On July 14, 1915, Stephen Mather hosted a party in Visalia, California, for influential conservationists and businessmen. Mather promoted the idea of creating a single federal agency to manage America’s far-flung national parks—including Yellowstone in Montana, Yosemite in California, Crater Lake in Oregon, and Mesa Verde in Colorado. Mather and his supporters thought a unified agency could better organize and protect the parkland.
 
Mather himself was a powerful businessman, having made his fortune in California’s borax industry. (Borax was mined for use as a key ingredient in detergent.) He was a passionate conservationist, and, having resigned from his business, worked for the U.S. Department of the Interior. He immediately began lobbying for the creation of an agency to manage the national parks.
 
The group of men who gathered at Visalia’s Palace Hotel on July 14 included Gilbert Grosvenor, president of the National Geographic Society; Ernest O. McCormick, vice-president of the Southern Pacific Railroad; Mark Daniels, a landscape architect who was consulted in the design of hotels around Glacier National Park in Montana and Mount Rainier National Park in Washington; Robert Marshall, chief geographer of the USGS; Henry Osborn, president of the American Museum of Natural History; and Rep. Frederick H. Gillett (R-Massachusetts), a powerful leader on the House Appropriations Committee.
 
The morning after enjoying a Mexican meal in the warm California weather—“the coolest condition was the Tabasco sauce,” Mather’s assistant Horace Albright said—the 30-man Mather party set off on a ten-day trek through nearby Sequoia National Park. The trek was luxurious, with meals prepared and catered by the USGS’ exemplary Chinese chefs and served on white linen tablecloths. Horses and pack mules carried the party’s cargo. The party hiked through redwood forests, swam in the Kern River, and even ascended Mount Whitney. 
 
The trek through the national park convinced the party a national park agency was a goal worth pursuing. Grosvenor and other journalists featured stories and photos of national parks in their newspapers and magazines. McCormick organized railroads to provide reliable transportation to national parks. Osborn encouraged the scientific community to support national parks. Gillett worked to create a new federal agency: “It was entirely due to [Mather’s] generous hospitality that I was introduced to [Sequoia National Park’s] wonders and imbued with some of the enthusiasm for the development of all our national parks.”
 
The Mather Mountain Party was incredibly successful. Less than a year later, the National Park Service was created, with Stephen Mather as its first director.
appropriation
Noun

money set aside or authorized for a specific purpose.

ascend
Verb

to go up.

borax
Noun

(sodium borate) white powder or crystals mined for industrial use in glass, porcelain, and other manufacturing processes.

cargo
Noun

goods carried by a ship, plane, or other vehicle.

cater
Verb

to provide food and food service for an event.

conservationist
Noun

person who works to preserve natural habitats.

enthusiasm
Noun

excitement.

exemplary
Adjective

outstanding.

federal
Adjective

having to do with a nation's government (as opposed to local or regional government).

geographer
Noun

person who studies places and the relationships between people and their environments.

hospitality
Noun

the treatment of guests.

influential
Adjective

important; having the ability to lead the opinions or attitudes of others.

journalist
Noun

person who reports and distributes news.

landscape architect
Noun

person who plans, designs, and oversees the construction of open spaces such as gardens.

linen
Noun

light, thin, durable fabric made from fibers of the flax plant.

lobby
Verb

to try to influence the action of government or other authority.

luxurious
Adjective

rich or self-indulgent.

mine
Verb

to extract minerals from the Earth.

National Geographic Society
Noun

(1888) organization whose mission is "Inspiring people to care about the planet."

national park
Noun

geographic area protected by the national government of a country.

National Park Service
Noun

U.S. federal agency with the mission of caring "for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage."

promote
Verb

to encourage or help.

transportation
Noun

movement of people or goods from one place to another.

trek
Noun

journey, especially across difficult terrain.

unify
Verb

to become a single unit.

Noun

(United States Geological Survey) primary source for science about the Earth, its natural and living resources, natural hazards, and the environment.

Noun

state of the atmosphere, including temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind, humidity, precipitation, and cloudiness.

More Dates in History

July
MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
29 30 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
More Events on this Date