelers thought it best not to negotiate any more winding mountain roads under the icy black circumstances. It was all innocence and disbelief midmorning next when a Ranger woke up the four sleeping occupants in their snow covered car. There were uncomfortable questions about the parking lot fire, the strewn trash, scattered beverage containers, and empty pistol brass. Follow up and resolution of the five citations took some time as one of the relevant parties had been otherwise detained in the Puyallup City Jail for unrelated charges (DUI). Arrangements were made to serve two additional citations there as he was also awaiting two other active warrants from Pierce County and an outstanding warrant from King County. Meanwhile, the owner of the borrowed pistol was also arrested on unrelated outstanding charges when he dropped by Park Headquarters to pick up his gun. How best to deal with visiting gentry such as this in our National Parks? Years later you can still see the discolored blemishes of bullet ricochets on the Tipsoo Lake Mather Plaque.

Mather plaque
Mather Memorial Parkway
Mount Rainier NP
Mather plaque
Mather Memorial Parkway
Mount Rainier NP
(Jeff Mather photo)
Mather plaque
Mather Memorial Parkway
Tipsoo Lake
Mount Rainier NP
Mather plaque
Mather Memorial Parkway
Tipsoo Lake
Mount Rainier NP


Zion National Park (UT)

Human History Museum entrance walkway, left wall. The first plaque location was midway along the River Walk Trail in a shallow alcove called "The Stadium." Heber Grant, LDS Church President and a friend of Mather's, spoke at its dedication on 4 July 1932. In that location by a seasonal waterfall, the plaque was subjected to periodic flash flooding. In the 1950's it was snatched from its mounting and lost in a muddy torrent. Extensive searching and an army surplus mine detector resulted in locating this plaque and its recovery from a sand burial. The plaque was then mounted on a stone pedestal just off the end of the road turnaround in the Temple of Sinawava. The stone pedestal was left (it is still there) when the plaque was later moved to its current location at the Zion Human History Museum. One of the objectives for the Junior Ranger badge at Zion is to find the Mather Plaque.

Mather plaque
Installation of Mather Plaque at Zion Stadium, Narrows Trail, 1932
Zion NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Mather Plaque, 1934
Zion NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Herbert Grant, 1934
Zion NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Pedestal for Second Location of Mather Plaque
Temple of Sinawava
Zion NP
Mather plaque
Human History Museum
Zion NP


Cabrillo National Monument—Point Loma, San Diego (CA)

Visitor Center entrance walkway, close to the flagpole, adjacent an electrical box. Originally this plaque was mounted on a large rock to the right of the walk leading from the parking area up to the lighthouse. In 1968 it was removed from the "historic area" at Park Service Director Hartzog's request, feeling that the plaque was not in keeping with the historic old lighthouse. It was placed in storage where perhaps it was ignored or forgotten. Resurrected in 1995 the plaque was set in its current humble location.

Mather plaque
Visitor Center
Cabrillo NM
Mather plaque
Visitor Center
Cabrillo NM


Glacier National Park (MT)

Logan Pass. This plaque was dedicated 15 July 1933 in its current general location on the Transmountain (Going to the Sun) Highway. Upon the road's historic completion more than 4,000 visitors, CCC workers, Native Americans, and a passel of dignitaries attended the dedication festivities for chili and hot dogs. President Roosevelt visited the Park a year later. With subsequent road improvements in 1968, the plaque has been resituated a tiny bit. The rededication July 16, 1968 featured retired Montana Senator (1923—1947) Burton K. Wheeler, the only surviving principal speaker at the original dedication. The plaque is mounted on a boulder along the perimeter sidewalk of the Logan Pass parking area, close to the flag pole, at the right side of the stairway going up to the Visitor Center.

Mather plaque
Ranger Doug Follett
Glacier NP
Mather plaque
Logan Pass
Glacier NP


Yellowstone National Park (WY)

The plaque is mounted in its original location on a boulder about 50' below (west) of the Madison Information Station (Madison Museum). It was dedicated here 4 July 1932 with novelist Struthers Burt, a major promoter of Grand Teton, as the principal speaker. Park legend has it that this location was the site of the 1870 campfire where a government Hayden Survey party under Nathaniel Langford was bivouacked. Cornelius Hodges, a member of the survey crew, is credited with the genius idea of preserving this wonderful place as a National Park rather than dividing it up among themselves for profit. The story now is thought to be more legend than fact but the sacredness of this location remains. A bronze plaque alluding to this romantic history is close by the Mather Plaque and station flagpole.

Mather plaque
Mather Plaque Dedication, 4 July 1932
Yellowstone NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Madison Junction
Yellowstone NP
Mather plaque
Madison Historic Plaque
Yellowstone NP


Sequoia National Park (CA)

Along the road to Crescent Meadow, just past the Fallen Tree Tunnel in Giant Forest. The dedication here on 10 July 1932 was officiated by Gilbert Grosvenor, President of the National Geographic Society and a personal friend of Mather's. The National Geographic Society was a major financial contributor for additional land purchase on the Park's founding. Most unusual for the time, Dr. & Mrs. Grosvenor "made a special trip by airplane to attend the Sequoia Park Services." (Air travel in1932—Wow !)

Mather plaque
Col. White and Dr. Grosvenor at Mather Plaque Dedication, 10 July 1932
Sequoia NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Mather Plaque Dedication, 10 July 1932
Sequoia NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Mather Plaque
Sequoia NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Giant Forest
Sequoia NP
Mather plaque
Mather Drive
Ash Mountain
Sequoia NP


Lassen Volcanic National Park (CA)

Outside the Loomis Museum on the left front entrance wall—probably its original location. Lassen National Park was established in 1916, the same year as the Park Service. Not long before, Lassen Peak exploded in a series of spectacular Mount St. Helen's style eruptions starting in 1914. Benjamin Loomis was a photographer who homesteaded in view of Lassen Peak and documented these eruptions. He was an important promoter of Lassen's National Park's congressional incorporation. Benjamin and his wife, Estella, built the Loomis Museum, dedicating it in 1927 to their deceased daughter, Luisa May. In 1929 they donated the museum and 40 acres of land to the adjacent Park where the museum continues to be utilized as an interpretive center today. Representative John E. Raker, a congressman from California, was a principal sponsor for the Lassen legislation. Mather regarded the bill as a poor one because of a number of anti-conservation issues that it included. Mather also had not seen Lassen at this point and from what he had heard didn't think it warranted National Park status. While Mather urged Secretary of the Interior Lane to have the President veto the bill, the Secretary did not want to compromise Raker's support for the National Park bill being considered at the same time. Later, in the summer of 1916, Mather visited Lassen and acknowledged that Lane was right in supporting the park and the problematic conservation issues would be dealt with later.

Mather plaque
Loomis Museum
Lassen Volcanic NP


Crater Lake National Park (OR)

Overlooking the Lake along the rim walk between the Rim Visitor Center (old Kiser Studio) and the historic Crater Lake Lodge. Originally dedicated 4 July1932 @ 2:25 PM complete with violin music, a song, and a prayer, this plaque was kept for a long time in the Information Bureau. In 1953, 21 years after arrival, it was mounted on a stone pedestal by a talented stone mason on the facilities staff. Along the promenade rim walk overlooking The Lake, this plaque is among the most attractive displayed anywhere. With 43.5' average winter snow fall (that is 43.5 feet—not inches), snow cover and huge drifts can linger well into early summer.

Mather plaque
Mather Plaque
Crater Lake NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Rim Walk
Crater Lake NP
Mather plaque
Rim Walk
Crater Lake NP


Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Big Island, HI)

Early promotion of Hawaii National Park included a Hole in One Golf Club. There was only one hole on the course and it was called the 19th Hole. The leg was 510 yards, par 1, and for those duffers successful in teeing off their ball into the Kilauea caldera there was a certificate for the accomplishment. Stephen Mather was a member of this Hole-in-One Club. Mather worked hard and long on Hawaii National Park, which included Haleakala at that time. Boundary surveys, private inholdings, fences, roads, acquiring matching state funds. Progress was maddeningly slow given the obscure view many had of the remote Hawaiian territory, chronic budget limitations, and slow communication. Much of what was begun did not come into being until after he was dead. Not long after Mather's death, a memorial article was published in The Hawaiian Forester & Agriculturist journal. The Women's Club in Hilo planted a jacaranda tree on the Federal Building grounds in his memory dedicating it 1 May 1931. (With road construction in Hilo thirty years later, that tree was carefully moved, replanted, and rededicated next to the post office at considerable expense and difficulty. It remains alive and well today.) Hawaii's Mather Plaque was dedicated in July of 1939 with George Lycurgus, former owner of the Volcano House presiding.A month later, Associate Director of the National Park Service Arthur Demarey traveled to Hawaii to rededicate this plaque along with Superintendent Edward Wingate and George Lycurgus on August 10. The plaque was originally mounted on a boulder in Kipuka Puaulu (Bird Park) at stop #18 along the nature trail. At some point between 1952 and 1955 this plaque was moved and remounted in a lava masonry monument in front of the new Kilauea Visitor Center. Two adjacent plaques added later designate this Park as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site. Seven United States Parks hold this triple crown. The Mather Appreciation committee recognized these efforts and sent two plaques to the Park, one for each island parcel.

Mather plaque
Mr. Demarary addressing gathering at Kipuka Pualu at dedication of Mather Plaque, 1939
Hawaii Volcanoes NP
(Cunningham, NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Mr. Demarary and uniformed personnel of the park after dedication of Mather Plaque, 1939
Hawaii Volcanoes NP
(Cunningham, NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Kilauea Visitor Center
Hawaii Volcanoes NP
Mather plaque
Kilauea Visitor Center
Hawaii Volcanoes NP


Haleakala National Park (Maui, HI)

The location of this plaque to the outside world was mentioned by a bright perceptive Ranger at Koloko-Honokohau NHP just north of Kona, Hawaii. In a casual conversation about Polynesian history on the Islands, the subject of Mather Plaques came up and he blindsided this visitor with remark of seeing a Mather Plaque while working at Haleakala N.P. Previously mounted in front of the Visitor Center next to a silver sword plant, the plaque was taken down while he was there and placed in storage during some structural Visitor Center alterations. Sure enough, that's where it was! On careful examination it is determined to be from 1930!!! As of May 2016 this historic plaque was remounted with donated funds and labor as part of the visitor center renovation at Park Headquarters. At 1000 on 1 August 2016 Dr. Natalie Gates, Haleakala Superintendent, conducted a brief ceremony and blessing of the newly opened Park Headquarters. While speaking next to the Mather Plaque on her Park's centennial anniversary, she marked the first sunrise in Haleakala National Park's next 100 years. The original location of this plaque is thought by some to have been the top of Haleakala, by the summit observation station at the end of the road. It was later moved to the current visitor center location when that structure came on line as a part of the Mission 66 program in the 1960's. An original part of Hawaii National Park since 1 August 1916, Haleakala was incorporated as a separate National Park 13 September 1960 and the Big Island park was renamed Hawaii Volcanoes.

Mather plaque
Headquarters Visitor Center
Haleakala NP
(Kim Round photo)
Mather plaque
Headquarters Visitor Center
Haleakala NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Headquarters Visitor Center
Haleakala NP


Acadia National Park (ME)

A low granite ledge on the Cadillac Summit Loop Trail (#33) facing the parking lot. Cadillac Mountain granite is geologically unique and esthetically quite pleasing. The salt and pepper effect in the rock comes from a mixture of quartz and hornblende. The striking pink coloration results from a generous portion of feldspar thrown in. This place has a tortured geologic history including multiple continental collisions of tectonic plates. Other fragments of this same metamorphic wreckage can be found in Wales and North Africa. Some say this is the second vintage 1930 plaque that Acadia has received—the first plaque may have been either damaged or destroyed in the big wildfire of 1947. If so, there is no record of what became of that first plaque's remains. (?) According to Hillory Tolson, a long time Assistant NPS Director, the replacement plaque sent was the "one spare copy" at NPS Headquarters. (#28!) Interestingly, other knowledgeable Park informants say the 1947 fire didn't touch the top of Cadillac Mountain and that first plaque hasn't moved since the day it was placed there by Superintendent George Dorr on the 4th of July 1932. (?)When visiting Cadillac Mountain, I failed to see anything on or around the summit that would remotely support a wildfire. This apparent discrepancy was neatly resolved by a wonderful historian in Darien, CT:"When anything takes place in Maine, there are at least two versions of what happened and why...and usually both are wrong." Dedication photos might well help to clarify the question of original location.

Mather plaque
Cadillac Mountain
Acadia NP


Chamizal National Memorial (TX)

Mounted on the left outside wall of the Visitor Center front entrance in 1992. What today looks like a sleepy city park is in reality an historically significant international site. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo terminating the Mexican War was crafted to include accepted international law for a boundary demarcated by a river. Continued changes in the Rio Grande's course in El Paso between 1852 and 1868 resulted in a loss of U.S. territory (Chamizal) and the creation of a horseshoe bend (Cordova Island). Settlement by more than 5,000 people in this problem area further complicated a border that neither Mexican nor American authorities could control. On again off again disputes and controversy smoldered along over ownership (taxes) and smuggling (illegal emigrants, contraband, guns, and slaves). Arbitrated in 1910, it wasn't until 1963 that a mutual accord was finally agreed and the river channel/boundary set in a concrete revetment. Chamizal National Memorial was established in 1974 to commemorate international diplomacy and cooperation (after more than a century of wrangling) in conflict resolution. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #2.

Mather plaque
Visitor Center
Chamizal NMem


Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site (CO)

Outside the staff administration building. On the accessible back of this plaque is the raised lettering COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT EDITION OF 1991 16. Originally the plaque was located along the walking path to the Fort. As the Fort's historic reenactment program was developed, this plaque was thought to distract from the 1840's frontier mood that was being created for visitors and so it was relocated to this less intrusive area. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #16. Check hours of operation.

Mather plaque
Administrative Area
Bent's Old Fort NHS


Guadalupe Mountains National Park (TX)

Outside, on the low patio wall of the Visitor Center front entrance area since 1991. This setting that embraces a vista up Pine Spring Canyon and the flank of Guadalupe Peak (highest point in Texas, 8,749') is particularly attractive. With the ruins of a Butterfield stage station, a world class fossil reef, prehistoric pictographs, the old Frijole Ranch, and an 80 mile network of fine hiking trails, Guadalupe N.P. is a storied place with lots to do. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #3. Inscription on the reverse is legible.

Mather plaque
Headquarters Visitor Center
Guadalupe Mountains NP
Mather plaque
Headquarters Visitor Center
(reverse inscription)
Guadalupe Mountains NP


Petersburg National Battlefield (VA)

Placed in front of the Eastern Front Visitor Center, along the entrance walkway in August 1991. Petersburg was the last, longest, and one of the most brutal slugfests of the Civil War—a siege lasting from 15 June 1864 to 2 April 1865. Collapse of the Petersburg line led directly to Lee's surrender a few weeks later at Appomattox Court House and the end of the Civil War. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #13.

Mather plaque
Headquarters Visitor Center
Petersburg NB


Big Bend National Park (TX)

Along the paved accessible Window View Trail (a 1/4 mile loop) immediately west of the Basin Parking area and very near the Chisos Basin Visitor Center. Tucked between the Window View and Emory Peak, Chisos Basin is a delightful canyon oasis.

Mather plaque
Chisos Basin
Big Bend NP


Bryce Canyon National Park (UT)

Close to the flagpole on a boulder outside the Visitor Center along the front walk. Bryce Canyon has seen all sorts of changes from its earliest days as Senator Reed Smoot pushed for its protection in 1919. Mather thought the area was really too small to warrant National Park status and that it really should be a state park. First there was National Monument status, then administration by the Forest Service, then stepchild administration from Zion National Park, and then the place was renamed. Redesignated again in 1928, it was finally made an independent National Park in 1956! The current Visitor Center was built in 1959 as part of the Mission 66 Program. It is thought that the plaque originally was across the road, next to an earlier visitor center that was even closer to the current entrance station.

Mather plaque
Headquarters Visitor Center
Bryce Canyon NP


Rocky Mountain National Park (CO)

Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, US 36 highway in Estes Park. Dedicated 4 July 1932, the original location is not known. Three other visitor centers—two in Estes Park and one in Moraine Park—preceded the current Beaver Meadows location constructed 1966/67. Taliesin Associates, an architectural group founded by Frank Lloyd Wright, designed this Visitor Center and Headquarters building. It is one more jewel to appreciate in this Park's cornucopia of scenic delights. The Mather Plaque is on a boulder along the entryway walk.

Mather plaque
Rocky Mountain NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Beaver Meadows Visitor Center
Rocky Mountain NP


Petrified Forest National Park (AZ)

Along the Rainbow Forest Trail outside the southern entrance Visitor Center (the old Park Headquarters). This plaque was placed in its current location and dedicated on 4 July 1932 with Superintendent of Grand Canyon N.P. Miner Tillotson, NPS Director Horace Albright, Petrified Forest N.M. Superintendent Charles Smith, and Southwest National Monuments Superintendent Frank "Boss" Pinkley in attendance. Robert Mather Albright (Horace Albright's son) unveiled the plaque.

Mather plaque
Dedication Ceremony
Petrified Forest NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Rainbow Forest Trail
Petrified Forest NP


Wind Cave National Park (SD)

For years this plaque originally hung along the breezeway of the old Visitor Center. When the building was renovated in 1979 the plaque went into storage until 2011—32 years! The plaque is currently along a side walk in front of the visitor center, mounted on a native boulder "harvested" in the course of pipeline excavation. This plaque (while in storage) was used to create the mold for the 1991 run of 20 new plaques. Wind Cave is an old Park having one of the largest and most complex caves in the world. Meticulous research by a dedicated Ranger on the interpretive staff determined that Wind Cave received their plaque in 1959 based on the Superintendent's Monthly Reports for that year.

Mather plaque
Headquarters Visitor Center
Wind Cave NP


Colorado National Monument (CO)

Plaque #1 1991 Edition.

It all started with the Monument's Chief Ranger, Hank Schoch, wanting to obtain a Mather Plaque for his monument's 75th anniversary in 1986. Unable to locate an unattached plaque, it was his indefatigable work over the next 5 years that led to the run of 20 new plaques and the rededication celebration of 20 Park Units on the 75th anniversary of the National Park Service in 1991. The story is long and complicated with twists and turns through which the Chief Ranger never gave up. The 20 new individually numbered plaques were again cast by the Gorham foundry in statuary bronze. Members of the Colorado National Monument staff engraved their names on the reverse of plaque #1 before the tablet was permanently mounted on its stone plinth and bench in front of the Visitor Center on Rim Rock Drive. The pedestal also contains a sealed time capsule collection of 75th Anniversary memorabilia. This plaque project was underwritten by the Colorado National Monument Association and the master mold was "owned" by them—for future plaques?—until destroyed in a fire that leveled the Aiken, SC foundry.

Mather plaque
Rim Rock Drive Visitor Center
Colorado NM


Grand Teton National Park (WY)

Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center in Moose, WY. This plaque was placed on a boulder on the right side of the walkway heading for the front entrance in 2007. As there have been several earlier visitor centers at other locations over time in the Park, it seems reasonable that this may well be one of possibly several locations for this plaque (?). Original dedication photos from 1932 or thereabouts may well help determine where this plaque has been.

Mather plaque
Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center
Grand Teton NP


Isle Royale National Park (MI)

Rock Harbor. On a boulder along the walk between the Visitor Center and the concessionaire's dining facility. The island is closed October through April. Although this Park receives fewer visitors in a year than does Yellowstone in a day, it has the highest per acre back country wilderness utilization of any National Park. Its average visitor stay is the longest of any National Park. And, Isle Royale has the highest National Park rate of "repeaters" among its visitors.

Mather plaque
Rock Harbor
Isle Royale NP
Mather plaque
Windigo
Isle Royale NP
Mather plaque
Stoll Plaque
Isle Royale NP


Death Valley National Park (CA)

Visitor Center at Furnace Creek: on the east wall, inside the courtyard, behind the Visitor Center building. It was unveiled in this location at a 75th Anniversary NPS program 12 October 1991. Earlier history is not known. The courtyard can be accessed through the Visitor Center or, should the Visitor Center be closed, walk around the west end of the building, past the bathrooms, across the grass, to freely enter the open courtyard.

Mather plaque
Furnace Creek Visitor Center
Death Valley NP


"Old Santa Fe Trail Building"— Former NPS Region III Office (NM)

1100 Old Santa Fe Trail, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505 In the early 1930's the choice of where to put a central regional office that covered five southwestern states was decided by the usual committee method. Narrowing the selection down to two cities—Santa Fe and Albuquerque—the vote was all in favor of Albuquerque. The one dissenting vote by Herbert Maier (the new Regional Director) determined the location: Santa Fe. The Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe, who owned land along the historic Santa Fe Trail, sweetened the deal by offering 8 acres to the Park Service for this purpose given a $1 donation. It would seem that democracy in the Park Service does not always work exactly the way you might expect. Although it has been in use by the Park Service since it was built during the depression, this classic old CCC/WPA building was technically a property of the General Services Administration. When the Region III office was moved to the Intermountain Regional Office in Denver as a cost saving consolidation in 1995, the Region III Director instantly realized the fate of this historic Park Service building. He promptly flew to Ft. Worth and plied the GSA Regional Director with an expensive meal at a fancy restaurant, unlimited martinis (strictly medicinal), and prevailed upon her to sign back over this old building to him on a bar napkin at dinner. Not only did he get this National Historic Landmark back, but also the funding line that went with it. The woman retired as scheduled several weeks later. By the time the GSA figured out what had happened, the title had been transferred, the building was staffed, up and running with NPS people as a "regional support office"—it was a done deal. For a while afterwards the place was referred to by some as the "Cook Building" after the wily Regional Director who snaked it back. Initially mounted on an outside wall next to the front entrance, the Mather plaque was moved inside in 1999. In this exquisite vintage building, the plaque is now centered in the reception lobby as part of a very tasteful display beneath a large WPA oil portrait of Stephen Mather on horseback. Business hours accessibility. With current security considerations it may not be possible to be accommodated for an impromptu visit and prearrangement is advised to see the plaque and tour this classic structure. Impeccably maintained by the Park Service, its myriad of architectural, artistic, and craftsmanship details are well worth the trouble!The original period conference table was constructed on site in the conference room as it wouldn't fit through the door. Most of the adobe was made traditionally on site. CCC carpenters handcrafted the furniture with some Indian designs "borrowed" from Superintendent Jesse Nusbaum at Mesa Verde. When funding lagged or ran out, vigas and log beams were purloined from nearby Forest Service projects. Vintage Indian blankets and historic pots complete the décor. 1991 NPS Anniversary Rededication #14.

Mather plaque
Entrance Foyer
Old Santa Fe Trail Building
Mather plaque
Courtyard
Old Santa Fe Trail Building
Mather plaque
Old Santa Fe Trail Building


Mesa Verde National Park (CO)

Chapin Historic District. The plaque is mounted outside on the right (south) side porch of the original Archeological Museum. Adjacent is a 1978 plaque recognizing Mesa Verde as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to Horace Albright this plaque was dedicated 4 July 1932—probably in this location.

Mather plaque
Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum
Spruce Tree House Historic District
Mesa Verde NP


Hovenweep National Monument (UT)

This little National Monument was established in 1923 but remained an unimproved area for most of its life. Mesa Verde served as its administrative base and for reasons unknown, a plaque was ordered for the 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication (#18). It was shipped to Mesa Verde and placed in storage. When Hovenweep was subsequently developed and staffed for visitor interpretation in 2001, the plaque never made it home. Neither the Superintendent in 1991 nor the 2014 Facilities Supervisor at Mesa Verde had any idea or suggestion where it might be found and the plaque was considered "lost". In late May 2016, while trying to locate an electrical short in the dark back recesses of a dusty basement closet in the old Archeological Museum (in the Chapin historic district), the same Ranger who enlightened me about the Haleakala Plaque (now at Mesa Verde), encountered two sealed wooden shipping crates that were too heavy to move easily. A flashlight revealed "5 July 1991 Hovenweep" and "Gorham Bronze" written on the outside. So, 25 years later this "lost" plaque was "discovered." Its disposition at Hovenweep is currently (2019) pending. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #18.

Mather plaque
Plaque created for Hovenweep NM found in storage at Mesa Verde NP


Bandelier National Monument (NM)

Although established in 1919, Yucca House National Monument in Colorado remains undeveloped to this day. There is nothing at the end of the dirt road but a barbed wire fence and a gate! Mesa Verde continues to be this unstaffed National Monument's administrative base. Again, for reasons unknown, a plaque was ordered for Yucca House in 1991 (#17) as a part of the 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication activity. 25 years after delivery, the "lost" Yucca House Plaque was "found" in May 2016 still in its shipping crate at the same time as the Hovenweep plaque. Still crated in storage at Mesa Verde, its disposition was rumored for a while to be part of a small planned interpretive development at the Yucca House site. In the fall of 2018 the superintendent of Bandelier National Monument, who knew of this plaque's existence, managed to obtain it by as yet undisclosed means. It now awaits display at Bandelier! Bandelier National Monument is a "Mather era" park created by Woodrow Wilson 11 February 1916. It was administered by the U. S. Forest Service until 1932. Much of the Monument's development occurred during the Great Depression with extensive construction by the Civilian Conservation Corps using the NPS "rustic architecture style." The collected 31 historic buildings in Bandelier are designated a National Landmark District and they constitute the largest number of CCC structures in the National Park Service. Currently—January 2019—this Mather plaque is in storage at Bandelier awaiting display. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #17.

Mather plaque
Plaque created for Yucca House NM
Now to be displayed at Bandelier NM


Casa Grande Ruins National Monument (AZ)

Outside the Visitor Center entrance on the right front wall since 1932 or 1933. The proposed memorial services for the Stephen T. Mather memorial plaque dedication at Casa Grande "were postponed until later on account of the extremely hot summer weather." There was also inability to obtain a distinguished speaker for the occasion, no doubt due to such repugnant temperatures and the lack of air conditioning. Casa Grande is one of two National Monuments at the time to receive a 1930 plaque. (The other was Petrified Forest N.M.) Both Monuments were administered by curmudgeonly Superintendent Frank "Boss" Pinkley, a long time Mather appointee.

Mather plaque
Visitor Center
Casa Grande Ruins NM


Theodore Roosevelt National Park (ND)

The plaque is outside in a native plant garden, near the entryway of the South Unit Visitor Center in Medora, ND. It has been there since the Visitor Center was completed in 1959 and it is mounted on some CCC era stonework. Besides preserving the sites of Teddy Roosevelt's two Dakota Ranches, this Park protects several large parcels of great plains prairie, badlands, riverine woodland, a petrified forest, incredible wildlife, and a remarkable variety of ticks.

Mather plaque
South Unit Visitor Center
Theodore Roosevelt NP


Pipe Spring National Monument (AZ)

Stephen Mather first visited Pipe Spring in 1920. He was immediately smitten with the fort's quintessential western history (cattle drives, Indian raids, smuggling, polygamy, God seekers, and desert rats) as well as its strategic travel location between Zion and the Grand Canyon. Having cool water and shade trees, it only seemed natural to include this quaint scenic wayside as part of the envisioned grand scenic loop around the Colorado Plateau. Working with local as well as national donors (Mather chipped in too), 40 acres, the spring, and Winsor Castle was purchased from the Heaton family. Pipe Spring was declared a National Monument in 1923. The memorial plaque is located along the Overlook Trail, on a hillside above the Visitor Center. An information plaque about Mather's historic involvement with the Monument is close by. Originally, the Mather Plaque had been placed on flat ground behind the Visitor Center with a wagon scenically placed behind it in 1991—old photos of this still float around on the internet. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #6.

Mather plaque
Overlook Trail
Pipe Spring NM
poster
Grand Circle Tour Poster


Great Basin National Park (NV)

This plaque has been stolen twice and somehow recovered both times. Park establishment as a major expansion of Lehman Cave N.M. in 1986 did not enjoy universal acceptance in Nevada. A vocal local group certainly did not agree with the loss of recreational hunting, prospecting, and vehicular access. In 1994 the plaque was ripped off its mounting along the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive at Mather Overlook. Evidently tossed down the highway embankment, it was later discovered by road workers. Reinstalled, the plaque disappeared again in 1995 but was miraculously obtained back 2 years later from a scrap dealer in Reno after someone recognized it there. Mounting is now described as "bomb proof." 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #7.

Mather plaque
Overlook Trail
Great Basin NP


Everglades National Park (FL)

In front of the Coe Visitor Center, across the walk from a bronze statue of a Florida panther. The plaque is mounted on an irregular block of limestone riddled with fossils and a jaunty epiphytic plant is perched askew on top.Details and dates of this plaque's origin are not known.A 1962 photograph is the earliest documentation the Park could find.

Mather plaque
Coe Visitor Center
Everglades NP
Mather plaque
Ernest Coe Plaque
Everglades NP


Boston National Historical Park (MA)

Current staff in this Park have heard something about a plaque but no one there now can remember having seen it. (?) With Faneuil Hall, the frigate USS Constitution, a group of historic sites, private affiliates and several museums, this Historical Park embodies the cradle of American liberty in Boston. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #10. (Lost?)


Stephen T. Mather Training Center—Harper's Ferry National Historical Park (WV)

When Mather Junior High School in Darien, Connecticut, was closed and the building turned over to the town for their City Hall in 1983, this 1959 plaque was "offered to a good home" by school officials. Superintendent Charlie Gebler of the Mather Training Center traveled by train to Darien and brought the plaque back with him. Working with Superintendent Campbell of Harper's Ferry NHP, the two decided where to place the plaque and a suitable boulder was obtained from the Shenandoah River. Now mounted on this large boulder in front of the Mather Training Center, it is referred to as the "Mather Rock."Formal dedication was 13 November 1983 with Mather's sister, a son, Director Dickenson, Conrad Wirth, and George Hartzog attending...it was quite an event.

Mather plaque
The Mather Rock
Stephen T. Mather Training Center
Harper's Ferry NHP


Canyonlands National Park (UT)

On a boulder in front of the Needles Visitor Center. Across the walk is another boulder with a plaque in tribute to the legendary founding Superintendent, Bates Wilson. Dedication of these plaques accompanied the opening festivities of the Needles Visitor Center at 1030 on Earth Day, 22 April 1992. This gala affair was hosted by Park Superintendent Walt Dabny. Starting off with a welcoming address by Utah Governor Norman Bangerter, a prayer was then offered by Monticello attorney Bennion Redd. U.S. Senator Jake Garn, Ron Madsen (an aide to Senator Orin Hatch), and Congressman Bill Orton—legislators who shepherded the Park Bill through Congress—each said a piece. And, remarks were made by Robert Baker, Regional Director of the National Park Service. Other notable guests included former Superintendent Harvey Wickware, former Senator Frank Moss, and County Commissioner Ty Lewis. The occasion concluded with the dramatic release of a rehabilitated golden eagle by Senator Garn followed by a hamburger cookout at the Needles Outpost. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #15.

Mather plaque
Needles District Visitor Center
Canyonlands NP
Mather plaque
Dedication Ceremony
22 Apr 1992
Canyonlands NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Bates Wilson Plaque
Canyonlands NP


Golden Spike National Historic Site (UT)

Promontory Summit, Utah, on the Visitor Center exterior, left wall along the entrance walkway. Across that walkway is a dinged up head tall white masonry cenotaph with a benchmark in its base. For many years this obelisk marked the "spot" of the famous junction in the right of way along the railroad tracks—where the golden spike was pounded into a tie of polished California laurel May 10, 1869. The original rail line over Promontory Summit was later abandoned and the tracks pulled up for scrap during WW II. The cenotaph with its benchmark was moved to the front of the Visitor Center in 1969 on the centennial of this historic meeting. The original Golden Spike currently resides in the Cantor Arts Museum on the Stanford University campus along with the silver sledge hammer and the Nevada Silver Spike. The whereabouts of the second gold spike and the Arizona iron-silver-gold spike are not known. The polished laurel tie was lost in the fire following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The two steam engine locomotives currently at this Historic Site are exact working replicas of the originals. Exact location of the golden spike is currently commemorated with a new polished laurel tie and a brass plaque in the middle of the train tracks. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #12.

Mather plaque
Visitor Center
Golden Spike NHS
Mather plaque
Promontory Point
Golden Spike NHS
Mather plaque
Promontory Point
Golden Spike NHS
Mather plaque
Promontory Point
Golden Spike NHS
Mather plaque
Promontory Point
Golden Spike NHS


Indiana Dunes National Park (IN)

Sand Dunes State Park was the original recipient of this plaque and it was dedicated there on 4 July 1932. While working as an industrial businessman in Chicago in 19ll (years before his tenure with the Interior Department and the Park Service) Stephen Mather joined the newly formed Prairie Club and served on its Conservation Committee. Much like the Appalachian Trail Club in the East and the Sierra Club in the West, the Prairie Club worked to protect the dunes along the southern end of Lake Michigan for public recreation and enjoyment. With continued development of the waterfront between Gary and Chicago, the Prairie Club voted in 1916 to form the National Dunes Park Association with the expressed goal of establishing a National Park. Although Mather left Chicago the year before, he remained an active member of two organizations advocating for the dunes. In Washington he continued working with the Interior Department and relevant politicians on behalf of a proposed Dunes National Park. WW I, business and political opposition, along with Mather's absence for health reasons conspired against this accomplishment. By late1920, Mather and Albright finally thought the idea of a Dunes National Park was fruitless. With continued development of the lakeshore, the original extent of shoreline for public use had been badly compromised. Turning the work over to Richard Lieber, head of Indiana State Parks and a personal friend, Mather continued to actively work in Indiana on the Dunes State Park. Governor Goodrich endorsed the project in 1921 and over the next ten years or so, Indiana Dunes State Park was developed and funded—part for recreation and part for preservation. First opened for the public in 1926, Lieber had erected a stone monument with a bronze recognition plaque for Mather in the center of the new Park. (The fate of this plaque is unknown.) The memorial plaque received in 1932 after Mather's death was displayed for a while along one of the Park trails at Waverly Beach. At some point, the memorial plaque was put into storage. Another generation in another time put together a surrounding National Lakeshore under the Park Service. When finally authorized in 1966, the memorial plaque was passed along from the State Park to the NPS unit where it was put in storage again. With the 1989 development of the Lakeview picnic and beach area in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (renamed Indiana Dunes National Park on 2/15/2019), the plaque was finally integrated in that recreation area at the top of a stairwell leading down to the beach and overlooking the lakeshore.

Mather plaque
Col. Richard J. Lieber Unveiling Mather Plaque, 4 July 1932
Indiana Dunes SP
(Calumet Regional Archives photo)
Mather plaque
Lakeview Picnic & Beach Area
Indiana Dunes NP


Fort Clatsop National Memorial—Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks (OR)

Outside on the front Visitor Center wall, right side as you walk in. Senator Robert Packwood unveiled this plaque on 28 August 1991 at the dedication of the new Visitor Center. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #11.

Mather plaque
Fort Clatsop Visitor Center
Lewis and Clark NHP
Mather plaque
Fort Clatsop
Lewis and Clark NHP
Mather plaque
Salt Works
Lewis and Clark NHP
Mather plaque
Seaside, OR
Lewis and Clark NHP


Big Cypress National Preserve (FL)

Received in June of 1991 and evidently never mounted or displayed, this plaque was finally located on 12 December 2013 by Rangers Noreen and Dennis in the attic above the headquarters office after an intermittent three month search. Three years of negotiations by the Chief of Interpretation and the Plaque was finally mounted outside their visitor center in 2016. Although National Preserves offer different visitor uses than National Parks, Big Cypress effectively extends and protects the adjacent Everglades ecosystem. The southern end of Florida has four large Park areas. Each is so different and diverse that time for each is essential to their individual appreciation. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #4.

Mather plaque
Headquarters Visitor Center (2014)
Big Cypress NPres
Mather plaque
Headquarters Visitor Center (2016)
Big Cypress NPres
(NPS photo)


Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site (MT—ND)

Grouted into a glacial erratic boulder in the lower/overflow parking lot and picnic area since August 1991. The plaque is accessible when the Fort front gate along the highway is open. Check hours of operation. From the dawn of human habitation in North America, the junction of the Missouri and the Yellowstone Rivers has been a crossroads of humanity. In April 1805 Lewis & Clark spent five days hereabout mapping the confluence in detail and noted its potential military importance. Also recognizing this strategic location, John Jacob Astor placed his American Fur Trading Company post here in 1828. For the next 39 years it was a legendary supply and communications center during America's western expansion period prior to the coming of the railroad. (The lower/overflow parking lot where the Plaque is located is just west of the Fort and actually across the Montana state line!) 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #19.

Mather plaque
Lower Parking Lot
Fort Union Trading Post NHS
Mather plaque
Rendezvous
Fort Union Trading Post NHS
Mather plaque
Confluence Map
Lewis and Clark Expedition


Blue Ridge Parkway (NC)

On an outside deck behind the Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Center and Bridge Museum. (Mile Post 304.4) In 1989 this plaque was transferred from the NPS History Collection to be installed here at the Contact Station overlooking the valley below. Its prior history is administratively unknown. The Visitor Center at Linn Cove is open seasonally. If the gate on the road to the visitor center is closed, it is but a short walk down from the Parkway to see the plaque. The Linn Cove Viaduct is a civil engineering marvel constructed between 1979 and 1987. Wrapping this preformed concrete segmental bridge around Grandfather Mountain was the last section of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be completed. The short Tanawha Hiking Trail winds around and beneath the viaduct from Beacon Heights to Julian Price Park. (This remains another Mather Plaque mystery. Weighing about 40 pounds and cast in a silver metal rather than bronze—aluminum or some sort of light weight pewter alloy—no information has been found as to why, how or when this plaque was cast. In detail it appears to be either 1930 Type II or 1959 in configuration. Perhaps it was a "trial" piece?)

Mather plaque
Linn Cove Contact Station
Blue Ridge Parkway
Mather plaque
Linn Cove Contact Station
Blue Ridge Parkway
Mather plaque
Blue Ridge Parkway
Mather plaque
Blue Ridge Parkway
Mather plaque
Blue Ridge Parkway


Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site (PA)

Since April 1992 this plaque has remained on its original stone pedestal along the parking lot perimeter walk, near the entrance of the Park Amphitheater at the Visitor Center Complex. Used from 1834 to 1854 the portage rail road hauled freight boats 36 miles over the Allegheny Mountains, from the Holidaysburg Canal Basin to Johnstown. It opened up shipping of all sorts to the western territories by boat. River travel was far preferable to muddy rutted mountain tracks. Using 10 inclined planes, counterbalanced payloads, and a fixed steam engine, this ingenious early rail road was an engineering marvel of its day. 1991 75th Anniversary Rededication #9.

Mather plaque
Visitor Center
Allegheny Portage Railroad NHS


Denali National Park & Preserve (AK)

Originally this plaque was mounted outside the Ranger Dormitory in 1934. Later it was moved to the Naturalists Office, which received the most visitor contacts. Now it is drilled through and bolted to the outside wall next to the Park Headquarters front door where few people have occasion to see it.

Mather plaque

Denali NP&Pres
Mather plaque
Karstens Plaque
Denali NP&Pres
Mather plaque
Sheldon Plaque
Denali NP&Pres


Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (CA)

This big rambling Recreation Area participated in the 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication activity, ordered and received a plaque (#8), but has no record of that now. No one currently in the Park Unit can recall seeing it. The plaque may be unrecognized, stolen, lost in storage, or.....?


Rocky Mountain Regional Office / NPS Denver Service Center (Lakewood, CO)

Intermountain Region Headquarters Building, 12795 W. Alameda Parkway, 80228. In this enormous high powered administrative setting, the plaque is freely accessible outside. Mounted on a boulder close to the flagpole, it is part of the entryway garden. It was purchased with funds donated by the Denver Center Park Service staff headed up by Lorraine Mintzmyer and John Reynolds and dedicated 26 August 1991. 1991 plaques cost $600. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication #5.

Mather plaque
Denver Regional Office


Hot Springs National Park (AR)

This oldest and smallest of all National Parks was originally four square miles set aside as a Federal Reserve by an act of Congress April 20, 1832 under President Andrew Jackson—with no provision for management and no budget. (As you can see, budget woes are a long time Park Service tradition.) The Memorial Mather Plaque was first installed outside in an as yet unknown location at an unknown time. In 1939 it was moved into the lobby of the Administration Building at the end of Bath House Row to "protect it from the elements." The Administration Building formerly housed the Park Museum where more people saw the plaque until the museum was moved to the Fordyce Bathhouse Visitor Center in 1989. The plaque remains in its 1939 location, tucked in a corner on the wall between the front door and the receptionist's desk. Business hours accessibility.

Mather plaque
Administrative Building, 1939
Hot Springs NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Administrative Building
Hot Springs NP


Assateague Island National Seashore (MD)

Verrazano Bridge accessing the island. The plaque is mounted on the bridge railing along the pedestrian walkway and close by the Verrazano Bridge historic marker. It is 200 paces (Arrgh!) from the Barrier Island Visitor Center Parking lot, where the asphalt turns to concrete. (West end of the bridge, south side of Highway 611, South National Seashore Lane.) Originally the plaque was unveiled 21 September 1991 at the celebration of the Seashore's 25th Anniversary. 1991 75th Anniversary NPS Rededication#20. To read the visible inscription on the plaque's reverse it is necessary to climb over the substantial walkway fence and stand precariously on bridge pilings. To save you the trouble, the raised inscription on the back says: COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT EDITION OF 1991 20.

Mather plaque
Barrier Island Visitor Center
Assateague Islands NS


Virgin Islands National Park (VI)

This plaque sits on a wooden saw horse of sorts next to the flag pole in front of the St. John's Visitor Center on Cruz Bay.As this display is movable, not too long ago a visitor leaning on the plaque managed to knock it over and it landed on another visitor's foot, breaking a toe. The possibility of a lawsuit has been considered.The Virgin Islands, formerly known as the Danish West Indies, were purchased by the United States from Denmark as a diplomatic move in 1917 for 25 million dollars. The United States was afraid that Denmark could easily fall to the Germans (WW I) thus giving the Central Powers a naval base in the West Indies. (American admirals and naval strategists must have paled at the thought of German battleships and U-Boats smack dab in the middle of the western hemisphere.) Although recognized by Mather as a prime potential National Park from its initial acquisition, Congress could not conceive why anyone would want to go to the warm sunny Caribbean Islands for any reason? Laurance Rockefeller bought up more than 5,000 acres on St. John's Island after WW II amid the Caribbean vacation home housing boom. In 1956 he negotiated this as a donation to be incorporated as a National Park. Creation of the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument in 2001 effectively expanded and further protects the Park's ecosystems with a three mile offshore belt around St. John's Island. Virgin Islands N.P. is thought to be the first park unit to create an underwater trail for visitors.

Mather plaque
Cruz Bay Visitor Center
Virgin Islands NP


Mammoth Cave National Park (KY)

A boulder about 30' from the front door of the Visitor Center. This Park was legislated into existence on 25 May 1926, but it wasn't until twenty year later that the land acquisition issues had been mostly resolved, WW II concluded, and Park development could proceed during the post WW II period of national prosperity. Mammoth Cave was formally dedicated as a National Park in September 1946.

Mather plaque
Visitor Center
Mammoth Cave NP


Carlsbad Caverns National Park (NM)

With the end of construction of the Bat Flight Amphitheater in 1964, this plaque was mounted on a native limestone wall on the right side of the Cavern Foot Trail entrance. A World Heritage Site since 1995, Carlsbad Caverns National Park and the adjacent Lincoln National Forest are riddled with caves, remarkable for their size, length, complexity and diversity of formations. The Guadalupe Escarpment, Devil's Den Canyon, McKittrick Canyon, Lonesome Ridge, and the Brokeoff Mountains are Wilderness Study Areas that tie Carlsbad Caverns and Guadalupe National Parks together in a remarkable and seldom visited wild area. (Check out various permutations of the Guadalupe Ridge Trail.) The biosphere of this extraordinary range continues to be explored and cataloged.

Mather plaque
Carlsbad Caverns NP


Kings Canyon National Park (CA)

The Phantom General Grant National Park Plaque.

The Phantom General Grant National Park Plaque. General Grant National Park was a small postage stamp of giant sequoias (154 acres) set aside by presidential decree on 1 October 1890. The Grant Grove includes the General Grant Tree, originally thought to be the largest tree in the world. In 1926 President Coolidge proclaimed it the Nation's Christmas Tree and in 1956 President Eisenhower declared the tree a National Shrine dedicated to those killed in the war. Precise measurements in 2012 verified once again that actually, the General Grant Tree was only the third largest tree in the world! By any standard it is still an incredible tree, still vigorous, and still growing. General Grant National Park received a Memorial Mather Plaque in 1932.It was installed that September on a boulder in a meadow along the path between the Grant Grove parking lot and the village. (You can still find this rock about 50 yards from the cement sidewalk in the Grant Grove parking lot. When you reach the little wooden footbridge along the dirt path heading toward the village, look left—north—across the small meadow. The cutout for the plaque is still plainly evident on the boulder.) In 1940 Kings Canyon National Park was created from a huge chunk of the Sierras. (Clarence King was a giant figure in western exploration, the Sierras, mountaineering, geology, cartography, an accomplished author, art critic, and first Director of the United States Geological Survey—who lived a storied double life. But the Kings Canyon was NOT named for Clarence King or Clarence King Peak. Beleaguered by the travails of exploration on 6 January 1805, Lt. Gabriel Moraga with his small escort of Spanish soldiers decided to cover all the bases when he ran into an undescribed river on the day of the Feast of Epiphany. So he christened the river El Rio de los Santos Reyes after the biblical magi—River of the Holy Kings.) Congress reincorporated General Grant National Park into Kings Canyon National Park. Three years later Kings Canyon was conjoined with Sequoia National Park to share a common administration as a cost saving measure during WW II. Noted last in a memo to the Park architect in 1946, the General Grant Mather Plaque was removed not long after and placed in storage only to "disappear." While answering a routine inquiry about historic photos in 2014, a bright perceptive museum curator in Sequoia/Kings Canyon N.P.'s mentioned a pristine plaque in Park museum storage at Ash Mountain. Identical to the one mounted on the rock in Crescent Meadow, dating (1934 graffiti) confirms this plaque's heritage as the one unaccounted plaque from 1930. So after 70 years, the phantom General Grant plaque has been found!

Mather plaque
General Grant Mather Plaque Rock
Kings Canyon NP
Mather plaque
Warehouse
Kings Canyon NP


Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area (CA) Whiskeytown Unit

In late 2014 Superintendent Jim Milestone had a traveling mold maker cast a latex mold of an existing mounted Mather Plaque. The attempt at Crater Lake was unsuccessful because of the cold August temperature complicated by bubbles which contracted and ruined the mold at lower elevation. Copying the plaque at the University of California at Berkeley was successful. Five plaques were cast by Valley Bronze in Joseph, Oregon, in 2015. (Valley Bronze did the bronze casting for the WWII Memorial in Washington DC.) Milestone's plaque was dedicated 22 August 2015 on the 50th anniversary of Whiskeytown's incorporation with Dr. Bill Tweed as the dedication speaker.Sealing of a children's time capsule, the Shasta Symphony in a beachside orchestra concert, the release of candle luminaries onto the lake, and a lighted boat parade rounded out a delightful afternoon and evening in the Park for an estimated gathering of 2,000. The plaque is located in a lovely wooded area along Brandy Creek, about ¼ mile up from Brandy Creek Beach. It is close to the Brandy Creek picnic area along a paved accessible path at the start of the trail to Brandy Creek Falls.

Mather plaque
Plaque Dedication
22 Aug 2015
Whiskeytown NRA
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Whiskeytown NRA


Redwood National and State Parks (CA)

In a gala afternoon of festivities 6/26/16 a new Mather Plaque was unveiled and dedicated on the site of a former lumber mill in Orick. Centennial activities for a crowd of some 1,500 visitors included wagon rides, trail shuttles, musical groups, food vendors, a Yoruk Indian canoe demonstration, interactive exhibits, Ranger-led walks, story tellers, bicycle tours, pony rides, and bucking logs with a two man crosscut saw. Dignitary speakers included Park Superintendent Steve Prokop, Yoruk Tribal Chairman Thomas O'Rourke, Congressman Jared Huffman, Steve Hodder of the Save the Redwoods League, and Michael Muir—John Muir's great grandson. In 2013 this 124 acre site of a former lumber mill where redwoods were processed was obtained by the Save the Redwoods League. With grants and fund raising ongoing, it is hoped and planned that a new interpretive visitor center will soon become a reality. Private individuals, corporations, conservation organizations, and the Save the Redwoods League are working with the Redwood National and State Parks to make this happen. The Mather Plaque will be permanently displayed outside at that time. Redwood N.P. is another triple crown Park. Besides a Mather Plaque, Redwood has both National Heritage Site status and is declared as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It is a hotbed of ecology research, canopy exploration, restoration, archeobotony, and new species identification. All this in what is only about 4% of the original old growth forest remaining. A recent book fittingly referred to redwood groves in this exquisite temperate rain forest as "Cathedrals in the Rain."

Mather plaque
Plaque Dedication
20 July 2016
Redwood NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Dedication 20 July 2016
Redwood NP
(Nancy Gregory photo)


Joshua Tree National Park (CA)

Dedicated 8/25/16 @ 1000 at the Oasis of Mara administrative and visitor center complex. Cake, history and music took center stage on the patio at Joshua Tree National Park Headquarters. Superintendent David Smith, Chief Ranger Jeff Ohlfs and Park Rangers gathered with VIP's from across the Morongo Basin to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Those in attendance included Twentynine Palms Mayor Dan Mintz and Yucca Valley Mayor Bob Leone, along with representatives of all three Morongo Basin chambers of commerce and representatives of the San Bernardino County and Riverside County sheriff's departments. Palm Vista Elementary School students sang "America the Beautiful" and a special rendition of "Happy Birthday" for the National Park Service. Superintendent Smith's address touched on a number of topics including Joshua Tree's relationship to the surrounding communities, a bit of Park Service history, National Parks in America today, as well as recognition of the staff and volunteers in Joshua Tree. As the oldest living Ranger at Joshua Tree, Chief Ranger Ohlfs cut the birthday cake with a Pulaski fire axe and gave the first piece to the youngest Ranger, Tim Callahan. (It is not known by this researcher exactly how old the Chief Ranger really is? But, with Betty Reid Soskin, age 95, at Rosie the Riveter NHP and Doug Follett, age 90, at Glacier NP—our top oldest #1 and #2 Rangers as of the NPS Centennial Anniversary—it's likely the CR has a ways to go.) Two plaques were dedicated in the course of the morning. A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve recognition plaque is mounted on a boulder. The Mather plaque is welded onto a steel pedestal. Both are in front of the Park Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms.

Mather plaque
Joshua Tree NP
Mather plaque
Mather Plaque Dedication
25 August 2015
Joshua Tree NP
(The Desert Trail photo)
Mather plaque
Mather Plaque Dedication
25 August 2015
Joshua Tree NP
(The Desert Trail photo)


Saguaro National Park (AZ) — East Park Unit (Rincon District)

Starting day two of the new Superintendent Leah McGinnis' tenure, this Mather Plaque was dedicated in front of the Rincon Mountain District Visitor Center 8/25/16 @ 0800. The Chief of Interpretation, Andy Fisher, wrangled the small gathering, beginning with the National Anthem sung acapella by high school senior Yasmine Durazo.A Tohono O'odham blessing was conferred by Tribal Vice-Chairman Jerry Carlyle followed by a welcome address from Superintendent McGinnis. Congressman Raul Grijalva and an aide of Congresswoman Martha McSally each paid their respects. This plaque was donated by two former fire crew members at Manning Camp in the mule packing days of the 1950's and 1960's. Ten miles by trail from the nearest road and 5,000 feet of elevation gain made Manning Camp the most remote of all fire camps in the Park Service at that time. John Cook, an old Park Service war horse and one of the donors, was unable to attend but was represented in remarks by his brother, "Tee" Cook.Art Janssen, the other donor (and the one who put John up to it), spoke on the relevance of Stephen Mather for us today. Bob Newtson of the Friends of Saguaro and Jim Cook of the Western National Park Association also spoke. Fittingly, Andy Fisher wrapped up the Centennial occasion with birthday cake and coffee. The Arizona College Prep Academy gave a presentation during refreshments. At the shadowy edges of this reception was the legendary old Chief Ranger, Les Gunzel, who did so much in the 1960's and 70's to set up Saguaro for later National Park status. His stories and reflections are a nostalgic historical treasure trove. The Mather Plaque is mounted in a native plant garden on a non-native boulder out front of the Visitor Center and adjacent the flag pole. With final dressing of the stone for plaque placement, the boulder fractured and was later replaced for stability. It is pretty easy to get a good superficial look at Saguaro cacti from the paved roads in either the east or west Park unit. But to really get your arms around Saguaro National Park will take a lot more time and effort. With 4 life zones, riparian areas, a remote mile high back country, a rough front country, rugged peaks, old mines, petroglyphs, and an extensive network of hiking trails, what skills, preparation and interests will you bring to this sky island wonderland?

Mather plaque
Mather Plaque Dedication
25 Aug 2015
Saguaro NP


Walnut Canyon National Monument (AZ)

Donation of this plaque was courtesy of the Cook and Guillet families—4 generations of National Park Service members from two intermarried families. A number of this Park Service clan are directly related to the Walnut Canyon/Sunset Crater/Wupatki complex— including three Superintendents and a Regional Director. The plaque was received at Walnut Canyon in October 2015. On a picture perfect late summer morning this plaque was dedicated on the National Park Service's 101st birthday at 0900, 25 August 2017, in front of the Walnut Canyon Visitor Center. Superintendent Kayci Cook Collins conducted the lovely morning dedication starting with the Pledge of Allegiance led by her son, Life (soon to be Eagle) Scout Sean Collins and the National Anthem sung by Crystal Warden-Gant. Coconino Supervisor Art Babbitt led off the speakers followed by remarks from former NPS Regional Director John Cook. Art Janssen related a brief history of Stephen Mather and the relevance of the Mather Plaque for today. Unveiling of the plaque by John and Art was followed by birthday cake and optional walking tours to the original 1904 Ranger cabin.

Mather plaque
Mather Plaque Dedication
25 Aug 2017
Walnut Canyon NM
Mather plaque
Visitor Center
Walnut Canyon NM


Independence National Historical Park (PA)

Starting 8/25/16 @ 1000 with the Mather Plaque dedication ceremony in front of the Independence NHP main Visitor Center, the day long centennial celebration began. There were a continuum of special Ranger programs, games, free admission to the Benjamin Franklin Museum, a Founder's Day picnic on the Mall, a camp fire, a night sky talk, and, of course, birthday cake. This plaque was donated by the National Parks Travelers Club as a part of their annual meeting in Philadelphia during the centennial celebration. The plaque is mounted on a boulder placed in a garden setting along the front walkway of the Visitor Center.

Mather plaque
Visitor Center
Independence NHP
(NPTC photo)


National Park Service Headquarters (Washington D.C.)

Originally this plaque was installed in 1932 outside the Director's Office in Park Service Headquarters at Horace Albright's direction. (This is now the General Services Administration Building). The plaque was moved to the new Interior Building in 1937. There it was located outside the Director's Office for many years until another renovation. Stored in various offices, it was finally installed in the office of the Associate Director, Operations. Spring 2014 found it in the office of Associate Director, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science. The 3100 corridor of the main Interior Building was remodeled starting in 2014 over 2 1/2 years. During that time the plaque was stored in the office of the Deputy Director, Operations (conference room 2023 in a locked glass cabinet) pending a permanent disposition. Business hours accessibility and an airport style security clearance is required for entry. The Department of Interior Building is two blocks long, seven stories high, with 3 square miles of floor space. To have even a hope of visiting this plaque, it is important to have a contact person who can squire you around this enormous setting. With bas reliefs, full wall WPA era oil paintings, an enormous fresco, a museum, and a corridor with original Ansel Adams photographs, the Interior Building is most interesting all by itself. During WWII antiaircraft guns were placed on the roof top as part of the Capitol air defenses. Inadvertently one gun was discharged in 1942 firing 3 cannon rounds into the Lincoln Memorial. The roof of the Memorial was squarely impacted damaging the state seals of Maryland, Connecticut, and Texas. This misadventure never made the papers and the damage was quietly and quickly repaired. (The most difficult of all the plaques to locate, it took nine months of email exchanges involving five different people to determine exactly where this plaque was to be found.For the 2016 Park Service Centennial, the plaque was again located in the same cabinet after another month long search by five more different people. Institutional memory is a fragile thing.)

Mather plaque
National Park Service Headquarters
Mather plaque
Department of Interior Building Roof


NATIONAL PARKS DON'T JUST HAPPEN!


MEMORIAL MATHER PLAQUES OUTSIDE THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

Palisades Interstate Parkway (NY—NJ)—Bear Mountain State Park (NY)

Dedicated as part of a National Conference on State Parks on 7 June 1933. Eleanor Roosevelt, Harold Ickes, Horace Albright, and Mather's wife & daughter attended this convocation. Bear Mountain State Park is along the west side of the Hudson River in Rockland County, NY, about a mile south of the Bear Mountain Bridge (Highway 6). Beautifully weathered, the plaque is mounted on a boulder at The Overlook, 100 yards east of the bear enclosure in the zoo along a paved path. Maj. William A. Welch became Chief Engineer and General Manager of Palisades Interstate Park in 1914. Stephen Mather worked closely with the New York Parks Commission and the Major throughout his time with the Park Service and the two became fast friends. In turn, Mather enlisted Maj. Welch to survey potential National Parks in the eastern United States. Welch surveys that actually became Parks include Mammoth Cave, Shenandoah, and the Great Smoky Mountains.

Mather plaque
Eleanor Roosevelt at Dedication
Bear Mountain SP
(photographer unknown)
Mather plaque
Dedication Invitation
Bear Mountain SP
Mather plaque
The Overlook
Bear Mountain SP


University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley (CA)

Mather Memorial Grove. As you drive up Centennial Drive heading up the hill toward Lawrence Hall, there is an entrance kiosk on the right side of the road for the Botanical Garden. Directly across the drive is a visitors' parking lot and a locked gate to the Mather Grove. With paid admission into the botanical garden you will be given the key code for the gate. Actually, you can glimpse the plaque from outside the gate, however, walking through the grove is quite pleasant. For a real urban adventure, try visiting on graduation day! Check botanical garden for admission days and hours.Mather & Albright were both UC-B grads. Their first boss, Secretary of the Interior Franklin Lane, was also an alum. They all felt that the Park Service should have intellectual ties and the resources of a fine academic institution—why not Berkeley? NPS offices were located in room 333 of Hilgard Hall. The major support provided by the University of California to the early Park Service is often not well appreciated. Besides the comprehensive intellectual resources provided by various departments, the students, faculty and alumni broadly supported the Park Service in countless ways. The Sierra Club at this time—an outing club of sorts—included a broad base of UC grads in its membership. Many faculty, assorted professionals, attorneys, authors, and business men from San Francisco's upper crust belonged. Their political connections and direct financial generosity gave enormous support to Mather and the young Park Service.

Mather plaque
Botanical Gardens
University of California-Berkeley
Mather plaque
Botanical Gardens
University of California-Berkeley


Stephen Tyng Mather High School (IL)

5835 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL 60659 (West Ridge neighborhood) This plaque is viewable inside the school. It is located on a wall that leads into the main hallway of the school, just right of the reception desk. Business hours accessibility.

Mather plaque
Stephen Tyng Mather High School
Mather plaque
Stephen Tyng Mather High School


Humboldt Redwoods State Park (CA) — The Redwood Highway Plaque (CA)

Kent-Mather Grove along the Avenue of the Giants. It is 30 yards north of mile marker 15.04 along the Avenue of Giants Highway—old Hwy 101—on the west or Eel River side of the road. The plaque was dedicated here in August 1932 and mounted on an irregular block of some sort of conglomerate. The plaque now has a deep patina and the rock is covered with moss so it all blends in well with the woods. William Kent and Stephen Mather were the patrons responsible for salvaging (read that "purchasing") this exquisite grove of coastal redwoods through the Save the Redwoods League in 1921. It was the second of many such "dedicated groves" purchased by private citizens for protection and public benefit. Since its founding, the Save the Redwoods League has now dedicated and protected more than a thousand redwood groves. With several hundred groves still available, you too can still buy and save a redwood grove today! All total, only about 4% of original old growth coastal redwoods remain. While giant sequoias are brashly majestic beyond belief, there is a staid and regal reverence about these coastal redwoods that leaves many visitors awed to silence.

Mather plaque
Kent-Mather Grove
Humboldt Redwoods SP
Mather plaque
Kent-Mather Loop Trail
Humboldt Redwoods SP
Mather plaque
Mather Grove
Humboldt Redwoods SP


The Idaho Plaque (ID)

This plaque is a private possession of distant Mather family relatives. Obtained from the University of California by purchase from stored basement material surveyed off in the 1970's, it is not known when, how or why Berkeley ended up with two Mather Plaques (?). Yet another Mather Plaque mystery. This plaque is from the original 1930 casting of 28. It may be that this first plaque was received and set aside pending formal dedication of the grove of newly planted redwood trees. Perhaps "lost" or forgotten, a replacement plaque from the 1959 casting was mounted for display at some later date or occasion. (?) Stored in a garage or basement most of its life, this Plaque is in pristine condition.


Camp Mather (CA) — San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department

The O'Shaughnessy Dam on the Tuolumne River flooded Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. After multiple political battles over a period of years, the dam was finally authorized by congress in 1913. It was to be constructed and administered by the City of San Francisco which was still recovering from the 1906 earthquake with its extensive fires. Although it was pointed out that water reservoirs per se would not change the city's ability to suppress future catastrophic fires, construction of dams to create water reservoirs was in fashion. (Muir Woods was saved from this political fad.) Construction camps and a sawmill were built for workers above the Tuolumne Valley. To facilitate tourists wanting to see the construction, a trickle of visitors were accommodated at the sawmill by the Yosemite National Park Company (later to become the Yosemite Park & Curry Company). Not long after, the Hetch Hetchy Lodge (now the Jack Spring Dining Hall) was built in 1920 to further develop the area and facilitate visitation. When construction of the dam was completed in 1923, the 337 acre camp was then devoted to family summer recreation starting in 1924—a "city park" under the auspices of San Francisco. Water from Hetch Hetchy did not actually reach San Francisco until 1934.

Stephen Mather was opposed to the flooding of Hetch Hetchy but as a new young Assistant Secretary of Interior in 1915, he was advised by Secretary Lane that it was a done deal and better to not go to war over it now. There were other fish to fry.

Camp Mather naturalist ranger Tom Graham is interested in the history of Camp Mather and for several years pondered how the legacy of the camp and its namesake might best be recognized. Mather Plaques are beautiful—but how to get one now? Continuing research led him to the efforts of others acquiring a recent Mather Plaque and between the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department and the Friends of Camp Mather, a Mather Plaque was duly ordered, received and dedicated in a gala celebration at 0900 on 4 July 2017, 150 years from Stephen Mather's birthday and 100 years from Mather's appointment as first Director of the National Park Service. Placed on a boulder in front of the Jack Spring Dining Hall there is alongside a smaller information plaque about Stephen Mather. Camp Mather is 7.2 miles down Evergreen Road just outside the north Park entrance (the old historic Oak Flat Road) of Yosemite. It is on the way to Hetch Hetchy.

Mather plaque
Mather Plaque Dedication
Camp Mather
Mather plaque
Camp Mather
Mather plaque
Jack Spring Dining Hall
Camp Mather


MATHER PLAQUES BY STATE — A CHECK LIST

CA (9)FL (2)

Cabrillo N.M.
Big Cypress N. Pres.

Camp Mather (San Francisco City Parks)
Everglades N.P.

Death Valley N.P.HI (2)

Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Haleakala N.P., Maui

Joshua Tree N.P.
Hawaii Volcanoes N.P., Big Island
XKings Canyon N.P. (storage SEKI)ND (2)

Lassen Volcanic N.P.
Fort Union Trading Post NHS.
XRedwood N&SP's (storage REDW)
Theodore Roosevelt N.P.
?Santa Monica Mountains NRA. (#8 lost)OR (2)

Sequoia N.P.
Crater Lake N.P.

U.C. Berkeley campus
Lewis and Clark NHP.

Whiskeytown NRA.PA (2)

Yosemite N.P.
Allegheny Portage Railroad NHS.
AZ (7)
Independence NHP.

Casa Grande Ruins N.M.WA (2)

Grand Canyon N.P., North Rim
Mt. Rainier N.P., Longmire

Grand Canyon N.P., South Rim
Mt. Rainier N.P., Tipsoo Lake

Petrified Forest N.P.WY (2)

Pipe Spring N.M.
Grand Teton N.P.

Saguaro N.P.
Yellowstone N.P.

Walnut Canyon N.M.
CO (5)
AK Denali N.P.

Bents Old Fort NHS.
AR Hot Springs N.P.

Colorado N.M.XID The Idaho Plaque (private)

Mesa Verde N.P.
IL Mather High School, Chicago

NPS Denver Service Center
IN Indiana Dunes N.P.

Rocky Mountain N.P.
KY Mammoth Cave N.P.
UT (4)?MA Boston NHP. (#10 lost)

Bryce Canyon N.P.
MD Assateague N.S.

Canyonlands N.P.
ME Acadia N.P.

Golden Spike NHS.
MI Isle Royale N.P.
XHovenweep N.M. (storage HOVE)
MT Glacier N.P.

Zion N.P.
NC Blue Ridge Parkway
TX (3)
NV Great Basin N.P.

Big Bend N.P.
NY Bear Mountain State Park

Chamizal N. Mem.
SD Wind Cave N.P.

Guadalupe Mountains N.P.
VA Petersburg N.B.
NM (2)
VI Virgin Islands N.P.

Carlsbad Caverns N.P.
WV Harpers Ferry NHP.

Old NPS Region III Building, Santa Fe
XBandelier N.M. (storage BAND)
DC National Park Service Headquarters

Total Mather Plaques—70
Display—62 (X=not on display), "Lost" or unknown—3, Private—1, Storage—4


LIST OF 59 NATIONAL PARK UNITS (AS OF 1/22/30) WHEN MATHER DIED

* (1) Hot Springs N.P.
* (2) Yellowstone N.P.
* (4) Sequoia N.P.
* (5) Yosemite N.P.
* (6) General Grant N.P. (Now in Kings Canyon N.P.)
**(7) Mt. Rainier N.P.
* (8) Crater Lake N.P.
(9) Platt N.P. (Now Chickasaw N.R.A.)
(10) Wind Cave N.P.
(—) Sullys Hill N.P. (Separated 1931; Now Sullys Hill N.G.P.)
* (11) Mesa Verde N.P.
* (17) Lassen Volcanic N.P.
* (23) Zion N.P.
* (26) Glacier N.P.
* (29) Rocky Mountain N.P.
* (31) Acadia N.P.
**(32) Hawaii N.P.
* (34) Mt. McKinley N.P. (Now Denali N.P. and Preserve)
* (36) Grand Canyon N.P.
* (42) Bryce Canyon N.P.
(48) Shenandoah N.P.
(49) Great Smokey Mountains N.P.
(50) Mammoth Cave N.P.
* (51) Grand Teton N.P.

*National Park Service Headquarters
* (3) Casa Grande Ruins N.M.
(12) Devils Tower N.M.
* (13) Petrified Forest N.M. (Now a N.P.)
(14) Montezuma Castle N.M.
(15) El Moro N.M.
(16) Chaco Canyon N.M. (Now Chaco Culture N.H.P.)
(18) Muir Woods N.M.
(19) Pinnacles N.M. (Now a N.P.)
(20) Natural Bridges N.M.
(21) Kino Missions N.M. (Now Tumacacori N.H.P.)
(22) Navajo N.M.
(—) Shoshone Cavern N.M. (Abolished 1954; Now Spirit Mountain Cave, WY, BLM)
(24) Gran Quivera N.M. (Now Salinas Pueblo Missions N.M.)
(25) Sitka N.M. (Now a N.H.P.)
(27) Rainbow Bridge N.M.
(—) Lewis & Clark Cavern N.M. (Abolished 1937 to become Lewis & Clark Cavern S.P.)
(28) Colorado N.M.
(—) Papago Saguaro N.M. (Abolished 1930 to become Papago Park, Phoenix)
(30) Dinosaur N.M.
(33) Capulin Volcano N.M.
(—) Verendrye N.M. (Abolished 1956 and returned to the state of North Dakota)
(35) Katmai N.M. (Now a N.P.)
(37) Scotts Bluff N.M.
(38) Yucca House N.M. (Undeveloped)
(—) Fossil Cyad N.M. (Abolished 1957, SD, BLM)
(39) Aztec Ruins N.M.
(40) Hovenweep N.M.
(41) Pipe Spring N.M.
(43) Carlsbad Caverns N.M. (Now a N.P.)
(44) Craters of the Moon N.M.
(45) Wupatki N.M.
(46) Glacier Bay N.M. (Now a N.P.)
(47) Mt. Rushmore N.Mem.
(52) Badlands N.M. (Now a N.P.)
(53) Arches N.M. (Now a N.P.)

* Parks receiving a 1930 vintage plaque.
   Six of these 59 Park Units no longer exist (see The National Parks: Shaping the System for more details).


DATING PLAQUES

1930 — 29" X 34" (Type I) with much variation. The surface finish is very smooth, almost like satin to the touch. The inscription in the lower right corner is complete, clean and well detailed cursive script: Bryant Baker, sculptor 1930. The bottom edge of the plaque beneath the inscription is stamped THE GORHAM CO FOUNDERS.There are four threaded holes on the reverse for mounting. Weight around 87 lbs. This is the "primo" edition!

1930 — 28" X 33" (Type II) with much variation is a bit smaller and much less common. The "sculptor 1930" inscription is cut in half by the lower edge of the plaque and is unreadable but the writing is still fairly neat and clean. No bottom edge Gorham stamp. There are 4 threaded holes for mounting bolts or masonry retaining rods. This variant (from NPS headquarters) was used to make a master mold for the 1959 production run.

Mather plaque
Hawaii Volcanoes NP
Mather plaque
Grand Teton NP
Mather plaque
Warehouse
Sequoia NP
Mather plaque
Haleakala NP

1959 — 28" x 33"The surface of these plaques isn't quite as smooth to the touch as the 1930 plaques or as rough as the 1991 crop. "Bryant Baker" is legible but appears a bit smudged and not so neat as the 1930 plaque. The word "sculptor" is cut in half and is not legible. The date "1930" is also cut in half so you can't tell if the last digit should be an 8, a 9 or a 0. There are 4 threaded holes on reverse for attachment. Weight—not measured. Identical to the Type II 1930 plaques, provenance is the only way to tell them apart. Plaques from the 1959 casting (Wind Cave and Berkeley) were used to make master molds for the 1991 and 2015/16 castings.

Mather plaque
Bryce Canyon NP
Mather plaque
Harper's Ferry NHP
Mather plaque
Big Bend NP
Mather plaque
Whiskeytown NRA

1991 — 27" x 32"There is a more textured surface character to plaques in this bronze casting. The artist's inscription is unreadable except for possibly the letter "B" from "Bryant." The back has raised lettering: COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT EDITION OF 1991 and a number (1—20). The reverse also is somewhat hollowed out and there are 4 threaded holes for mounting. The plaque weighs around 100 lbs.

Mather plaque
Petersburg NB
Mather plaque
Guadalupe Mountains NP
Mather plaque
Big Cypress NPres


PLAQUE PRODUCTION AND CURRENT DISPOSITIONS

1930 Casting
(28 plaques)
1959 Casting
(14 plaques)
1991 Casting
(20 plaques)
2015—2017 Casting
(7 plaques)
Acadia NP
Bryce Canyon NP
Casa Grande Ruins NM
Crater Lake NP
Denali NP
Glacier NP
Grand Canyon NP (South Rim)
Grand Teton NP
Haleakala NP
Hawaii Volcanoes NP
Hot Springs NP
Indiana Dunes NP
Lassen Volcanic NP
Mesa Verde NP
Mount Rainier NP (Longmire)
Mount Rainier NP (Tipsoo Lake/Mather Memorial Parkway)
Petrified Forest NP
Rocky Mountain NP
Sequoia NP
Yellowstone NP
Yosemite NP
Zion NP

National Park Service Headquarters (Washington D.C.)

New York—New Jersey Interstate Park (Bear Mountain State Park)
The Idaho Plaque (private ownership)
(1st Berkeley Plaque, never mounted)
Redwood Highway, Kent-Mather Grove (Humboldt Redwoods State Park)

General Grant NP (now Kings Canyon NP) (in storage, Ash Mtn., Sequoia NP)
Unknown fate of first Acadia Plaque

27 / 28
Big Bend NP
Cabrillo NM
Carlsbad Caverns NP
Death Valley NP
Everglades NP
Grand Canyon NP (North Rim)
Harpers Ferry NHP
Isle Royale NP
Mammoth Cave NP
Theodore Roosevelt NP
Virgin Islands NP
Wind Cave NP

Mather High School (Chicago)
University of California (Berkeley Botanical Garden)

14 / 14
#1 Colorado NM
#2 Chamizal NMem
#3 Guadalupe NP
#4 Big Cypress NPres
#5 NPS Rocky Mtn R.O.
#6 Pipe Spring NM
#7 Great Basin NP
#8 Santa Monica Mtns NRA (lost)
#9 Allegheny Portage NHS
#10 Boston NHP (lost)
#11 Fort Clatsop NMem
#12 Golden Spike NHS
#13 Petersburg NB
#14 Old NPS Region III Bldg
#15 Canyonlands NP
#16 Bents Old Fort NHS
#17 Bandelier NM (BAND)
#18 Hovenweep NM (HOVE)
#19 Fort Union NHS
#20 Assateague NS

2 "lost" plaques

18 / 20






Unknown Casting
(1 plaque)
Blue Ridge Parkway
Independence NHP
Joshua Tree NP
Redwood N & SPs
Saguaro NP
Walnut Canyon NM
Whiskeytown NRA

Camp Mather (Yosemite neighbor)

7 / 7


NOTES

To the National Park Service, Mather Plaques are considered "property" (like a chair or a computer) and they may be noted as having "no value" or "significance." (Of course, 80 lbs of bronze actually does have significant value!) They are a private donation and were not budgeted. Because of this, the Park Service has never accessioned or catalogued Mather Plaques. There is no official record of how many they have received, where they went, or where they are now. Plaques cast in 1930 and 1959 are now more than 50 years old and as such can well be considered historic items of interest in their own right.

For years the Gorham Company made silverware for the White House. The workmanship of Gorham craftsmen was world class, on a par with Roman Bronze Works (that cast Remington & Russell sculptures) or Tiffany. No one would seriously claim that something made by Tiffany is "property of no value." At the very least, Mather Plaques can be considered elegant limited edition period art objects.

Mather Plaques were individually cast and hand finished by master craftsmen—mold makers, casters, chasers, finishers, & patinaters. Plaque size initially was about 29 x 34 inches. Any one dimension of one plaque may vary when compared with another plaque. Plaques are not perfectly square either. The right and left heights as well as the top and bottom widths are never the same. Successive castings each lost an inch in their outside dimensions.

Bryant Baker (8 July 1881—29 March 1970) was a world renowned American sculptor. Most famous among his notable creations is the "Pioneer Woman" in Ponca, Oklahoma. He also has three historic figures in the capital's National Statuary Hall Collection in Washington D.C.


QUESTIONS

In this computer age, how will future historians access the daily working records of anything? There are file folders at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon that have hundreds of letters, drawings, photos, and memos from those early Park years. They are wonderful to pour through. But what will be left of our present years for future historians? And, how will they find it?

I believe there are two plaques "out there" that are most likely lost in storage at the Parks that received them in July 1991 (SAMO & BOST). Where are they tucked away?

And, there are a number of Parks that would bust a button to get their hands on a Mather Plaque!

How do they get one now?

Mather plaque replica
Replica of Mather Plaque (3" x 3" metal)
(Jeff Ohlfs photo)


RELATED PLAQUES & POINTS OF INTEREST

Besides the Mather Memorial Plaques, several other plaques have been commissioned for commemoration of other prominent individuals — here are a sampling.

Mather Gorge Plaque—Great Falls Park (VA)

Along the River Trail, Stop #7, overlooking the Potomac River. Dedicated 17 April 1969. It was rededicated 15 April 1989. This is NOT a memorial plaque.

Mather plaque
Mather Gorge
Great Falls Park
Mather plaque
Mather Gorge
Great Falls Park
Mather plaque
Mather Gorge, 2010
Great Falls Park
(NPS photo)


Horace Albright Memorial Plaque—Peter Strauss Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA (CA)

Horace Albright (6 January 1880—28 March 1987) was the 2nd Park Service Director, 12 January 1929—9 August 1933. He started work with Mather at the inception of the National Park Service—Day 1. This memorial is adjacent the Strauss ranch house.

Mather plaque
Albright Plaque
Peter Strauss Ranch
Santa Monica Mountains NRA
Mather plaque
Albright Plaque
Peter Strauss Ranch
Santa Monica Mountains NRA

Gifford Pinchot Dedication Plaque—Muir Woods National Monument (CA)

Pinchot was the first Chief of the United States Forest Service, 1905—1910. "The Chief" was one of several individuals who worked with President Theodore Roosevelt to accept the donation of 275 acres of land from William and Elizabeth Kent for the 7th National Monument and the first created from a private land donation. This grove of coastal redwoods was slated for clearing to create a water reservoir. Its purchase, donation, and declaration as a National Monument foiled condemnation proceedings. Pinchot was more of a conservationist than many would like to believe in spite of his original "multiple use" agenda that was later so perverted. In May 1910 the Sierra Club dedicated a Gifford Pinchot redwood tree, placing this boulder with this plaque beneath it.

Mather plaque
Pinchot Tree & Plaque
Muir Woods NM
Mather plaque
Pinchot Plaque
Muir Woods NM


William Kent Dedication Plaque—Muir Woods National Monument (CA)

Kent was a charter member of the Save the Redwoods League (as was his good friend, Stephen Mather). Among his many charitable donations was the land for Muir Woods N.M. As a congressman representing California, William Kent introduced the bill (H.R.15522) creating the National Park Service that was passed 25 August 1916.

Mather plaque
Kent Plaque
Muir Woods NM


Muir Plaque—supposed site of John Muir's "Hang Nest" cabin in Yosemite Valley (CA)

This plaque was placed by old time members of the Sierra Club in 1924 over Mather's personal objection. It can be found at the end of a short side path off the accessible Yosemite Falls loop trail starting at the Yosemite Falls shuttle stop. A Park Service information node along the loop trail suggests the millrace and hang nest cabin may actually have been a bit father upstream along the creek than the old dogs could recall.

Mather plaque
Muir Plaque
Yosemite NP
Mather plaque
Muir Plaque
Yosemite NP


Mather Dedication Plaque—Tioga Pass, Yosemite N.P. (CA)

This plaque recognizes Mather's pivotal role in the 1915 donation of the Tioga Pass road right of way across Yosemite N.P.Mather solicited donations from his friends and personally contributed the balance of the $15,500 purchase price. The plaque is mounted on the north curb beneath the entrance station booth at the east Park entrance. This is NOT a memorial plaque. Dedicated 20 July 1924.

Mather plaque
Tioga Pass
Yosemite NP
Mather plaque
Tioga Pass
Yosemite NP


Mather Dedication Plaque—Yosemite Village, Yosemite N.P. (CA)

This small plaque recognizes Mather's purchase and donation of the "Ranger Club" to Yosemite N.P. Inside this lodging facility (now also an historic structure) there is a fireplace in the "living room" on the first level. The plaque is on the left side of the fireplace face. (1920) This is NOT a memorial plaque. The Ranger Club is west of Shuttle Stop #5. Public accessibility is limited.

Mather plaque
Ranger Club
Yosemite NP
Mather plaque
Ranger Club
Yosemite NP
Mather plaque
Ranger Club
Yosemite NP
Mather plaque
Ranger Club
Yosemite NP


Mather Homestead National Historic Landmark (1778) (CT)

19 Stephan Mather Road, Darien, CT (Declared 1963). The historic Mather family home was occupied briefly and robbed by the British during the Revolutionary War. 5 May 2017 this private residence still owned by Mather's descendants was donated to the Mather Homestead Foundation. In conjunction with the Darien Historical Society small groups of visitors may be accommodated. For more information on this historic property, please consult the National Register of Historic Places Inventory -- Nomination Form.

Mather home
Mather Family Home
Mather home
Mather Family Home


Mather Gravesite: Mather Cemetery, 79 Dorchester Rd, Darien (CT)

Mather headstone
Stephen T. Mather Grave Headstone
Mather cemetery
Mather Family Cenotaph
Mather Cemetery
Mather cenotaph
Mather Family Cenotaph Inscription
Mather Cemetery


MATHER MEMORIAL TREES

Not long after Stephen Mather's totally disabling cerebrovascular accident, there was a national groundswell of interest for a fitting recognition of his accomplishments and what Parks mean to America. In the seeming urgency of the moment, planting a tree in his memory was a simple suggestion. The shadowy course of this movement is difficult now to ascertain. Not to be outdone, New York suddenly wanted to plant 10,000 trees (!!!). It is not known if in fact New York planted any trees at all (?). The Grand Canyon has a letter on file from Associate Park Service Director Cammerer (7 May 1930) suggesting to Superintendent Tillotson that a tree be planted on 4 July in Mather's memory. Some back and forth correspondence followed, to wit, a tree planted on the 4th of July did not have a ghost of a chance to survive the summer's heat. A tree (Utah juniper) was in fact planted that October at the new Yavapai Observation Station as part of a native plant garden. It was a formal occasion complete with dress uniforms, guests, and photographs. Alas, the little tree did not make it. Today, about 12 feet away, there is now a shapely Utah juniper that Rangers and volunteer docents refer to as the "Mather Tree." Maybe it is? Yosemite was one up on the game. Needing no more trees, rangers there went out and found a young sequoia about twelve feet tall that was already established, doing well, and decreed it to be their Mather Tree. Alive, quite large, and still vigorously growing, you can see Yosemite's Mather Tree today. Following the refurbishment of the Mariposa Grove in 2017—2918, the Mather tree is not currently (2019) labeled so finding it may be a trick?

Mather plaque
Grand Canyon NP
(NPS photo)
Mather plaque
Mather Tree
Yosemite NP


SOURCES

Don Lago, "'There will never come an end to the good that he has done.'—The Stephen Mather Memorial Plaques," Grand Canyon Historical Society, The Ol' Pioneer, Vol.21 No.4 (2010). This is the only published article of any veracity that I could find. Don had access to the Gorham company archives at the time he wrote this. Currently (as of this writing) the Gorham records are in inaccessible storage at Brown University under auspices of the Smithsonian.

G. Arthur Janssen, "Eighty Pounds of Bronze — Grand Canyon's Memorial Mather Plaques," Grand Canyon Historical Society, The Ol' Pioneer, Vol.26 No.4 (2015).

David Nathanson, "The Mather Memorial Plaques," NPS Park History Program Files, 12/4/97, updated 9/21/99 & 1/7/02. This is the only NPS document relating to Mather Plaques from any national NPS source. This paper is very helpful for some details but it contains a number of errors, several inaccuracies, and it is incomplete.

Personal communication with a Deputy NPS Director, an Associate NPS Director, nine Park Superintendents, a Washington D.C. Department of Interior Librarian, six retired or former superintendents and a retired Regional Director.

Emails with museum curators at NPS Headquarters, Moab, Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Yosemite, Zion, Crater Lake, Darien, Ft. Laramie, and Boston. Emails with two Chief Rangers.

Countless email exchanges with each National Park, State Park and school possessing a plaque as well as many Park units that don't have one.

Wikepedia

Various Park Administrative Histories are available on the internet. When you can find them, these comprehensive documents are most interesting for many reasons.

The Cline Library at Northern Arizona University.

Robert Shankland, Steve Mather of the National Parks, Alfred A. Knopf, NY, 1951.

Horace M. Albright and Marian Albright Schenck, Creating the National Park Service—The Missing Years, University of Oklahoma Press, OK, 1999.

Only one email received was succinct to the point of rudeness. The vast majority of folks receiving my inquiries were variably interested and at least tried to answer my questions. It must be realized (as I have learned) that often Park archives, records, memos, photo files, etc. are "off site." If these collections have not been cross referenced and digitalized (and most have not because that costs time and money) then these resources are not available to the interpretive Rangers schlucking through the daily emails, trying to answer peoples' endless nitpicking questions about their Park. If a plaque doesn't have much supporting historical information, it may not exist anymore or there may not be a reasonable way to obtain the information if it does exist. A substantial number of Rangers provided more information than I had requested. Maintenance officers should never be overlooked as they know where things are in Parks. One Superintendent personally answered my general email to his Park from his cell phone on a Sunday afternoon. (!).

The descriptions and details for visiting plaques are based on firsthand experience.


THANKS

To the countless people who contributed to this collection, I give my heartfelt gratitude.

For all the suggestions, criticisms and freethinking ideas I've received, I love you for it.

Any mistakes, omissions, or inaccuracies—and I am sure there are some—they are inadvertent but they are all mine. Should you have any additional information, corrections, photos, facts, sources or material related to Mather Memorial Plaques, kindly send it along—this continues to be a work in progress: ajansiv@gmail.com. Thanks. The journey has been fun.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

While in university and medical school, G. Arthur Janssen MD worked four summers in the back country with the National Park Service as a fire fighter, packer, fire crew foreman, and ranger in the 1960's. After a 40year career first as an academic and then as a clinical anesthesiologist, he is now a full time dirtbag hiker and pursues eclectic historical interests.

(All photos by author, except as noted. Enlarged images can be viewed by clicking on the photo.)

mather-plaques/index.htm
Date: 05-Mar-2019