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National Parks

Davenport Democrat
Summer is just a few weeks away, school is out in most places, and families have made their vacation plans. Many are heading to America’s national parks and historic sites. Called “the best idea we ever had” by writer Wallace Stegner, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) was created in 1916. But even before that, America’s most captivating scenery was preserved by the United States government for people from around the world to enjoy.

Yellowstone became the nation’s—and the world’s—first national park on March 1, 1872, when President Ulysses S. Grant signed the law providing for Yellowstone National Park. A day earlier, on February 29, 1872, the passage of the Yellowstone Park Bill was heralded by the New York Times, with descriptive phrases of the day like “no scenery in the world surpasses for sublimity that of the Yellowstone Valley.”

Twenty-two years later, in June 1894, the Davenport Democrat and Leader addressed poaching and land grabbing issues in Yellowstone. Despite America’s love of our national lands, disputes are omnipresent. One hundred years ago this month, the New York Times wrote about the controversy to provide water to the San Francisco Bay area by constructing a reservoir in Yosemite National Park’s Hetch Hetchy Valley. It wasn’t until 1934 that San Franciscans saw water flow into their city from Yosemite’s dammed reservoir.

Heading for GlacierWhile campers and automobiles are the most prominent vehicles in the parks, there are usually a good number of bicyclists, too, as was true fifty years ago. In June 1963, The Daily Inter Lake printed a photo of a biker Heading for Glacier with a spare tire over his shoulder. The paper had an edge for reporting Glacier National Park news, however, as it published from nearby Kalispell, Montana.

The Beatrice Daily Sun, another local to an NPS site, also reported in June 1963 that Nebraska’s Homestead National Monument was an important tourist attraction since with “no Grand Canyon” to draw people to the plains they had to come up with creative events and attractions.

Society and community columns in newspapers for smaller cities and towns often published details of their citizens’ excursions. In The Fort Wayne Sentinel we learn about Captain and Mrs. Kelsey’s 6-week vacation plans in 1918, including a trip to Yellowstone. When planning your summer vacation, check out your destination’s history through the headlines and articles in the online historical newspapers on

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