Parks, Politics, and the People
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Chapter 7:
Other Emergency Period Programs

This chapter describes major programs and activities related to the full scope of National Park Service responsibility, as differentiated from programs of relatively short duration and limited scale. These emergency programs are treated under the following subheadings:

Natural History and History Associations
Historic Sites Act of 1935
Park, Parkway, and Recreational-Area Study Act of 1936
Recreational Demonstration Areas
Historic American Buildings Survey
Seashore and Lakeshore Studies
Park Structures and Facilities
Digest of Laws Relating to Local Parks and Recreation


One of the most efficacious and gratifying aspects of the administration of our National Park System has been the cooperation received from voluntary groups in developing a wide range of services to park visitors. This movement came about primarily through the concern of our field operations people in the parks and of people living close to parks who helped provide or supplement services not supplied in adequate measure by the limited government funding. These groups formed nonprofit distributing associations to assist and extend the historical, scientific, educational, and interpretive activities of the National Park Service. Some sixty-six cooperating associations have been established, and all of them engage in one or more of the following activities: (1) publishing and making available relevant literature; (2) selling souvenirs; (3) acquiring materials pertaining to the history or natural history of an area; (4) developing a suitable park library; (5) helping improve interpretive programs, including signs, markers, and museums; and (6) acquiring lands needed to protect significant features of a park.

Where local resources have not been sufficient to support separate cooperative programs, regional associations have been formed to give mutual support to groups serving individual park needs. An outstanding example is the Eastern National Park and Monument Association, which was organized to encompass the many small, historic sites along the east coast. This arrangement has demonstrated how an association operating profitably for larger parks can upgrade visitor services of all parks in a region by underwriting the operations of smaller cooperating groups.

Glass House Point
Glass House Point, a part of Jamestown National Historic Site, Virginia, is the site of the first industry of the colonial period. The glass industry, under the leadership of Carl Guskey, financed the study and development of colonial-design furnaces, now operated by the Eastern National Park and Monument Association. Photo by Richard Frear, courtesy National Park Service.

At this point it will be helpful to quote from the annual report of the Eastern National Park and Monument Association for 1972:

The Eastern National Park and Monument Association was formed in response to a recommendation made at the National Park Service Interpretive Personnel Conference in Gettysburg in May 1947. Incorporated on May 2, 1948, under the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, by Roy E. Appleman, Edward A. Hummel and Elbert Cox, the charter of the corporation was issued by the State Corporation Commission in Virginia on May 18, 1948 in Richmond, Virginia.

The new organization encompassed associations that had served individual large parks since the thirties and a few even older groups.

women wearing costumes
Donations to the Eastern National Park and Monument Association financed a study of the kind of clothing worn by Abraham Lincoln's family and other early settlers in Indiana. These women wear costumes made at Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Lincoln City, Indiana, as they dye material for other costumes to be worn by the interpretive staff. In the background is a smokehouse used in curing meat. Photo by Richard Frear, courtesy National Park Service.

Roy Appleman, who was regional historian of the Park Service's eastern region, was designated executive secretary and did outstanding work in launching the association. He drafted the articles of incorporation, beat the bushes for memberships, and set up the first six outlets, or agencies. When he resigned in 1951, the association was well established. James W. Holland was appointed his successor and moved ahead with vigor. Within ten years the association had grown to thirty-five agencies, had gross annual sales of $129,000, and had donated $109,000 to the service.

The procedure for allocating funds to a park is relatively simple. Any park or monument with an approved educational or interpretive program may apply for financial assistance by submitting a request through the regional director to the board of the association. The board at its January meeting considers all worthy requests. Its aim is to put funds to productive use.

The rapid growth of the Eastern National Park and Monument Association made it apparent that the work load could no longer be supported on a volunteer basis by the executive secretary and the chairman. In 1964 the board decided to hire a full-time professional executive secretary, and Herbert E. Kahler was offered the job. Herb had served as chairman of the association since it was organized in 1948. With this offer in hand he retired from the National Park Service, where he had served as chief historian. With a full-time executive secretary to give guidance and direction, the services to park visitors, as well as sales, increased manyfold, In a nine-year period (1964-72) sales skyrocketed from $368,000 to $1.4 million per annum, and the accumulated donations to the service totaled $1 million.

Leslie T. Arnberger, chairman of the board of directors, in 1972 wrote in his annual report:

We have gotten so used to success that we sometimes take it for granted. Success does not just happen. It takes teamwork from dedicated, enthusiastic people throughout the organization—from the field areas, through central office to the Executive Director at the top.

Your Association has had this kind of teamwork for years. From my experience during the past three years I have learned that this stems principally from the tireless and devoted work of one man—Executive Secretary Herb Kahler.

Your Association has been in operation for 24 years and has had spectacular success. In 1948 gross sales were $997, and in 1972 they were over one and a quarter million dollars. We have served more people than ever this year, and sales have exceeded any previous year.

All who have participated in the growth of the Association can draw real satisfaction from its accomplishments and feel their efforts have been well spent. In supplying visitors with selected interpretive items at nominal cost, the Association has brought many benefits to the interpretive program; in supplying funds to the National Park Service, it has helped to improve the Interpretive Program. . . .

The primary purpose of the Association is to assist the Service in the interpretive field. The more we meet the visitors' needs in the interpretive program, the more funds we have to help the Service improve its Interpretive Program. . . . For the year 1972 the Association honored requests totaling $168,223.50.

The Eastern National Park and Monument Association has a total of 73 agents. An agent is a man or a group that runs the operation in an area. The association's 73 areas of operation are located in 26 different states and in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The association has 509 paying members—people who are interested in the work and support it with membership dues. Members do not necessarily have to be from any of the parks in which the association is operating.

Interpretive merchandise is attractively displayed for visitors in the refurbished sales center in the West Wing of Independence Hall, a part of Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo by Clyde Lockwood, courtesy National Park Service.

In 1972 the smallest total sales of an agency that had been in existence more than one year were at Saint Gaudens National Historic Site ($1,057), and the largest were at Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia ($187,380). The assets of the association at the end of the fiscal year 1972 totaled $1,260,035.

I've gone to considerable length on this subject primarily to show what people can do to improve their product by "pulling themselves up by their bootstraps." There are other associations in the national park system that have similar records, but Eastern is the largest and the one that tackled the toughest job, for it took in all the small areas in the eastern part of the United States that wanted to join. Without that help the small areas could do little or nothing toward developing satisfactory programs.

There has been a spin-off from the success of organizations of this kind. At the beginning of the Kennedy administration Jacqueline Kennedy took a great deal of interest in refurbishing the White House, and of course that took money. The National Park Service maintains the White House grounds, which are the number one reservation of the National Capital Parks, and the White House is classified as a historic building. In a conversation with Mrs. Kennedy we suggested that a historical association similar to the Eastern National Park and Monument Association be established that would prepare a booklet about the White House to be sold only in the White House as a souvenir for those making the guided tour. The White House Historical Association was established in 1961. The National Geographic Society gave the association a loan of noninterest money to get started and also donated editorial services and pictures for the booklet. The booklet was published by the association and went on sale at the beginning of 1962. It has undergone several revisions and reprintings, and several companion publications, such as The Living White House and The Book of the Presidents, have been issued. The revenue from the sale of its books enabled the White House Historical Association to pay back the loan and, as of December, 1978, to contribute close to $3.5 million to the White House to refurbish the interior of the building, provide funds for the painting of portraits of the presidents and first ladies, and give assistance to the White House library. This is a remarkable record, and it was made possible through the donation of thousands of hours of professional time and other resources by the National Geographic Society.

Similar associations have since been formed for the Capitol and the Supreme Court. The Washington Monument Association has issued a historic booklet on the Washington Monument, which has also been very successful. They too have taken advantage of the generosity of the National Geographic Society and several trustees of the society have memberships on one or more of these four associations.


Parks, Politics, and the People
©1980, University of Oklahama Press
wirth2/chap7.htm — 21-Sep-2004

Copyright © 1980 University of Oklahoma Press, returned to the author in 1984. Offset rights University of Oklahoma Press. Material from this edition may not be reproduced in any manner without the written consent of the heir(s) of the Conrad L. Wirth estate and the University of Oklahoma Press.