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Episode Three: 1915–1919The Empire of Grandeur

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Stephen Mather and Horace Albright meet with Blackfeet Indians from Glacier National Park, 1915 Add to Scrapbook

Stephen Mather and Horace Albright meet with Blackfeet Indians from Glacier National Park, 1915

Mather's Power of Persuasion (continued)

As a team, Albright and Mather complemented each other. Mather was charismatic and charming, and his enthusiasm for the parks was infectious. Albright was conscientious and good at administrative work. He also had valuable knowledge of the workings of Washington, the Interior Department, and Congress. After being sworn in, Mather's first action was to more than double Albright's yearly pay, with $2,400 from his own pocket. Next, he hired Robert Sterling Yard, the gifted editor of the New York Herald, to begin churning out publicity for the parks. Mather paid Yard's salary himself and provided him with a personal secretary.

With his small team, Mather set out to build support for a single government bureau devoted exclusively to the national parks. Mather wined and dined congressmen, senators, and publishers. He pushed through legislation that would allow private individuals to make gifts of land and money to the parks. His energy seemed boundless; ideas seemed to pop from his head every minute.

Rocky Mountain National Park dedication, September 4, 1915 Add to Scrapbook

Rocky Mountain National Park dedication, September 4, 1915

With Albright, Mather embarked on a whirlwind inspection tour of the national parks that would take them nearly 35,000 miles. In Colorado, they joined Enos Mills and a crowd of 300 for the dedication of Rocky Mountain National Park. (See sidebar)

At Mount Rainier in Washington State, Mather decided the superintendent was a political hack and fired him. At Yosemite, Mather put up half the money to buy the privately owned Tioga Road, the only east-west road through the park. After raising the rest of the amount from wealthy friends, he gave the road to the park. On his visit to Glacier Park, he bought an $8,000 parcel of land and donated it for a new location for the park's headquarters.

At the Grand Canyon, Mather became convinced that only by making this "unbelievable wonder" a national park would it be sufficiently protected.

Mather felt that the key to getting Congress to pass legislation and set aside money for the parks was to increase the number of visitors. But without money to improve roads, infrastructure, and accommodation, it was nearly impossible to get more people into the parks.

Mather's Mountain Party

Mather Mountain Party, Sequoia National Park, 1915 Add to Scrapbook

Mather Mountain Party, Sequoia National Park, 1915

Mather Mountain Party and chef Ty Sing, Sequoia National Park, 1915 Add to Scrapbook

Mather Mountain Party and chef Ty Sing, Sequoia National Park, 1915

To launch his public crusade for the parks, Mather invited a group of fifteen influential Americans to join him for two weeks in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. This "Mather Mountain Party" included prominent publishers, politicians, businessmen and railroad builders.

Mather believed that in order to win people over to his cause, they had to see and experience the places of beauty for themselves. He paid for the expedition himself and spared no expense, providing his guests with newfangled air mattresses and a Chinese cook named Ty Sing, who prepared lavish meals served on linen tablecloths with fine silverware.

When they came across a campsite littered with tin cans and paper, Mather got his wealthy friends to help pick up the mess and left behind a note that said, "We have cleaned your camp. Keep it clean." They spent a night in a privately owned grove of big trees just outside the boundary of Sequoia National Park. Fearing that the trees might be cut down, Mather bought the grove and donated it to the nation.

Continued on page 3

A proud tourist points at her National Parks windshield stickers, 1922; David Brower in Glen Canyon, 1966; Dayton Duncan's son, Will, standing at edge of canyon. Bryce Canyon National Park, 1998

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THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA'S BEST IDEA is a co-production of

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