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NPS Expansion: 1930s







New Deal



NPS 1933-39




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

Chapter Six: The National Park Service, 1933-1939
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A. Growth of the National Park Service

The Roosevelt administration quite obviously hoped that reorganization of the executive branch would result in a savings to the government through a reduction of personnel. By early October 1933, however, it was becoming evident that as far as administration of the parks was concerned, that goal would not be easily reached. On October 3, Arno Cammerer wrote that the Director of the Bureau of the Budget had expressed "extreme disappointment" that consolidation and reorganization of the various parks and monuments had resulted in the elimination of only 97 of 4,055 positions. [4] Cammerer, whose title was now Director of the Office of National Parks, Buildings, and Reservations, continued that the "old National Park Service" had been able to make a further reduction by eliminating all positions that were unfilled because of a reduction in appropriations, and called upon the heads of other offices in his agency to make similar efforts. [5]

Any reduction in the agency's personnel would soon prove transitory, however. Just two years later, Cammerer reported that "supervision of work under the emergency programs resulted in a heavy strain on all park supervisory personnel, both in the Washington office and the field." [6] The growth of the Service that resulted from the reorganization of 1933, participation in New Deal emergency programs, and new initiatives in history and recreation was so great that many Park Service employees feared that the character of the Service itself would be irretrievably lost. [7]

Before the reorganization of 1933, the National Park Service was a small, tightly-knit organization whose members often referred to themselves as the "Mather Family." Although there is considerable discrepancy in the sources regarding the exact number of personnel, the most complete records available indicate that some 700 permanent and 373 temporary employees were on the rolls on October 1933, the date Executive Order 6166 became effective. [8] The Washington office and various field offices of that office employed 147 people (142 and 5 temporary). Four hundred and seventy-six permanent and 331 temporary employees were located in the National Parks and 51 more were assigned to the national monuments (thirty-seven permanent and ten temporary). [9]

The immediate impact of Executive Order 6166, in terms of size, was the increase of 4,209 employees into what was to become known as the Office of National Parks, Buildings, and Reservations. [10] The largest number of new employees was the 3,047 permanent and 304 temporary appointees of the Buildings Branch. A total of 629 people were employed in the National Capital Parks and 139 more were assigned to the various sites transferred from the War and Agriculture departments:

National Parks82
Military Parks76
National Battlefields11
National Cemeteries241
National Monuments27
Miscellaneous Monuments28

Two years later, on November 30, 1935, the number of employees had more than doubled to 13,361. Of those categories listed on the August 10, 1933, report, the Branch of Buildings showed the largest increase--from 3,441 to 4,220. [12] The number of people engaged in what would be considered to be more traditional Park Service activities than building maintenance--and that is taken to include employees at areas formerly administered by the War and Agriculture departments--actually declined from 1,840 to 1,625. The latter figure, which includes both permanent and temporary employees, most probably reflects the normal reduction in temporary personnel in the national parks following the end of the travel season.

The large increase in personnel in the agency between 1933 and 1935 was a reflection, actually, of the Service's growing importance in the New Deal recovery programs. More than half of the employees on the roles on November 1935--7,480--were engaged directly in recovery programs. They were paid, moreover, out of emergency, not regular appropriations. [13]

According to Director Cammerer, the number of employees reached a peak of 13,900 in 1937. [14] By 1939, however, reflecting both the transfer of responsibility for maintenance of public buildings and winding down of emergency programs, the number of employees dropped to 6,612. Some 2,976 employees were still involved in administrative and supervisory capacities in the CCC. The number of people assigned to all National Park Service offices was 3,636. This represented a three-fold increase in 15 six years. [15]

Not only did the number of employees of the National Park Service increase dramatically after 1933, but it is also possible to discern more clearly the increasing specialization, or professionalization of the Service during that time. Clearly, professionalization of the National Park Service cannot be traced solely to the 1930s, as both Mather and Albright had strived to that end. But while professionals of one kind or another may have always been a part of the make-up of the Service, the movement toward professionalization certainly gained a new impetus during that decade. [16]

The growth of professions that came after 1933 was, in large part, the product of a combination of New Deal recovery efforts and the entry of the National Park Service into the field of historic preservation. The depression created a large pool of unemployed historians, archeologists, architects, and museum curators. The new National Park Service initiatives in history, along with what seemed like unlimited funds, allowed people like Verne Chatelain and Charles Peterson to create programs that provided such jobs. "From 1933 onward," observes Charles B. Hosmer, "the National Park Service was the principal employer of the professionals who dedicated their careers to historic preservation." [17] Most of these professionals began their work as temporary historical foremen or historical technicians in the CCC. Later they found permanent Civil Service jobs with the National Park Service. Some of them would, in time, come to occupy positions of authority in the Service. [18]

In 1931, for example, there were only two historians, as such, in the National Park Service. [19] In June 1933, Dr. Chatelain hired graduate students from the University of Minnesota to be historical foremen in the CCC camps. [20] Just two years later, one of these young historians,Ronald F. Lee, was Historian for the State Park Division of the National Park Service. Lee's description of his job indicates something of the growth of the Service's history program and impact on the history profession:

I organized and gave technical direction to a Nation-wide program of research and preservation for state-owned historical areas. This program employed eighteen Associate, Assistant and Junior Historians in eight regional offices and resulted in historical-technical cooperation of the National Park Service on more than forty state historical projects, including several forts, two missions, two colonial iron furnaces, and several archeologicals. [21]

The growth of the historical profession in the Service is only an example of the growth of specialization after 1933. With the development of the Historic American Buildings Survey and the dramatic increase in museums in the system, other examples would be as dramatic.

Chapter Six continues with...
Reorganization--The Washington Office


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

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