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NPS Expansion: 1930s







New Deal



NPS 1933-39




Expansion of the National Park Service in the 1930s:
Administrative History

Chapter Two: Reorganization of Park Administration
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C. Reorganization of 1933

The change in administrations in March 1933 posed potentially serious problems for the National Park Service's campaign to unify administration of all national parks and monuments. From the beginning the Service had stood above partisan politics. Despite the fact that he diligently sought to preserve that tradition, Horace Albright had become identified closely enough with the Hoover administration that he harbored some concern that he would be replaced by the incoming administration. [56]

Harold L. Ickes, President Roosevelt's choice as Secretary of the Interior, asked Albright to stay on, however. Within a short time, Albright would emerge as a close and influential advisor to the irascible Secretary of the Interior. [57]

Albright lost no time, once it was clear his job was secure, in approaching Ickes regarding transfer of the military parks. Within days after Ickes had taken office and begun to settle in his new job, Albright had won his approval of the proposal. [58] In the first hectic week of the New Deal, moreover, Albright had met with and secured the approbation of George Dern, the new Secretary of War. [59]

More importantly, because of the close relationship developed with Ickes, Albright soon found himself in a position to present his case at length with the one man who could guarantee its success--Franklin D. Roosevelt. On April 9, 1933, Albright was among the invited guests on an excursion to former President Hoover s camp on the Rapidan River in nearby Virginia. [60] As they prepared to return to Washington, Roosevelt asked Albright to ride along in his touring car. Never one to be reticent, or to miss an opportunity, Albright used a discussion of Civil War battles to press his case for transfer of the War Department parks. Roosevelt had decided to reorganize the executive branch within weeks of his inauguration. [61] In what must have almost been an anticlimax to some sixteen years of effort, Roosevelt asked no questions, but merely agreed that it should be done, and told Albright to present the proper material to Lewis Douglas, chief of staff for reorganization activities. [62]

Some anxious moments followed. In early 1933 Gifford Pinchot, who was a long-time acquaintance of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and others had revived efforts to transfer the National Park Service to the Department of Agriculture, where it would be merged with the Forest Service. [63] In mid-April, both Albright and Ickes heard rumors that suggested Albright had seriously misinterpreted the president in their April 9 discussion regarding reorganization--that reorganization in the Roosevelt administration would result in transfer of the National Park Service to the Department of Agriculture. [64] An early May meeting with Lewis Douglas reassured Albright, however, and the NPS director promptly submitted his proposals for transfer of the War Department parks and monuments. [65]

The proposals Albright submitted to the reorganization committee were modest--the same, essentially, that the National Park Service had been supporting since 1916. [66] He certainly was not prepared for the scope of the proclamation that emerged. Executive Order 6166, issued on June 10, 1933, and effective sixty days later, dealt with a wide range of agencies and functions--procurement investigations, statistics of cities, insular counts, and Internal Revenue were only a few of the subjects addressed. Section 2 spoke directly to the National Park Service:

All functions of administration of public buildings, reservations, national parks, national monuments, and national cemeteries are consolidated in an Office of National Parks, Buildings, and Reservations in the Department of the Interior, at the head of which shall be a Director of National Parks, Buildings, and Reservations; except that where deemed desirable there may be excluded from this provision any public building or reservation which is chiefly employed as a facility in the work of a particular agency. This transfer and consolidation of functions shall include, among others, those of the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior and the National Cemeteries and Parks of the War Department which are located within the continental limits of the United States. National cemeteries located in foreign countries shall be transferred to the Department of State, and those located in insular possessions under the jurisdiction of the War Department shall be administered by the Bureau of Insular Affairs of the War Department.

The functions of the following agencies are transferred to the Office of National Parks, Buildings, and Reservations of the Department of the Interior, and the agencies are abolished:

Arlington Memorial Bridge Commission
Public Buildings Commission
Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital
National Memorial Commission
Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway Commission

Expenditures by the Federal Government for the purposes of the Commission of Fine Arts, the George Rogers Clark Sesquicentennial Commission, and the Rushmore National Commission shall be administered by the Department of the Interior. [67]

Not only would the Park Service inherit the War Department parks and monuments as Albright had proposed, but also all national monuments within the continental United States, the national monuments administered by the Forest Service, the parks, monuments, and public buildings in the District of Columbia, and some elsewhere in the country, [68] the Fine Arts Commission, and the National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Especially galling to Park Service employees, was the provision in Executive Order 6166 that changed the name of the National Park Service to the Office of National Parks, Buildings, and Reservations. [69]

Albright had seen a draft of the proposed executive order at a second meeting with Lewis Douglas in May. [70] In the face of Douglas's growing impatience, he argued that Arlington and other national cemeteries still open for burial should remain under the jurisdiction of the War Department, that only those buildings that were clearly monumental in character--the White House, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial, for example--should be transferred, that the Fine Arts Commission and National Capital Park and Planning Commission should remain independent, and that the name, "National Park Service," should be retained. [71] After consulting with Ickes and Frederic A. Delano, however, Albright decided further opposition to the proposal would jeopardize all that he had worked for. [72] The wisest course of action would be to accept the proposal as drafted, and work to reverse these elements that he considered objectionable after the president issued the order.

For the next month, Albright did just that. On July 28, largely as a result of his well-orchestrated campaign, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6228, an order that clarified Section 2 of Executive Order 6166, "postponing until further order," transfer of Arlington and other cemeteries still open for burial, while leaving the cemeteries associated with historical areas in the soon-to-be Office of National Parks, Buildings, and Reservations. [73] In addition, Albright was able to secure separation of the National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Fine Arts Commission, save for some administrative functions. [74]

He saw no immediate chance of restoring the name, however, and decided to postpone that battle to a later date. It was not until March 10, 1934, that his successor, Arno B. Cammerer, was able to announce that the old name had been restored. [75]

Writing about the events leading up to the reorganization of 1933 some years later, Horace Albright said that when he first saw a draft of Executive Order 6166, he "was stunned by its scope." [76] He was most certainly not the only person in Washington that reacted that way. Particularly surprising to Park Service officials must have been the reaction of the War Department. Since the early 1920s, successive Secretaries of War had registered support for transfer of War Department parks and monuments to Interior, and had testified so before Congressional committees. In February 1932 Patrick Hurley had reaffirmed that position, and Albright had secured George Dern's approval in March 1933. [77] After June 10, 1933, however, it became evident that sentiment for transferring the parks and monuments came more from political appointees who headed the War Department than from professional officers there.

Perhaps the most vocal opponent of transferring the War Department areas was Colonel Howard E. Landers, who, according to Verne Chatelain, fought it "tooth and nail." [78] Since the 1920s, Colonel Landers had been responsible for investigating battlefields for commemorative purposes, and as such was more knowledgeable than anyone else with the War Department's administration of military parks and battlefields. He was a frequent critic of the War Department's administration, particularly in what be believed to have been the failure to properly use the data he collected. [79] His criticism may have been misinterpreted by Park Service officials, for whatever feelings Colonel Landers had regarding use of his material, he had never favored transfer of military parks to the Interior Department. [80] According to Dr. Chatelain, Colonel Landers felt strongly enough to send a memorandum to President Roosevelt in an effort to prevent transfer after June 10, 1933. [81]

Colonel Landers was the most vocal opponent, but he was not the only person in the War Department who expressed misgivings once transfer became fact. There is no question that these misgivings were raised to a large extent because of the inclusion of the national cemeteries in the transfer order. In general, though, the impression that emerges from Park Service records is that despite years of official approbation of the principle of transfer, the War Department's attitude was one of reluctance that sometimes bordered on resistance or non-cooperation, once that transfer was ordered.

This attitude was not confined to the military professionals in the department. On June 21, 1933, Harry Woodring, Acting Secretary of War, wrote to President Roosevelt to request that all military cemeteries, including those on or adjacent to the military parks and battlefields, be excluded in the executive order. They were all, he wrote, military in nature, and the Department of the Interior could not possibly "be as interested in the proper maintenance of these cemeteries as the War Department." [82] The next day Woodring sent another letter to the president, this time to request postponement of the effective date of Executive Order 6166 until all plans for improvements at the various areas--and he indicated these were extensive--were accomplished, and work on the establishment of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, Petersburg, and King's Mountain was completed. [83] In closing Woodring seemingly took a position that would have pleased even the most vociferous opponent of transfer:

In fact I am of the opinion that as a matter of economy and efficiency--not to mention reasons of sentiment, these nonmilitary activities, which have been under the War Department since their inception, should remain in their present status. [84]

As Park Service staff took the first steps to effect transfer, they reported back a general lack of full cooperation on the part of their counterparts in the War Department. On July 7, for example, Chief Clerk R. M. Holes reported that Lieutenant Colonel J. H. Laubach, Chief, Memorial Section, Quartermaster's Office, would not provide him with any

definitive information regarding the number of field employees at the various military parks. [85] On the same day, E. E. Tillet reported to Arthur Demaray that he had been able to obtain very little information from an interview with the same office. [86]

Park Service officials were no more interested in obtaining the cemeteries open for burial than War Department personnel were in giving them up. In fact it was Horace Albright who took the lead in reversing that portion of Executive Order 6166. [87] Officials in the Interior Department made considerable effort to reassure War Department staff that the military flavor of the areas would not be altered, that the agency was well equipped to administer the areas effectively, and that the Office of National Parks, Buildings, and Reservations would consult with the War Department on matters involving the military parks, battlefields, and historic cemeteries. [88]

Few in the War Department seem to have been implacable in their opposition to transfer. With the assurances made by Ickes to George Dern and after postponement of the transfer of Arlington and other cemeteries open for burial, resistance in the War Department, save for some occasional instances of footdragging at the local level, disappeared. [89]

On August 10, 1933, eleven national military parks, two national parks, ten battlefield sites, ten national monuments, three miscellaneous memorials, and eleven national cemeteries that had been administered by the War Department were formally transferred to the Department of the Interior. [90] After that date, there is no evidence of any significant friction between the departments resulting from transfer. Nor did the War Department make any effort to regain control of the areas transferred.

Perhaps even more surprising than the misgivings first expressed by War Department officials to Executive Order 6166 was the initial response of the Forest Service. Given the history of relations between the two agencies, Horace Albright had every right to expect that Forest Service officials would immediately fight any effort to transfer the national monuments as they had on previous occasions. Yet, the initial response to the order by the bureau's Washington office was no response at all. It was not until July 24, 1933, less than three weeks before the end of the sixty-day contesting period, that the Washington office appears to have justify">become aware of Executive Order 6166. [91] When he contacted the Budget Office the next day, Chief Forester L.F. Kneipp's response was surprisingly mild:

Strictly interpreted, Section 2 of Executive Order 6166 of June 10, 1933, would place these fifteen National Monuments under the jurisdiction of the office of National Parks Buildings, and Reservations of the Department of Interior. [92]

He continued that because national forest status for the areas was not revoked, the order had the effect of transferring administration of the national forests as well. [93]

Ben W. Twight speculated that the delay in reaction suggests that Forest Service officials were simply not consulted prior to the date the order was issued. [94] Yet, it was no secret that President Roosevelt had secured authority to reorganize the executive branch and had established an inter-departmental committee to coordinate reorganization efforts within a month of his inauguration. Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace was aware, surely, of reorganization, and knew that it would somehow involve his department. On April 18 he discussed the possibility of combining the Forest Service and Park Service in a department with Ickes. [95] On April 20 Ickes wrote in his diary that he had received a copy of a letter that Gifford Pinchot had written President Roosevelt protesting transfer of the Forest Service to Interior. [96]

Even had Forest Service officials been unaware of all that was happening before June 10, 1933, Executive Order 6166 was made public as a congressional document on that date. Given their past responses to similar suggestions, the failure of Forest Service officials to react to the loss of the national monuments under their jurisdiction for six weeks is something that defies explanation.

Whatever the reason, by the time Forest Service officials finally reacted to the order, there was little they could do to reverse it. For a short time, apparently some in the Washington office considered appealing to Congress to block the order, but quickly rejected that avenue as impolitic. [97] The only realistic possibility they had of reversing the order was in convincing the Secretary of the Interior that:

Section 2 of the Executive Order stipulates that there may be excluded from this provision any public building or reservation which is chiefly employed as a facility in the work of a particular agency. It would seem logical to hold that national monuments are withdrawn for national forest purposes would fall within this excluded class. [98]

August 10, 1933, the day that Executive Order 6166 became effective, came and went without any official request from the Secretary of Agriculture to the Secretary of the Interior to exclude the national monuments from provisions of the order. On August 26, Assistant Chief Forester Kneipp indicated that the monuments were still being administered by the Forest Service:

The National Park Service indicated a desire to take eight of the fifteen national monuments now administered by the Forest Service. How long will it be before they ask for the other seven is wholly conjectural. [99]

By late September, however, the decision to bring all the monuments, not just eight, into the Interior Department had been made. On September 29 Ickes notified the Agriculture Department that Interior was prepared to assume jurisdiction of all national monuments administered by Agriculture, unless he received some official request for their retention as a facility to the work of the Forest Service. [100]

On the same day, Secretary of Agriculture Wallace wrote Ickes requesting just that. Basing his arguments on the department's solicitors opinion, and echoing the arguments advanced by L.F. Kneipp on July 25, 1933, Wallace recommended that the fifteen monuments be excluded as "facilities essential to the work of this Department, or to the redemption of the responsibilities imposed upon it by law." [101]

Acting on the advice of Departmental Solicitor Nathan Margold, Ickes rejected Wallace's recommendation, and on November 11, indicated that Interior was prepared to assume jurisdiction over the fifteen national monuments "at once." [102] It was not until January 28, 1934, however, that Ickes was finally able to inform Lewis Douglas that the Forest Service was in full compliance with Executive Order 6166, and that the administration of the fifteen national monuments had been transferred to the Department of the Interior. [103]

Transfer of jurisdiction over the national monuments from the Forest Service on January 18, 1934, did not mean, however, that the issue was laid to rest. Nor did it significantly reduce the rivalry that had existed between the Forest Service and National Park Service. In February 1934, for example, Secretary Ickes rejected a new Forest Service appeal that the Department of the Interior recognize the jurisdiction of the Forest Service over the national monuments transferred by Executive Order 6166. [104] On March 12, 1934, Arno Cammerer complained that "subtle opposition" that came largely from field men in the Forest Service had been ever-present since June 10, 1933, and Forest Service opposition would play a major role in delaying enactment of the Park, Parkway, and Recreation-Area Act. [105]

The differences continued through much of the decade, becoming particularly heated as a result of Harold Ickes efforts to remodel the Interior Department into a Department of Conservation which would have incorporated the Forest Service. [106] In 1936, the park lobbyist Rosalee Edge commented on the relations between the agencies in a way that must have echoed National Park Service officials:

We, also, deplore the hostility and jealousy that exists between the Forest Service and the National Park Service, and the resulting injury to the public and to the Parks. We must, however, point out that it is the same kind of mutual misunderstanding that exists between a wolf and a lamb. [107]

In 1939, leaders of both agencies, finally wearied of long years of controversy, set out to find a way to settle their differences. In that year they set up a joint committee to find compromise solutions to the thorny problems of park extensions. The move would prove to be the first step in a major rapprochement. While the two bureaus would still clash occasionally, much of the bitterness that characterized their relations gradually disappeared. Following World War II, a willingness to cooperate with each other became predominant. [108]

Reaction of National Park Service employees to Executive Order 6166, beyond a universal condemnation of the name change, was mixed. Even before June 10, 1933, there were those who believed that the bureau and system were growing too fast. Conrad L. Wirth, Assistant Director, Branch of Planning, spoke for many when he observed on February 24, 1933, that the service might be wise to retrench for a period. [109] Such a policy, he said, would assist the Service in dealing with budget cutbacks, allow it to develop and maintain the system, and to blunt growing criticism that the National Park Service was an expansionist bureau. [110] While there were many in the Service who agreed with Horace Albright that expansion of the system into the east was a necessary and commendable step, others, and this was particularly true of "old-line" NPS people, believed that incorporation of non-scenic, eastern areas weakened the standards established by Stephen Mather and Horace Albright. [111]

Whatever the feelings of NPS employees, it is clear that no event in NPS history, save passage of the enabling act itself, had a more profound impact on the National Park System and the bureau that administers it. In terms of size alone, the number of units more than doubled--sixty-seven to 137. [112] The number of natural areas increased from forty-seven to fifty-eight while the number of historical areas nearly quadrupled, increasing from twenty to seventy-seven. [113]

Important as it was in terms of numbers, the impact of Executive Order 6166 cannot be discussed in terms of size alone, for the location and diversity of the areas was just as important. Inclusion of the National Capital Parks brought the National Park Service into metropolitan urban parks. George Washington Memorial Parkway represented a new type of unit in the National Park System, one which was predominantly neither historical nor natural, but recreational.

Horace Albright has over the years considered the impact of Executive Order 6166. He did feel, upon reflection, that in the haste to send information forward, the Service failed to include some sites it should have had--the Andersonville Prison site and cemetery in Georgia, for example. [114] But, he wrote in 1971, the order made the National Park Service a truly national bureau, with a national constituency. The Service became the primary federal entity responsible for the administration of historical and archeological sites and structures, and he might have added, the leader in the field of historic preservation. Finally, Executive Order 6166 was almost a declaration of independence for the National Park Service. The Service became a strong bureau that would never again be threatened with consolidation with another. [115]

With the success of his efforts to consolidate administrative control of the national military parks and battlefields and national monuments, Horace Albright decided it was time to step aside as Director of the National Park Service and accept one of the several offers he had received from the private sector. On July 5, 1933, he tendered his resignation to Secretary Ickes. He left the Park Service after having served as Director some four years on August 9, the day before Executive Order 6166 went into effect. [116]

Albright was replaced as director by Arno B. Cammerer, who had served as assistant director, then associate director since 1919. [117] It would be up to the quiet, hardworking Cammerer to deal with the far-ranging impact of Executive Order 6166.

Chapter Two continues with...
Additional Areas, 1934-1939


Last Modified: Tues, Mar 14 2000 07:08:48 am PDT

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