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[[Stephen Tyng Mather|250px]]
Stephen Tyng Mather

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Stephen Tyng Mather (July 4, 1867 – January 22, 1930)[1] was an American industrialist and conservationist. He was the president and owner of the Thorkildsen-Mather Borax Company, which made him a millionaire. With journalist and writer Robert Sterling Yard, Mather spearheaded a publicity campaign to promote the creation of a federal agency to oversee National Parks. Mather eventually became the first director of the new agency, the National Park Service under the United States Department of the Interior.

National Park Service[]

Robert Shankland's book, Steve Mather of the National Parks, tells of Mather's letter to the Secretary of the Interior, Franklin K. Lane, deploring the state of the nation's National Parks.[2] The letter, sent in 1913, set off a series of actions by Secretary Lane that led to bringing Steve Mather into the government's service to protect the parks he felt so strongly about. Steve Mather's forays into publicizing the National Parks to a variety of politicians and wealthy corporate leaders are shown in detail, as he sought to develop a greater appreciation of the national wealth of scenic places among a wider population.[2] From his initial activities, Mather brought forth a new government bureau to protect the national parks and a new appreciation of the need for these and additional parks.[2]

Mather felt that magnificent scenery should be the first criterion in establishing a park. He introduced park concessions to the national parks, allowing vending of basic amenities and necessities to park visitors, including nature study aids. Mather promoted the creation of the National Park to Park Highway[3] and encouraged cooperation with the railroads in order to encourage visitation to normally remote units of the National Park System, and thereby create a base of public support for the fledgling agency and its holdings with those who had seen them and gained a personal appreciation for them.

Periodically disabled by manic-depression, Mather left office in January 1929 after suffering a stroke, and died a year later. In 1930 Mather was posthumously awarded the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.[4]

Legacy and memorials[]


Plaque at Zion National Park

Bronze plaques honoring Mather's accomplishments were placed by the Stephen Mather Memorial Fund in numerous national park units beginning in 1932. Inscriptions on the plaques read:

Stephen Tyng Mather / July 4, 1867 – January 22, 1930 / He laid the foundation of the National Park Service, defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be developed and conserved unimpaired for future generations. There will never come an end to the good that he has done.

Various places within today's National Park System are named after Mather, including Mather Point on the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Mather District and Camp Mather in Yosemite National Park, Mather Pass in Kings Canyon National Park, the Mather Gorge on the border of Great Falls Park and Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, and the Stephen T. Mather Training Center serving the entire National Park System at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia. Stephen Tyng Mather High School in Chicago, Illinois is also named after him, as is the Stephen Mather Memorial Parkway (Washington State Route 410) in the Mount Rainier National Park and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Most of North Cascades National Park is protected as the Stephen Mather Wilderness. His home in Connecticut, the Stephen Tyng Mather Home, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1963.[5]


Further reading[]

  • Everhart, William C.; The National Park Service; Praeger Publishers, New York, 1972
  • Shankland, Robert; Steve Mather of the National Parks; Alfred A. Knopf, New York; 1970

External links[]

Preceded by
not applicable
First Director of the National Park Service
Succeeded by
Horace M. Albright