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Connecting federal employees, scientists, educators, and the public with their wilderness heritage
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Timeline: 1850-1900

As the American frontier surrenders to human settlement, philosophers, writers, conservationists, and politicians work to interpret the value of natural resources in a country of seemingly endless bounty.
"To a person sitting quietly at home, Rocky Mountain traveling, like Rocky Mountain scenery, must seem very monotonous; but not so to me, to whom the pure, dry mountain air is the elixir of life. "

—Isabella Bird
A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains, 1879
Wilderness Timeline 1850-1900: Shows small pictures that illustrate the following items.
1850 - African American fur trapper and explorer James P. Beckwourth finds an important route through the Sierra Nevadas, leading the first wagon train of settlers through what would become "Beckwourth Pass."

1854 - Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden, writes that wilderness sanctuaries are the "need of civilized man."

1856 - Artist Thomas A. Ayers' lithographs introduce Yosemite to the East. Country Gentleman republishes articles that declare the Yosemite Valley to be "the most striking natural wonder on the Pacific."

1861 - Photographs by Carleton E. Watkins make Yosemite Valley famous.

1864 - Frederick Law Olmstead pushes for protection of Yosemite Valley and is first to advance the idea of placing certain areas under government protection.

1864 - A major turning point in the conservation movement occurs when George P. Marsh publishes Man and Nature, warning citizens to stop the devastation of natural resources.

1864 - President Abraham Lincoln signs the Yosemite Bill "to protect an area and conserve it for recreational enjoyment."

1865 - Walt Whitman writes "Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun," which reflects contradicting public views of conquering nature and respecting it.

1867 - The Alaska Purchase is signed by President Andrew Johnson, adding 365 million acres of public lands to the United States.

1867 - Kiowa Chief Satanta voices opposition to construction of the Union Pacific Railroad at a council held at Fort Larned, Kansas.

1869 - Transcontinental travel becomes available to the public when the Union and Pacific Railroads meet at Promontory Point, Utah.

1869 - John Wesley Powell begins a three-month river trip down the Green and Colorado Rivers, including the first passage through the Grand Canyon. His diary and later publications generate public interest in the Grand Canyon.

1871 - Yellowstone is documented by the official U.S. expedition of geologist Ferdinand Hayden, painters Henry Elliott and Thomas Moran, and photographer William Henry Jackson.

1872 - Artist Thomas Moran exhibits paintings of Yellowstone, helping to promote establishment of the first national park. Yellowstone is designated a "public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the American people."

1874 - Surveyors, escorted by the 7th U.S. Cavalry under the command of Lieutenant George A. Custer, penetrate the Black Hills of South Dakota, an area considered sacred by the Sioux tribes.

1876 - Battle of the Little Bighorn occurs in Montana on what is now the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

1877 - After fleeing, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce surrenders to Generals Howard and Miles 30 miles from the Canada border stating, "I will fight no more forever."

1890 - The needless slaughter of 150 Sioux at Wounded Knee in South Dakota results in the surrender of Indians, bringing the wars between whites and Indians to an end.

1890 - The Yosemite Reserves Act is passed by Congress and signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison, creating Yosemite National Park.

1892 - Conservationist John Muir organizes the Sierra Club to enlist public and governmental support for preservation of wilderness.

1892 - Casa Grande Ruins N.M. becomes the first prehistoric cultural site to be protected by the federal government.

1893 - Professor Frederick Jackson Turner reads his paper, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," at the American Historical Association meeting in Chicago, stating that the frontier is closed.

1898 - Gifford Pinchot takes office as Chief of the Division of Forestry, later organized into the National Forest Service in 1905, advancing conservation of natural resources.


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