A New Deal for Texas Parks - HTML Exhibit

Chapter 2 - Nature Lovers, Texas Parks and Public Lands.

Introduction

In the early 1900s, Americans began to experience the great outdoors in a new way. They hopped into their cars and traveled down newly-built roads to get back to nature. Camping, hiking and picnicking became popular activities for these nature lovers. The United States established national parks and states everywhere saved their own treasures that people could enjoy. Texas wanted to establish its own parks but faced many political and financial challenges. It was only with FDR’s New Deal that Texas had the opportunity to build a state-wide system of parks.

Mary Bailey and Vivian Vieweger, Girl Scouts, relax in front of tent, 1926
The San Antonio Light Collection, The UT Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio, L-0621-D.
Gift of the Hearst Corporation.
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Enjoying the scenery at Brackenridge Park in
San Antonio, girl scouts relax at their campsite.


Land and Conservation

By the late 1800’s America had grown “from sea to shining sea.” A few people, like naturalist John Muir, worried that as Americans plowed fields, chopped down trees and built cities – they might also destroy valuable resources and spoil the most beautiful places on earth. President Teddy Roosevelt listened to the “conservationists” and started the National Park System to preserve special places for everyone to enjoy. Decades later, President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs helped Texas preserve its own special places.

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir on Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley, California, ca. 1906
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-107389
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President Teddy Roosevelt and naturalist
John Muir take in the spectacular view at
Glacier Point in the Yosemite Valley.
Tourists Horseback riding in Yosemite, ca 1890-1910.
Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library.
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National parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite became wildly popular & tourists from coast-to-coast
came to marvel in the natural wonder. There were so many visitors to these new parks that the government
encouraged states to establish their own parks to accommodate the growing interest in the outdoors.
"A Mountain Ramble" illustration c. 1840-1880
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZC2-2848.
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As early as the 1830s, people had an interest in
the outdoors. Many sought adventures in the
wild, & artists depicted beautiful natural scenes.


Good Roads Lead Back to Nature

Texans, like the rest of America, enjoyed a newfound freedom to travel as the automobile became available and affordable to many. Imagine being able to hop in your car and travel to places in a few hours that used to take days in a wagon. Newly built roads led people to beautiful nature spots where they reconnected with the outdoors. These nature lovers enjoyed picnicking, hiking and camping. Some towns built their own camping sites for visitors, but with many new roads planned for Texas they couldn't keep up with the demand.

Photograph shows J. D. Mitchell (second from right) & others (Thomas W. Fleming on far right) picnicking under canvas shade between two cars parked near the water.
Photo courtesy of the UT Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio, 080-0094. Loaned by the Estate of Roger Fleming.
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Many nature lovers set up camp alongside the road to picnic but sometimes
upset landowners with their messes. "J. D. Mitchell with relatives & friends
on picnic beside Powderhorn Bayou, Calhoun County, Texas"
Photo courtesy of the The San Antonio Light Collection, The UT Institute of
Texan Cultures at San Antonio, L-0618-B. Gift of the Hearst Corporation.
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Outdoor cooking became a popular activity among
campers. Here, Eloise Ohlem cooks a meal at
Brackenridge Park Tourist Camp in San Antonio, 1926.
"Kodak, as you go" Kodak advertisement from 1917.
Photo courtesy of the Advertising Ephemera Collection - Database #K0265, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, & Special Collections Library
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Unlike train travel, traveling by car allowed tourists to interact with the
outdoors rather than simply watching the landscape pass. Tourists now had
the freedom to stop, explore & interact with the nature in a new & intimate way.


"Under the Canvas on the Road" article featured in the American Motorist, February 1926. Courtesy of Library of Congress, TL1 .A47.
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With the rise of the automobile came a new traveling culture. Auto clubs formed and many published magazines and newsletters all about the automobile, traveling and camping.

Map Showing Proposed System of State Highways/1917, #6254, Map collection.
Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library & Archives Commission.
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This 1917 map shows a proposed system
of roads for Texas that will take nature
lovers to the most beautiful places in Texas.


Governor Neff and the Texas State Parks Board

Texas Governor Pat Neff was the first Texas governor to campaign by automobile and knew firsthand about the need for roadside camping in Texas. Unlike other states, Texas had no public land to develop into parks for its people. In 1923, Governor Neff and the Texas Legislature created the Texas State Parks Board. The board was a group of people who volunteered their time to travel around Texas to ask people to donate land for roadside parks. At first, the Legislature did not give the Board the power to buy land or the money to develop donated land. By the time the Great Depression hit, only a few parks were established and strained government spending stopped any further development.

The 1st State Parks Board, 1924. Left to right: David E. Colp, Phoebe Warner, Pat Neff, Mrs. W.C. Martin, Bob Hubbard, Mrs. James Waelder, & Hobert Key.
Photo courtesy of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
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Since women showed they could raise money & awareness
for historic places like the Alamo, both men & women
from all over Texas served on the Texas State Parks Board.
Portrait of Governor Pat Neff.
Photo courtesy of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
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Governor Neff was so invested in establishing state parks for Texas
that he & his family donated over 250 acres of land for park
development. This donation later became Mother Neff State Park.
Message from Governor Neff to Texas Legislature on establishing the park system. May 1, 1923.
Photo courtesy of the Texas State Library & Archives Commission
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In a speech to Texas legislators on May 1, 1923, Governor
Neff expresses the need for a parks committee to build a
system of state parks to preserve Texas' beauty spots.


Download "My Keepsake" guide for Chapter 2media download(PDF 127.7 KB).


Go to Chapter 3 - Building Parks, Building Communities.


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