Yosemite National Park established 1890
On this day in 1890, an act of Congress creates Yosemite National Park, home of such natural wonders as Half Dome and the giant sequoia trees. Environmental trailblazer John Muir (1838-1914) and his colleagues campaigned for the congressional action, which was signed into law by President Benjamin Harrison and paved the way for generations of hikers, campers and nature lovers, along with countless “Don’t Feed the Bears” signs.
Native Americans were the main residents of the Yosemite Valley, located in California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, until the 1849 gold rush brought thousands of non-Indian miners and settlers to the region. Tourists and damage to Yosemite Valley’s ecosystem followed. In 1864, to ward off further commercial exploitation, conservationists convinced President Abraham Lincoln to declare Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias a public trust of California. This marked the first time the U.S. government protected land for public enjoyment and it laid the foundation for the establishment of the national and state park systems. Yellowstone became America’s first national park in 1872.
In 1889, John Muir discovered that the vast meadows surrounding Yosemite Valley, which lacked government protection, were being overrun and destroyed by domestic sheep grazing. Muir and Robert Underwood Johnson, a fellow environmentalist and influential magazine editor, lobbied for national park status for the large wilderness area around Yosemite Valley. On October 1 of the following year, Congress set aside over 1,500 square miles of land (about the size of Rhode Island) for what would become Yosemite National Park, America’s third national park. In 1906, the state-controlled Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove came under federal jurisdiction with the rest of the park.
Yosemite’s natural beauty is immortalized in the black-and-white landscape photographs of Ansel Adams (1902-1984), who at one point lived in the park and spent years photographing it. Today, over 3 million people get back to nature annually at Yosemite and check out such stunning landmarks as the 2,425-foot-high Yosemite Falls, one of the world’s tallest waterfalls; rock formations Half Dome and El Capitan, the largest granite monolith in the U.S.; and the three groves of giant sequoias, the world’s biggest trees.
(More Events on This Day in History)
- 1776 Patriots learn of increased French support
- 1908 Ford Motor Company unveils the Model T
- 1864 Rose Greenhow dies
- 1949 Mao Zedong proclaims People’s Republic of China
- 1988 Mikhail Gorbachev becomes head of Supreme Soviet
- 1993 A 12-year-old girl is kidnapped
- 1987 Earthquake rocks Southern California
- 1918 Lawrence of Arabia captures Damascus
- 1936 Franco heads Spain
- 1946 Nazi war criminals sentenced at Nuremberg
- 1965 Suharto crushes Indonesian coup
- 2005 Terrorists strike again in Bali
- 1962 Johnny Carson makes debut as Tonight Show host
- 1856 First installment of Madame Bovary is published
- 2013 Tom Clancy, author of mega-selling techno thrillers, dies
- 1920 Scientific American reports that radio will soon be used to transmit music to the home
- 1890 Congress creates Yosemite National Park
- 1924 Jimmy Carter is born
- 1961 Roger Maris breaks home-run record
- 1961 South Vietnam requests a bilateral defense treaty
World War I
- 1918 Crisis in Germany
World War II
- 1944 Experiments begin on homosexuals at Buchenwald