Happy Birthday, Yosemite! It was on 128 years ago today that the California Valley was designated a national park, a development spurred in large part thanks to Carleton Watkins’ incredible snapshots of the park, like the circa 1865 images above and below.* He was kind of like the John James Audubon of landscape.
Reprinted from coast to coast, Watkins’ exposed increasingly industrialized, urbanized Americans to nature’s bounty, convincing them and political leaders alike that our land deserves protection from ravenous, capitalistic development. If only contemporary politicians saw things the same way.
You can read all about Watkins’ impact on saving Yosemite in Tyler Green’s upcoming book, Watkins: Making the American West.
(*This development also helped precipitate the collapse of the racist, socialist Kaweah Colony.)