America's National Monuments
The Politics of Preservation
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Chapter 7:
Boss Pinkley's Domain

Throughout the 1920s, the Park Service budget provided for the development of the national parks and largely ignored the national monuments. During the first half of the decade, money was scarce in the agency, and the agency used its funding to minimalize the impact of visitors. But the additional resources of the agency did not help the monuments, and the budget for the entire monument category compared unfavorably to that of even the lesser national parks. For the fourteen areas Pinkley administered during the travel season ending 30 September 1924, he received less than $15,000. That year, he calculated the cost per visitor in thirteen national parks and came up with an average of 68.4 cents. In contrast, the agency spent a nickel per visitor in a comparable group of thirty-one national monuments, and only 9.2 cents for each visitor to his southwestern national monument group.

The disparity persisted throughout the decade. By 1927 Pinkley took charge of four additional monuments, and the eighteen southwestern national monuments drew nearly 270,000 visitors. Yet the budget allocated less than $15,000 for the southwestern national monuments group. Pinkley did not even have the money to pick up the garbage visitors left. The other fourteen Park Service national monuments drew an additional 163,197 visitors, for which the agency allocated roughly $6,200. In comparison, Mesa Verde National Park received $72,300 for its 11,915 visitors that year, Yellowstone had a $398,000 appropriation for its 200,825 visitors, and Park Service officials at the Grand Canyon spent $132,000 on 162,356 visitors. Platt National Park, an unimportant pork-barrel park in Oklahoma, received $12,400, more than half the amount allotted to the entire monument category. Wind Cave, another inconsequential park, also received $10,275. That year, only Sully's Hill, a small wildlife park in North Dakota that Mather wanted to abolish since he entered the Park Service, was left out of the budget. [14] Even national parks that the agency regarded as insignificant received more money and attention than the national monument category.

In 1927 the budget of the entire monument category roughly equalled that of Mount McKinley National Park in Alaska. For the $18,700 spent there, the Park Service entertained 651 visitors. With less money, Pinkley was supposed to handle 270,000 visitors at eighteen southwestern parks. Without the network that Pinkley developed and minus his continuous encouragement, custodians of the fourteen national monuments not in the southwestern national monuments group served an additional 163,000 visitors on meager funding. In sum, the care and maintenance of a total of thirty-two diverse park areas had to be carried out on this minuscule budget. The superintendent of any national park would have complained at what the agency allotted Pinkley for all of the southwestern national monuments.

But throughout the 1920s, funding for the Park Service was always precarious. Although the prosperity of the 1920s dramatically increased the popularity of the park system and Mather built powerful alliances throughout Congress, when the Park Service drew up requests for money, Congress often overlooked the monuments. By 1927 Mather had spent more than a decade building a constituency to support the national parks, and he consistently asked a great deal more money for the parks than he did for the monuments. In his view, the monuments were complements, worthy of substantial expenditures only if they helped develop national parks. Because he constantly pressured Congress for national park programs, Mather had to be prepared to come up short in other areas, especially national monument funding.

The demands at some of the national parks were also different from those at the monuments. Some parks required extensive management of natural resources. Mount McKinley contained 2,645 square miles of wild land that miners and trappers often threatened. Part of its appropriation went for protection of the area. Hunters became a problem at Yosemite and Yellowstone, and the battle against poaching cost the Park Service money. Funding at these parks covered more than visitor services, whereas Pinkley's custodians generally had responsibility for areas small enough to protect with their presence. Managing natural resources became an agency priority because meadows, mountains, glaciers, and geysers were the attractions that brought visitors to the national parks. When protection for these resources required extra money or additional employees, the Park Service under Mather did all it could to convince Congress to allocate more funds.

Nevertheless, the discrepancy between the categories was too great. Pinkley wanted a budget that gave him a fighting chance, and in 1927 he settled upon an average of twenty-five cents per visitor as the bare minimum for adequate protection and care of the monuments. By the end of the 1920s, his staff clamored for salaries, an additional drain on his limited resources. Pinkley also had stabilization and preservation responsibilities for archaeological and historic sites, which could be as expensive as managing natural areas. His job included offsetting the impact of more than 100,000 pairs of hands and feet upon his monuments. But Pinkley's seemingly reasonable request amounted to nearly three times the annual sum allocated for the southwestern monuments and five times the total amount that the monuments had received the previous year. After making his pleas, he received little more than before.

In a way, Pinkley was penalized for his success. The work he did on his own time helped minimize the impact of visitation, and no one could match his personal dedication. As a consequence of Mather's drive to build public support for the agency, visitation became the basis for most Park Service funding. Pinkley understood those rules, and while he was in charge, he brought flocks of people to the monuments. The number of visitors at the southwestern monuments in creased exponentially, and by agency standards, his record justified greater support. But Pinkley's monuments were not national parks, and increased visitation only guaranteed greater support in the national parks. The Park Service always had other holes to plug in the system, and even though Pinkley drew as many visitors as most national parks, he never received any more than a skeletal budget.

The need for money frustrated Pinkley, and throughout the 1920s, he challenged the priorities of the agency. In 1924 Pinkley exploded when Cammerer contended that the decision not to place full-time paid custodians at Montezuma Castle and Chaco Canyon was "a question of policy. . . . I never knew this was a matter of policy at all," Pinkley roared. "I always thought it was purely a lack of money which prevented us putting full-time men at all the national monuments which are open to vandalism or where a man in charge would be valuable for the distribution of information. No other policy could be backed by logic." [15] From Pinkley's perspective, such a contention revealed duplicitous conduct on Cammerer's part. It appeared to Pinkley that agency policy encouraged vandalism and neglect in the southwestern monuments.

If visitation was the standard that determined funding for park areas, Pinkley wanted to know why his monuments did not get more money. By his calculations, in 1924 the national parks averaged one dollar per visitor in allocations. Pinkley knew he would never get that much, but his monuments attracted more visitors each year. Significant visitation figures notwithstanding, funding for the monuments remained nonexistent. In 1924 more visitors went to Montezuma Castle, with its annual appropriation of less than $600, than to Zion, Sully's Hill, or Mesa Verde national parks, the last of which received $43,000 in appropriations. Pinkley wanted to know why visitation at Montezuma Castle did not merit at least $2,500, the annual cost of a full-time custodian.

To appease Pinkley, Cammerer explained that he had the "general situation of all the monuments in view" when he made his comments, and he tried to show that the agency did not completely neglect Pinkley and his monuments. When a caretaker "who will be willing to give his whole soul to the work" could be found, Cammerer told Pinkley, "there is no question but what an expenditure for a comfortable salary and comfortable living quarters is justified." Cammerer played to the biases of the superintendent. He suggested that E. Z. Vogt at El Morro deserved a salary, and that Tumacacori would also soon justify a paid custodian, but insinuated that places like Devils Tower, Capulin Mountain, and Verendrye needed little more than nominal care. [16]

Pinkley could tolerate such a compromise. A champion of the archaeological and historical monuments, he paid markedly less attention to natural areas. Cammerer was telling him that the places to which he had devoted half a lifetime were soon to receive adequate protection. Of the areas Cammerer named, only Capulin Mountain belonged to the southwestern monument group. Far from the main highways, it attracted few visitors, and Pinkley did not promote it heavily. The other natural monument in his care, the Petrified Forest, already had a full-time custodian. In order to pacify the superintendent, Cammerer agreed to Pinkley's vision of the monuments.

Despite his diligent service and effort, Pinkley felt like an outsider in the NPS. His concerns were at odds with many in the agency. He often reminded Cammerer that there were "phase[s] of monument administration which . . . park men ought to consider and there is no chance to bring up when we are in conference because park problems only have the right of way there." [17] While he struggled to administer the monuments, superintendents of national parks spent five times his annual allotment on road-building projects. Pinkley understood that the parks were and would remain the focus of the agency. His enthusiasm could help counteract the lack of funds, but he could do little about agency policy regarding the integrity of the national monuments.

Always a "strict constructionist," Pinkley fought to keep the areas that fit the terms of the Antiquities Act in the monument category. In his view, places of "pre-historic, historic or scientific . . . interest" belonged among the monuments. [18] This proved a difficult stance to maintain in a system that saw the monuments as bargaining chips and routinely reassigned the best of that class to national park status.

Pinkley's frustration with the status quo predated his appointment as superintendent of the southwestern national monuments and never lessened. There was always a proposal afoot to convert one or another of the important national monuments into a national park, and Congress and the Washington, D.C., office of the NPS irked him with their tendency to ignore the needs of the monuments when concerned with "park issues." When Dr. Willis T. Lee of the U.S. Geological Survey made his inspection of Carlsbad Cave and other southwestern national monuments in September 1924, E. Z. Vogt told Pinkley that Lee recommended that a state or local historical society take charge of El Morro. "What I think is better expressed with the shift key up among the exclamation points and asterisks," Pinkley exploded. "I have been stung by these monument robbers till I am sore. And every last time, if you make them come clean, it reduces itself to a matter of money. If we could get $50,000 to support El Morro as a Monument, would anyone be claiming it was not of monument status but ought to be turned over to some society or some individual for administration. . . . It is always a matter of turning a Monument into a Park or into something else, so as to increase its appropriation." There were distinct differences in law between what constituted a monument and a park, Pinkley bellowed, "and there ought to be a definite line between them, so that when a monument is once created its biased firends [sic] can not dress it up a little and bob its hair and run it over into the Park crowd simply because there is more feed in the Park trough." [19]

Pinkley thought that Mather's and Albright's tactics turned the monument designation into a liability. "Congress is never going to get enthusiastic over a lot of picked-over monuments," he stormed, "and unless we stop this talk of transferring the Carlsbad Cavern and the Petrified Forest and the Casa Grande Ruin and the Chaco Canyon, we are never going to get adequate appropriations for the National Monuments. When Congress realizes that the Monuments are a class quite to themselves and are not little Parks but are just as important as the Parks, we will begin getting enough money to handle them properly." [20]

Pinkley wanted a clear definition of national monuments and national parks to which both he and the agency would adhere. He told Albright that the agency needed to decide what constituted a national monument, and "when a newly proposed reservation falls under that definition, let us make a monument of it and ever after keep it in the monument class." He thought that the NPS caused some of the confusion "by making monuments of Zion and Grand Canyon when they didn't belong in that class and we never expected to keep them there." [21] In his view, inappropriate proclamations gave ammunition to those who wanted to make national parks out of important national monuments.

Pinkley challenged agency attempts to broaden the definition of the national park category. Originally, Mather included only the most spectacular scenic areas among the flagship parks. NPS policy had to be revised for the agency to become an important federal entity. By the late 1920s, national park boundaries included most of what Mather and Albright desired in the West, but the survival of the agency dictated a policy of expansion, which in turn required a broader definition of the park category. There were very few places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, or Mount Rainier. Areas that were more than scenic mountaintops had to be included, and the monument category was the storehouse for the most appropriate places. The way-station precedents already existed, and the agency planned future conversions of monuments. But in Pinkley's hands, the move to preserve historic and prehistoric sites was on a collision course with the broadened definition of the national parks. As the agency began to regard one-of-a-kind natural wonders as national park material, Pinkley fought for his monuments. His position was grounded in statute, and he challenged the supremacy of the national parks in the park system.

Mather's and Albright's ideas and policies coincided more with Dr. Willis T. Lee's sentiments than they did with Pinkley's strict constructionism, and the possibility that Pinkley might damage the development of the park system became a threat that the agency had to address. Having created the priorities that initiated the conflict, Mather could not capitulate to Pinkley's vision of the system. Mather and Albright wanted the national parks to compete with the culture of Europe for the American tourist dollar. This required the inclusion of areas that were already designated as, and the might technically be, national monuments. No matter how the Antiquities Act was written, under Mather's and Albright's guiding hands, the best national monuments would be made into national parks and the remainder would continue to languish. The national monuments were simply not a priority in an agency with an orientation toward the national parks.

According to Mather's conception, the national parks inspired awe in those who came to visit. In contrast, most of the monuments lacked the commercial appeal and the postcard scenery of the majority of the national parks. But if the park category was to be superlative, if it was going to have a cultural significance equal to its scenery, places like the Carlsbad Cave National Monument in southeastern New Mexico were essential additions. Although its topography differed from the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, its caves were awe-inspiring. Carlsbad drew more visitors than most of the national parks, and its popularity affirmed that Americans were interested in seeing places that highlighted the interaction between this extraordinary continent and the powerful individuals who had the will to tame it. Because it filled a need within the park system, agency officials broadened the ideology of the park category to make room for Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

The status of Carlsbad Cave as the most extraordinary feature of its kind set the stage for its transfer. It had the ability to inspire the kind of awe that Mather wanted. A commercial campaign by citizens of the nearby town of Carlsbad led to dramatic increases in travel. The limestone formations there also required protection, forcing the NPS to give it the kind of administration normally reserved for national parks.

The process of converting Carlsbad Cave moved slowly. Like many comparable national monuments, it lacked amenities. In 1923-24, the first year after its establishment, Carlsbad drew only 1,280 visitors, largely because the only way into the cave "was to be lowered 200 feet in a metal bucket attached to a pulley, through the natural opening at the mouth of the cave." [22] The roads in southeastern New Mexico were poor, and rail service only reached to El Paso, about one hundred miles distant. The NPS seemed content with the status of Carlsbad Cave National Monument, and the impetus for change came from other quarters.

The large limestone caverns appealed to the scientific community, which took responsibility for popularizing the site. Dr. Willis T. Lee explored the caves late in 1923. Lee compiled his findings in an article for the January 1924 issue of National Geographic. He persuaded the National Geographic Society to finance an expedition to explore the caves at Carlsbad further. In September 1925 National Geographic again carried an article about Carlsbad, and Lee began lobbying to convert it into a national park.

The Carlsbad chamber of commerce responded enthusiastically to the establishment and popularization of the monument. In 1924 and 1925 it paid $1,600 to finance the construction of a winding stairway through the natural opening, eliminating the necessity of the bucket and cable descent. Work on a road with an easier grade to replace the existing twenty-eight percent grade also began that year. People who read National Geographic put Carlsbad on their itineraries, and the improvements made it easier to reach the monument and to enter the cavern. In 1925-26, 10,904 people visited Carlsbad Cave, an almost one thousand percent increase from the previous year. By 1928-29, 76,822 visited the monument, 1,680 of whom came on 1 September 1929, the largest one-day attendance to that point at Carlsbad Cave. [23]

As the result of its popularity, the problems of Carlsbad Cave were very different from those of the rest of the national monuments. First and foremost, Carlsbad Cave became self-sustaining; at two dollars per adult for mandatory guided tours, 76,822 visitors—excluding children, who were admitted free—provided more revenue than any of the rest of the monuments generated in a decade. Despite the fact that the revenue went directly to the United States Treasury, the NPS had justification for spending money on this monument, and by 1928 it started spending $100,000 per year there. Carlsbad could bring in money, it had excellent support from the local community, and it was the focus of national interest. Carlsbad Cave resembled the national parks more than the mostly unimproved national monuments.

There were also concessions, which separated Carlsbad from the other monuments. By the 1928-29 season, the Cavern Supply Company, already established as a concessionaire in the monument, built a stone, pueblo-style building, from which it sold lunches and souvenirs. This was the first permanent concession structure at a national monument. In the same year, the company began to serve lunches inside the cave, 750 feet below the surface. These facilities increased the resemblance between Carlsbad Cave and the national parks, a fact Superintendent Thomas Boles emphasized in his report for 1928-29. Boles thought that the self-supporting status of the monument suggested that future appropriations "should be in keeping with the public demand for comfort and convenience." [24] Clearly, by the end of the 1920s, the status of Carlsbad Cave merited reexamination.

Carlsbad Cave increasingly seemed to fit the largely unwritten criteria that determined what constituted a national park. Visitation increased to 90,104 visitors in the 1929-30 season, and the situation at Carlsbad Cave resembled that at the original Grand Canyon National Monument a decade before. Many Americans knew of it through National Geographic, and a promotional campaign further extolled its virtues.

Yet the initial monument proclamation made Carlsbad Cave a small area, confined to the land under which the magnificent caverns existed. The limestone formations at Carlsbad, its revenue, and advanced promotion and access gave it good qualifications for park status, but the Mather-Albright definition of a national park required more. Like the earlier monuments transferred to park status, Carlsbad Cave had to be differentiated from its peers. As a result, the proposals to convert Carlsbad Cave to a national park throughout the 1920s included extending the boundaries of the new park across the Texas border, into what is now the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. These attempts failed because the land between the caverns and the mountain was nondescript desert, not worthy of the national park designation.

By 1930 the situation was resolved. The bill that converted the monument to Carlsbad Caverns National Park authorized the president to add to its size by selecting suitable lands from the 193 square miles surrounding the known caverns. The size of the park was to be enlarged as new caverns were discovered, thus preventing private exploitation and allowing the new park to be distinguished from other national monuments by its increased size. In 1933 Herbert Hoover utilized this provision, and six years later Franklin D. Roosevelt added another 39,444 acres to the park, an area fifty-five times as large as the original monument. As in the case of the Zion National Monument, the new Carlsbad Caverns National Park grew to approximate the dimensions of the other national parks more closely than those of the majority of the national monuments. [25]

Pinkley did not protest the transfer of the Grand Canyon and Zion in 1919, but the reassignment of Carlsbad a decade later was another story. Pinkley had a great deal of time and effort invested in the monument system. Losing the one-of-a-kind park areas that dominated the national monument category reinforced the view that the monuments were inferior to the national parks and insinuated that the most important national monuments would become national parks as soon as congressional authorization occurred. The transfer of an area like Carlsbad Cave threatened Pinkley's world. He believed that the monuments were on the verge of being stripped of all vestiges of the identity he had been working to establish.

Agency policy trapped Pinkley and his monuments and forced him into controversy with the proponents of the mainstream views within the NPS. From its inception, the agency had directed its programs towards the improvement of the national parks. Between 1925 and 1930, the NPS spent $10,000,000 on road building within the national parks. [26] Most parks required this sort of physical improvement to make them suitable for tourism, and it was here that the Mather administration concentrated its efforts. As Pinkley correctly saw, the national monuments did not require highways—they required explanation for visitors to comprehend their significance. During the 1920s, "explanation" cost money that the agency was spending on the national parks. Pinkley could achieve significant results in the monuments with much less money than the agency spent on the parks, but he alone saw this as a primary goal for the NPS.

Despite these setbacks, Pinkley continued his energetic, innovative management, which began to attract attention as conditions in the southwestern national monument group improved. He continued to accommodate tourists, and in July 1927 the NPS promoted him a civil service grade. Later that summer, when Dr. Alfred V. Kidder put together the famous Pecos archaeological conference, Pinkley requested an unpaid leave of absence to attend at his own expense. In a gesture of appreciation of his work, the central office offered to pay both his salary and expenses. Pinkley also became a popular speaker on monument and archaeological topics. Despite protestations of unworthiness, he accepted numerous engagements, the highlight of which was a lecture series at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles in November 1927.

Ever the perfectionist, Pinkley wanted to accomplish more. He began to establish a way to professionalize monument service, arranging for his former assistant at Casa Grande, George Boundey, to take over at the Aztec Ruins National Monument after the archaeologist Earl Morris and the American Museum of Natural History ceased their work at the monument. This move infuriated many of the locals in nearby Farmington and Shiprock, who saw the position as a local perquisite, but Pinkley stood his ground and began to develop other assistants for future openings.

By promoting through the monument system, Pinkley tried to make service in the monuments, with its all too infrequent rewards, comparable to service in the parks. Mather made the Park Service an organization that rewarded employees by moving them up a performance-based career ladder. This created a hierarchy among positions in the parks. By 1930 the superintendency of any of three national parks—Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Rocky Mountain—was a significant step on the way to a high-level administrative position in Washington, D.C. Pinkley emulated that system to build the self-esteem of his staff. He promoted custodians to the places he believed were most desirable. Through his scheme of career promotions, Pinkley sought an esprit de corps, stronger even than the camaraderie that he had already created. He inspired loyalty to the monuments as well as to himself.

An incontrovertible fact emerged from Pinkley's first decade as superintendent: no one could match his record when it came to the protection, care, and promotion of national monuments. Almost completely independent of the Washington, D.C., office of the NPS, he developed a system of management and care with which the casual efforts of the War Department and the Forest Service could not compete.

But despite Pinkley's efforts, the gap between services in the national parks and the national monuments widened during the 1920s. The parks were still the priority areas in the system and the second-class status of the monuments continued. Parks and park projects were generally well funded; Pinkley had to battle for every penny beyond a skeletal minimum unless the monument in question was targeted for eventual park status. Not surprisingly, his frustration showed on many occasions. "Congress," he wrote in 1929, "has never given us a fair chance with the monuments." [27] Pinkley's determination kept the condition of the monuments from deteriorating further, but even his effort could not prevent the public from regarding the monuments as places of secondary importance. Substantial numbers of visitors came to the monuments annually, but they often found deteriorating sites and inadequate facilities. This helped to confirm the generally held impression that the national monuments were of lesser caliber than the national parks.


America's National Monuments: The Politics of Preservation
©1989, Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
©1994, University Press of Kansas
All rights reserved by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois

rothman/chap7a.htm — 04-Feb-2005

Copyright © 1989 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Material from this edition published by the University Press of Kansas by arrangement with the University of Illinois Press and may not be reproduced in any manner without the written consent of the author and the University of Illinois Press.