This is a guest blog post by Nanette Gibbs, a volunteer working in Science Reference.
On August 25, 2016, the National Park Service celebrated the centennial of the National Park Service Organic Act. To mark the beginning of the 2nd century of the National Park Service, a schedule of events is planned that includes live video streaming from Yellowstone National Park, as well as other programs promoting the National Park Service’s mission to bring “recreation, conservation and historic presentation programs” to its visitors.
In a recent issue of White House History: The Quarterly Journal of the White House Historical Association, an article by Robert Grogg, “Stamps, Parks, and a President” (no. 42, 2016) commemorates the centennial of the National Park Service by highlighting U.S. Postal stamps issued in 1934 depicting scenes from the National Parks.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was a stamp collector, actually held a cabinet level meeting with the Postmaster General on March 9, 1934, and set forth a plan to photograph the parks and make engravings. This resulted in a series of ten stamps that included Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Mount Rainier, Mesa Verde, Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Acadia, Zion, Glacier, and Great Smokey Mountains. Noteworthy is the Great Smokey Mountain stamp, designed by Esther Richards, the first woman to create a U.S. postage stamp. This year the U.S. Postal Service has issued 16 new stamps in connection with the centennial.
Inspired by this article, we decided to reproduce full color images of these stamps for display in the Science & Business Reading Room and identify selected items from our collections which discuss these parks as they are depicted in photos, guidebooks, narratives, and fictionalized accounts of travels. The range of items on display includes children’s books, travel journals, and even a suspenseful photo of Crater Lake, titled ‘The Lake of Mystery” from a 1921 book published by the National Park Service. Travel books from the 1940s, such as Our Country’s National Parks by I.R. Melbo, with photos whose captions read: “Park Visitors like to Watch the Bears Eat” reflect an earlier time when such prized photos were taken at amphitheater-like bear pits designed to observe bears.
This display of materials is located in the reading room of the Science, Technology and Business Division of the Library of Congress on the fifth floor of the John Adams Building.