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Preliminary Inventory Of The Records Of The National Park Service
(Record Group 78)


The National Park Service was established in the Department of the Interior by an act of August 25, 1916 (39 Stat. 535), and funds were provided for its operation by an act of April 17, 1917 (40 Stat. 20). It was charged with administering the national parks and monuments as well as the Hot Springs Reservation in Arkansas (made a national park in 1921). The 1916 act directed the National Park Service to promote and regulate the use of national parks, monuments, and similar reservations in order to "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Before the establishment of the Service, park administration was under the direct supervision of the Secretary of the Interior. Most of the work was performed by the Patents and Miscellaneous Division until 1907 and thereafter by the Miscellaneous Section of the Office of the Chief Clerk. On June 4, 1914, Mark Daniels was appointed General Superintendent and Landscape Engineer of the National Parks with headquarters in San Francisco. On December 10, 1915, Daniels was replaced by Robert B. Marshall, who was given the title Superintendent of National Parks with an office in Washington, D. C. Marshall resigned December 31, 1916, and was not replaced. Stephan T. Mather, who as Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior since January 1915 had been particularly concerned with the national parks, was appointed the first Director of the National Park Service in May 16, 1917.

The first public park, Yellowstone, was established by an act of March 1, 1872 (17 Stat. 32). There are at present 32 national parks.

An act of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225), entitled "An Act For the preservation of American antiquities," authorized the President to set apart by proclamation as national monuments lands owned or controlled by the United States containing "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest." Until 1933 such monuments were administered by the Secretary of the Department having jurisdiction over the areas concerned. Most monuments were administered by the Department of the Interior, but some were supervised by the Department of Agriculture and the War Department.

There has been some confusion in distinguishing between national parks and national monuments beyond the fact that national parks are established by act of Congress and national monuments by Presidential proclamation. The Park Service defines national parks as "spacious land areas essentially of primitive or wilderness character which contain scenery and natural wonders so outstanding in quality that their preservation intact has been provided for by their having been designated and set aside by the Federal Government for the benefit, enjoyment, and inspiration of the people." It defines national monuments as "nationally significant landmarks, structures, objects, or areas of scientific or prehistoric interest so designated by the Federal Government for preservation and public use." Typical national monuments are the Statue of Liberty, Fort Sumter, the Petrified Forest, and the Gila Cliff Dwellings.

By Executive Order 6166 of June 10, 1933, the Service was expanded and redesignated the Office of National Parks, Buildings, and Reservations. An act of March 2, 1934 (48 Stat. 389), restored the name National Park Service. The expanded Service was in charge of the national monuments formerly administered by the For4est Service of the Department of Agriculture and the national monuments, national military parks, national battlefield parks and sites, and some national cemeteries formerly administered by the War Department. The Office of Public Buildings and Parks of the National Capital, the Arlington Memorial Bridge Commission, the Public Buildings Commission, the National Memorial Commission, and the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway Commission were all abolished and their functions transferred to the Park Service. These changes put the Service in charge of all national parks and monuments and some other areas of historical significance, Federal parks and most Federal buildings in the District of Columbia, and some Federal buildings outside the District. In 1939 the responsibility for public buildings was transferred to the new Public Buildings Administration and the Federal Works Agency. The parks in the District of Columbia and surrounding areas that are designated as National Capital Parks are still administered by the National Park Service.

An act of August 21, 1935 (49 Stat. 666), provided for the establishment of national historic sites, including some owned by private organizations. (The act also established an Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings, and Monuments.) Other types of areas that have been established under the supervision of the Service are: national historical parks, national memorials, a national memorial park, national parkways, national recreation areas, and national seashores.

The National Park Service, under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, is responsible for all aspects of park administration. These include the establishment and enforcement of regulations for use, protection from fire and other dangers, regulations of concession operators, investigations and recommendation of proposed new areas, land acquisition (including the extinguishment of private land titles to land within park boundaries), and construction and maintenance of roads and trails, buildings, and other structures. Increasing emphasis has been placed on research and educational work, known collectively as "interpretation." This work includes the management of guided tours and lectures, the marking of nature trails, the maintenance of museums and libraries, and the preparation of publications and studies in history, archeology, natural history, and wildlife.

During the depression years the Civilian Conservation Corps and other emergency agencies provided funds for work in national park areas. The Park Service was given technical supervision of CCC work in State and local park areas. A Park Service official served as the Interior Department representative on the CCC Advisory Council.

In 1934 the recreational demonstration project program for the development of submarginal lands into recreation areas was initiated by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. In 1935 the land-acquisition aspect of this program was taken over by the Resettlement Administration, and the Park Service assumed the work of developing the areas. By an Executive order of November 14, 1936, the Service was given full control of the program. Later, under the provisions of an act of June 6, 1942 (56 Stat. 326), most of the recreational demonstration projects and land were transferred to the States.

Other programs in which the Service participated were the Park, Parkway, and Recreation-Area Study, the Historic Sites Survey; and the Historic American Buildings Survey. During World War II the Service operated Civilian Public Service Camps for conscientious objectors. It has continued to cooperate with and assist the States in the development of public Park and recreation-area facilities.

At first the central office of the National Park Service was small. It included the Director, and Assistant (later Associate) Director, a Chief Clerk, and an administrative and clerical staff. A position of Field Assistant to the Director was established in 1920 and redesignated Assistant Director (Field) in 1926. That position existed until 1929 when the incumbent, Horace M. Albright, became Director of the National Park Service and was not replaced as Assistant Director (Field).

The Engineering Division, established in 1917, was the first of several technical divisions. Others were the Landscape Engineering (later Landscape Architecture) Division (1918), Educational Division (1925), Forestry Division (1927), and Wildlife Division (1929). The names given are those by which the divisions were most commonly known; there were changes in their exact designations. The headquarters of these divisions were located in different cities and parks in the West; and some of them were moved frequently. In 1927 a Field Headquarters was established in San Francisco to coordinate the work of the field divisions. All of the division headquarters were then located either in San Francisco or nearby Berkeley. Beginning in 1930, eastern offices were established for some of the divisions to supervise work in the eastern parks. In the same year the transfer of supervision of technical activities from the Field Headquarters to the central office in Washington was begun.

There were some specialized branches in the central office before 1930. They included a unit concerned principally with administrative matters that became the Branch of Operations in 1930; a legal unit that developed into the Office of the Chief Counsel; and a Branch of Lands responsible chiefly for investigations of proposed park areas. The Last-named was given many additional duties concerning emergency programs of the depression, and its name was changed several times. In this inventory it is called the Branch of Recreation, Land Planning, and State Cooperation. The Branch of Research and Education was established in the Washington office in 1930 (its name was also changed several times); and the Educational Division and Wildlife Division in Berkeley was subordinated to it. In 1933 the headquarters of the Branch of Plans and Design, successor to the Landscape Architecture Division, was moved from San Francisco to Washington. In November 1933 a Branch of Forestry was established in Washington. The use of the term "Field Headquarters" for the San Francisco office was discontinued in 1935. When the Chief Engineer, head of the Branch of Engineering (formerly the Engineering Division), moved to Washington in 1937, the transfer process was completed. Duties of the technical divisions in the field that had not been transferred to Washington were assigned to the regional offices that were then established.

The organization of the Washington office has undergone many changes. New branches and divisions were established for new or expanded activities. Although various consolidations, separations, and name changes have occurred, the organization has remained on a functional basis. Until 1938 heads of major branches were usually designated Assistant Directors of the Service; thereafter they were usually called supervisors or chiefs.

In 1937 four regional office were set up in Richmond, Omaha, Santa Fe, and San Francisco—each a small-scale replica of Washington headquarters, with a regional director, associate director, and regional branch chiefs. This arrangement has lasted. In 1955 a fifth regional office was established in Philadelphia, and in 1962 the National Capital Parks was made the sixth region. The regional offices are now designated by their geographic areas: Southeast (Richmond), Midwest (Omaha), Southwest (Santa Fe), Western (San Francisco), Northeast (Philadelphia), and National Capital (Washington).

In 1939 the work and personnel of the Wildlife Division were transferred from the Service to the Bureau of Fisheries and the Bureau of Biological Survey that were consolidated in 1940 to form the Fish and Wildlife Service. The Park Service has continued to engage in wildlife work, however.

As a wartime measure, from August 1942 until October 1947 the central office of the Service was located in Chicago. A liaison office, with the Associate Director in charge, was maintained in Washington.

Superintendents are in charge of the individual parks; and custodians are in charge of most monuments. Park rangers are responsible for protection against fire and other dangers and for the enforcement of park regulations. When appropriate, historians, naturalists, engineers, or other technical personnel are assigned to individual areas. From 1917 to 1937 park superintendents were responsible only to the Director of the Service. Since 1937 they have been responsible to the appropriate regional director. Occasionally several park areas were placed under one superintendent, who was designated as coordinating superintendent.

The records described in this inventory are those of the National Park Service that were in the National Archives on June 30, 1966. They amount to 2,806 cubic feet are designated as Record Group 79, Records of the National Park Service. Included are records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior relating to national parks and monuments, 1972-1916; records off the War Department relating to areas transferred to the Park Service; general records of the Service; financial records; records of several officials; records of the Office of the Chief Counsel; records of some the branches and other administrative units; records of Region I and the National Capital Region; records of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Co. and its predecessor, the Potomac Co., that were transferred to the Service after the Federal Government bought the canal in 1938; records of the commission for the celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of John Marshall; records of the Battle of New Orleans sesquicentennial celebration commission; and records of the Jamestown-Williamsburg-Yorktown celebration commission. Also included are cartographic and photographic records and sound recordings maintained apart from the textual records. Many records of regional offices and other field offices are kept in the several Federal Records Centers and are not in the National Archives.

There are related records in other record groups. In Record Group 48, Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, are additional records for the period from 1872 until 1917, when the Secretary has immediate responsibility for park administration, and for the period since 1917, when the Secretary has had supervisory control over the Park Service. War Department records relating to the use of troops in national parks until 1919 and the administration of areas transferred to the National Park Service in 1933 are in Record Group 77, Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers; Record Group 92, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General; Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office; Record Group 98, Records of United States Army Commands; Record Group 107, Records of the Office of the Secretary of War; and Record Group 153, Records of the Office of The Judge Advocate General (Army).

In Record Group 49, Records of the Bureau of Land Management, are records of the former General Land Office relating to park lands. In Record Group 42, Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds, are records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital and its predecessors and of commissions that were merged with the National Park Service in 1933. Records concerning the administration of public buildings by the National park Service, 1933-39, are in Record Group 121, Records of the Public Buildings Service. Records concerning the activities of the Park Service in the District of Columbia are in Record Group 66, Records of the Commission of Fine Arts, and in Record Group 328, Records of the National Capital Planning Commission.

Records relating to programs conducted in cooperation with other agencies are in the following record groups: Record Group 22, Records of the Fish and Wildlife Service; Record Group 30, Records of the Bureau of Public Roads; Record Group 35, Records of the Civilian Conservation Corps; Record Group 57, Records of the Geological Survey; Record Group 69, Records of the Work Projects Administration; Record Group 90, Records of the Public Health Service; Record Group 95, Records of the Forest Service; Record Group 96, Records of the Farmers Home Administration; Record Group 135, Records of the Public Works Administration; and Record Group 187, Records of the National Resources Planning Board.

Records relating to legislation concerning the Park Service are in Record Group 46, Records of the United State Senate, and in Record Group 233, Records of the United States House of Representatives. Fiscal records concerning park administration are in Record Group 39, Records of the Bureau of Accounts (Treasury), and in Record Group 217, Records of the United States General Accounting Office.

In this inventory the entries for cartographic records were prepared by Laura E. Kelsay. The entries for still pictures are based on information supplied by John E. Maddox and those for motion pictures and sound recording, by Thomas A. Devan.

Directors of the National Park Service

Stephan T. Mather, appointed May 16, 1917
Horace M. Albright, appointed January 12, 1929
Arno B. Cammerer, appointed August 10, 1933
Newton B. Drury, appointed August 20, 1940
Arthur E. Demaray, appointed April 1, 1951
Conrad L. Wirth, appointed December 9, 1951
George B. Hartzog, Jr., appointed January 8, 1964

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