Facial Hair Friday: John Muir

Today’s a twofer—it’s hashtag party #ArchivesOutdoors and Facial Hair Friday! Today’s post comes from Michael Steffen from the National Archives History Office.

John Muir, ca. 1900. (Image Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Summer is a great opportunity for families to get together and spend time outdoors. From visiting a National Park to hiking on a trail to sitting outside on a sunny day, people love basking in the wonders of nature.

To celebrate this time of year, the National Archives commemorates an influential—and big-bearded — leader of the conservation movement: John Muir. 

Born in Dunbar, Scotland, in 1838, Muir was known for his advocacy of the preservation of wilderness in the United States. As a young boy, he was fascinated by geology. Muir arrived in California in 1868 and made it his life’s mission to preserve nature so that all people could experience its beauty. 

On May 28, 1892, Muir founded and was elected president of the Sierra Club. The club intended to, “explore, enjoy, and render accessible the mountain regions of the Pacific Coast.” Oftentimes the group worked towards this goal by appealing to Congress to pass legislation that would protect the environment. The Sierra Club’s first conservation campaign was a letter to the chairman of the Committee on Agriculture protesting a bill to reduce the size of Yosemite Park. 

Map accompanying the petition of John Muir and other founders of Sierra Club protesting a bill to reduce the size of Yosemite National Park, 1/2/1893. (National Archives Identifier 306674)

Along with political activism, the Club worked to make nature more accessible to people, leading expeditions into the wilderness and guiding families as they walked through nature. These nature hikes continue today, and are a staple of the Sierra Club. 

Sierra Club nature hike, 5/1972. (National Archives Identifier 543234)

As a high-profile leader in the conservation movement, Muir met with other influential leaders to impress upon them the importance of preserving nature. The most well-known leader Muir met with was President Theodore Roosevelt.

Muir’s 1903 writings on the Sierra Nevada sparked President Roosevelt’s interest, and he accompanied Muir on a three-day excursion in Yosemite. During this expedition, referred to as “The Camping Trip That Changed America,” Muir seized the opportunity to show the President about the necessary preservation of wild spaces. Roosevelt adopted  Muir’s ideologies into his own policies and created 18 national monuments, 55 national bird sanctuaries and wildlife refuges, and 150 national forests over the course of his Presidency. 

John Muir (fourth from right) and President Teddy Roosevelt (center) with park officials during a visit to Yosemite in 1905. (National Archives Identifier 2132678)

Today, Muir is remembered as the “Father of the National Parks.” He was one of the inaugural inductees into the California Hall of Fame and is the face of the California state quarter. He also has his own national historic site in Martinez, California, where visitors walk the same trails that inspired his love of the outdoors.

Read more about John Muir and the National Parks in “One Hundred Years of the National Park Service.

2 thoughts on “Facial Hair Friday: John Muir

  1. Also Muir’s three-night camping trip with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 could be considered the most significant camping trip in conservation history.

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