2016 47c National Parks Centennial
The first person to propose the idea of a national park was American artist and author George Catlin. He traveled to the American West in the 1830s to record the lives and customs of the native people in portraits. He aimed to preserve in art what he foresaw as a vanishing race. Catlin recognized, like the Indian tribes, the undisturbed plains and prairies were also at risk. He believed the lands deserved some form of protection.
Catlin’s proposal gained little traction, but others like him soon followed. Artists, writers, and naturalists began to convey a new picture of the West. What people previously had envisioned as a desolate wasteland was being reimagined as a majestic natural paradise worth preserving.
Finally, in 1872, the country’s first federally protected park was established at Yellowstone, and a national park movement swept the nation. By 1916, the Department of the Interior was responsible for at least 35 different parks and monuments. To alleviate the strain on the department’s resources, President Woodrow Wilson designated a special bureau to manage the rapidly multiplying federal conservation and protection projects. On August 25, 1916, the National Park Service (NPS) was born.
What began as a seemingly radical idea has developed into one of the nation’s most successful agendas. Since its creation, the NPS has accumulated more than 400 federally protected areas covering over 84 million acres across the United States. In 2016, the NPS celebrated its centennial anniversary. For over 100 years it has preserved the nation’s “natural and cultural resources... for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”
Issued: June 2, 2016
First Day City: New York, NY
Type of Stamp: First Class Mail
Printed by: Banknote Corporation of America
Method: Offset, Microprint
Quantity Printed: 100,000,000
Issued at the time of the National Park Service centennial, this pane of 16 stamps features art or photographs associated with our national parks. Ethel Kessler was both art director and designer for the stamps.