America's National Monuments
The Politics of Preservation
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Chapter 7:
Boss Pinkley's Domain

WITH AN AGENCY AUTHORIZED TO MANAGE the monument category, new areas proliferated. Between September 1916 and the beginning of 1924, thirteen new national monuments were established. Places as diverse as Scotts Bluff, a stop along the Oregon Trail located in western Nebraska; Aztec Ruins, an archaeological site on the Animas River in northwestern New Mexico; and Lehman Caves, limestone caverns in Nevada, were added. The new monuments were no easier to categorize than the old had been. Many lacked funds or even part-time custodial care, throwbacks to the days before the establishment of the Park Service.

By 1923 it was clear that there were too many national monuments, located too far from Washington, D.C., to be administered from the home office of the Park Service. Some sort of regional authority, geographically closer to the majority of the monuments, needed to be developed. Appropriations for monuments were determined by a haphazard process, primarily based on the reports of the custodians and occasionally on information supplied by GLO or USFS people near a specific monument. Because they had little first-hand knowledge of the monuments and were fully occupied with making the national parks the center of tourist attention, the Washington, D.C.-based officers of the NPS had neither the time nor the inclination to evaluate the monuments carefully. The monuments were peripheral oddities, anomalies in a system increasingly focused on scenic monumentalism.

Out of place in the park system during the early 1920s and difficult to advertise as recreational playgrounds, the national monuments became a headache for the NPS. Tripartite administration with the Forest Service and the War Department resulted in duplicated effort. In addition, the NPS's emphasis on programs for the national parks meant that monument questions were rarely scrutinized. As the condition of many of the national monuments made clear, scenery interested the Park Service more than archaeology. The agency needed a better way to evaluate the monuments, and localized administration offered the best answer. Looking for a way to be rid of the task of caring for the monuments, Park Service officials decided that some sort of field administration for the national monuments was a pressing need. Someone responsible had to be found who knew the areas and could be counted on to uphold Park Service standards.

The Southwest seemed a logical center for localized administration. The majority of accessible monuments were there. Southwestern national parks ranked high on the agenda of the NPS, and the archaeological monuments of the region were particularly susceptible to vandalism. There was comparatively little settlement in the Southwest, and as western states built highways, the potential of the region for tourism became increasingly clear. The leaders of the agency looked for an administrator with commitment, intelligence, and an eye toward development.

Since his return to Casa Grande, Frank Pinkley had been a favorite with the Park Service. Following the reclassification of Casa Grande, he had been the most active and inquisitive of the custodians. Pinkley was an innovator who accepted challenges, and his vision was as broad as Mather's. He saw the parks as a system rather than as individual entities, and with more than twenty years experience at Casa Grande, he certainly knew how to address the problems of national monuments. To Pinkley, the monuments were tools by which to teach Americans about a heritage of which they knew little. "Future generations will censure us greatly," he mused despondently in 1920, "for our lack of interest and for not properly caring for and preserving for them these great relics of a long vanished race." [1]

When that most visible of national monuments, the Grand Canyon, became a national park in 1919, the agency considered Pinkley for the job of superintendent. Herbert W. Gleason, the Department of the Interior inspector in charge of park conditions as well as the official photographer for the Park Service, rated Pinkley a "no. 1 man,. . . exceedingly practical." [2] As the change in administration occurred, Mather asked Pinkley to report on conditions at the Grand Canyon, while simultaneously asking Irving Brant, a noted writer who was a friend of the agency, to assess Pinkley's qualifications for the superintendency. Despite favorable accounts, Horace Albright prevented Pinkley's appointment pointing out his earlier battles with tuberculosis and the difficulties it might cause at the Grand Canyon. But more important, Albright insisted, Pinkley "is just the kind of man we need to look after our national monuments in the southwest—it would be impossible to get a man to fill his place." [3] Albright recommended keeping Pinkley with the national monuments.

Pinkley had found his niche, and promotions to other places held no appeal for him. When he discovered that he was not to become superintendent of the Grand Canyon National Park, Pinkley wrote Albright: "I would have gone to the canyon, had I been ordered there and would have considered it, in a sense, a promotion; but I am glad the rumor of my transfer was not well founded, and that you intend to let me work along lines which will be more congenial to me." [4] In 1919 Tumacacori Mission, decaying for generations, was placed under his care. In 1922 he convinced the Arizona legislature to appropriate $1,000 for repair work at the missions, the first state government gift to a specific National Park Service site. The governor of Arizona wrote that he "felt safe in signing the bill and signing over the money" in large part because he knew the monument was under Pinkley's care. [5]

An intense, assertive man who prided himself upon his candor, Pinkley became the leading proponent of the national monuments. On his shoestring budget, he initiated a variety of service programs at Casa Grande, mostly accomplished with his own money, time, and sweat. The attention and service visitors received at Casa Grande was as good as that at any national park, and for no other reason than that Frank Pinkley was in charge. There was no one who could match Pinkley's experience zeal, or persistence in taking care of these often neglected areas. In October 1923 Frank Pinkley was appointed the superintendent of the fourteen southwestern national monuments over which the NPS had jurisdiction (see Table 2). The area for which he became responsible included all of New Mexico and Arizona, south western Colorado, and southern Utah.

Table 2. The Southwestern National Monuments Group, 1923-32

1. The Original Areas:

Park NamePrimary Value
Montezuma Castlearchaeological
El Morrohistoric/archaeological
Petrified Forestnatural
Chaco Canyonarchaeological
Natural Bridgesnatural
Gran Quiviraarchaeological
Rainbow Bridgenatural
Papago Saguaronatural
Capulin Mountainnatural
Casa Grandearchaeological
Yucca Housearchaeological

2. Monuments added between 1923 and 1932:

Park NameState Size (in acres)Primary Value Year Added
Carlsbad CaveNew Mexico719natural1923
Aztec RuinsNew Mexico25.88archaeological1923
Pipe SpringArizona40historic1923
Canyon de ChellyArizona83,840nat/arch.1931
White SandsNewMexico143,086natural1932

Before he became superintendent of the southwestern national monuments group, Pinkley had shown the ability to overcome whatever problems came his way. Looking beyond the two monuments in his charge, Casa Grande and the Tumacacori Mission, he offered advice and counsel to the custodians of other national monuments and frequently took up the general cause with the Washington, D.C., office of the NPS. Pinkley's appointment as superintendent was the logical outgrowth of his work in the agency. It gave official sanction to the unofficial role he had previously played.

The central administration of the Park Service was happy to unload the southwestern monuments on Pinkley. In the view of agency officials, more pressing concerns, such as acquiring private lands in the East and the development of roads in the national parks, relegated the national monuments to the background. Considering the difficulties and complexities associated with their upkeep, the monuments seemed to be more trouble than they were worth.

In fact, the central office of the Park Service was so pleased with Pinkley and so anxious to separate monument problems from mainstream issues in the parks that some talked of placing Pinkley in charge of all monuments. Some in the highest echelon of the agency favored this change. "Personally, I think it would be an excellent thing if all of the national monuments could be put under your immediate supervision, changing your title to 'Field Superintendent of the National Monuments,'" Assistant Director Arthur E. Demaray wrote to Pinkley on 3 June 1924. "Although I realize it would be adding largely to your duties, it would relieve a heavy pressure here." [6] Demaray thought his idea promising enough to send a memo to Director Mather encouraging another promotion for Pinkley.

The idea proved impractical. In 1923 national monuments were dispersed throughout the West. Automobiles were replacing trains as the primary means of travel, but western roads generally remained in poor condition. Getting from place to place was difficult, and Pinkley could not have kept a close watch on all parts of his domain without sacrificing the diligence that characterized his work in the Southwest. Spreading his authority all over the West might have diluted his considerable charisma and worn out his enthusiasm. The expanded responsibility would have been too much for anyone, and the net result might easily have been shoddy management at all the monuments, instead of the careful administration of those closest to Pinkley's heart.

The Washington, D.C., office also feared the implications of delegating authority for two-thirds of the areas that the agency administered. During the 1920s, Mather and Albright were the center of authority, and they believed that decentralization could lead to fragmentation within the system. The idea of a field superintendent went no farther than Demaray's memo. Too much autonomy for any individual in the NPS, even one connected with the national monuments, had divisive potential.

Pinkley's knowledge and experience were concentrated in the Southwest, and there was more than enough for him to do with the national monuments there. Almost as soon as he was appointed, Pinkley began to organize the loosely affiliated individuals who were watching over the national monuments into an orderly network of administrators. He instituted a system that prescribed an array of duties for the custodian of each national monument, culminating in a monthly reports, due in his office on the twenty-fifth of each month.

As he tried to instill professionalism in his staff, Pinkley's demands led to problems. The volunteers who made up his staff had other responsibilities and could not keep up with him. Some did not share his enthusiasm. By June 1924 Pinkley was upset with the custodians at some of his monuments. Most were not meeting his deadline for sending their monthly reports. It was of the utmost importance to Pinkley that his unpaid volunteer staff conduct itself professionally, and he intended to quickly eliminate the lazy and the incompetent. "I am sure a report of some kind can be written about any monument any month," he asserted. "If your monument isn't worth reporting on there is something wrong either with you or your monument." [7] With such simple, straightforward logic, Pinkley set out to establish an orderly administration in which everyone abided by his rules. He began to change the meaning of the position of custodian, and some of his staff could not adjust. Indeed, several of the volunteers found Pinkley's constant demands a strain, and some resigned in search of less complicated work.

Although Pinkley always got right to the point, his communication with his staff was rarely abrupt. Typically, his letters ordered his staff to do something in a very specific way, and unfailingly, the superintendent took the time to explain his reasoning. He made certain that those who worked for him understood why he insisted that they abide by his standardized rules. The explanatory, teaching role became a significant part of the superintendent's job, and late in 1924, Pinkley issued a series of circulars designed to inform custodians of their obligations as he defined them. Pinkley envisioned a system of management based upon his experience at Casa Grande. He presented himself as a more experienced peer, telling his staff that he did not "want to seem dictatorial; it just occurs to me that if I place my twenty years experience at your disposal I may save you some of the mistakes I have made." [8]

The crux of his plan was to educate the public and protect the monuments from vandalism and depredations, and Pinkley offered ways to confront crises without resorting to threats or force. At archaeological areas, the ever-present "Name Scratcher and Souvenir Hunter," the tourists who wanted to mark their visit or take a piece of the site home with them, were his number one adversary. Be firm but even-handed, Pinkley counseled his volunteers, and "never give an order without an explanation and a reason . . . all but a few visitors are fair and want to do what is reasonable. They just don't think what their actions amount to if multiplied by a million." [9] When custodians remembered that they were public servants and when visitors acknowledged that they were citizens, Pinkley reasoned, most problems could be easily resolved.

Protecting a national monument meant more than stopping vandalism, because natural deterioration could be more of a threat than human depredation. Pinkley lacked the resources available to the superintendents of the national parks, and all he could do was try to bolster the morale of his staff. "I know it will be irritating," he wrote, "to have me tell you [that] you must study your monument with a view to getting the greatest amount of protection for the least money when we have practically no money for this purpose. . . . I used to think we needed a lot of money before we could do anything. I find that by plugging along with a little money we are gradually going to get our southwestern monuments in a fair state of protection." [10] Again, under difficult and frustrating conditions, Pinkley counseled diligence and patience.

Pinkley motivated a staff composed primarily of volunteers by appealing to their pride and sense of responsibility. The "Boss," a so briquet he enjoyed, made the other custodians feel that they were a valuable part of the system even if they did not receive a salary or other perquisites of government service. At least once a year, Pinkley appeared at each southwestern national monument in the Model T Ford that the Park Service had provided for his official use. His personal style pleased his staff, and when he got down on his hands and knees with a trowel to assist in the stabilization of archaeological ruins or climbed rugged trails to view fire damage, his actions spoke much louder than mere words. His charisma and devotion considerably eased the frustration of his staff, but they also had to live up to his standards. Top-notch service was what Pinkley wanted, and with or without adequate funding from Congress, he was going to get it.

From the perspective of the Washington, D.C., officials, Pinkley did the NPS a great service. His enthusiasm and vigor were infectious, and by instilling them in the other southwestern custodians, he almost reversed the effects of institutionalized neglect. But even more amazing from the point of view of Mather, Albright, and Cammerer was that without their fulfilling Pinkley's constant requests for more money to spend on upkeep, conditions in his national monuments continued to improve.

Pinkley's ability was never in question. That he could develop first-class service from untrained, unpaid volunteers was nothing short of astonishing. NPS officials quite correctly concluded that Pinkley had an uncanny ability to motivate others, based on his way of communicating on an individual level with the custodians at the other monuments. This was an intangible asset, one that all the congressional support in the world could not buy. This approach made the custodians feel that Pinkley was "a helpful associate and co-laborer rather than a fault-finding critical boss," Assistant Director Arno B. Cammerer wrote him on 13 November 1924. "You will continue to spread helpfulness and the spirit of loyalty and pride as you have been doing." [11]

A man with astonishing personal charisma, Pinkley also slightly disturbed his superiors. He frequently seemed beyond their control, and he was the type around whom a personality cult could develop. The only man who could get action for the national monuments and a zealot by nature, Pinkley could have become the recipient of the fanatical loyalty of his subordinates. The kind of individual initiative that Pinkley exhibited could also have become a problem in an agency just defining its place in the federal bureaucracy and lacking a formal chain of command.

The agency had no evidence to indicate that Pinkley encouraged loyalty to himself instead of the system. It was just a possibility that nagged particularly at Arno B. Cammerer, whose genial nature often made him responsible for smoothing ruffled feathers. Pinkley always made multiple copies of every letter he wrote and spread them around the agency, yet Cammerer felt compelled to remind him to "keep on sending copies of your correspondence and good letters in to me. None of us can go a long way by ourselves," Cammerer gently told Pinkley. "We all like to know that we are being trusted and believed in." [12] Reading Pinkley's memos and letters gave Cammerer a way to monitor his feisty and invaluable monument man.

Cammerer rightly sensed that Pinkley knew that he and his monuments were not getting their dues, and that as a result many involved with the monuments were becoming frustrated. As the official in the capital most aware of the problems of the field staff, Cammerer saw a way around potential conflict. If the Park Service acknowledged the significance of Pinkley's work, he could be pacified. Cammerer turned his attention to assuaging Pinkley's complaints. "We are all dependent on a little touch of sympathy and helpful appreciation here and there," Cammerer wrote Pinkley. "[T]hough I happen to be sitting in the Assistant Director's chair at the present time your letters and your loyal friendship . . . have meant a lot to me." [13] Cammerer tried to head off a showdown by providing Pinkley with the same kind of support that the superintendent offered to his subordinates.

But appreciation was all the agency could offer the person in charge of the southwestern national monuments, and Cammerer's attentiveness to Pinkley's problems only temporarily alleviated a troublesome situation. His actions created an illusion of concern, but Mather's and Albright's priorities precluded real attention to the issues of the national monuments. Pinkley's charisma was an asset to the fledgling Park Service because no one else thought the monuments were important enough to bother with; turned against the agency, his zeal could be a potent and destructive force.

Pinkley and the Washington, D.C., office valued the park system differently. The key points of contention centered on two interrelated issues: the lack of money for the monuments in the Park Service budget, and the constant attempts to turn the best of the national monuments into national parks. In both cases, Pinkley felt that the treatment he and his monuments received was shameful, whereas NPS officials maintained that political realities took matters out of their control.


America's National Monuments: The Politics of Preservation
©1989, Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
©1994, University Press of Kansas
All rights reserved by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

rothman/chap7.htm — 04-Feb-2005

Copyright © 1989 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Material from this edition published by the University Press of Kansas by arrangement with the University of Illinois Press and may not be reproduced in any manner without the written consent of the author and the University of Illinois Press.