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Origins of National Park Service Administration of Historic Sites
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George B. Hartzog, Jr.
Director, National Park Service

We of the National Park Service have always been proud of the loyalty, dedication, and esprit de corps our organization receives from its employees. One reason is that, entrusted with the care of irreplaceable treasures of our natural and cultural heritage, we can approach our work both as a mission and as a job. Each of us, we believe, enjoys individual satisfactions not given to workers in less fruitful vineyards.

But we are conscious, too, of another force that has brought us together in such unity of purpose. The founders of the National Park Service erected our institutional edifice on a bedrock of enduring principles and furnished it with traditions of lasting strength and always contemporary relevance. Stephen T. Mather and Horace M. Albright built the National Park Service with strong materials, and the legacy of their stewardship remains a dynamic and inspirational influence passed from each generation to its successor.

Death removed Mather prematurely. But, fortunately, Horace Albright has been with us for more than half a century. As Mather's invaluable lieutenant, as superintendent of Yellowstone National Park and field assistant director, as Director during the crucial years of 1929-33, as friend, counselor, and benefactor ever since, and as a tireless traveler, he has come to know and be known by several generations of the National Park Service family. Rangers, interpreters, and laborers no less than directors and superintendents count him as friend and find in him a source of wisdom and continuing inspiration. To the hundreds of park people who have been warmed by his friendship and guided by his example and advice, he is the embodiment of the precepts and traditions he played so vital apart in formulating.

My own debt to Horace Albright is beyond calculation. His counsel and support have been unselfishly and continuously given. Both philosophically and practically, his ideas are always precise, pertinent, and perceptive. I value his guidance and help. I cherish his friendship. I admire his stature as a living expression of the highest ideals of public service.

The highlights of Horace Albright's long and eventful career are well known to the conservation world. Those who would refresh their memory or learn more should consult Robert Shankland's Steve Mather of the National Parks (New York, 1951) and Donald Swain's Wilderness Defender: Horace M. Albright and Conservation (Chicago, 1970). Professor Swain's recent book sketches a fine, human portrait of the subject and is also a scholarly contribution to conservation history. Finally, those who read the following pages will gain added knowledge and appreciation of this living legend.

During most of the 17 years that Horace Albright wore the National Park Service green, the nation's park system consisted largely of scenic and natural wonderlands of the West. The national park image was one of big trees and deep canyons. Today, however, we are also in the vanguard of historic and cultural preservation. Of 278 units of the National Park System, 170, or about two-thirds, were established to preserve historic or prehistoric features. Based on National Park Service studies, the Secretary of the Interior has recognized almost 1,000 properties as National Historic Landmarks. Through cooperation with the States, we are expanding this list of prime national treasures into a National Register of Historic Places that will ultimately constitute an inventory of all cultural properties worthy of preservation. We administer a grants-in-aid program for historic preservation. The archeological salvage program, the Historic American Buildings Survey, and the Historic American Engineering Record give further substance to a preservation effort comprehensive in scope and national in impact. The Antiquities Act, the Historic Sites Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act are legislative underpinnings of our concern for the manmade environment.

Few of us appreciate how large a role Horace Albright played in directing the National Park Service down this path. Even his biographer has not fully grasped the magnitude of the effort and the result. Yet he himself has always regarded his work in behalf of historic preservation as among the most significant and personally satisfying achievements of his National Park Service career. Truly, the seeds that he planted have borne rich fruit.

This is the story that he told at length to a group gathered in the office of the Chief Historian one afternoon in the autumn of 1968. Present were Chief Historian Robert M. Utley, his predecessor Herbert E. Kahler, and Roy E. Appleman, Chief of the Branch of Park History. Expressed in the animated and lucid detail that marks Horace Albright's conversational style, the story fascinated his listeners and gave them new insights into their professional antecedents in the National Park Service. Convinced that this was important history deserving a far wider audience, they urged him to set it to paper.

This brochure is the result. Presented with the verve and clarity and human interest of the original oral version, it is every bit the significant contribution to history that its promoters anticipated. I am grateful to them for urging its preparation. I am grateful to the Eastern National Park and Monument Association for publishing it. Above all, I speak for myself and for all citizens who cherish our natural and cultural environment in thanking Horace Albright for these recollections and in using the occasion to salute him for his service to mankind.

Washington, D.C.
March 1971

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