Franklin Lane was born on July 15, 1864, near Charlottestown, Prince
Edward Island, Canada, and died May 18,1921, in Rochester, Minnesota, at
the age of 56. His family moved to northern California by the 1870s, and
Lane attended school in Oakland and San Francisco. He worked as a
newspaper reporter and became a lawyer. As a California Democrat in a
Republican era, he lost a close race for governor in 1902; lost the U.S.
senatorial confirmation in 1903; and lost the San Francisco mayoralty
campaign in 1903.
He was appointed to the Interstate Commerce Commission in 1905 by
President Theodore Roosevelt and became chairman in 1913. Two months
later, Lane was selected as secretary of the interior by President
Woodrow Wilson. For health and financial reasons, he resigned March 1,
1920. During this era, it was often said that Franklin Knight Lane could
have been elected president except for his Canadian birth. He
always seemed to respond to any "duty call" concerning his adopted land,
serving in many government positions. He was considered a "champion of
the common man" and fair-minded, yet strict in his decisions.
Though his "utilitarian" philosophy regarding natural resources
(especially water storage and use) was at times fanatical, his ultimate
intentions were never malicious. In Park Service lore, he will be
remembered chiefly for three things: being a primary advocate for
Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Dam: coaxing Stephen T. Mather to come to
Washington to organize and run what would become the NPS; and being the
secretary of the interior under whose administration the National Park
Service was penned into existence.
As secretary of the interior, Lane visited many park areas between
1914 and 1918. He toured pre-national park Acadia (Sieur de Monts
National Monument) with its "foundling father" George B. Dorr and struck
up an immediate friendship with him. His fondness for Dorr and his
excitement over the park clinched the area's national park designation.
Though Mather and Albright sharply protested some of Lane's resource
management ideas, the secretary nearly always stood behind his chiefs,
giving strength to a far-flung, under staffed, infant agency operating
on an inadequate budget.
Debate on Franklin Lane's total contribution to the NPS may spark pro
and con arguments forever, but certainly he is largely responsible for
putting a special process in motion, the success of which we celebrate
75 years later. He craftily challenged just the right person at the
right time with the right words: "If you don't like the way things
are run, Mr. Mather, come to Washington and run them yourself."