Olmsted and Muir Readings

Click here for Frederick Law Olmsted, Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove, A Preliminary Report

“Written in 1865 by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted when he served briefly as one of the first Commissioners appointed to manage the grant of the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree Grove from Congress to the State of California as a park, this Report offers one of the first systematic expositions in the history of the Western world of the importance of contact with wilderness for human well-being, the effect of beautiful scenery on human perception, and the moral responsibility of democratic governments to preserve regions of extraordinary natural beauty for the benefit of the whole people. The Report also includes characteristically thoughtful suggestions for managing the Park for human access with minimal harm to the natural environment. Olmsted read the Report to his fellow Commissioners at a meeting in the Yosemite Valley on August 9, 1865; ultimately intended for presentation to the state legislature, it met with indifference or hostility from other members of the Commission, and was quietly suppressed. Olmsted himself left California for good at the end of 1865; he had arrived there just a little more than two years before to assume responsibilities as Superintendent for the Mariposa Mining Estate. Only in the twentieth century has his Preliminary Report come to be widely recognized as one of the most profound and original philosophical statements to emerge from the American conservation movement.”

From “The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920,”                      American Memory, Library of Congress

Click here for John Muir, Our National Parks, “Chapter 1: The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West”

“A key founder of the modern conservation movement, John Muir was a champion of the preservation of the unspoiled wilderness and of the careful guardianship of the environment. This 1901 work, a collection of essays first published in the Atlantic Monthly, is Muir’s valentine to the national parks of the American West. He introduces us to: the glacier meadows and wild geysers of Yellowstone, the “magnificent mirror for the woods and mountains and sky” that is Yellowstone Lake, the coniferous forests of the Sierra Nevada, including the beautiful giant sequoia, the grizzly bears of the mountain ranges, and much more. Scottish-American naturalist, explorer, and writer John Muir (1838-1914) helped found the Sierra Club in 1892, and served as its first president.”

From the introduction to John Muir, Our National Parks (2006 Cosimo edition)

Come to class on Monday night prepared to discuss these readings.  Consider the following:



– What is Olmsted’s overall purpose in writing his report?

-What are some of his suggestions for managing a park?

-What did you find most interesting about this report?

-Was there anything that was unclear to you?



-What is Muir’s overall purpose in writing this book and chapter?

-How is his writing different from Olmsted’s?  (Consider both content and style.)



One thought on “Olmsted and Muir Readings

  1. Frederick Law Olmsted shares the same ancestor as hero, Alan Burton Hall! The children possibly calling him “Uncle” Alan Burton Hall.

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