Preface to the Centennial Edition
IT is a privilege for me to add my blessing to this
timely new edition of Oh, Ranger! in the centennial year of the
creation of Yellowstone, the trail-blazer National Park. The book has
long been a trove of national parks lore and an important bit of
Americana as well. It has been out of print for too many years. The
authors magnificently recall another era of National Park Service
history, a period when many of our finest traditions were being
established. As such the book provides a foundation for understanding
the colorful development of the park ranger. Today, young men and women
of diverse backgrounds and education are responding to new
problemsbringing a knowledge of the American environment to inner
city children; making the resources of the parks meaningful for an urban
society; preserving historical and cultural places; as well as
continuing to protect the wild and natural areas of the National Park
Horace Albright was unusually qualified to tell this
story. Born and reared in the eastern shadows of the Sierra Nevada, he
has been a true man of the mountains. He rode and camped with forest
rangers even before our sister bureau, the Forest Service, was
authorized in 1905. It was fortuitous that he was in the right spot, as
assistant to Stephen T. Mather, who was to be the first national parks
director, during the precarious years 1915 - 1916 when these two men
helped translate the dream of a national parks bureau into a reality.
Steve Mather's irrepressible young man Friday helped lobby the National
Park Service legislation through Congress, maneuvering its early
transmission to the White House for signature by President Woodrow Wilson.
Having planned to stay on with the Park Service only a year before going
back to California, Albright thought his job was done. It wasn't.
During Mather's unfortunate illness and absence from
his newly-named directorship, Albright carried on with the meager funds
initially appropriated for the new bureau. When Steve Mather regained
health after many uncertain months, the new organization was settling
down into a well functioning unit.
Then, beginning in 1919, came the years in
Yellowstone, where Albright served as a pioneering civilian
superintendent, helping to convert the Mather image of the national park
ranger into flesh and blood reality. With the cavalry post, Fort
Yellowstone, as his base, the bold young upstart from California via
Washington, D. C. molded soldiers, scouts, hunters and cowboys into a
new kind of mountain mana friendly, worldly-wise fellow in forest
green uniform and stiff-brimmed stetson. This new Yellowstone park
ranger was on call day and night to welcome visitors to the wilderness
wonderland, fight forest fires, drive out poachers, deal with unruly
bears or tell city dwellers where to fish or hike or snap pictures.
Evening after evening Albright mingled with visitors
around the campfires, answering questions, explaining the wonders of
nature and the problems of preserving this heritage for our children's
children. Invariably in forest green uniform, he was accepted as just
another ranger, which was the way he liked it. During the Albright
years, 1919 to 1929, Yellowstone was an important proving ground for
national park rangers, yielding a crop of graduates who became
superintendents and chief rangers of other parks.
Fellow Californian Frank Taylor, who calls himself
"Horace Albright's ghost," fell under the Mather-Albright national parks
spell, while serving as Washington correspondent first for the New
York Globe, then for the Scripps-Howard Newspapers. As the youngest
war correspondent in World War I, he had previously covered the A.E.F.
and postwar revolutions in Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia for the
United Press. When the great open spaces beckoned him back to the West
in the mid-twenties, he made the national parks his special beat as a
free-lance magazine and book writer. Sharing Horace Albright's
enthusiasm for wilderness preservation, he was "the Albright ghost" behind
conservation articles in The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's
Weekly and other magazines, as well as collaborator in Oh,
As the National Park System expanded over the years
from thirteen parks and eighteen monuments in 1916 to the 285 parks,
seashores, monuments, historic sites and other recreation areas which
make up today's system, the ranger image had to keep pace. In 1920, the
park rangers were hosts to roughly a million visitors. In this
centennial year of 1972, the total will grow to more than 200,000,000.
The park ranger has had to become a specialist in handling people, and
people's problems, as well as protecting forests, historic buildings
and wildlife. The park ranger is still the holiday seeker's friendly
I am proud of our national park rangers. I like the
word "ranger," which connotes character, integrity, courage and
dependability. The ranger has earned the respect of the park visitor.
Through the pages of this book, we can recall the image of the early
days of the Park Service. It gives me pleasure to add this Preface to
the revived Oh, Ranger!, the book that preserves that image.
GEORGE B. HARTZOG, JR.
Director, The National Park Service
March 1, 1972