Father Of The Forests

Ninety years ago a highborn zealot named Gifford Pinchot knew more about woodlands than any man in America. What he did about them changed the country we live in and helped define environmentalism.

Like most public officials, Gov. Gifford Pinchot of Pennsylvania could not answer all his mail personally. Much of it had to be left to aides, but not all of these realized the character of their boss. When a citizen wrote in 1931 to complain angrily about one of the governor’s appointments, Pinchot was not pleased to find the following prepared for his signature: “I am somewhat surprised at the tone of your letter.… It has been my aim since I became Governor to select the best possible person for each position.Read more »

The House At Eighth And Jackson

Clues uncovered during the recent restoration of his house at Springfield help humanize the Lincoln portrait

One good measure of our apparently inexhaustible interest in Abraham Lincoln is that this year eight hundred thousand of us will be led through his house at the corner of Eighth and Jackson streets in Springfield, Illinois. So many people edge past the horsehair furniture and stomp up and down the narrow stairs that the National Park Service had to close the place down in 1987, take much of it apart, and put it back together again, newly decorated and sturdily reinforced with steel, to withstand the next generation of pilgrims. Read more »

A Message In A Bottle: Or, Honeymoon On Cannon Mountain

As newlyweds in 1901 they were the first to climb the towering Montana peak, but when evidence of the feat surfaced after eighty-four years, nobody believed it

In July of 1901 my father and mother left St. Paul, Minnesota, on the second leg of their honeymoon for the Lewis and Clark Forest Reserve, which is known today as Glacier National Park. My father, Dr. Walter Bradford Cannon, was a young instructor in the Department of Physiology of the Harvard Medical School, and my mother, Cornelia James Cannon, a recent graduate of Radcliffe College with the class of 1899.Read more »

Traveling With A Sense Of History

From Fort Ticonderoga to the Plaza Hotel, from Appomattox Courthouse to Bugsy Siegel’s weird rose garden in Las Vegas, the present-day scene is enriched by knowledge of the American past

To grow up in New England is to grow up with an inescapable sense of history, a heritage that a New Englander carries with him wherever he goes. Read more »

Digging Up The U.S.

In the underpinnings of our cities, in desolate swampland, beneath coastal waters—wherever the early settlers left traces of their lives—a new generation of archaeologists is uncovering a lost world

CROUCHED IN an L-shaped pit, a foot below the surface of the forest floor, John Ehrenhard, an archaeologist with the National Park Service, is contemplating a piece of charred wood. The sandy soil around the base of what appears to have once been a post has been carefully scraped away, and Ehrenhard, a small, lithe man wearing a colorful bandanna over his longish hair, seems ready to pounce.Read more »

Putting Worms Back In Apples

In reconstructing the past, Old Sturbridge Village is doing a lot more than selling penny candy and buggy rides. Struggling for verisimilitude, curators are raising scrawny chickens, trudging behind 150-year-old plows—and keeping pesticides out of the orchards.

Just inside the late Pliny Freeman’s 180-year-old barn in Old Sturbridge Village, I recently watched a gray-haired gentleman eyeing with evident disgust a bucket of wormy apples freshly picked from the Freeman Farm’s cider orchard. “Why don’t you spray your trees?” he asked a grimy youth who wore the garb of a New England farmer of 1830 and who helps work the Freeman Farm as if it still were 1830. “We can’t spray the trees,” explained the young man. “It wouldn’t be authentic.Read more »

Carving The American Colossus

The granite was tough—but so was Gutzon Borglum

In late August, 1970, a band of Sioux Indians entered the sacred precincts of a National Memorial in South Dakota and bivouacked on a mountaintop there for several weeks. The precincts were sacred to the Sioux because they are in the heart of the Black Hills, long regarded by their tribe as the dwelling place of Indian gods and spirits. And, as signaled by the apprehensive behavior of park rangers who monitored the Indians closely during their stay, the precincts are also precious to the United States Department of the Interior.Read more »

Tree House

John Mason Hutchings, an Englishman, first, saw Yosemite Valley in 1855 and never got it out of his system. Nine years later he returned to the valley to be innkeeper of the Hutchings House, the frame hotel at left. Before long the hotel’s cooks—Hutchings’ wife and mother-in-law—demanded a separate kitchen. But when it came time to build, an obstacle presented itself in the form of a huge cedar, twenty-four feet around at the base.Read more »

Private Fastness: Tales Of Wild

CUMBERLAND ISLAND AND HOW MODERN TIMES AT LAST HAVE REACHED IT

One of the good things that happened in America in 1970—a year otherwise noted for spreading oil slicks, raging forest fires, mercury in rainbow trout, and burgeoning pipelines in the tundra—was the decision by the National Park Service to purchase Cumberland Island, southernmost of the Georgia sea islands and a flaming issue in the long and bitter struggle between real-estate developers and conservationists over the future of the state’s coastline. Read more »

The Bitter Struggle For A National Park

"We have permanently safeguarded an irreplaceable primitive area," said President Truman as he dedicated Everglades National Park in 1947. Bit what is permanence, and what is "safeguarded"? Did he speak too soon?

Even before there was an Everglades National Park, there was Clewiston. It is said to be the sweetest little city in America, having been sweetened by the United States Sugar Corporation, which raises cane and beef cattle there on 100,000 acres of flat Florida muckland. U.S. Sugar also owns the Clewiston Inn. In the southern comfort of the lounge, one can sit and admire the cane growers’ tribute to the Everglades.Read more »