Sunday, July 31, 2011

Stephen T. Mather

Congratulations to our Anonymous guesser who correctly identified yesterday's Person-of-Mystery as Stephen T. Mather.

Mather is probably best remembered as the first Director of the National Park Service (NPS).  Born in San Francisco, and educated at UC Berkeley, after college Mather worked for a short time as a reporter for the New York Sun.  Taking his journalistic talent to his father's business, he started working in the marketing and promotion of borax at the company's distribution facility in Chicago.  In this role, he is responsible for creating the "Twenty Mule Team Borax" slogan that made borax a household name.

Mather made a fortune in the borax industry, but suffered from bipolar disorder.  To help relieve his bipolar tendencies, he traveled and enjoyed nature.  Eventually, he became more interested in outdoor conservation and with his friend and fellow reporter from the New York Sun, Robert Sterling Yard, they brought to light the deplorable nature of the National Parks at the time and championed the need for an independent federal agency to oversee the parks.  Stephen was appointed Director of the new agency and did a masterful job of balancing improvements and conservation.  At the end of his tenure in 1929, the NPS included 20 parks and 32 monuments.

As you saw yesterday, Mather was also very interested in history and early in his career purchased the home his great-grandfather, Deacon Joseph Mather built in Darien, Connecticut.  In the photo from yesterday, he was reenacting the role of his great-grandfather for a Darien celebration.

After Mather died in 1930, his family and friends had identical bronze plaques in his honor installed at each of the National Parks.

(Stephen Mather Plaque at Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park)

See if you can find one at a park the next time you visit one.


Judi said...

Very interesting. Thanks for the lesson. It seems I've heard of a 'Mather Point"....maybe at the Grand Canyon?

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