Degree Year

2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

History

Advisor(s)

Gary Kornblith

Keywords

National parks, America, Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Preservation, United States, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina

Abstract

The origins of America's national park movement lay in the intellectual and political milieu of the 19th century, when American artists, writers and politicians, conscious of a relatively short national history, longed for tangible symbols of a unique national identity. Historian Louis Warren argues, for example, that:

"Whereas the English, French, and Italian peoples could point to ancient ruins, cathedrals that were hundreds of years old, and traditions of arts and letters that went back almost to the dawn of Christianity, American culture was, by comparison, very new. Many found the material to fill this gap in America's monumental landscapes, the huge mountains and the craggy peaks which dominated parts of the country, particularly in the West."

Exactly, what ought to be done on a national scale to ensure the perpetuation of such landscapes remained debatable. The conservation movement, with its call for rational management of public lands, and the first national parks, Yellowstone and Yosemite, arose contemporaneously. The national park system grew rapidly; there were five national parks by the end of the 19th century and seventeen by the end of the second decade of the 20th century.

My thesis traces the way in which the relationship between competing and intermixed spatial factors (public, private and sacred), expressed through the agency of individuals and groups, influenced the creation of two specific national parks in two distinct historical eras. I adopt a case study approach in my thesis so that I can examine the changing emphases and proportions of these factors historically. Tracing the histories of the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) in 1934 and the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area (CVNRA) (now Cuyahoga Valley National Park) in 1974, I show how changing justifications for park creation and development reflect a shift from an emphasis on generalized Romantic views of nature, regional development and recreation primarily for wealthy urban dwellers to specific preservationist views of nature, curbing of undesirable development and recreation for less privileged urban dwellers. This shift resulted from changes in patterns of national industrialization and in response to past mistakes, particularly regarding land acquisition from private land-holders. Concurrently, I show how changing notions of sacred nature and sacred culture in American society led to views of the CVNRA's sacred qualities which would have been implausible in the eyes of the GSMNP's creators and unthinkable to the creators of the parks that came before.

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History Commons

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