The so-called "Mather Mountain Party" picnics on white linen tablecloths amid the giant redwoods of Sequoia National Park in California. The party, led by conservationist Stephen Mather, was composed of prominent business leaders including Ernest O. McCormick, vice-president of the Southern Pacific Railroad and Gilbert H. Grosvenor, president of the National Geographic Society. Mather hoped that week in Sequoia would convince the men to support the idea of a unified federal agency to preserve and expand the nation's far-flung national parks. It worked—the National Park Service was established a year later, with Mather as its first director.
Photograph by Dr. Gilbert H. Grosvenor, National Geographic

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  • 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.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    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


    exemplary Adjective


    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.

    USGS Noun

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

    Encyclopedic Entry: USGS
    weather Noun

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

    Encyclopedic Entry: weather