ORIGINS OF NATIONAL PARK SERVICE ADMINISTRATION OF HISTORIC SITES
The National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior has more responsibility for the identification, restoration, protection, and administration of historic sites and structures than any other government agency, national or state, and no private body approaches its authority or the number and size of its reserved and protected areas.
Prior to 1930, the Service's activities in historic preservation were limited to the protection of a few sites of prehistoric significance and historic places identified with the early history of the West and Alaska. In fact, the bureau was concerned chiefly with areas of scenic grandeur and scientific importance, including such famous national parks as Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Glacier.
The first Director of the National Park Service was Stephen T. Mather, a semi-retired business executive. I was his assistant--a young man with legal training and a member of the California and District of Columbia bars. Mather and I were both Westerners by birth and graduates of the University of California at Berkeley, he in 1887 and I in 1912. I joined the staff of Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane on June 2, 1913. Mather became assistant to the Secretary on January 21, 1915. He was charged chiefly with the supervision of the Department's national parks and monuments, and with the important special assignment to work for the creation of a national park bureau. I was assigned as his assistant. When the National Park Service was established in 1917, under the Act of August 25, 1916, Mather was appointed the first Director and I the first Assistant Director.
Both of us were ardent followers of the great naturalist John Muir, leader in the creation of the Sierra Club in 1892 and its president until he died in 1914. Both of us had considerable experience in camping, hiking, and horse and mule riding in mountain country, especially wilderness regions, and we had some mountain climbing experience--Mather more than I in this sport, as he had climbed Mount Rainier with the Sierra Club in 1905.
The question is sometimes asked by interested people: "What caused Stephen Mather and you to be concerned with historic areas and structures, and to want the National Park Service to be active in their protection and administration?" Director Mather had more than a passing interest in American history. He was a direct descendant of a brother of the famous Cotton Mather. For many years he belonged to the Society of Mayflower Descendants. His grandfather, Deacon Joseph Mather, fought in the Revolutionary War. The old Mather homestead near Darien, Connecticut, was built by Deacon Mather in 1778 and continuously occupied by members of the Mather family thereafter. Stephen Mather inherited half interest in this home and purchased the other half from a cousin. When he joined the Interior Department, he had begun to enjoy it as a summer home. He was interested in the old Boston Post Road through Darien and its environs and was a leader in a movement, only partly successful, to preserve the King Street portion of it in close adherence to the original alignment, saving also some of the adjacent historic structures.
With President Heber J. Grant of the Mormon Church and President Carl R. Gray of the Union Pacific Railroad, Mather contributed personal funds for the purchase of Pipe Spring, Arizona, a fort built to protect the Mormon settlements of southern Utah from Indian attack. The land and buildings were conveyed to the United States as a National Monument under the Antiquities Act.
In 1924 the National Capital Park and Planning Commission was established by Congress, which provided that the Director of the National Park Service should be a member. Mather not only took great interest in the planning and park work of the Commission but went so far as to devise at least one project of his own. Its object was to save the houses of Henry Adams and John Hay at 16th and H Streets in Washington. Mather did not succeed. Harry Wardman had already acquired the properties and undertaken to tear down the houses and build the Hay-Adams Hotel. Mather always felt that had he known of Wardman's intentions earlier, he might have thwarted his hotel ambitions and saved the famous homes, thus helping to preserve the historic appearance of the streets facing Lafayette Square and the White House.
As for myself, I think I must have been born with a latent interest in history. My maternal grandfather, Horace Marden (for whom I was named), at 19 years of age went to California from Maine via the Isthmus of Nicaragua, He reached the mining camps of the Mother Lode in 1851, while the gold rush was still high in excitement. My mother was born in 1861 in Mokulumne Hill, a boisterous mining camp of "the days of '49." When the mines of Bodie, California, and Aurora, Nevada, became active on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, the Marden family went there and engaged in mining and transportation until 1890, the year I was born. Meantime, in 1873, my father, a young Canadian, came by train to the famous Comstock Lode at Virginia City, Nevada, and began work as a miner and shaft builder. He later worked in the Aurora mines and met and married my mother, a college girl of 21. Later the young couple lived in Candelaria, Nevada, now a ghost town site. Meantime, both Grandfather and Father served in the Nevada Legislature. When silver declined in value in the depression of the early 1890s, my parents moved to Owens Valley, California, where I was reared. As a child I was told stories of western exploration, the gold and silver excitements, the Mexican and Civil Wars (we had veterans of both in our village), Indian troubles, etc. As soon as I could read, my mother bought books for boys by G.A. Henty, the English writer, who had a boy in the midst of every outstanding event of history. (Incidentally, I learned recently that the great historian Allan Nevins developed his interest in history as a boy in Illinois while reading the Henty books.) I was also an earnest reader of the books of James Otis, Horatio AIger, the Buffalo Bill novels, and, secretly, some of the Nick Carter stories.
High in the Sierra Nevada, not far from the eastern boundary of Yosemite National Park, during several summers my parents camped briefly near two abandoned mining towns, Pine City and Mammoth City. My younger brother and I amused ourselves by reading the newspapers of 1878-79 with which the walls of the decaying cabins were papered. In our town of Bishop, W.A. Chalfant's print shop was located near our home, and I was thrilled when he sometimes invited me to help around his interesting place. He published the Inyo Register, which often contained true stories of the early West. These he wrote out of the abundance of his own experiences and those of his pioneer father, P.A. Chalfant, who arrived in California in 1849. Will Chalfant was the historian of the country east of the Sierra. He did much research and wrote articles for his newspapers as well as books. His books are still basic history sources for that vast mountain and desert region. Some of them are still available in California bookstores. Chalfant asked me to write the foreword to one of his later books, entitled Gold, Guns and Ghost Towns, which still is being published by Stanford University Press.
My brother, George Leslie Albright, had an even stronger interest in history than I. At the University of California at Berkeley, his major courses were history, and he was fortunate in having the great Herbert E. Bolton as one of his professors. After obtaining his M.A. in history in 1916, he was awarded a Native Sons Scholarship in history of the West, which contemplated research in Spain and her former colonies. It was a tragedy that after a few months in Seville, Spain, he died of typhoid fever. My own wife, the former Grace Marian Noble, also studied under Dr. Bolton and received her California teachers certificate in history.
Upon reaching Washington in 1913, I lived in the Y.M.C.A. Several other fellows there were also interested in American history. We visited all the important government buildings and famous historic sites, such as Mount Vernon. Then we took streetcars to the edge of the city. We hiked up the tow path of the old Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. We worked our way around to the remnants of Civil War forts. We searched the woods of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia for remains of trenches, redoubts, magazines, and other earthworks almost erased by a half-century of rain and melting snows. Twice we managed to get out to the battlefield of the first struggle at Bull Run, and to Baltimore to catch a glimpse of Fort McHenry. These travels were not easy in the days before automobiles and busses. A move of any distance had to be afoot or by streetcar, train, or boat on the Potomac. As every government employee worked all day Saturday, our trips had to be on Sundays or holidays, or short ones in the long summer evenings.
By the time Mather joined the Interior Department in 1915, I was very familiar with the historic sites and buildings of Washington and its environs, Mather soon made it clear that he too had a strong interest in American history. He loved to hike. We occasionally took long walks to historic spots, especially Georgetown and up the tow path of the old canal. We often spoke of hiking the entire length of the canal from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown. On a trip to Chicago in the spring of 1915, our train was delayed for an hour or more in Cumberland, and we took the opportunity to see the canal's intake structures.
In our official activities we were so occupied with the problems of the national parks and the special task of obtaining legislation for a bureau of national parks that we had no time for consideration of the status of the historic areas under the War Department, nor the park system of the District of Columbia, even Rock Creek Park where we sometimes walked or rode horses.
In early December 1915 Mather and I made an official trip to Hot Springs reservation in Arkansas, the first park set aside by Congress. This was in 1832, but the park was given little protection until 1877--too late to keep the four-square-mile tract intact and free of squatters, whose claims Congress recognized from time to time. Even so, a fine area of mountains and forest remained and was under Mather's jurisdiction. It needed our attention and got it. We were scheduled to return to Washington from Arkansas via Chicago, but I suggested that I go back via Tennessee and look over the battlefields of Chattanooga and Chickamauga, which were administered by the War Department. I even had Shiloh in mind, but could not work out a transportation plan to visit there in the time I had available. Mather agreed with my ideas and we parted. I climbed Lookout Mountain and visited Missionary Ridge, and by hired horse and buggy and driver covered part of the Chickamauga Battlefield. Since the park boundaries were not well marked, I was never sure when I was in the park, except where historic site markers had been installed. I met no park employees.
When Mather undertook the supervision of the national parks in January 1915 and began his campaign for a park bureau, he was pleased that he would be concerned with the protection and management of not only the famous scenic parks of the West. We also had Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, established to protect marvelous cliff dwellings and surface structures; national monuments containing remains of prehistoric dwellings, such as Casa Grande and Chaco Canyon; and the imposing ruin of Tumacacori Mission in Arizona, one of Father Kino's chain of missions extending from deep in Old Mexico to Tucson. I remember how concerned we were when one day we learned that Tumacacori Mission was on a privately owned ranch and not on public land as it was thought to be when made a national monument. We arranged a land exchange to perfect Federal control of the sacred area. We also had in Sitka National Monument in Alaska historic features of both Indian and Russian occupation of the area preceding U.S. purchase of the Territory in 1867.
We fully appreciated the significance and importance of the Lacey Antiquities Act of June 8, 1906, under which the President is authorized to reserve and establish by executive order or proclamation national monuments containing sites and structures of historic or scientific value to the Nation; and we were proud of those areas that were located on public lands managed by the Interior Department. Other national monuments were under the War Department because situated on land administered by that Department, and still others, part of national forests, were under the Department of Agriculture. We earnestly studied the works of Representative John Lacey of Iowa, author of the Antiquities Act and the law creating Mesa Verde National Park. He was in Congress for many years and was far ahead of his time in demanding protection for prehistoric sites and artifacts on the public domain. He tried unsuccessfully for years to secure a Cliff Cities National Park, to include among other lands what is now Bandelier National Monument.
It must be emphasized that while we had these broad interests we had no time to do more than work for a National Park Service and try to obtain legislation for some new scenic national parks, including Grand Canyon, and extensions of some existing parks, notably Sequoia and Yellowstone.
About the time of our visit to Hot Springs and my sketchy survey of the battlefields of Chattanooga and Chickamauga, an old friend and Sigma Chi fraternity brother of Mather's, Judge Howard Ferris of Cincinnati, wrote urging him to visit Yorktown, Virginia, with a view to possibly acquiring the battlefield for a park or monument. Judge Ferris owned a large area of the battlefield and wanted it permanently preserved. From time to time, he continued to urge his friend Mather to visit Yorktown, but Mather never found time to do it.
The National Park Service was authorized by Congress in the Act of August 24, 1916, but no funds were provided for its organization until April 17, 1917, eleven days after the United States entered World War I. In the meantime, in January 1917, Mather suffered a nervous breakdown and was unable to assume his duties as the first Director of the National Park Service until the next year. As Acting Director, I undertook to organize the new bureau with the meager funds made available in wartime. In the first annual report of the Park Service, the one for 1917, I wrote:
With the end of the war and Mather's return to his official duties, we were confronted with the surge of automobile touring, much of it toward the West, and the overwhelming need for new facilities in the great western national parks. I was put in charge of Yellowstone National Park, which had had military protection since 1886. It had not been opened to automobiles until August 1, 1915. I became the first civilian superintendent in more than thirty years. I was also designated Field Assistant to the Director, and expected to spend some time in Washington during the winter months. Arno B. Cammerer took my place as Assistant Director in Washington. He had been Secretary of the Commission on Fine Arts and was thoroughly familiar with the District of Columbia parks, monuments, and buildings. These were administered by an army officer, although he did not report to the same office as the military park superintendents. We also thought the parks and monuments of the District of Columbia should be transferred to the National Park Service. Mr. Cammerer's brother, H.P. Cammerer, took his place as Secretary of the Fine Arts Commission. The brothers were ideally situated to follow District of Columbia affairs closely.
After the change in administration on March 4, 1921, Senator Albert B. Fall of New Mexico became Secretary of the Interior. He was a former Rough Rider, although assigned to the Philippines instead of Cuba, and a former supreme court judge of his state. He had also been one of the first U.S. Senators from New Mexico, whose capital city was historic Santa Fe. We thought, therefore, that he might have an interest in history, but no such interest ever became evident.
Incidentally, shortly after the inauguration of President Harding, Mrs. Albright and I, on vacation in California, visited all the Franciscan missions built by Father Junipero Serra and his successors in the last days of Spanish control of the region. We traveled from the earliest mission in San Diego to Sonoma, seeing what we could of those still accessible, noting their condition, and lamenting the fact that one or two had nearly disappeared, their sites being poorly marked. We also took pleasure in visiting historic Monterey not far from Carmel Mission, where the great Father Serra is buried.
Early in the administration of President Harding, Congress by joint resolution established a joint committee on Reorganization of the Executive Departments. The President was requested for his views and those of the Cabinet. On February 13, 1923, the President submitted to the Joint Committee a detailed report with the recommendations of the Cabinet heads and the chairmen of the independent agencies. (This is contained in Document No. 302, 67th Cong., 4th sess.) Hearings were held on the report, and Secretary of War John W. Weeks testified that the parks and monuments of his department should be transferred to Interior. We had made proposals to this effect for the Interior Department's recommendations to the President. Secretary Fall approved and transmitted them with the other proposals for the consideration of the President and the Joint Committee. All these proposals are set forth in Report No. 302. Nevertheless, when the reorganization bill was finally agreed on in the next Congress, nothing was included affecting the National Park Service. (See House Doc. No. 356, 68th Cong., 1st sess.) However, in this legislation, Interior lost to the Department of commerce both the Patent Office and the Bureau of Mines. (Mines was returned in the Roosevelt Administration.) The Washington parks and buildings were included in the legislation. They were combined in a new agency called the Office of Public Buildings and Parks. An army officer headed it. Apparently Interior recommendations and Secretary Weeks' testimony got lost in the shuffle.
Secretary Fall resigned March 4, 1923, and the next day President Harding moved Postmaster General Hubert Work to the vacant place as Secretary of the Interior. Dr. Work was born in rural Pennsylvania, but had practiced medicine in Colorado for many years, and had served with distinction in World War I. He had a sentimental interest in the Army and its affairs, and was very friendly with Secretary of War Weeks. Within a few days after he assumed his new office, Secretary Work invited Mather, Cammerer, and me to discuss our problems with him. Among many other things, we reviewed in detail our efforts to secure the transfer of the War Department's parks, monuments, memorials, and other historic sites. He promised to do all in his power to help us achieve our goals. He was at the head of the Interior Department five years, until the summer of 1928, and was always sympathetic with the ideals and policies of the National Park Service. We knew we could count on Dr. Work to discuss the military park matter with Secretary Weeks. They were indeed in accord on what should be, yet which was not done in the Joint Committee's legislation.
In May 1924 President Calvin Coolidge called the First Conference on Outdoor Recreation. His committee to oversee the program of the Conference was composed of five Cabinet officers, with Secretary of War Weeks as chairman. Secretary Work was a member. A working organization was set up called the National Conference on Outdoor Recreation, with Chauncey J. Hamlin of Buffalo, New York, as chairman. Hamlin was President of the American Association of Museums, a retired lawyer, a retired army officer of World War I. He had a deep interest in American history and the National Park System. He was a close friend of Mather and his associates. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was honorary vice chairman. He was Assistant Secretary of the Navy at the time.
The Conference operated through strong committees. There was a committee on coordination of the affairs of the National Park Service and the Forest Service, but none to deal with military parks and monuments or historic areas in general. The understanding on these matters between War and Interior was doubtless the reason why it was not thought that a special committee was needed. We of course wanted to be sure that our goal of securing the War Department's areas was not overlooked in any program developed by the Conference.
Secretary Weeks resigned as Secretary of War on October 12, 1925. He was succeeded by Dwight F. Davis, who also became chairman of the President's Committee on Outdoor Recreation. Secretary Work and Director Mather and their associates immediately resumed talks with Secretary Davis and his aides about the proposed transfer of the War Department's historic areas. Discussions did not always move smoothly, for there were Rimy officers who tried hard to hold the battlefield parks on the grounds that they were needed for the training of army units in warfare, and there was one very able officer, Colonel Landers, a genuine "buff" on American military campaigns and especially those of the Civil War, who thought the War Department could ultimately do as good a job of administering parks as the National Park Service admittedly was doing. However, the discussions under the supervision of Secretaries Davis and Work and their associates led to the drafting of legislation to effect the desired transfer of jurisdiction. This proposed bill was transmitted to the Congress in a letter dated April 20, 1928, signed jointly by Secretaries Davis and Work. The proposed bill was introduced by Senator Gerald P. Nye, Chairman of the Committee on Public Lands and Surveys. The bill was S. 4173. It moved quickly through Senator Nye's committee, was favorably recommended, and was passed by the Senate on May 3, 1928.
In the House, the bill was referred to the Committee on Public Lands. Before this committee could act, Rep. John M. Morin of Pennsylvania, Chairman of the House Committee on Military Affairs, claimed jurisdiction of the measure. Rep. Nicholas J. Sinnott of Oregon, Chairman of the Public Lands Committee, consented to transfer jurisdiction to Morin. Without knowledge of Morin's claim or Sinnott's consent, a letter dated November 19, 1928, signed by Secretary Davis and the new Interior Secretary, Roy O. West, was sent to the Public Lands Committee suggesting certain necessary amendments to the bill. This letter was forwarded by the Clerk of the Public Lands Committee to the Military Affairs Committee.
Early in November Director Mather had suffered a massive stroke of paralysis and was critically ill in a Chicago hospital. He resigned on January 11, 1929. On January 12 I was appointed the second Director of the National Park Service. Within a few days, working with an assistant to Secretary Davis, I arranged for a hearing on S. 4173 before the House Military Affairs Committee. The hearing was held on January 31, 1929. Assistant Secretary of War Charles B. Robbins represented the War Department, and I spoke for Interior. The hearing was conducted by Chairman Morin. His committee was mildly hostile to the purposes of the legislation, or at least the members present were not favorably disposed.
If our respective Cabinet heads, Secretaries Davis and West, had participated in the hearing the result might have been different. But we two subordinates proved unequal to all the opposition advanced by committee members and other congressmen. Some of the latter probably represented communities and individuals near military parks who saw nothing in a change of jurisdiction that would benefit them, especially as they were eastern congressmen having little or no knowledge of the National Park System under the Interior Department. They were interested in the status quo. Assistant Secretary Robbins seemed to feel intimidated by the questions asked him, and in my judgment he could have pressed our point of view harder. I did the best I could in the face of unfair statements made in opposition.
The Committee adjourned without action of any kind, and although I tried to get another hearing before the end of that short session of Congress on March 4, 1929, I was unsuccessful. S. 4173 died in the House Committee on Military Affairs.
While the two department heads and their associates were coming to agreement on the transfer problem in 1924-28, Mather and his aides were working both in Washington and the field. In February or March 1924, as guests of Mr. and Mrs. Harlan P. Kelsey of Salem, Massachusetts, Mrs. Albright and I were expertly guided to the principal historic places of Boston and vicinity. Despite a heavy snowfall and unclear streets, we managed to enjoy the tour thoroughly. Kelsey, horticulturist, landscape engineer, park and garden enthusiast, helped us immensely for many years in such projects as the Derby Wharf in Salem and Great Smoky Mountains.
I attended the fiftieth anniversary of the Custer Massacre at the battlefield of the Little Big Horn River in Montana in June 1926.
In late October or early November of 1926, Mather gave a lecture on national parks in Buffalo, New York, at a large gathering of Women's Club members, headed by Mrs. Chauncey J. Hamlin. He asked me to join him in Buffalo, project the slides illustrating his talk, and assist in answering questions.
He had purchased a new Franklin roadster and took delivery of it near Buffalo the day following the lecture. We then drove leisurely to Washington in perfect weather. We visited several sections of the Erie Canal, then drove to Tioga, Pennsylvania, hoping to pick up historical data regarding people who financed the building of the Tioga Road in Yosemite National Park country in 1885-86. Most of the money that went into this road, built with Chinese labor, we had understood came from Tioga, Pennsylvania; hence its name. We were unsuccessful. It appeared that everybody we hoped to see was dead!
We drove on to Gettysburg, where, with a professional guide, we toured the battlefield, including the lands owned by the War Department comprising the battlefield park. We were astonished at the small acreage of these lands, not an acre of the first day's battle being owned by the War Department. We were also unhappy about the quality of the guide service. We went on to Antietam, and were even more dumbfounded by the paucity of lands in Federal ownership. We realized then that if we ever obtained control of these historic areas, we would have to increase them by acquiring much additional land.
On our return to Washington, Mather held one of his most successful national park conferences with all his park superintendents and their principal technicians. This conference ended with a banquet in the ballroom of the Willard Hotel attended by four members of the Cabinet and their wives and many other men and women prominent in Washington life. In that same month, pressed by Judge Ferris, Mather and I decided to visit Yorktown. But only a short distance south of Alexandria our car mired in the mud and we returned to Washington.
In 1928 Frederick Law Olmsted, the eminent landscape architect, was appointed to make a survey and plans for a California State Park System. He and I happened to meet in Yosemite Valley. While discussing this important assignment, I strongly urged that special attention be given to historic sites, especially those relating to the Spanish and Mexican colonial times and the period of the discovery of gold and the "rush " of immigrants following it. He said he favored this step, and I remember that he related his interest in the activities in preservation of historic sites in New England. I offered to take him to Columbia, a town not far north of Yosemite Park. The houses there had been built of brick in the gold rush days. Much of the old town was still standing, and individual buildings were being preserved. We made the trip on a beautiful California autumn day. Mr. Olmsteds plan, which still governs state park acquisition, included many important historic sites.
Also in these years, Assistant Director Cammerer was always in touch with park affairs in the District of Columbia. In the program for establishment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, too, he was doing what he could to see that historic sites and many of the pioneer homes and farm structures of the mountaineers were saved.
This is an appropriate place to bring into our narrative Rep. Louis C. Cramton of Lapeer, Michigan, Member of Congress from 1913 to 1931. His first responsibility in national park affairs was as a member of the House Committee on Public Lands. We had his support there in our proposed legislation for the establishment of a national park bureau and the creation of several national parks and the extension of others. In 1921, under the law creating the Bureau of the Budget, the authority of the Appropriations committee was extended and appropriations procedures reformed. Rep. Martin Madden of Illinois was made Chairman of the newly strengthened House Appropriations Committee. In organizing his subcommittees, he selected men who had little or no personal or political interest in the appropriation estimates with which they dealt. For instance, Burton L. French of Idaho was made chairman of the subcommittee to consider funds for the Navy; he had no naval installations in his district or even in his state. Rep. Cramton was named Chairman of the subcommittee to deal with Interior Department appropriations because he had no public lands, national parks, reclamation projects, or Indians in his Michigan district.
By nature Cramton was an independent, indefatigable, aggressive, dedicated man, and he presided over a no-nonsense group of five men, including himself, all of similar characteristics. Cramton was an avid reader in history, politics, and government. He had been interested in American history since childhood. His father was a Union soldier in the Civil War and had fought at Gettysburg. He and his wife were ardent travelers when they had time and made many trips in the United States and abroad, at least once making an extensive voyage on a freighter. Cramton had a phenomenal memory. He had great admiration for Director Mather, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Governor Harry F. Byrd, William E. Carson of Virginia, and Dr. Douglas Southall Freeman, the noted historian. Cramton had made several trips to Yellowstone and other national parks. I knew him well. He cordially welcomed me as Mather's successor, and I came to lean heavily on him for advice.
In the primary election of 1930 in Michigan, probably due to his conscientious espousal of national prohibition of alcoholic beverages, he was defeated. His last day in Congress was March 4, 1931. In recognition of his twenty years of dedication to his Congressional duties and his achievements as a legislator, Speaker Nicholas Longworth recognized him on the morning of March 4 to suspend the rules and pass two bills. One was for a memorial to Mather and the other to authorize the Isle Royale National Park. Such a procedure required the consent of two-thirds of the House members present and voting. Both bills passed unanimously.
Almost immediately, Secretary Wilbur employed Cramton as a special attorney of the Interior Department, his salary and expenses to be paid pro rata by the bureaus for which he rendered service and advice. He served in this capacity until late in February 1933, when he resigned in view of the change of administration. I endeavored to persuade the incoming Secretary, Harold L. Ickes, to reemploy him. My pleas were rejected, much to my surprise, for Ickes, and Cramton had been leaders in the "Bull Moose " campaign of Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, and both were regarded as Progressive Republicans even in 1933. While with us in the Interior Department, Cramton did important work in the conservation bureaus. For the Park Service, he did historical research and writing and aided me in solving some difficult problems. Before leaving Washington, he was honored by leaders in business and professional circles of Virginia in an elaborate dinner at the Commonwealth Club in Richmond, at which I was also an invited guest. Asked what more could be done for him, Cramton said he would like to visit the battlefields of Richmond with Dr. Douglas S. Freeman. Dr. Freeman said he was highly honored by this observation and would devote the next day to the tour, in which I was included. We were on our way shortly after daylight and covered the 1862 and 1864-65 battlefields in a long day, returning to Richmond at dark.
Cramton returned to Michigan, served several years as a circuit judge, then went back to the State Legislature where he had served as a young man, and finally retired when he was well past eighty years of age. He continued his interest in public affairs until the end. He died in 1966, in his 92nd year.
When the administration changed on March 4, 1929, President Hoover chose as his Secretary of the Interior Dr. Ray Lyman Wilbur, President of Stanford University and a close friend during college days at Stanford. For Secretary of War the President appointed James W. Good of Chicago--for many years Member of Congress from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and former Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. I had the good fortune to know both these men, especially Secretary Good, for he had been in Yellowstone Park with me when I was superintendent there. Within a few weeks, I had opportunities to discuss with both Cabinet officers the transfer of the historic areas under the War Department to Interior, and found both to be favorable. Secretary Wilbur told me that President Hoover wanted to obtain broad authority from Congress to reorganize agencies in the Executive Branch of the Government. He advised that under such authority he would be able to transfer historic sites from other departments to ours, and also the parks and public buildings of the District of Columbia, which were still under an army officer. I pointed out that such broad authority might not come soon, and I thought we were in a favorable position to secure the specific legislation we needed, especially because Rep. John Morin, former Chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, had been defeated in the 1928 election. Secretary Wilbur was sympathetic, but advised that we should wait awhile for possible further word from the President. It was not long in coming. The President designated a coordinating committee with a staff to assemble and evaluate proposals for reorganization to be submitted by the heads of departments and independent agencies. This program would operate in anticipation of the broad reorganization authority he would seek from the Congress. The authority was a long time in coming.
Secretary Wilbur and his associates, of whom I was one, outlined a plan for the reorganization of the Interior Department. This was based on what the Secretary regarded as the fundamental responsibilities of the Department: 1) conservation and protection of the public domain; 2) development of natural resources of land and water; and 3) Federal education affairs (at that time the Bureau of Education was in Interior). We in the National Park Service were invited to submit our proposals regarding reorganization, and of course we offered our arguments that historic sites and structures in other departments, especially the War Department, should be transferred to our bureau. Our proposal was accepted and included in the general reorganization plan for the Department submitted to the White House, and later went on to the Congress. Secretary Wilbur's plan for the reorganization of his Department was submitted to the President's coordinating staff in October 1929, near the time of the collapse of the stock market and the beginning of the depression.
From time to time President Hoover sent messages to the Congress regarding Executive Department reorganization. Not until June 30, 1932, was he able to approve legislation enacted by Congress granting the authority he had sought for reorganization. This law, while authorizing reorganization by executive order, provided that such orders must be submitted to Congress for sixty days before becoming effective. On December 9, 1932, a month after his defeat by Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Hoover submitted a large number of executive orders, but they did not receive the approval of Congress in the last session of the Hoover administration. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that one of the President's orders embodied Secretary Wilbur's proposals for rebuilding the Interior Department, and included the transfer of the War Department historic sites and the national cemeteries (which he had not asked for) to our bureau, but not the District of Columbia parks.
Again our narrative requires retrospective review of important events not directly concerned with President Hoover's reorganization planning. With the powerful aid of Congressman Cramton, we had moved into the field of historic preservation without reference to the over-all planning at the White House, but with Secretary Wilbur's full concurrence. In 1926 Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin, Rector of the Bruton Parish Church of Williamsburg, Virginia, had interested John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in his long-cherished plan to restore the old city of Williamsburg, in which many 18th and 19th and some 17th century buildings were still standing and in use, including the old church itself. (It was also in 1926 that we interested Rockefeller in our project to create the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, and that he agreed to acquire the large acreage of private lands necessary to make this possible.) Naturally, we in the National Park Service were carefully--and excitedly--watching progress in Williamsburg. The years 1927-29 were largely devoted to research, planning the restoration, and acquisition of the properties in the old city.
Early in 1929, when I became Director, I had to concern myself with the establishment of Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The State was obligated to purchase the essential lands for the park. This was to be done by the Conservation Commission of Virginia, headed by William E. Carson of Riverton, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. When President Hoover early in his administration announced his desire to acquire a weekend and holiday campsite for retreat and relaxation, he appointed four men to seek an appropriate place to build the kind of camp he had in mind. The men asked to do this chore were Lawrence Richey, one of his secretaries; Colonel Ed Starling, Chief of the White House Secret Service; Henry O' Malley, Commissioner of Fisheries; and myself. We were to scout the country for a hundred miles around Washington to find a location for a camp and with it a trout stream. We selected a site on the upper reaches of the Rapidan River within the proposed boundaries of the Shenandoah National Park. Carson and his Virginia Conservation Commission aided in the acquisition of the site and in obtaining the cooperation of the State in building an access road.
After the Rapidan visit, Carson suggested that he take me for a short trip to observe historical signs along Virginia highways which his Commission had recently erected. The texts had been prepared after expert research by the State Historian, Dr. H.J. Eckenrode, and his assistant, Colonel Bryan Conrad. I was pleased to accept the invitation and I made a weekend trip with Carson to Richmond and Petersburg. We read and discussed the new historical markers, which were really detailed interpretive signs. We did not get down to Yorktown and Williamsburg, nor up to Appomattox, but left these areas for a later trip. I was on field work in the West for the next few months, April to October, but on my return Carson arranged for a visit to historic sites along the James River from Richmond to Norfolk, and Mr. Rockefeller's staff invited us to visit Williamsburg as guests of Colonial Williamsburg, Inc. Governor John F. Pollard of Virginia invited Congressman and Mrs. Cramton, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Chorley (Chorley was Rockefeller's representative, destined to be President of Colonial Williamsburg, Inc.), Mr. and Mrs. Carson, and Mrs. Albright and me to a reception at the Executive Mansion and to spend the night as guests there. At the reception were former Governor Harry F. Byrd, Richmond Congressman Montague (also a former governor), Dr. Eckenrode, Colonel Conrad, and Richmond leaders in historic preservation, including ladies of the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (A.P.V.A.) and its leader, Miss Bowen. The reception was a delightful affair, and resulted in important lasting acquaintances destined to be helpful to us in later years.
The following day we drove down Highway No. 5, along the James River, where several 18th-century mansions were still in excellent condition and occupied by fine people interested in historic preservation. We visited Jamestown, then drove to Williamsburg for the night. Dr. Goodwin and Mr. Chorley and officers of the College of William and Mary guided us on a tour of the old city and took us to Yorktown. There we met two hospitable gentlemen thoroughly familiar with the area, Dr. Renforth and Mr. Leslie O'Hara. We were taken over the old town and part of the battlefield to the Moore House, where the articles of surrender were signed in 1781 by emissaries of George Washington and Lord Cornwallis, the British commander. Mr. Rockefeller had already acquired this precious house to preserve it, and had made protective improvements to lessen the dangers of impairment by fire or storms. With appropriations by Congress, we later acquired the property and reimbursed Rockefeller for his expenditures.
On returning from Yorktown to Williamsburg, in the office of Dr. Goodwin in the Wythe House overlooking the old Palace Green, owe discussed ways and means of acquiring Jamestown and the battlefield of Yorktown, including fortifications of both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars in and around the town. There the plan for the Colonial National Monument (now the Colonial National Historical Park) was sketched in general terms. Congressman Cramton was enthusiastic over the project and added the idea of a parkway connecting the first successful English settlement at Jamestown with the Yorktown battlefield, symbolizing the end of the Colonial period of our country, and including Williamsburg, the Colonial capital of Virginia. It took several months to work out the details of the project, draft legislation, review every feature with State and local people, and prepare for action by Congress. The local congressman, former Governor Montague, asked Mr. Cramton to sponsor the legislation, which he agreed to do.
Meantime, another opportunity was opened to engage in historic preservation. The bicentennial of the birth of George Washington was to be celebrated in 1932. Mrs. H.L. Rust of Washington, a direct descendant of one of George Washington's brothers, had been a leader in organizing the Wakefield Memorial Association, whose goal was to build on the foundations of the house in which the great man was born a house of the period, a memorial honoring the family on the farm where Pope's Creek enters the Potomac about ninety miles southeast of Washington. Mrs. Rust was President of the Wakefield Association, which had raised a fund of about $50,000 for the project. This was not enough, and Mrs. Rust decided to appeal to Congress for assistance. She referred to us in the Park Service, and I arranged for her to interview Mr. Cramton. This she did and naturally interested him as she had me. Both Mr. Cramton and I realized that here was an opportunity for us to acquire an important historic site immediately. Mrs. Rust, not knowing the Park Service, and having received encouragement from War Department officials, hesitated momentarily about bringing in a new agency. The War Department had nominal jurisdiction of the monument near the site of the house of Washington's birth. However, Mr. Cramton made it clear that if Congress was to appropriate funds to aid her project, a national monument under the National Park Service was essential. He introduced legislation at once, and on January 23, 1930, President Hoover signed the law creating the George Washington Birthplace National Monument. Mr. Rockefeller enlarged the area by the purchase of an additional 254 acres, making 365 acres in all. Also, an appropriation of $80,000 was authorized $50,000 to aid in the construction of the memorial house and $30,000 to relocate the granite shaft marking the birth site and to landscape the grounds.
Mr. Cramton moved steadily ahead with the Colonial National Monument project. In his work outside Congress he had the constant support of the Virginia Conservation Commission, the Rockefeller organization at Williamsburg, the National Park Service, and many public-spirited individuals. Things moved smoothly for the most part, and on July 3, 1930, President Hoover approved the legislation for the establishment of the Monument, authorizing funds for the acquisition of the Yorktown Battlefield and Jamestown Island, and for rights-of-way and the first phase of parkway construction. It would take much more money and many years to complete this important connecting link.
Meantime, plans were being made to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the Yorktown victory in October 1931. A Congressional committee was authorized to plan and carry out this celebration over a period of three days. The fortuitous legislation to acquire the Yorktown Battlefield put the National Park Service squarely in the middle of the project. Our land purchases at Yorktown were expedited. We really organized and carried out the Congressional committee's program, except for official dinners and other entertainment, much of it at Old Point Comfort Hotel, and for the War Department's participation in the detail of troops to stage the spectacular reenactment of the surrender of Cornwallis' army. Congressman Otis Bland of Newport News, Virginia, who opposed us in the Military Affairs hearings on January 31, 1930, was chairman of the Sesquicentennial Commission, and now became our devoted and enthusiastic friend. Without the Park Service, he never could have had the successful celebration that occurred on those three beautiful autumn days in October 1931.
After the authorization of the Colonial National Monument on July 3, 1930, the National Park Service was "in business" in historic preservation on a scale of some magnitude. Our spirits were high, and our unrealized ambitions seemed quite easily attainable. We were soon to suffer a tragic blow. As I have already related, Congressman Cramton was defeated in a primary election in Michigan.
I turned my attention, as time permitted, to historic sites in the West, and one in Florida. In February 1930, after a study of the proposed Everglades National Park, I had given some attention to the proposed DeSoto National Monument project. We had covered the Everglades and adjacent territory quite thoroughly in compliance with a resolution of Congress, but before returning to Washington Associate Director Cammerer, Elbert Burlew, assistant to Secretary Wilbur, and I had toured the main highways of Florida and had enjoyed a thorough inspection of the historic sites of St. Augustine.
Some years later a DeSoto Monument was established and the outstanding historic site in St. Augustine, Castillo de San Marcos, came under Park Service protection. Turning to the West, I visited Scotts Bluff, Nebraska, a landmark on the old Oregon Trail. It had been made a national monument in 1919, and extended in 1924. It included a spectacular butte standing high around the surrounding region. I decided to have it studied with a view both to making it a tourist attraction and to help stimulate interest in historic preservation. Its historic background was to be emphasized in our promotion of it. I went on to visit other historic sites on the old trail. Some I had seen before, and others I knew from reading or from stories told by my maternal grandmother, who, as a girl of eighteen, crossed the country in 1854 in a covered wagon. I especially noted Independence Rock and Register Rock in Wyoming, the site of Fort Hall in Idaho, and Fort Bridger in Wyoming.
I realized that the time had come to employ a professional historian with experience in research, interpretation, and report writing. I found him in Dr. Verne E. Chatelain. He became our first Chief Historian, and at once he became an invaluable aid to my associates and me. Also we were fortunate in having in our bureau Charles E. Peterson, a young landscape architect who, because of his deep interest in archeology and history, developed into a very able architectural historian. He served first in the Southwest and then on assignment to Colonial National Monument with residence in Williamsburg. He designed the Colonial Parkway and the first structures built in the Monument by the Park Service.
The growing activities and responsibilities of directing the affairs of the National Park Service kept us very busy during 1931 and 1932. The Yorktown Sesquicentennial planning, land purchasing, and construction projects were added to normal bureau operations. In 1932, we were involved in the celebration of the bicentennial of George Washington's birth. We finished the memorial house at the birthplace, and it was dedicated on February 11, 1932, the birth date under the old calendar. We had many visitors and much correspondence regarding historic sites.
In the course of 1932, we met and talked often with Mayor Clyde Potts of Morristown, New Jersey, about a plan he and associates, together with the Washington Society, had for a Morristown National Historical Park. Several of us, and especially Chief Historian Chatelain and Charles E. Peterson, visited Morristown and came to the conclusion that we should work for the establishment of an historical park. This we did, and just before the adjournment of Congress in 1933, the President signed the legislation creating the Morristown National Historical Park. It was formally dedicated on July 4, 1933, by Secretary Ickes.
Congress adjourned March 4, 1933. The Hoover Administration ended. His reorganization plan was lost. And still we did not have the historic sites and monuments of the War Department nor the parks of the District of Columbia. Eighteen years had passed since we had begun discussing the transfer of historic sites to the National Park Service.
The incoming Administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt had Harold L. Ickes as Secretary of the Interior, and George Dern, Governor of Utah, as Secretary of War. Dern would have preferred to be Secretary of the Interior. Here again, I knew Governor Dern, as I had been with him often in Yellowstone and Utah. But I had never heard of Secretary Ickes until a few days before the inauguration of President Roosevelt. When a friend called and told me of Ickes' probable appointment, I had to ask about him. On learning he was from Chicago, I went to Mr. Mather's files and found that he and Ickes were old friends, had worked together in social and civic affairs in Chicago, and were on a first-name basis. Later I was to learn that the Secretary had made a trip through Yellowstone Park with the rancher and guide Howard Eaton, and had heard me talk at the party's campfire.
I had met President Roosevelt back in the Woodrow Wilson Administration when he was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and later when he was Governor of New York at the Conference of Governors in Salt Lake City in 1930, and at the Yorktown Sesquicentennial in October 1931, where for some reason I do not recall we found ourselves alone together for a brief period.
Secretary Ickes asked me to remain as Director of the National Park Service. In a desk book I completed for him and submitted a few days after he took office, I outlined our interest in historic site preservation and the areas under the War Department. I also attached a copy of President Hoover's reorganization plan to show what he proposed for the Interior Department and its National Park Service. I also had a private interview with Secretary Dern within the first week after he took office. Both secretaries assured me of their approval and support of the proposed transfer of jurisdiction.
Before we could discuss independent legislation to accomplish our program, such as had passed the Senate in 1928, President Roosevelt asked for and obtained from the new 73rd Congress broad authority for Executive Branch reorganization by proclamation. We then awaited his selection of a man or men to develop a program for his consideration. He appointed Lewis W. Douglas as the chief of staff for reorganization activities. Douglas had re signed from the House of Representatives (member for Arizona) to accept the post of Director of the Budget.
Soon after Secretary Ickes got settled in his office, I suggested that we make trips to the Shenandoah National Park area and to historic sites in Maryland and Virginia. Many Sundays were devoted to these trips. (In those days Saturdays were work days for all Government employees.) We covered the Shenandoah Valley from Staunton (Woodrow Wilson's birthplace) to Winchester, followed the route of Sheridans ride, visited Harpers Ferry and other historic sites along the Potomac, the battlefields along the Rappahanock, Mount Vernon, and the Lee Mansion in Arlington Cemetery. In May we took a weekend trip to Richmond, Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, and stopped at George Washingtons Birthplace on the way back to Washington.
Meanwhile, on April 19, 1933, I had a rare opportunity to bring our views to President Roosevelt's attention. President Hoover had given his camp on the Rapidan River to the Government. It was in Shenandoah Park, under our jurisdiction--or would be as soon as the land acquisition program under Commissioner Carson was completed. I had urged Secretary Ickes to ascertain whether President Roosevelt would use the beautiful place for rest and recreation. This he promised to do.
On April 7 I received instructions from Colonel Starling, Chief of the White House Secret Service detail, to be at the south entrance of the White House at 9 a.m. on Sunday, April 19. I was to go with the President and Mrs. Roosevelt and others to see Mr. Hoover's camp on the Rapidan. I was at the appointed place early, and my car was taken by a guard and parked. A motorcade was being formed for the trip to the Rapidan. Mrs. Roosevelt was to lead the procession of cars in a new Buick roadster, and the President was to ride with her. Two motorcycles carrying Secret Service officers were to precede the line of cars. Immediately behind Mrs. Roosevelt's car was a large open touring car carrying Secret Service officers. The third car was an open touring car carrying the President's chief secretary, Louis McHenry Howe, and members of the family household. The fourth car was another open touring car. I was taken to this car by Colonel Starling and told to sit in the rear seat between two ladies to whom I was formally introduced. They were Miss Marguerite ("Missy") Le Hand and Miss Grace Tully, the President's private secretaries. So soon after the inauguration these ladies were not well known, and I did not know about the positions they held. It was not long afterwards that they became distinguished for their brilliance, charm, and invaluable capabilities that made them so important to the President. Had I had the faintest thought of their potential power and influence, nothing could have moved me from that automobile except physical force of one or two men! As it was, before I could adjust myself to my most pleasant situation, I looked around and saw Secretary Ickes join the procession in his official car, a big Packard limousine. I did not know he had been invited, but should have assumed that he would be. I excused myself to go and speak to my chief. As I stepped from the car, Colonel Starling shouted at me to stay in my place. I disobeyed him and went on to speak to Secretary Ickes, who invited me to ride with him as he was alone in his car. I thanked him but said I was assigned to another car and would have to return to it. He thought I could get excused. I had a hundred matters to discuss with the Secretary, and here was a chance to ride 105 miles with him alone on the outbound trip and presumably the same on the return to Washington.
I went over to Colonel Starling and started to speak to him, but he motioned to me to get back in the touring car. This I did, but found myself overwhelmed by the obvious opportunity to visit alone with Secretary Ickes for two to three hours and perhaps much longer. I decided to ride with him. Again I excused myself and went to his car, but with a stern warning from Colonel Starling that he had tried to do something for me, and since I did not appreciate it he would never try to help me again!
I got in the Secretary's car and rode with him to Mr. Hoover's camp. Of course, the talk with him as we rode along was very important to me and to the National Park Service. It was really the beginning of the weekend trips I have already mentioned.
At the Hoover camp, President Roosevelt got out of his wife's roadster ready to walk to Mr. Hoover's house in the camp complex, a simple place with a wide porch where he had loved to sit and entertain guests as they enjoyed the view down the Rapidan Valley. I jumped out of the Ickes car and ran to help guide the President and party to the Hoover home. He soon found the ground too uneven and rough for his weak legs and several of us carried him to the house.
The day was a clear, mild, sunny, spring day with dogwood, redbud, and other flowering trees to be enjoyed along the road to the Rapidan and in the Hoover camp. We all gathered on the spacious porch and were thrilled by the lovely wild scenes around us. Mrs. Roosevelt had arranged for a bountiful picnic lunch, which we ate on the porch. Chairman Will Carson of the Virginia Conservation Commission, who had joined us at the camp by special invitation from the White House, led talks about the Shenandoah National Park project, road improvements, historic road signs and markers, etc. There was also some serious discussion of national problems. But the President was in the mood for good-natured banter and fun, and there was much informal conversation and laughter among members of the party. From time to time, I was brought into the park discussions to answer questions or comment or both.
With the luncheon ended, and all evidence of it carefully packed to take back to the White House, the President said it was time to return to Washington, but that he wanted to go through the park and see the new road along the summit of the Blue Ridge, a section under construction by order of President Hoover. He further said he wanted me to ride with him in a touring car. The Secret Service officers quickly made some seating changes and put the President in the front seat of a car behind the touring car filled with Secret Service men. I was put on a jump seat immediately behind the President. The other jump seat was occupied by a Secret Service officer, and three of the guests were placed in the back seat. One of these men was Henry Morgenthau, then holding an office in the Department of Agriculture but destined to be Secretary of the Treasury during most of the Roosevelt Administration. I was too excited to recall the names of the other men.
From the Hoover camp, we were driven up an old wagon road to the partially finished highway, later to be named the Skyline Drive, in what was to be the Shenandoah National Park. The President first asked questions about the establishment of the Park Service and its policies relative to new national parks in the East, among them Shenandoah, and about the new road over which we were slowly traveling. He seemed surprised that the road was being built largely by impoverished farmers of the Shenandoah Valley, which had suffered a very severe drought, and were paid with relief funds secured by President Hoover with the powerful help of Virginians in Congress. He was surprised too with the alignment of the highway, the beauty of the route, and the hand-built rock embankments and guard walls, especially at the various overlooks affording panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley on the west and the piedmont valleys on the east.
At the first two or three of the strong but attractive guard walls, Mr. Morgenthau from the back seat rather loudly criticized President Hoover for extravagance in permitting the building of such elaborate stone structures, never stopping to think that they were built by competent stone and brickworkers out of work until employed on this project. As we approached another stone barrier protecting an overlook, and Morgenthau began his harangue, the President turned and said sharply, " Ah, shut up, Henry, if it were not for these protective works, you would get out and walk--you are always so scared!" That was the last we heard from Morgenthau. Nor did the other two guests in the back seat make any further statements. The President, in turn, praised the rock work. As for the road alignment, as we approached a curve, he said, "Albright, the superelevation on that curve ahead must permit a speed of 45 miles an hour." This remark impressed me, for that was the scale of the superelevation exactly. Of course, I had to realize that he might have picked up the figure in luncheon conversation that I did not hear.
As we left the park area at Panorama, the pass in the Blue Ridge traversed by the Lee Highway, and turned toward Washington, I called attention to a heavily eroded farm, apparently abandoned, north of the road. The President got a little excited about this glaring evidence of erosion. He stopped the motorcade and pointed out the farm to newsmen and staff people who gathered around our car.
Moving down the highway at moderate speed, as we approached the Rappahanock River I thought the time had come for me to get into American history. I asked the President if he remembered that the Second Battle of Bull Run or Manassas began in this vicinity and continued all the way down the railroad and environs to Manassas with serious defeat for General Pope and the Union Army. He said he did not recall any such distance involved in the Second Bull Run battle. We then discussed Civil War battles and generals. I told him about the War Department historic parks and monuments, and our plans to bring them into the National Park System. He did not wait to ask questions, but simply said that it should be done, and told me to take up the plan with his office and find out where to submit our papers at the proper time. Then he said, "How about Saratoga Battlefield in New York?" I told him what we knew about that historic site, and that a bill had been introduced in the second session of the 71st Congress (H.R. 9498) to create the Saratoga National Monument, but did not emerge from Committee. I also told him that a report of the War Department to Congress, transmitted by President Hoover in December 1931, contained a recommendation that the Saratoga Battlefield be studied for possible military park status. The President said that as Governor of New York he had recommended that Saratoga be acquired as a State park, but nothing had been done. Then he told me--really ordered me--to "get busy" and have Saratoga Battlefield made a national park or monument. Just a moment or two later, with a grin, he said, "Suppose you do something tomorrow about this."
By this time, we were nearing Washington. The President continued to talk of historic events and men associated with them--Lee and Stratford, Grant and Appomattox, John D. Rockefeller and Williamsburg, etc. I think President Roosevelt enjoyed himself immensely on the ride. At the White House I cordially thanked him for the privilege he had accorded me and for his promise to see that the historic sites we coveted would be transferred to us. It was a most stimulating and exciting ride, consuming over two hours of that lovely spring day. I shall never forget Franklin Delano Roosevelt's intense interest in American history and his memory of men and events.
On April 10, 1933, I reviewed with Secretary Ickes the conversation with the President, then proceeded to get started on the job of gathering facts about the Saratoga Battlefield and preparing for submission of data to the President's reorganization agency. In due time, I was advised that I should see Lewis W. Douglas at an early date. I had an interview with him in May. It was brief, yet long enough to show that he was entirely favorable to our cause. He told me when and where to submit our proposals. Needless to say, his advice was strictly followed.
Later I was summoned to the White House to discuss Mr. Douglas' reorganization program in relation to the Interior Department, and to see the draft of the proclamation for the President's signature. Mr. Douglas handed me a copy of the draft, and as I read it I was stunned by its scope. It not only gave us the War Department historic sites of all kinds--battlefields, parks, monuments, and cemeteries, including Arlington National Cemetery--but the District of Columbia parks and public buildings. Furthermore, it changed our name from National Park Service to Office of National Parks, Buildings, and Reservations. It gave the Secretary of the Interior considerable authority, I thought, over the National Capital Park and Planning Commission, of which I was a member, and the National Commission of Fine Arts, which had always been independent.
While I was excited and pleased that so much confidence had been placed in us, I protested the change in the name of our bureau, and the transfer to us of Arlington and certain other cemeteries. I begged Mr. Douglas to let us keep the name National Park Service, to let the War Department keep Arlington and other cemeteries still open for burials, and to keep the two commissions independent of Interior or any other Department. I also argued against assignment of all public buildings to us, explaining that the monumental structures, such as the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, and a few other such important features of the District of Columbia were all we should have. Mr. Douglas impatiently observed that I ought not to make any objections but let the program stand as he had it. I pointed out that Frederic A. Delano, President Roosevelt's uncle, was the Chairman of the National Capital Park & Planning Commission, and ought not be subordinated to the Secretary of the Interior or any Cabinet officer in any degree whatever. None of my arguments seemed to impress Mr. Douglas. I said I thought I ought to talk to Mr. Delano and Secretary Ickes about the reorganization program as it affected the National Park Service and the two commissions. With this he agreed and asked that I give him an answer very soon, but he again advised me to let the program go through without formal protest that might delay it.
I got an appointment with Mr. Delano within 24 hours and asked his advice. He promptly advised me to accept Mr. Douglas' program, saying that later he would help us get a review of the part of the reorganization affecting the commissions. Also, he promised to help keep Arlington and other active military cemeteries in the War Department. Some hours later, Secretary Ickes heard my story and the advice given to me by Douglas and Delano. He thought about the matter briefly, then turned to me and said he agreed with them. I then telephoned Mr. Douglas that we thought he should proceed with his program. The President signed the Executive Order on June 10, 1933, to become effective August 10.
On the announcement of this reorganization, I tackled the job of getting a supplementary or amendatory order to make the desired revisions. I saw no immediate chance of getting back our bureau name, the National Park Service, so I devoted myself to other features of the Order of June 10.
I had great difficulty in getting the cooperation of General Hines, the Quartermaster General, who had jurisdiction over the national cemeteries. He was in no mood to question an order of President Roosevelt. I told him that if the War Department did not keep the active cemeteries, especially Arlington, the National Park Service would not have time to give consideration to the rank of deceased men and women eligible for burial in those cemeteries; that we might bury admirals and seamen together or privates and generals. About this time, a man long buried in the Gettysburg military cemetery was found to have been a deserter. His body was exhumed and buried in a potter's field. Newspapers carried the story, and I showed it to General Hines, saying that we would never have taken the body from its grave in the Gettysburg cemetery, because the man might have left the Army because he was sick or because of the needs of his family, etc. At length the General agreed to cooperate in working out a draft of a revised order. I made no headway in finding a way to avoid taking over the public buildings in the District of Columbia. The President signed a revised order on July 28, 1933, simply postponing transfer of the cemeteries, including Arlington, that we did not want. We did not get rid of the onerous burden of managing the public buildings, nor did we regain the old cherished name National Park Service. On the other hand, to my everlasting regret, I overlooked asking for the Andersonville, Georgia, concentration camp of the Civil War and the nearby cemetery near the site containing the bodies of over 10,000 Union soldiers, for the military cemeteries around Richmond, and for the National Zoological Park in Rock Creek Park, Washington, D.C., which was then and still is under the Smithsonian Institution. The last has always been well administered, but being in an area under the National Park Service, I should have sought to have it brought into the order making transfers of Government activities to us.
The order of June 10, 1933, also transferred to the National Park Service the national monuments of the Forest Service, including Mt. Olympus National Monument, a vast wilderness area in the State of Washington which in 1938 became the Olympic National Park. Other Forest Service monuments contained archeological sites, an Old Kasaan Monument in Alaska, an historic site later returned to the Forest Service because of disappearance of the historic totem poles.
The order of June 10, 1933, did at least three very important things for the Department of the Interior and its National Park Service:
1. It made the Department and the Service the Federal agency charged with the administration of historic and archeological sites and structures throughout the United States.
2. It expanded their influence in most states of the Union. Prior to the Order, this had been limited largely to a few states of the west.
3. It effectively made the Park Service a very strong agency with such a distinctive and independent field of service as to end its possible eligibility for merger or consolidation with another bureau. Gifford Pinchot, former Chief of the Forest Service, distinguished conservationist, twice Governor of Pennsylvania, when head of the Forest Service had planned to secure the transfer of the national parks from the Interior Department to the Forest Service of the Department of Agriculture. His associates had opposed the creation of the National Park Service in 1915 and 1916; and there was rumor current in 1933 that Mr. Pinchot sought to use his influence with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to effect such a transfer.
One final question: Why were the parks and monuments of the District of Columbia assigned to the National Park Service rather than to the District of Columbia Government, or even continued under the Office of Public Buildings and Parks as authorized in the reorganization of President Harding's administration? This question was never debated nor even asked in 1933 or earlier, so far as I ever knew. Our answer I think would have emphasized three points:
First, the parks and monuments of the District of Columbia belonged to the United States as did all the areas under the National Park Service. While a Federal territory, the District of Columbia had a locally oriented administration, one not responsible to a cabinet officer or the President.
Second, the National Park Service was a professional bureau with administrative, engineering, landscape architecture, and interpretation experts capable of managing and protecting the District of Columbia areas in harmony with the nationwide system of scenic and historic parks and monuments.
Third, National Park Service management directly under the eyes of Congress and the President, if successful (as we were sure it would be), would broaden the interest of members of Congress in the whole National Park System, the District of Columbia areas included, and we would anticipate that this would bring stronger support in basic legislation and appropriations.
With the signing of the President's Order of June 10, 1933, I felt that I had accomplished what I had long regarded as my paramount objective as Director. I therefore advised Secretary Ickes that I wished to resign to assume the position of Vice President of the young United States Potash Company, with headquarters in New York, which had been offered earlier, and which I had tentatively accepted subject to my fulfillment of my National Park Service obligations. I made my resignation effective August 9, the day before the President's Order became effective. On August 10, 1933, my able associate, Arno B. Cammerer, became the third Director of the National Park Service, but then renamed Office of National Parks, Buildings and Reservations. Through the influence of U.S. Senator Carl Hayden of Arizona, a provision in the form of a "rider" on the Interior Department Appropriation Bill of March 2, 1934, restored the name, National Park Service. It still stands in 1970.