National Park Service Founders: Stephen Tyng Mather
  • Stephen Mather

    Stephen Tyng Mather

    Cultural Resources National Park Service

A wealthy, gregarious businessman, Stephen T. Mather came to Washington from Chicago in January 1915 as special assistant to Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane for national park concerns. His vigorous efforts to build public and political support for the parks helped persuade Congress to create the National Park Service in 1916.  Appointed the first NPS director in May 1917, he continued to promote park access, development, and use and contributed generously to the parks from his personal fortune. During his tenure the service's domain expanded eastward with the addition of Shenandoah, Great Smoky Mountains, and Mammoth Cave national parks. Periodically disabled by manic-depression, Mather left office in January 1929 after suffering a stroke and died a year later.

Visitors at Kings Canyon National Park

See For Yourself

Visit places within today's National Park System named after Mather, including Mather Point on the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Mather District in Yosemite National Park, Mather Pass in Kings Canyon National Park.

Image of the Junior Ranger logo

For Teachers

Choose from more than 50 educational games and learn about your National Parks. Share park stories and pictures with others around the world in Webrangers.

Image of Stephen T. Mather

Inside Story

"He laid the foundation of the National Park Service. There will never come an end to the good he has done." Learn more in Stephen T. Mather's Biographical Vignette.

historic image of National Park Service directors


Meet Stephen Mather and the subsequent 16 National Park Service Directors who followed Mather. The National Park Service Director manages nearly 400 parks and holds a position that must be confirmed by the Senate. Today's National Park Service has over 20,000 employee dedicated to the preservation of America's best places

Image of Stephen T. Mather's home in Darien, Connecticut


Visit the home of Stephen T. Mather located in Darien, Connecticut. The house is a national historic landmark and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

historic image of students in front of entrance to Storer College


The Stephen T. Mather Training Center officially dedicated in 1964 is named in honor of the first Director of the National Park Service. The center originated at Storer College, one of this nation's first institutions of higher learning established primarily for African-Americans.

Museum collection item - a historic sketch of Yosemite National Park


Stephen T. Mather recognized the power of collections that are preserved and presented in their original context when, in 1920, he called for" early establishment of adequate museums in every one of our parks." One of the world's largest museum systems has grown from these early beginnings.

image of North Cascades National Park's wilderness


A wide diversity of animals The Stephen Mather Wilderness is at the heart of over two million acres of some of the wildest lands remaining, preserved for future generations, a place "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man..."