DEVELOPMENT OF THE
University of California Berkeley
University of California General Library/Berkeley
Regional Cultural History Project
Harold C. Bryant
Newton B. Drury
DEVELOPMENT OF THE NATURALIST PROGRAM
IN THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE
An Interview Conducted by
Amelia R. Fry
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Harold C. Bryant, Assistant Director of National
Park Service in charge of Branch of Research and
Education, 1930-1939, Washington, D.C.
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All uses of this manuscript are covered by an agreement
between the Regents of the University of California and
Harold C. Bryant and Newton Bishop Drury, dated
February 10, 1964. The manuscript is thereby made
available for research purposes. All literary rights
in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are
reserved to the General Library of the University of
California at Berkeley. No part of the manuscript may
be quoted for publication without the written permission
of the University Librarian of the University of
California at Berkeley.
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One day in 1964, during a series of interviews
which were being tape recorded with conservationist
Newton B. Drury, he suggested that perhaps in the next
taping session we should include his longtime friend,
Harold C. Bryant, an early pioneer in nature interpre
tation in the national parks. At that time we were
about to finish Mr. Drury 's account of his days as
Director of the National Park Service, and it was easy
to see that an account of the development of the natu
ralist program would make a significant addition to our
attempt to preserve the memories of those formative
years of the service.
Dr, Bryant not only had undertaken the first
"vacationist education" service (at Yosemite for
Stephen Mather) but, by force of logical progression,
was called to Washington by Director Horace Albright
to organize interpretation programs and personnel for
the entire national park system. Those were times when
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the growth of the naturalist program if there were to
be one at all required someone with thorough training
in biology and the ingenuity to apply this knowledge to
a situation unique at that time: the education of
tourists on the wing, a random type of student body
with a range of intellect and background as broad as
the world's population. Mr. Bryant was the man on the
spot at that time with the talent, training, and imag
ination for just such a challenge.
In this interview, held in the recording laboratory
in Dwinelle Hall on the University of California campus,
Dr. Bryant answered questions from Mr. Drury and myself,
with occasional dialogues developing between him and
Mr. Drury over such perennial uncertainties as the
relative merits of the factual versus the inspirational
approach. Mr. Drury also contributed his own comments
and anecdotes during the process of the interview.
Basically, however, the story unrolled to show how the
idea of naturalist programs developed, where the earliest
support was found, and what happened when, with fortunate
timing, Dr. Bryant opened the Division of Education and
Research in the National Park Service in Washington just
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before the New Deal came in with increased funds for
all park operations, including interpretation.
Both Newton Drury and Harold Bryant checked over
the manuscript for errors after it was transcribed.
The only changes made from the original were those for
clarification or more chronological development in the
story. A sample of the tape is on file in the Regional
Cultural History Project office.
This manuscript, produced by the Regional Cultural
History Project, is one of several produced with Newton
Drury about national parks. They form a part of a series
on conservation which includes interviews with national
park personnel, foresters, and other specialists in the
field, all of which are available in the Bancroft Library
of the University of California.
The Regional Cultural History Project records auto
biographies which will preserve for posterity eyewitness
accounts of historical events during the twentieth cen
tury. The Project is under the administrative super
vision of Mr. Julian G. Michel, Assistant University
Librarian, and the Bancroft Subcommittee of the Library
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Committee of the Academic Senate at Berkeley.
Amelia Roberts Fry, Interviewer
Regional Cultural History Project
17 February 1965
Regional Cultural History Project
The General Library
University of California
Berkeley 4, California
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS v
DR. HAROLD C. BRYANT CAREER OUTLINE vi
EARLY NATURE TEACHING 1
C.M. Goethe and Lake Tahoe Resorts 5
Stephen Mather and the Yosemite Program 11
NATIONAL PARKS NATURALIST PLAN 18
Committee on Education in the National Parks 18
Yavapai Observation Station, Grand Canyon 23
Aesthetics and Crater Lake 38
PARTIAL INDEX 45
"FROM GUIDES TO INTERPRETERS," by H.C. Bryant 48
"NATURE GUIDING," by Harold C. Bryant 50
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DR. HAROLD C. BRYANT - CAREER OUTLINE
1908 B.A. Pomona College
1910 M.A. University of California, Berkeley
1913 Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley
1914 Economic Ornithologist at the Museum of
Vertebrate Zoology, University of California
1915-1930 Nature Study for University of California
1910-1930 In charge of education and research,
California State Fish and Game Commission
1919 Summer as naturalist at Lake Tahoe resorts
1920 Summer as naturalist at Yosemite under
California State Fish and Game Commission
1920-1930 Summers as a naturalist in Yosemite National
1930-1939 Education and research in National Park
Service office, Washington, D.C.
1939-1954 Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park
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EARLY NATURE TEACHING
Fry: We have today Dr. Harold C. Bryant with Mr. Newton B.
Drury to give us some facts of life about the interpre
tation part of the National Park Service.
Drury s May I interrupt to get a little of the chronology? You
are a graduate, Harold, of Pomona College?
Bryant: Yes, 1908. And I taught a year and then I came up here
as a graduate student and took two higher degrees here
on the University campus.
Drury: Isn't it true that your field was primarily that of the
Bryant: I was called an economic ornithologist at the Museum of
Vertebrate Zoology, here on the campus, before I joined
the California Fish and Game Commission.
Drury: How did you happen to join the Fish and Game Commission?
Bryant: First of all, I got a fellowship from the Fish and Game
Commission of the state to do a special job on the food
habits of the birds. They were complaining bitterly
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Bryant: that the birds were very destructive to crops, and so
I took up the job of trying to find out just what birds
do eat. I even wrote my doctor's thesis on the food
and habits of the Western Meadowlark, because it was
eating up newly-planted grain. Out here in the San
Joaquin Valley the farmers would plow a field and
scatter grain to harrow it in, then when it started to
come up as a nice little plant the meadowlarks would
get out there and eat it. But it was discovered that
their stomachs were full of insects rather than this
grain. This grain is taken by birds at a certain time
Drurys You were a pioneer in that type of biological research?
Bryant: A good deal of work of that kind had been done in the
East, but I was one of the first ones to undertake it
on the West Coast.
Fry: How did you get into this ranger naturalist work, Dr.
Bryant: That's interesting. I was here at the University as an
ornithologist and quite interested in University Exten
sion work, but also greatly interested in what we in
those days called "nature study," in particular in the
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Two early naturalists at
Yosemite National Park:
Enid Michael, Ranger Naturalist Botanist
and Bert Harwell, Park Naturalist, 1926
Bryant: public schools. Let's say that that was along in 1917,
1918, 1919, 1920 when I was trying to stimulate teachers
to teach nature study in the schools. I did that under
University Extension courses for years; we had built
up one course called Six Trips Afield, in which we got
many teachers and many doctors and their wives to meet
on a Saturday afternoon. We'd first go over to Golden
Gate Park in San Francisco, or over into Marin County.
We'd go up here in the Berkeley hills and see the wild
flowers and the birds and the trees and everything along
a trailside. In fact, this friend at Sacramento got up
the motto, "Learn to read a trailside like a book."
That was C.M. Goethe, a successful businessman and
Drury: What was his relationship to the interpretive program
in terms of the experience he and Mrs. Goethe had in
Bryant: This man traveled a good deal. He was quite surprised
to find how children in the European schools learned
their history by going to old castles and old fields
of war and so on, and he was greatly surprised when
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Bryant: he found blind children taken out to study birds. They
couldn't see one at all but they could hear a bird, so
these blind children in European schools were taught
to know their birds by their call notes and songs. So
he came back all enthused about how every child in
Europe had a chance to really get acquainted with his
environment, and how little we were doing in America.
He used to come down from Sacramento and talk to me in
my Fish and Game Commission office and get all enthused,
and he had experimented a little bit with children at
a children's home. He and his wife had spent Sundays
and holidays trying to do something with these children
and he started taking them afield and was quite enthused
about how children loved to get acquainted with the
things around them and how fine it was when they could
Bryant: So this plan was tried out a little bit for the tourists
in Yosemite in 1918; talks were given to the assembled
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Nature Guide Trips
1921 class addressed by Loye H. Miller
trip, ca. 1920
A baby bird absorbs
the interest of these
Harold C. Bryant with nature class in Yosemite,
1921. Original program of education started by
H.C. Bryant and Loye H. Miller in 1920, now
(1964) involves a Naturalist or Historian in
every national park and hundreds of summer nature
guides and historians.
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Below and Left: Guided groups, 1920
Below: Dedication of Sequoia Tree, Yosemite National Park,
1921. H.C. Bryant, speaking. Governor Friend Richardson,
right; Stephen T. Mather, 2nd from right; Don Tressider;
Bryant; acting superintendent Earnest Leavitt.
Left: Nature Guide Trip group
at Upper Yosemite Falls, 1922.
Above: Columbia Point, 1924.
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H.C. Bryant addressing group at Yosemite, ca. 1926.
Nature Guide Trip, May 1928, H.C. Bryant, naturalist
Bryant: crowd at Yosemite and then they would be taken out on
Drury: Were you a part of that?
Bryant: I was a part of that.
Fry: Was that also University Extension?
Bryant: No, that was not the Extension, that was under the Fish
and Game Commission; I was in charge of education and
research for the California Fish and Game Commission.
That first experience was largely because one of the
fish and game commissioners had been in Yosemite and
had seen all those vacationing people that didn't know
what to do with themselves, and he came to me and said,
"Now, you ought to go up there and give them some con
servation talks," so I'd done that, and it worked very
C.M. Goethe and Lake Tahoe Resorts
Bryant: Mr. C.M. Goethe of Sacramento planned to see what could
be done the next summer in an educational program for
recreationists at a big summer resort. So we planned
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Bryant: in 1919 to go to Lake Tahoe resorts and try to get at
the vacationist when he was enjoying things out of
doors and hand him some useful information. We made
the rounds of the Tahoe resorts, one after another.
His idea was to catch the people when they were on a
vacation trip, so you can use the term "education for
vacationists." At the Tahoe resorts they were very
glad to have me come there.
I would talk to their assembled group at night
and then the next morning I'd say, "Now, we're going
outdoors and see these things, and you come along with
me, we'll meet at eight o'clock." I'd get big crowds
of people to follow around and learn something first
hand. They got quite interested. Instead of the
second-hand information one gets from a University
professor or from a book, these people got around to
dealing with the real thing itself and tried to learn
about it. You have to go out of doors to do that.
Instead of having it in words you went out and actually
got acquainted with the thing itself. And that was fun.
I had good success except at one resort where the
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Bryant: people had such trunks of baggage and so many servants
looking after their children, and did so much card
playing, that my talks didn't go over too well. But
at all these other resorts where there were campers
who took things easier, they just enjoyed these field
trips and enjoyed the illustrated talks that were given
at night about birds and animals and wildflowers and so
on. That was 1919.
Drury: It was the summer of 1919 which was just the year that
the Save-the-Redwoods League was incorporated and
only three years after the establishment by law of the
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National Park Service.
Fry: We need to put in one little note here about Mr. Goethe's
official capacity in this project,
Bryant: He was a businessman and banker in Sacramento. He used
to subdivide property. At the top of his letterhead
there were just columns and columns of different sub
divisions. He would buy up big acreages and subdivide
them and sell these lots.
Drury: A very remarkable man. Of course he's now eighty-six
or eighty-seven. He's become very deaf. Dr. Bryant
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Drury: and I were just commenting on the fact that we don't
go to see him any more, at his request, because he
finds that if we call him up on the telephone he can
hear us but if we're there present his hearing device
doesn't help him.
Bryant: We corresponded all through the years. He used to
come down and talk in my office, and we continued to
correspond through the years.
Drury: I don't think you can minimize the importance of C.M.
Goethe in this whole program of nature conservation.
There's no question that he had a great effect on
Stephen Mather and Madison Grant and some of the
pioneers, both in the formation of the National Park
Service and of the Save-the-Redwoods League.
Bryant: Now, if we say that this educational work in the
national parks is a great going program today, let's
first of all give a lot of credit to a lot of differ
ent men. It wasn't just one man like Mr. Goethe or
like Bryant or like Loje Miller down in Los Angeles
that you can point to, but this is a case where many
men had contributed already along this line. Then
came a group of men who were so thoroughly interested
in the project that that got it going.
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Drury: Of course, we think immediately of Thoreau and Audubon
and John Muir particularly, who really on this coast
gave the initial impetus to the interpretation and
appreciation of nature.
Bryant: Agassi z was the man that urged us to "study nature and
Drury: That's right.
I want to say something about Mr. Goethe which I
don't believe ever has been recorded. It's hearsay
evidence and therefore wouldn't hold up in court, but
Fry: It'll be perfect for history.
Drury: Yes. [Laughter] Anyhow, this is what my brother Aubrey,
who was very close to Mr. Goethe, told me: that when
Mrs. Goethe, a very charming person, agreed to marry
him, she made him promise that half of his time and
means would be devoted to public causes. He was a
pretty hardboiled businessman to this day he is.
He told me, for instance, that he had forty ranches
strung up along the Sacramento River, and when they
have a freeze like this at present it unquestionably
means probably a loss of hundreds of thousands of
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Drury: dollars to Mr, Goethe.
Bryant: Let me tell you what he told me one time which I think
is very interesting. I have to embellish the story a
little bit by saying that he was willing to say that
"ninety-seven percent of all my earnings go into better
ment work." He's been interested in every kind of thing
Church Federation, the American Recreation Association
he even got interested in immigration for a while, and
now he's all off on eugenics. He believes in only start
ing things, not supporting them forever.
Drury: His function is sort of as the catalyzer, you know,
giving the initial impulse and then well, he follows
up, but he's not inclined to monopolize any movement,
A very good citizen, and in the national parks and in
the Save-the-Redwoods League we particularly owe a great
deal to him, but there are other causes we don't even
know about which are just as much indebted to him.
This will interest you, Mrs. Fry, as an historian;
it shows the hazards with respect to keeping files and
records. I've spoken to you about that before. In
fact, only today I was talking to Dr. Hart at the
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Drury: Bancroft Library about getting some archives that are
now in a rather flimsy structure at Monterey, put into
the Bancroft Library Stevensoniana, collections of
Robert Louis Stevenson including the original diary
of Fanny Osborne Stevenson which was recently published.
But Mr. Goethe told me that in a fit of orderliness in
his household this was after Mrs. Goethe died and he
was ill they cleared out a lot of his records,
including all of the correspondence between him and
Stephen Mather and Madison Grant and John C. Merriam
pertaining to the establishment of the National Park
Service. All of that material is gone. I only wish
you could have an oral interview with Mr. Goethe on
some of these things, because although he's a much older
man I think he has a much better memory than some of us
here present. [Laughter]
Stephen Mather and the Yosemite Program
Bryant: Now, let's go back to that time when we tried out this
experiment of education for the vacationists. At that
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Bryant: time in the Washington office of the Park Service there
was a man who had been editor of Century magazine, and
who was brought in. About the only main thing that had
been done was to get out a picture book on the national
Drury: You're speaking of Robert Sterling Yard, who was the
founder, incidentally, of the National Parks Association.
Bryant: Mr. Mather had brought him in and paid his salary him
self for several years, until the government said "nay"
and so there was at least one man in the group who at
the time I got there had moved off into the National
I think the next story is about Stephen Mather
and his interest in doing something in the parks that
would be helpful to visitation, so he found out, through
Mr. Goethe very largely, that I was at Tahoe. I went
back to my camp one night, and there was a note that
had been left for me, signed by Stephen Mather, and
he said, "I'm down here at the El Tahoe Tavern and I
want to talk to you. Will you come down and see me?"
I took the old steamer down the length of the lake
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Bryant: and went over to the hotel and there I met Mr. Mother,
who told me of his ambition that there should be some
thing done for the visitors to parks and that it should
be something very worthwhile in the way of fundamental
education regarding the chief features of the parks
and that he thought I ought to give up whatever I was
doing and go to Yosemite and start such a program.
I said, "Well, I'm all signed up here. I can't
possibly go this year, but I think maybe it could be
arranged another year." So we talked quite a little.
He had also gotten in touch with a man named Loye Miller,
who was then in the Los Angeles Normal School, and he
had asked him whether he could help in this program,
so that in 1920 Loje Miller and I arrived in Yosemite
and we started to organize an actual program for the
But you were not then with the federal government;
you were still with the state of California.
Bryant: I was with the state of California and they continued
my salary, and Mr. Mather dug into his pocket, and
Mr. Goethe did the same, and the two of them paid us
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Bryant: a little expense money so that we could afford to go.
We weren't paid any salary. We weren't regular
government employees. We were just donating our
services, but we had a little expense money.
Drury: I think very early you helped develop the idea that
an understanding and appreciation of the works of
nature tended toward their protection from vandalism
and fire and other destructive forces.
Bryant: And 1 found these people were quite enthusiastic at
the opportunity to go out afield and get acquainted
first-hand with what was along the trailside, and we
had great numbers of the Sierra Club members arrive
up there and the doctors it's strange how doctors
almost more than any other profession, except the
teaching profession, would be interested in that
sort of thing and learning something about their
Drury: Well, doctors have developed the ability to consume
a lot of matter. Didn't you find that there's a
limit on what the normal average person can absorb
intellectually or aesthetically?
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Bryant: We discovered that particularly in the evening talks
at Camp Curry; we would try to narrow it down to
just one animal a gray squirrel, for instance, an
animal they saw every time they went afield. Then
we'd say, "Now, tomorrow if you'll meet at eight
o'clock here, a group f us are going out to see what
we can see along the trail, and we'll show you a gray
Then we had another very fine drawing card, a
water ouzel and its nest, and we'd suggest that we
were all going up to see the parent birds feed the
I can remember times when we got over a hundred
people, and one person can't handle a hundred people.
We tried to limit it to twenty people at a time.
Drury: That still plagues the National Park Service.
Bryant: They can't yell loud enough.
Drury: Of course I deplore the fact that at some of the
historical parks and maybe at most of the major
national parks we introduced loudspeakers, which I
thought was a step downward. Dr. Merriam quoted
from Elihu Root a wise saying that always appealed
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"...To go out afield and get acquainted first
hand with what was along the trailside. . ."
Sierra Club studies a
Right: Trees along the
Valley Rim. Below: Deer
Fawn found by H.C. Bryant;
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Drury: to me to this effect: They were going to build an
auditorium in the Carnegie Institution and they de
bated how large it should be, whether it should hold
1,000 people or 500 or 3,000 ~ this was before the
days of loudspeakers. Elihu Root finally dominated
the meeting and said, "No, I think we'll build one
with 500 capacity, for the reason that it is very
difficult to tell the truth if you have to raise
your voice to do it." Which psychologically has some
basis. I know from my public speaking experience you
speak more extravagantly, you're in a different emo
tional state, when you're speaking to a big crowd
than you do when you're just talking in matter-of-
fact fashion to a small group.
I think that is one of the things that you had
to wrestle with as chief naturalist in the National
Park Service, the problem of keeping these talks and
the nature walks more or less intimate and informal.
Bryant: And also down to the ground level of the kind of
people you were talking to. You couldn't talk over
Fry: When you went to Yosemite in 1920 did you stay there
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Yosemite School of Field
Natural History, established
1925, addressed by H.C. Bryant
Class of 1930, with, left to right, Naturalists Nichols,
Smith, Bryant, and Harwell
Bryant: Yes; that is, every summer. I was here on the campus
during the school year; I had an appointment by the
Regents each year, and also had the educational work
for the Fish and Game Commission, but each summer I
would go up and continue that work at Yosemite. We
continued to make a demonstration or a trial of this
thing to see how it would work.
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NATIONAL PARKS NATURALIST PLAN
Committee on Education in the National Parks
Bryant: But it wasn't very many years before especially the
Sierra Club people would say, "We went to Glacier
National Park this past year and we couldn't get any
of this up there. Why don't they have this educa
tional plan in Glacier?" And then they'd report on
some other park that didn't have it, and they kept
writing in to the Director of the National Park
Service and saying, "How come at Yosemite we can
get it but we can't get it at the other parks?" So
finally by 1930 they invited me back to Washington
to try to build a real organized program in all the
Fry: All this time you were at Yosemite were you being
paid out of private funds?
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By 1923 I began to be paid my expenses only, no salary,
by the Park Service that is, I was taken on
As a collaborator. That's what we call them now.
Yes, but it wasn't exactly that. Then they began to
pay me this small salary as a naturalist, but then I
got no expenses.
That was when the salary of the director was $3,000
to $5,000 a year.
I'm trying to think; I think I got $150 salary per
month in those first days. I was there three months
usually in the summer, and I lived in a tent with my
whole family. I helped to raise my family up there
in Yosemite, which was interesting.
When you went to Washington, how many people were
there in interpretive work?
I was the one and only educator in the park staff.
This was 1930.
You mean anywhere in the United States?
There were naturalists in only a few of the national
Oh, yes, very few. There were one or two men. One
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Bryant: man was interested in the big game animals of Yellow
stone, and so on, but there was no organized program
of education in the parks until the first September I
arrived in Washington.
Drury: This is something that probably Dr. Bryant will remem
ber, but when he had the call to the National Park
Service he was then with the California Fish and
Game Commission you [Dr. Bryant] came down to San
Francisco and we went out to lunch and you asked my
advice as to whether you should join the National Park
Service and leave California. I'm afraid I advised
you not to. [Laughter] The National Park Service
would have lost a lot if you hadn't detected the fact
that my advice was fallacious. Of course I never
dreamt then that I would ever have any relationship
with the National Park Service.
Fry: This was Horace Albright who as Director of the National
Park Service brought you to Washington?
Bryant: Yes. I think the main background there is that when
Horace Albright took over as director he was thor
oughly interested in carrying on this educational
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Bryant: program, and so finally he got me back to Washington
and this too had a certain background; the reason why
this work had a push ahead was because of the appoint
ment of a committee on education in the national parks
appointed by the Secretary of the Interior. Now, this
committee was made up of a number of high-powered
educators and it met under the chairman of the com
mittee, Dr. John C. Merriam of the University of
California Department of Paleontology. It got out
first a sort of an outline of what a great educa
tional program should be in the parks, trying to point
out what should be done and how it could be done and
So they also advised that someone should be put
in Washington to organize and develop such a program,
which now is called an interpretation program. In
those days we talked about education and research.
In fact, I went back to head up a division I guess
they called it a division in those days of educa
tion and research. They had suggested that the man
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Bryant: should have good administrative experience and the
power to get things done. So this boost by the
committee report, which the Secretary had accepted,
set the background for the plan to organize the
work in all the national parks. By that time many
complaints had come in about only one park putting
on a program when here were all these other national
parks something should be done all together in a
Fry: The Secretary at that time was an education-minded
man, wasn't he? The ex-president of Stanford Uni
Bryant: Yes, Ray Lyman Wilbur was Secretary when I went in,
and the President was Hoover.
Drury: That's right. Wilbur came in midway in Albright's
term there and then Horace served under Ickes for
only a short time.
Bryant: That's right, then Albright got out and Cammerer came
Fry: So you went in with both superiors favoring this in a
very sturdy way.
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Bryant: Both of them aided and abetted the whole program
straight through and helped to develop it. Again it
wasn't any one-man affair, it was because we got the
aid of the National Parks Association and the Sierra
Club in getting behind the program. Many organiza
I think we ought to have this background, that
Dr. John C. Merriam was chairman of this committee
on education for the national parks, which afterwards
became a legally appointed advisory board for the
National Park Service.
Drury: More under administrative law than any statute cre
Bryant: So Dr. Merriam had a very great interest in every
thing in the parks, especially the scientific fea
tures that were in parks. He felt that something
should be done about it.
Yavapai Observation Station, Grand Canyon
Bryant: For instance, he dropped in at Grand Canyon one time
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Harold C. Bryant, Grand Canyon, Arizona, ca. 1950
Bryant: and got talking to some of the people that were stand
ing on the edge of the canyon looking over, and he
discovered that they were just hungry for an explana
tion. How was the canyon built? How far is it over
there? Is the same kind of life over there as on this
Finally he came forth with a very wonderful idea
that there should be some kind of a helpful station
built on the rim and that certain facts, scientific
facts, should be presented to the general public both
in the form of a simple explanation by a man in charge
and by a group of park exhibits. So there was built
in Grand Canyon on Yavapai Point the Yavapai Observa
tion Station named after an Indian tribe and care
fully not called a museum.
Dr. Merriam first of all brought a group of
scientists he was head of the Carnegie Institution
of Washington, and he was in a position to know the
best of the scientists and he said, "We'll pay
your way." He invited them to Grand Canyon and he
asked them, "How should this story be told to the
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Bryant: public?" And he got this
Drury: First he asked the question and then he answered it.
Bryant: But anyway he got some good ideas from a lot of these
visiting scientists mostly geologists.
Drury: But one person he didn't get along very well with.
Bryant: Well, it wasn't so bad. Bumpus could get along with
most anybody. He followed Merriam as chairman of
the advisory board.
Fry: You mean they agreed upon all of the varying aspects
of the theory?
Bryant: That's right, and then administratively we tried to
put into effect this plan and exactly what we would
tell the public. So we found out all the questions
they asked and said, "Well, we must answer this ques
tion for them and this question for them," and so on.
And then we finally put out a beautiful summary out
line of what should be given, the story of the Grand
Drury: I was with Dr. Merriam practically every summer while
this was being worked out, and I know the infinite
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pains that were taken and the tremendous amount of
collaboration that was necessary. It wasn't just
struck off in a few days or even a few months; it
took several years to evolve it.
You didn't have very many funds or very much staff.
Didn't the Carnegie Institution make a small grant
Yes, towards the building of the building and so on.
Are you giving this as a typical example, or was this
This was the first one, and it's still the outstanding
example of that kind of interpretation.
Bryant: This was one of the first attempts to put on an organ
ized program in a park. It had been tried in Yosemite
and now we were going to try and apply it to the visi
tor in Grand Canyon and try to see that he got the
information that he wanted.
Do you mind my interpolating this idea? Prior to
that, museums, so-called, had been established in some
of the national parks; in fact the Yosemite Museum
antedated the archeological museum at Mesa Verde and
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Drury: various others.
Bryant: This program at Grand Canyon was designed to help people
understand three stories: First of all, what about the
rocks of which Grand Canyon is made?
Second, how was the canyon cut?
Third, what was the effect on life in the canyon?
You see, in the story of the rocks we had the
interesting story that down in the bottom of the canyon
are some of the oldest rocks known on the crust of the
earth. They go back about four billion years. That's
an interesting story. Then you have all these layers
of rock, one laid up on top of the other and so on.
Everybody would ask, "Well, what is all that?" So we
told the story of the rocks and the age of the rocks,
how the young rocks were up on top; and then we had
such help as that the top layer is just full of sea-
shells and corals and all sorts of things that live
normally in the bottom of the ocean, and we had to
explain why you had these fossils that once lived at
sea level or below now seven thousand feet up in the
air. That gave us such a nice chance to say that what
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Bryant: was once down there has been raised up by the building
of a great plateau, the folding up of a big plateau.
Then we tried to answer the question of how was
this canyon built? How did it come to be? So we had
the great story of the erosion. How the big river,
the Colorado River, the second largest river in the
United States, had cut this great deep canyon. The
funny thing is that it was not cut as the average
person would understand; that was one of the points
we had quite a little difficulty in putting over.
They thought that the river originally must have been
up here where we were on the rim of the canyon, and
cut and cut and cut until now the river is 5000 feet
down. But that wasn't it, you see. The river was
always down there, and the plateau came up against
the river and the river cut as the plateau came up.
Drury: Like cutting a board with a buzz-saw, so to speak.
As you raise the board up the saw rips through it.
Bryant: We used to illustrate that with the example of a layered
cake; the commonest way of cutting the layer cake is
to take a big butcher knife and cut from the top down
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Bryant: to the bottom; but what if you took your cake over
here and put your knife over it and pressed the cake
up from the bottom? You see how you'd still cut it
so that you could look down in and see the cake, all
the layers in the cake, but you'd hold the knife still.
It didn't move. Only the cake moved.
And then the third very interesting point was
the life of the past and the life of today and how
it was affected by this great gorge that had been cut
out there, because we had animals that were found only
on the north rim and animals that were found only on
the south rim, and therefore the canyon had been a
great barrier to the movement of life. We had
wonderful fossils, you see. We found fossil foot
prints of dinosaurs and fossil footprints of amphi
bians and reptiles, great numbers of them, forty or
more named animals that we've never seen a bone of
Drury: Do you think there was too much emphasis upon factual
matter and not enough upon the inspirational aspects
of the Grand Canyon?
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Bryant: I'm glad you asked that, because if there was anyone
who believed in the inspirational value of the parks
it was John C. Merriam. He was the key man in this
group of advisors who was always emphasizing that if
we want to have the tourists think great thoughts,
we must have them understand what they see when they
come into a park.
Drury: See not just with the intelligence but with the emo
tions also. The aesthetic phase is just as important
to him as the intellectual.
Fry: Once you have this intellectual lesson of the enormous
history that's lying before you there, what more would
you add to that? That has an emotional impact in
Drury: If I may, let me try to interpret what we're talking
about. Dr. Merrianrfs idea was that instead of having
a dry-as-dust exhibit inside a museum, you'd sit out
there, and here was the great landscape before you
you couldn't miss it because you were a part of
it. All of this interpretation of its meaning was
something that not only Dr. Merriam but the inter-
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Drury: pretive force of the National Park Service and people
generally felt enhanced the appreciation of its
beauty and magnificence.
Bryant: The attention was always directed to the features in
the canyon that told you these stores. We would say,
"Here is a binocular, you look and this is what you
see." We would bring it up from down there and put
it right here where you can see this is what it looks
like close at hand.
Drury: I think the story wouldn't be complete without saying
a word at least about Louis Schellbach who in my
opinion was one of the greatest spielers we ever had.
He was a spell-binder and he told this story of the
Grand Canyon, as it had been taught to him of course
by the superintendent and by others, so eloquently
day after day, month in and month out, and seemingly
never losing the freshness of his enthusiasm for it.
I think he was primarily an archeologist, wasn't he,
in his profession?
Bryant: An archeologist, yes.
Drury: I remember one occasion when a bus tour came by the
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canyon and they stopped and were given this talk by
Louis Schellbach and there was one little Japanese
boy with thick-rimmed spectacles who sat there so
enthralled by the thing that the bus went off without
him. [Laughter] He just sat there dreaming about it.
But don't you agree that although Louis was his
trionic, of course, and he showed off quite a bit, he
was a very effective lecturer? And who was the other
one? Christiansen? He was quieter than Schellbach,
but possibly more of an original thinker.
This was in the thirties?
First of all, the first key man was Ed MsKee who is
still one of the greatest geologists on sedimentary
geology in the United States and is working for the
Geological Survey. He had been brought up in Washing
ton, B.C., and had gotten into a boy scout troop headed
by Francois Matthes, a great geologist, and that stir
red his interest in geology and he finally came out
as a naturalist there at Grand Canyon.
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Bryant: He wrote great tomes on the different layers of the
rocks of Grand Canyon that were published by the
Carnegie Institution. He was a truly fine scientific
research man, not quite so good in his diction and
talking and so on, but he did a wonderful piece of
research. In fact, to this day he is known as the
outstanding geologist on sedimentary rock.
Fry: And he helped you in this initial program?
Bryant: Oh, he was the naturalist there for years.
Fry: First you tried to find what questions the tourists
asked most frequently, and you set up your exhibits
around this. Then did you more or less follow this
same procedure at all parks?
Bryant: No. It's about the only place that has an educational
Drury: In the interest of continuity, I think it would be
interesting to have your appraisal of the Yavapai
Observation Station as it is today. Have you any idea
whether it has carried on in the spirit and the intent
in which it was founded?
Bryant: Yes, even though at Grand Canyon now there is a fine
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Bryant: museum development known as a vistors 1 center. Instead
of calling it a museum they call it a visitors' center,
and that carries all the rest of the stories. But the
geology and the paleontology story is still at Yavapai,
and all the buses that go out along the rim all stop
for passengers to hear this talk.
Fry: It seems as though you were very careful to get a pro
gram that would take in a wide span of the American
public, say from an eight-year-old to an eighty-year-
old, and from a machinist to a doctor. They could all
Bryant: When we had this man Schellbach, he was a little bit
of a dramatist and he talked with his fingers, explain
ing layers and all the different things about it, and
he could talk to the children and get a laugh out of
them. He'd always start with this story about the
man who rushed out to the rim and had a look and then
turned back to his car and the people in it and he'd
say, "Gosh, it's nothing but rocks. Let's go on and
get something to eat." [Laughter]
Drury: I remember Louis Schellbach had one quip that he got
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Drury: off that was always good about how men had advanced
because of certain things; he said, "For one thing,
he had the opposing thumb and fingers, and for another
he had a chin, unlike other animals." He said, "He's
been sticking it out ever since." [Laughter]
Bryant: And then he had another very wonderful story that
helped give people an idea of what past ages have been
and where man comes into the picture.
We can go back four billion years when there was
no life on the earth at all and take up life from the
little tiny algae that had been found in those rocks
in the canyon and on up to the animal footprints and
so on, and then finally man comes into the picture,
and we can show lots of Indian ruins all down through
the canyon. And to try to give people some idea of
the sequence and the amount of time that's gone by
through the years, he'd always tell this story about
the Washington Monument and the distance up here to
where you have windows was so many years of time and
so on, and then if you put a dime on the top of it
the thickness would represent the era that's just
passed, and then take up the era that we live in and
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Bryant: you put a little piece of paper flat on top of the dime
on the Washington Monument and thus you'd have a
comparable column that showed these great expanses
Fry: I think any future historian interested in the history
of ideas might wonder if you had any experience with
groups who simply couldn't swallow this panorama
that was laid before them.
Drury: I used to argue with Dr. Merriam on that, too. I
don't think any person I know I couldn't could
thoroughly absorb all of the detail, even though it
were oversimplified and put in tabloid form. It was
still too much for the normal mind to absorb.
Bryant: But at least we attempted to simplify it in such a
way that everybody could understand it.
Fry: What about people who objected to the theory of evolu
Bryant: That was interesting. We occasionally had reactions
to that. We had such a fine chance to show evolution
from the fossils of the lowest forms of plant life to
trees very much like those we have today, and then
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Bryant: from the animals like the trilobite, a little crab-like
creature that crept on the bottom of the ocean, clear
on up to dinosaurs. We had it all laid out there and
once in a while we'd find a fundamentalist who'd
complain about that. Now my way of turning the sub
ject a little bit was to say that that was the way
God made things as far as our scientists could deter
mine, and they couldn't have much of a comeback to
Drury: Well, anyhow, there they were. [Laughter] Even when
you were superintendent of Grand Canyon in the fortes
you took your turn at the lecture, I remember.
Bryant: Yes, right along, trying to keep in touch with the
public and understand what their reactions were.
Whenever a naturalist was sick or had to get away,
then I'd go out there and take over.
Drury: Now, let me tell you a story first so that this won't
be too serious. Dr. Merriam was, of course, as a
scientist much interested in the Scopes trial in
which William Jennings Bryan took a very prominent
part in fact at which he expired, probably due to
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Drury: the hotweather and his overeating. We all followed it
very carefully. I remember about that time Dr. Merriam
and some of us were up in the redwood country where at
Arcata some zealous Republican had erected a bronze
statue to William McKinley. It showed him in the
traditional frock coat which is not a flattering
costume for anyone, least of all a short man like
McKinley. [Laughing] With a great big head and a
bushy head of hair. As we passed by there, thinking
of recent events in Tennessee at the Scopes trial,
Dr. Merriam took a look at it and he said, "Do you
know, I think if William Jennings Bryan had seen this
statue of William McKinley he would no longer have any
doubt that man was descended from the ape." [Laughter]
Aesthetics and Crater Lake
Bryant: And that brings in Sinnott Memorial at Crater Lake,
where Dr. Merriam kept thinking, "Now, this is a
beautiful thing, this is a beautiful scene. How do
you teach beauty?"
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Fry: That's what I was going to ask you. If you try to
teach the awesome beauty of Grand Canyon or Crater
Lake you'd almost be gilding the lily. What more
could you do than just let people look at it?
Drury: Well, here is something that Dr. Merriam in one of
his lighter moods told me about some tourists there
at the Grand Canyon. They looked at it and the man
turned to his wife and said, "It's just about like an
elephant; when you've seen it you've seen it." [Laugh
ter] I suppose that's what you mean when you say you
are painting the lily if you start to analyze it. And
yet there is one school of thought that believes that
appreciation of art and music and literature can be
enhanced by the study of the aesthetics of the field.
Bryant: But Crater Lake was quite a different program from
Grand Canyon. This was beauty that everyone reacted
to: the blue, blue lake, down in a volcanic crater.
Dr. Merriam spent a good deal of time trying to see
what we could do there, and he got quite interested
in nature appreciation and in books on nature appre
ciation. And of course when we came up there we had
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Bryant: to get around to art appreciation. What is there that
is so artistic that appeals to people in the scene?
He finally tried a scheme that I don't think
worked out too well, but at least it was a try. A
number of good artists were brought to Crater Lake
to sit down and paint into the picture what they saw,
and then we set these pictures up. I remember Eugen
Neuhaus had quite an angry scene, I think it was a
storm over Crater Lake, and somebody else pictured
it in bright sunshine. Anyway, a number of very fine
artists went there.
Drury: Didn't Gunnar Widfors make a number of paintings of
Crater Lake? He was a Swedish watercolorist, had
been the court painter for the king of Sweden and
for some reason or other came to this country. He
was discovered by Stephen Mather, who sent him out
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to the national parks and up to the redwoods. I
have three of his paintings of the redwoods. He was
a very rapid worker; I remember I'd leave him in the
morning at a spot and come back in the afternoon and
he'd have one of those paintings completed.
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Bryant: When we left Grand Canyon the staff there gave me a
Drury: The Cosmos Club has two. They're quite valuable today,
Bryant: Yes. Then we even experimented with hiring a teacher
of art at the University of Oregon and bringing him
down there to lead some of the trips and try to show
people the beauties of the lake and so on.
But in the end we almost decided that if you
give a person quietude and solitude on the rim of
Crater Lake it would be better to have them get it
themselves than to try to pass around from one per
son to another what beauty is. You immediately get
an artist who talks about lines and forms and all
sorts of things, and people didn't take to it too
well. We just thought we'd put nice benches in the
finest places to see the lake and let them go them
selves and just soak it into their own souls instead
of trying to have it taught.
Drury: I remember for instance Dr. George Ruble talking up
there. rt e was the park naturalist, and made a very
eloquent presentation. He dealt superficially with
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Drury: this question of aesthetics. Dr. Merriam had an essay
he published, the title of which is, "Why is Crater
Lake so Blue?"
Bryant: The only answer he could give was the scientific
answer. It has largely to do with depth of water and
lighting and the reflection of the sky in the water.
So in the different parks we had different sorts
of problems to meet. We couldn't use just any form
that would fit all parks, but we had to take the
chief features of each park and from that work out
the story that was to be told the traveling public.
But we didn't have any devices comparable to Yavapai
and Sinnott Memorial, did we, in any of the other parks?
Have you been to this new observation post that they've
built on Klingman's Dome?
Bryant: No, I haven't. I've seen pictures of it. It's made
Drury: Do you like it?
Well, I don't know. I'm not one of those who think it
is a terrible mistake, because I think you have to
take change from year to year. You can't go back and
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Bryant: say that just because we used to use architecture
that was rustic and made out of wood that we've got
to stay with that forever. We've apparently had to
get around to concrete.
Drury: Well, I don't know. You surprise me; you've evident
ly become more of a modern than I have.
Bryant: Perhaps a little more than John C. Merriam.
Drury: I still think that what you might call indigenous
architecture, architecture based on the building
materials that you find at the site, whether it is
timber or stone, or even in Hawaii perhaps thatched
roofs, would be more germane to the landscape than
these modern atrocities. One of the pleasures that
I took when I was in the National Park Service was
knocking on the head many a plan which called for
these contemporary designs which have since blossomed
Bryant: Like the Jackson Lake Lodge at Grant Teton? All made
out of concrete, and yet it simulates wood.
Drury: I know, and that again isn't genuine, of course. I
think that bears somewhat on this thing we're talking
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Drury: about, the question of revealing the parks and all of
their meaning as the natural features were created and
not as they've been embellished by the hand of man.
I'm afraid that that's about all I should take
time for, and I haven't done anything except I
take full credit for bringing you here, Dr. Harold
Bryant. I think it's been a very interesting discus
sion of a phase of the national park program that I
will now not have to discuss in my own interviews
with Mrs. Fry. [Laughter]
Fry: Thank you very much for coming, Dr. Bryant.
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. . :
. . :
Albright, Horace, 20-22
Bryan, William Jennings, 37,38
Biunpus, Herman C., 25
California State Fish and Game Commission, 1,2,5,13,
Carnegie Institution, 15,16,24,26,33
Committee on Education in the National Parks, 21-23
Crater Lake National Park, 38,42
Evolution, Theory of, 36-38
Goethe, C.M., 3-5,7-9,11-13
Grand Canyon National Park, Yavapai Observation Sta
Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Lake Lodge, 43
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Klinginan's Dome,
Lake Tahoe resorts naturalist talks, 6,7,13
McKee, Ed, 32,33
McKinley, William, 38
Mather, Stephen, 8,11-13
Merriam, John C., 11,15,21,23-25,30,36-40,42,43
Miller, Loje, 8,13
National Park Service, 7,11,12,15,16,18-20,31,43
National Parks Advisory Board, 23,25
National Parks Association, 12,23
Neuhaus, Eugen, 40
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Root, Elihu, 15,16
Ruhle, George, 41,42
Schellbach, Louis, 31,32,34,35
Sierra Club, 14,18,23
University of California Extension Division, 2,3
University of California Museum of Vertebrate Zoology,
Widfors, Gunnar, 40,41
Wilbur, Ray Lyman, 21,22
Yard, Robert Sterling, 12
Yosemite National Park, 4,5,13-19,26
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Stephen T. Mather (standing) anil the author (left foreground) attend 192 1 ceremonies in Yosemite
By Harold C. Bryant
HAT is the bird with a yellow
breast and red head?
What bird steals butter from our
Where can I see a sequoia tree?
Are there rattlesnakes here?
These are familiar questions to nat-
alists with the National Park Service,
or nearly half a century these ques-
ons have been answered by men whose
b it is to interpret the glories of nature
the millions of visitors to the National
arks, to increase the enjoyment and
nderstanding of our great natural pre-
rves. It was not always so.
The effective modern interpretative
rvice was started by the first Director
the National Park Service, Stephen
Mather. He wanted to make sure
at every visitor to the National Parks
as inspired by their beauty and ap-
eciated their eternal values. Out of his
n pocket he hired Robert Sterling
aril, an editor of Century Magazine, to
repare a picture book about the parks,
nown as the National Parks Portfolio,
was sent to every congressman and
ent through six editions.
The Director's second step was to
eate the National Parks Educational
ommittee of seventy-five college presi-
ents and educators. This was converted
the National Parks Association in
1919, an organization that has been
enormously helpful in publicizing the
inspirational and scientific significance
of the National Parks.
In that same year Loye Holmes Mil
ler from the Los Angeles Normal School
and I, from the University of California
at Berkeley, were guiding nature study
groups at Lake Tahoe. Mr. Mather
visited us and by the following year we
were in Yosemite organizing a free
Nature Guide Service. A Sacramento
business man, C. M. Goethe, who had
been greatly impressed by guided trips
for children and adults in central Ku-
rope, helped Mather finance the experi
ment. Soon other parks demanded a
similar service. Superintendent Frank
Pinkley trained his men in the south
west National Monuments to guide the
public through Indian ruins. Visiting
college professors were urged to give
talks at evening campfires and to lead
In 1928 the Secretary of the Interior
appointed a committee to study the
educational problems in the National
Parks. The chairman was Dr. John C.
Merriam; Drs. Herman C. Bumpus,
Vernon Kellogg, Frank R. Oastler and
I comprised the rest of the committee
to report on field studies. Our expenses
were paid by the Laura Spelman Rocke
feller Memorial fund. The report, sub
mitted in 1929, listed some of the gen
eral principles and made a number of
recommendations, among them the cre
ation of an advisory board and a divi
sion of the National Park Service to
administer an educational program in
the parks. Both these recommendations
were put into effect in 1930.
Since that time efforts have been
made to place a naturalist or historian
in every national park and monument.
Improvements have been made in park
programs for field trips, campfire talks,
nature trails, museums, libraries and
bulletins. The educational program is
now known as the Interpretation Serv
ice and there are divisions of History,
Natural History and Museums. State
and city parks have installed naturalists
as has the U. S. Forest Service.
When Loye Miller and I started our
service in Yosemite in 1920 we were
housed in tents and we had a table in
the Chief Ranger's office. We conducted
field trips, gave evening talks and held
office hours to answer questions. A
wildflower show helped visitors identify
the flowers in bloom along the trails.
Children engaged in special "bark-feel
ing" and "leaf-smelling" competitions
and brought in new finds from their
exploring trips. Now there are Junior
Loye Miller guides Yosemite visitors in the early 1920' s
The author, on a Devils Postnile nack trin. about 1924
Museums and Junior Nature Schools.
There were nature trips around the
Valley and longer ones to Eagle Peak,
Glacier Point, Little Yosemite, and
finally a weekly trip around the loop
of the Hikers Camps. With the help of
the University of California and other
schools, bird trips were led by orni
thologists, flower trips by botanists and
insect trips by entomologists.
Museum materials were collected and
by 1928 the American Museums Asso
ciation and the Laura Spelman Rocke
feller Fund had provided museum
buildings in Yosemite, Yellowstone and
Grand Canyon National Parks. Ansel
Hall made park museums tell complete
stories instead of becoming depositories
for separate dusty exhibits. Then
museum curators were added.
As other national parks followed
Yosemite's lead there was a great de
mand for naturalists and historians.
Men with the proper education and ex
perience in the field were hard to find.
A Yosemite School of Field Natural
History was created and groups of
twenty students were recruited through
out the nation. Graduates of the school
went to work for the parks, and at
camps for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.
The course ended with a two-week high
country trip and research work on
marked ecological plots. This work has
been continued by field school alumni
who return each year to contribute to
the ecological study that has been con
tinuous for more than twenty years.
Before the field school was closed
during World War II more than 300
students had been trained there. Now
there are other schools, as well as the
Horace A. Albright Training Center for
rangers and other protective personnel
at Grand Canyon with its fine new
school building and apartments for the
students and their families, and the
Training Center for naturalists and his
torians at Harper's Ferry, Virginia.
Since 1930 studies have been made of
wildlife in the parks. Much has been
learned since the first survey with respect
to existing status, unsatisfactory con
ditions and the orderly development of
wildlife management. Until July I, 1931,
the Wildlife Survey was supported by
private funds. Under government aus
pices since that time, this research proj
ect has developed much important
knowledge on 279 birds and animals,
the interrelations of organisms, feeding
of mammals, protection of predators,
and has studied coyotes, wolves, the surf
bird and the trumpeter swan.
With the help of the park naturalists
and historians the National Parks have
become the great universities of the
out-of-doors. The origin and history of
the earth, the various species, and. the
habits and interrelations of plant and
animal life can be taught with the
superlative materials found in the Na
Bulletin NO. 17
By HAROLD C. BRYANT
In Charge Nature Guide Service. Yoscmitc N.ili.'n.il P.irk
PRICE, 25 CENTS
THE AMERICAN NATURE ASSOCIATION
WASHINGTON. D. C.
A COPT of this Bulletin, Dumber
Seventeen, published by the
American feature Association, will
be sent to any Member on request.
Additional copies and copies for no?i'
members may be secured for tiventy
five cents each by writing to
NATURE STUDY DEPARTMENT
AMERICAN NATURE ASSOCIATION
1214 Sixteenth Street N.W.
By Harold C. Bryant
The past few years have seen the rapid growth of a movement to
popularize the study of nature. Mountain and hiking clubs are empha
sizing nature study resorts and summer camps advertise nature study field
trips, and national parks are offering regular instruction in natural history.
Organized work of this type has been denoted "nature guiding."
It is doubtful if anything excites a child more greatly than does the
sight of some living creature. Nor is this interest in living things lost
in adult life, for those who visit Yellowstone National Park usually have
more to say about the live bears than about the geysers. The average person
is more thrilled by the sight of a deer crossing the road in front of an
automobile than by the enormous cliffs and waterfalls of the Yosemite.
"What is the name of that tree?" "What bird is that?" "Does a deer
actually lose its 'horns' each year?" such are the questions that continually
confront the summer camper. To hear a trained scientist treat of these
very subjects of most interest in a lecture or, better still, to accompany a
person who can actually name and tell the life history of plants, birds and
animals along the trailside, wins the immediate approval of the vacationist.
In several countries in Europe attempts have been made to furnish to
tourists and others guides qualified to furnish scientific information regard
ing the living things seen. That work of this kind should be better devel
oped in Europe than in America is to be expected because of the greater
amount of nature study training given in the public schools and the much
greater emphasis on field work. Every school child in Sweden, Denmark
and several central European countries is taken afield where first-hand
information is to be obtained regarding plants and animals. A group of
school children, each with a collecting box for plants or for insects, is a
familiar sight everywhere. Thus far in the United States nature studies,
along with other studies, have been pursued almost entirely within a school
building, and then with subjects to be viewed under a microscope, resulting
in a dearth of information usable in the open.
What better definition of nature guiding can we find than that given
by Enos Mills, a pioneer in the field: "Nature guiding is helping people
to become happily acquainted with the life and wonders of wild nature."
In America the first attempts at satisfying the desire for information
regarding the living things seen along the roadside were made by such
organizations as Audubon societies, museums, botanical and zoological socie-
2 NATURE GUIDING
ties and hiking clubs. One of the first private ventures in nature guiding
was begun by Enos A. Mills in Estes National Park. Mr. Mills found
that his guests at Long's Peak Inn were very receptive to natural history
lore and he sought to furnish nature guiding as a feature of entertainment.
The response from old and young was so immediate that he became suffi
ciently impressed with the work to write about it.
Full credit must be given Mr. Mills for the first adventure in nature
guiding, as such, in a national park and for originating the term to describe
this type of guiding as distinct from the usual horse wrangler type fur
nished. His "trail school" was the first of a group continually increasing
The year 1901 seems to mark the beginning of emphasis on the field
trip as an important feature in club educational work. In that year the
Audubon Society of the District of Columbia inaugurated spring field
excursions for the study of bird migration, and these have been maintained
ever since. Wells W. Cooke, Dr. T. S. Palmer, Mrs. F. M. Bailey and
other workers of the Bureau of Biological Survey willingly act as leaders.
Similarly, field trips have been emphasized in Massachusetts and in Oregon
with E. H. Forbush and William L. Finley as motivators.
In the summer of 1901, Dr. T. Gilbert Pearson, now president of the
National Association of Audubon Societies, undertook work of this kind
at the University of Tennessee. "Bird walks," as the excursions were
called, were continued for seven successive seasons. Continuing his interest
in this work, Dr. Pearson, in 1915, began encouraging field trips and
lectures on birds in the various summer schools by offering financial assist
ance from the National Association of Audubon Societies. The results have
been so favorable that the system has been continued from year to year.
In connection with university courses in geology, entomology and zool
ogy, field trips often constitute a definite part of the work. Too often they
are sporadic rather than regular. Dr. A. A. Allen, of Cornell ; Dr. Joseph
Grinnell, of the University of California, and J. O. Snyder, of Stanford
University, are notable professors who have emphasized the field trip in
classes in ornithology. Professor Lynde Jones, of Oberlin, and a few
others have conducted transcontinental trips where field studies have been
In a few instances, field excursions comprise a part of the nature study
program in the schools. The Los Angeles City Nature Study Department
has introduced trips afield and annual trips to mountains and seashore for
part of the program. These larger excursions number thousands, and yet
are so organized as to bring both profit and pleasure to the children. At
the present time many nature clubs and hiking clubs offer field trips and
thousands are thus led to study nature first hand. Last year more than
NATURE GUIDING 3
2,000 persons attended field trips offered by the San Diego Museum of
Natural History, but similar records by other museums are few in number.
In 1919 the American School of Wild Life Protection was established
at McGregor, Iowa. This school has held regular summer sessions with
emphasis on both class and field work given by specialists. A nature lore
school founded by Dr. William G. Vinal, of the Rhode Island College of
Education on Cape Cod, is another recent venture. Its term of one week
seems wholly inadequate, but its emphasis on "learning by doing" is to
Boys' and girls' summer camps throughout the United States have found
it to their advantage to offer trips afield under a competent guide, and early
demands for trained field naturalists came from this source.
Nature guide work in the summer resorts of California really had its
beginning in 1918, when the California Fish and Game Commission sent
its educational director to Yosemite National Park to deliver a number
of lectures. As a stimulus to further interest in wild life, field trips were
offered which proved very popular. In reality, the concept of nature guiding
was a product of the World Survey, which brought the idea from Europe
and planted it in America.
This work caught the attention of Stephen T. Mather, Director of
National Parks, and in the spring of 1920, through a cooperative arrange
ment with the California Fish and Game Commission, the National Park
Service instituted a "Free Nature Guide Service" in Yosemite National Park.
Formal lectures and short ten-minute campfire talks are given alter
nately at the main resorts in the Park. Most of the formal lectures are
illustrated with lantern slides, motion pictures, or whistled imitations of
bird songs. The shorter talks often deal with some particular animal,
bird or tree, or answer directly some often repeated question on natural
history. Occasionally, visiting scientists help out by giving lectures. Out
lying camps and lodges are included in the program.
The daily field trips offered the public form an important feature of the
nature guide service, for here individual instruction is given and a direct per
sonal contact made. So popular has this feature become that difficulty in han
dling the groups has been experienced. On many occasions, attendance
on the morning trips exceeds fifty. Improved service to the public was at
tained by offering field trips at the back-country lodges and by offering all-
day trips to the rim of the valley, the latter affording an opportunity to
study changes in fauna and flora with a change in altitude. Although the
trips start alternately from the different resorts, it was found that many
would travel between the camps to repeat their experiences of the day
before. Many teachers made use of the opportunity to make a longer and
more thorough study by attending regularly.
4 NATURE GUIDING
To the child nothing is more interesting than the living thing. The
second-hand information from a book may prove entertaining, but the in
formation obtained at first hand in the open is entrancing. Why should
nature study so often be taught within four walls when more stimulating
subject matter and surroundings may be had out of doors?
Herb-smelling and bark-feeling games are played and the children fa
miliarized with the life about them. Teaching children to "read the road
side" seems particularly worth while, for they retain the knowledge given
them more accurately than adults, and their interest in natural history is
being stimulated at the most receptive age.
Questioners appear by the hundred during the office hours held each day
at the office of the Nature Guide Service. Some are attracted by the
stuffed specimens, and still others by the sign inviting them to ask questions.
During the height of the season over fifty questions are answered per hour
as proved by actual test. What bird steals butter from our camp table?
What is the plant that looks like a giant red asparagus tip? What
is the name of the bird with a red head and yellow breast? What
lizard has a red head and blue tail, and is it poisonous? Does the redwood
grow in Yosemite Valley? What kinds of pine trees grow in Yosemite?
Such are the questions asked by every visitor to Yosemite National Park.
If no one is near at hand to satisfy such a craving for information, the
problems which confront the visitor are soon forgotten. If someone is near
at hand, interest is stimulated, and the visitor receives a thrill plus a
contentment of mind which makes his vacation more worth while.
The need for reference works has been met by compact nature study
libraries furnished by the California Nature Study League. Two such
libraries have supplemented those at the Sierra Club Lodge and at the Mu
seum. Stimulated by a lecture or by the experience on a field trip, many
seek additional nature lore through the medium of books.
Although the Nature Guide program emphasizes study of the living
thing, yet there are those who may be stimulated to study the living thing
as a result of a study of a specimen. A fine fire-proof museum, where
one may check knowledge gained afield, is a part of the educational program.
Mounted birds and animals, insects and plants furnish opportunity for
initial study by those incapable of tramping, and opportunity for a close
view and further study by many others. In addition to supplementing the
attractions of a national park, a museum always furnishes through its dis
plays a glimpse of what is to be seen and enjoyed in the park. Furthermore,
it furnishes excellent general headquarters for all educational activities.
A display of wild flowers is maintained throughout the summer months
at each of the resorts, and through the interest of a local resident is con
tained throughout the winter, it being possible to display trees and shrubs
NATURE GUIDING 5
even though wild flowers are scarce. The success of such flower shows is
made possible through the employment of a trained field botanist. During
the summer season over four hundred different wild flowers, trees and
shrubs are exhibited, each properly labeled and displayed. Many unable to
climb to timber line have an opportunity to study the flowers of the alpine
region, and everyone who notes an interesting flower in bloom may readily
identify it by finding it in the display. Numbers of people have spent hours,
notebook in hand, studying exhibits.
Beginning with the summer of 1922 a mimeographed set of notes under
the heading, "Yosemite Nature Notes," has been issued weekly and posted
and distributed free to all interested. Instructive notes on the various
interesting species conspicuous at the time, have been largely utilized. Thus
readers of the Nature Notes are able to follow the changes in fauna and
flora with the advance of the summer.
Although primarily interested in teaching and recording the biological
features of the Park, yet the Nature Guide Service has taken every oppor
tunity to boost for the national parks, to preach conservation and proper
sanitation. Furthermore, special interest has been taken in the new museum,
and a number of botanical and zoological specimens have been prepared
In 1921 a nature guide service was established in Yellowstone National
Park. Emphasis has been placed on evening lectures by trained scientists,
the community centers affording a unique opportunity for development
along this line. Every center is furnished a nature guide lecture each eve
ning. A museum attracts hundreds of visitors. Field trips do not form
a part of the program.
Glacier National Park inaugurated a nature guide service in 1922 with
the aid of the Montana State University. Here, also, emphasis was placed
on a lecture program. The same year saw a beginning made in Mount
Rainier and Sequoia National Parks.
The results of nature guiding are far-reaching. Apparently the contact
made with the student is oftentimes lasting and, occasionally, even influences
very definitely the future program of certain individuals. In 1921 a man
became interested in the field trips offered by the Yosemite Nature Guide
Service. He became particularly interested in wild flowers. Returning in
the summer of 1922, he reported that although he has usually considered
botanizing a suitable hobby for eccentric women, yet he had found there
was really something in it and that he had chosen it as his own hobby.
During the winter season he collected 367 different species of plants, prop
erly mounted the specimens and labeled them. Returning in the summer
of 1922, he asked for some sort of work that might aid him in his studies,
and he was appointed to help out with the flower shows. This man has
6 NATURE GUIDING
continued his interest, and just the other day he wrote, reporting that an
additional 200 specimens secured in another part of the state had been
added to his collection, and another correspondent describes his herbarium
as the finest she had seen.
The writer was returning to Berkeley from San Diego when, on passing
through a small town and having stopped his machine at the curb, a lady
approached and said : "You do not know who I am, but I was out with
you on nature-guide field excursions in Yosemite last summer. With the
start these trips gave, I have become intensely interested in the study of
birds. I live at Laguna, where many shore birds are to be seen during
the migration period. Can you tell me what bird answers to this descrip
tion?" She followed with a careful description of the western willet so
that there was no difficulty in solving the problem for her. To be able
thus to stimulate students sufficiently so that they continue their studies
of living forms after leaving the Valley is perhaps the most worth-while
thing that can be accomplished by a nature guide service.
In the summer of 1922, a professor from an eastern institution came to
seek rest and renewed strength in the Valley. His doctor had ordered
him to do no studying on his own subject, which happened to be psychology.
This professor immediately changed his viewpoint and began an active
study of the flora and fauna of Yosemite National Park. He carried his
botany with him everywhere he went and became so interested in the aid
secured through the nature-guide program that he attended field trips and
lectures regularly, and later even aided the guides when large attendance
made an additional instructor necessary.
A school superintendent took the writer to visit the room of a grammar-
grade teacher. A table contained a fine display of wild flowers. Pictures
and specimens of birds were in evidence. The superintendent introduced
her as one doing the best nature-study work in the city. The teacher replied
that her inspiration had come largely from a nature-study course offered
by the Yosemite Nature Guide Service.
There is abundant evidence to show that thousands have been awak
ened to the pleasure to be found in nature study and, with the proper
inspiration gained, have gone afield with eyes and ears open to see and to
hear more completely themselves and to pass on enthusiasm to others. It
is also plain to see that thousands, having seen "game hog" pictures and
had pointed out to them the necessity for conserving the natural resources,
have more actively espoused the cause of conservation.
As E. H. Forbush has pointed out, the benefits of study in the field
are two-fold, for: "The outdoor use of eye, ear, and limb, necessitated by
field work, tends to fit both the body and the mind of the student for the
practical work of life, for it develops both members and faculties."
NATURE GUIDING 7
Particularly in a democracy is it necessary to have the public kept in
touch with the findings of science. "There is no more dreadful sight than
ignorance in action." The more scientists make known the products of
research to the citizenry, the greater the progress toward a triumphant
Biologists are beginning to fear the time when there will be no plant
or animal life in its natural environment. The wilderness is fast dis
appearing and unmodified associations of plant and animal life becoming
rare. The recent completion of a naturalists' guide has shown the pre
ponderance of modified areas, with their introduced species, over the natural
conditions. To be able to point out the danger of present tendencies "on
the ground" and win support for a policy demanding that national parks
shall be areas where native plants and animals are maintained in their natu
ral state should mean much to this worthy movement for the preservation
of natural areas.
The scientist who attempts popularization of his subject usually loses
caste among his fellows. Work of this character is despised and considered
trivial "in comparison with the stereotyped biology which can be learned
from textbooks." At present the whole system of biological training dis
courages that "taste for field natural history and collecting, spontaneous
in so many young people." The passing of the old-time naturalist is being
felt with the setting in of a reaction which is evident in oft-expressed ap
prehensions in recent scientific literature. The success of this governmental
project in popularizing natural history is a demonstration of the value of
field study and should do much to alter this wrong point of view.
That nature guiding should first become popular in the national parks
is obvious. National parks furnish something more than recreation, whether
it be the recreation sought by those who, arrayed in white flannels or silk
shirts, spend their vacation in an inanity of leisure, or those who, dressed
in khaki, aspire to climb the highest peaks. On every side one meets living
things which stimulate his curiosity and interest.
As Dr. J. Grinnell (1919) has so tersely put it: "The animal life of
our national parks is one of their best recreative assets. The cliffs, the
lakes, the waterfalls, and the forests each and together tend to stimulate
the senses and the mind to pleasurable excitement; and the efforts to secure
these pleasures in full measure bring vigorous bodily exercise. But the
animals, provided interest in them is once aroused, undoubtedly constitute
a more subtle and even more alluring objective, one that brings into play
at keenest pitch those more or less latent senses and instincts which were
of vital importance in the earlier stages of human history, for, among
mammals, large and small, and among birds and insects, one encounters
the moving elusive objective, the one characterized by mannerism, by chang-
ing form, color tone and pattern, and by sound of great variety. Moreover,
the animal life, and the plant life too, presents innumerable problems of
interrelations, of interdependencies and of a struggle for mastery, the con
templation of any one of which will provide unlimited stimulus for intel
lectual activity and enjoyment."
Who will not agree that: "Let the interest be keen, new facts will open
up ; new trees will grow ; new birds will fly ; new fish will swim ; and then
will our galleries be filled with new and glorious pictures of things worth
seeing." And certain it is that when one has learned to "read the trailside
as one reads a book," under instruction from a nature guide, his gallery
will soon be filled with such pictures.
SECRETS OF NATURE
"Knowledge never learned of schools,
Of the wild bee's morning chase,
Of the wild flower's time and place,
Flight of fowl and habitude
Of the tenants of the wood;
How the tortoise bears his shell,
How the woodchuck digs his cell,
And the ground mole sinks his well;
How the robin feeds her young,
How the oriole's nest is hung."
A School for Nature Guides
A national park should furnish both recreation and education. In every
park there is more to be seen and appreciated than the particular phenomena
for the preservation of which the park was created. In Europe the main
concept of a national park is that of a place where fauna and flora are left
undisturbed and where the student of nature may go to study them. In
America this viewpoint is overlooked. Most visitors pass by the most
interesting forms of life, neither seeing nor hearing them, perhaps, largely
because they have not been led to appreciate their opportunities in this regard.
That Yosemite National Park might contribute more to the vacationist
by means of an organized educational program emphasizing natural history
opportunities, the Nature Guide Service was organized. In the work stress
has been placed upon first-hand information from the living thing itself
rather than upon printed or spoken words, although these also play a part.
The opportunity of becoming intimately acquainted with birds, trees, flowers,
insects, and other life is now afforded every visitor. The response of the
public has been gratifying. Whereas two nature guides instructed a few
hundred the first year (1920), it will take eight guides to care for the
thousands who will seek instruction this coming summer.
Yosemite visitors may expect the same program of lectures and field
trips as in former years with added facilities due to the completion of the
new Yosemite museum. The main innovation will be a School of Field
Natural History for the training of teachers of nature study and of nature
guides. Training in intensive field study such as will be undertaken is not
afforded elsewhere in the West. This school appears to be a particularly
fitting outgrowth of the Nature Guide Service.
Teachers of nature study and of biology are seeking a training that
will make them more familiar with conspicuous plants and animals. Lead
ers of Boy Scouts and Camp Fire Girls are seeking to fit themselves to
interpret nature. Every summer vacationist wants to be able to identify
interesting forms of life encountered. Training along these lines is not
to be held in the West. The time and conditions seem opportune for
the establishment of a school of field natural history. The outstanding
growth of the Nature Guide Service in the national parks and the growing
demand for trained leadership in nature studies for summer camps and
summer resorts is creating a new profession that of nature guiding.
Biology as taught in the average high school and college does not em
phasize field study and as a consequence there are few persons who are
able to recognize, name and properly study the living things along a trail-
side. Many, feeling themselves handicapped in this regard, are seeking
io NATURE GUIDING
for instruction that brings a first-hand acquaintance with the living thing
in its native environment. A fine new museum building and increased
nature guide staff now offer proper facilities, and an auspicious beginning
is assured for a School of Field Natural History in Yosemite National
Park. In reality, it is a natural outgrowth of the now well-established
Nature Guide Service.
The number of students in the 1925 session will be limited to twenty.
Students will be accepted on the basis of date and written application
after fulfilling educational requirements, two years of college work or the
equivalent being considered a minimum prerequisite.
Course of Study
1. Physical geography and geology of the Sierra Nevada.
2. Classification and nomenclature (animal and plant).
3. Plant and animal distribution. Life zones.
4. Botany (a) Common trees and shrubs, (b) Powers, (c) Algae
5. Zoology (a) Invertebrates insects; mollusks. (b) Common ver
tebrates (i) Fishes, (2) amphibians, (3) reptiles, (4) birds, (5) mammals.
1. Field trips for study of fauna and flora of the valley floor at 8
a. m. daily.
2. All-day field trips every Saturday to the rim of the valley.
3. Special collecting trips for rarer forms.
4. A week's trip to the high lake and meadow country, affording studies
at timber line.
Emphasis is to be placed on intensive field work, and each student will
be expected to know and identify all the common Yosemite trees, shrubs,
wild flowers, insects, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Grad
ing will be apportioned as follows:
Field identification, 60 per cent ; teaching ability, 20 per cent ; notebooks,
io per cent; preparation of scientific specimens, 5 per cent; familiarity
with literature, 5 per cent.
The work will be of university grade. However, for the present, no
university credit is offered, but a certificate showing that the work was
satisfactorily completed will be issued.
It is hoped students will, on account of sociability, prefer to camp in
a reserved section for students of the school. A tent for two with house
keeping equipment costs about $7 per week. Groceries and meat are to
be had at practically city prices. Hotel or American plan camp accom
modations are near at hand for those who do not care to camp. Free camp
grounds are available to those who have their own equipment. If you
N A T U R E G U I D I N G 1 1
plan to camp in the reserved section, you should bring your own bedding.
Send it by parcel post.
Outing clothes are in order at all times and places.
The teaching staff includes:
Harold C. Bryant, B.S., M.S., Ph.D., Economic Ornithologist, Museum
of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, and in charge of educa
tion, publicity and research, California Fish and Game Commission.
Ansel F. Hall, B.S. chief park naturalist, National Park Service.
Carl P. Russell, A.B., M.A., park naturalist, Yosemite National Park.
M. B. Nichols, Ph.D., instructor biology, Oakland Technical High
School, nature guide.
Mrs. Enid Michael, park botanist and nature guide.
Roland Ross, naturalist, nature guide.
Robert Harwood, A.B., teacher of biology, Bakersfield Union High
School, nature guide.
Leo Wilson, M.S., University of California, nature guide.
Regular instruction, June 29 to August 8; high mountain field trip,
August 9 to August 14.
The school being a contribution of the National Park Service with
the aid of the California Fish and Game Commission, no tuition or fees
will be charged. Expense is thus limited to sundry materials, such as
notebooks and collecting apparatus and transportation, food, housing and
The plan is to make the work supplement the lower division university-
courses in botany and zoology with the opportunity for field work bringing
first-hand acquaintance with various living forms. Emphasis will be placed
on the very knowledge, the lack of which many feel so keenly. Oppor
tunity for practice in teaching, leading parties afield, in presentation of
nature lore at the campfire and in writing nature notes will be given every
For further information apply to Park Naturalist, Yosemite National
Park, Yosemite, Calif.
Bibliography of Nature Guiding
ADAMS, CHAS. C.
1923. The relation of wild life to the public in national and state parks. Proc.
Second Nat. Conference of State Parks, 1922, pp. 129-147.
1922. Evolutionary faith and modern doubts. Science, 55, pp. 55-61.
BRYANT, H. C.
1920. Yosemite nature guide service. Report of the Director of the National
Park Service to the Secretary of the Interior for fiscal year ending 1920.
Gov. Printing Office, 423 pp., illus.
1921. Yosemite nature guide service. Ibid. 1921, 306 pp., illus.
1922. Yosemite nature guide service. Ibid. 1922, 173 pp., illus.
1921. Nature play for the kiddies. Outers' Recreation, 64 (Feb., 1921), pp. 122-
124, 153, 9 figs.
1923. California schools and nature study. Nature Study Review, 19, pp. 18-22.
DEMARAY, A. E.
1922. Nature guiding in our national parks. National Municipal Review, 12
(Feb., 1923), pp. 56-58.
DUNN, HARRY H.
1921. Uncle Sam teaches nature study to sixty thousand in West. Dearborn
Independent, Nov. 26, 1921, p. n, illus.
GOETHE, C. M.
1915. Learning to read a roadside. Nature Study Revieia, n, pp. 273-279, 3 fig?.
1919. The animal life of Glacier National Park. Condor, 21, pp. 131-132.
HALL, ANSEL F.
1923. The educational development of Yosemite National Park. Sierra Club.
Bull, n, pp. 411-416, 2 pis.
HlLDEBRAND, JOEL H.
1922. The early training of scientists. Science, 55, pp. 355-358.
HORNADAY, WM. T.
1910. The right way to teach zoology. The Outlook, pp. 256-263.
MILLS, ENDS A.
19193. A day with a nature guide. The Outlook, 122, pp. 244-246, illus.
n/ii)b. The children of my trail school. Saturday Evening Post, Mar. i, 1919,
PP- 49-53. '""
19203. Nature guiding near home. American Boy, Aug., 1920, pp. 15, 25, illus.
i92oh. The adventures of a nature guide. (Doubleday, Page & Co., N. Y.),
XIV, pp. 271, illus.
RITTER, WM. E.
1917. "Back to nature" scientifically as well as emotionally. Amer. Mus. Jour.,
17, pp. 403-406.
SUMNER, FRANCIS B.
1920. The need for a more serious effort to rescue a few fragments of vanishing
nature. Sci. Monthly, Mar., 1920, pp. 236-248.
WHEELER, WM. M.
1923. The dry-rot of our acsdemic biology. Science, 57, pp. 61-71.
For the Nature Lover
The following publications available from th
Association are invaluable to those who seek to know and to love
THE SCHOOL ROOK (>l .IKY
An introduction to our forests, past an
TKEIi IIA11I 1'S IIOU It) I. '
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Through the pages of Nature Maga: beautifully illustrated monthly
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Subscribing Membership in the American Nature A
ciation 'including Nature Magazine; - $3.00 a year
The American Nature Association
1214 i6th St. N.W. W ton, D. C.
available free to mem-
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to non-members are:
Nature Guiding . . $0.25
Nature Study Report. -25
Forest Poetic . Free
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Other bulletins ar, .)cess of
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