Ken Burns Classroom

Horace Albright

Ken Burns Film: The National Parks

Collections: Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)

Subject: US History

Grade Level: 6-12

Horace Albright
Official park regulations discouraged tourists from feeding bears, but even Horace Albright (Yellowstone’s superintendent before becoming director of the National Park Service) realized what a popular attraction they were. Eventually, at the prodding of biologists who thought parks should preserve wildlife in their natural state, the bears were weaned from tourist handouts and nightly feedings at garbage dumps. Source: Marian Albright Schenk.

1890–1987

Stephen Mather was the first director of the National Park Service. He used his wealth and political connections to take the national park idea in important new directions.

Horace Albright served as the first assistant director of the National Park Service under Stephen Mather. A Berkeley graduate, he had arrived in Washington so poor he wore a borrowed suit and took a room at the local YMCA. Like his boss, Albright had become enthusiastic about national parks because of a personal encounter with John Muir. But he was already planning to return home to California to practice law when Mather arrived in Washington; his new boss persuaded him to stay on.

Albright, as much as his boss and mentor Stephen Mather, was responsible for molding the national parks into a unified system after the creation of the National Park Service in 1916.

Albright filled in as acting director while Mather was ill during the early years of the NPS. He also served as superintendent of Yellowstone National Park from 1919 to 1929, before officially taking over as the second director of the National Park Service from 1929 to 1933.

Albright, as much as his boss and mentor Stephen Mather, was responsible for molding the national parks into a unified system after the creation of the National Park Service in 1916. Many policies initiated by Albright, such as historic preservation, are still being practiced in the parks.

He was personally involved in the creation of Zion National Park and even more responsible for the creation and then expansion of Grand Teton National Park.

After leaving the Park Service, Albright served as president of the United States Potash Company.

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