How artists helped create the National Park Service

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The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th birthday this year.  However, the concept of the parks dates back far earlier than that. In 1864, Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Land Grant—granting the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove to the state of California to preserve them for public use. Then in 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a law creating the first National Park—Yellowstone.

A new exhibit called “Geographies of Wonder” opens Saturday at the Huntington Library. While there were a number of driving forces that led to the creation of the parks, notably the work of artists and photographers played a large role.

“Their work is providing the first personal observation of the geologic wonders, the colors, geysers and hot springs and other features that before could only be conveyed to other people by word of mouth or by written word,” said curator of Western American History at the Huntington, Peter Blodgett. All of this art was being created at the same time of the growth of publishing, photographic reproduction, and while Congress was considering the creation of Yellowstone. “The art work really had a tremendous impact at the moment that the United States Congress is debating the creation of Yellow Stone Park,” said Blodgett.