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[Detail] The Grand Canyon. Clarence E. Dutton, 1882.

6) National Parks in the Progressive Era

Between the American Civil War and World War I, America became an urban and industrialized country, moving away from its rural origins. So many people moved to the cities so quickly, there was often not adequate resources to house and govern everyone. Factories consumed natural resources, creating pollution as well as products. And a new kind of labor force was created to fuel industrial mass production. In response to these changes, labor and reform movements were organized to combat the ills of this new America.

As people witnessed industry's depletion of natural resources and the destruction of landscapes, a conservation movement developed. For an overview of the development of this movement, students can read the Documentary Chronology of Selected Events in the Development of the American Conservation Movement, 1847-1920 in the collection The Evolution of the Conservation Movement. They will learn that the first National Park, Yellowstone, was created during the Progressive Era in 1872. Students can use the Geographic Location map to browse maps of Yellowstone and consider the role of this national park during this era of urban and industrial growth. What did Yellowstone offer people exhausted by city life? How might they have traveled to Yellowstone at the turn of the century?

In this era leisure time became popular. People looked to leave the cities and enjoy the "country." Many set off in the increasingly-affordable cars to vacation in what would become parklands. Students can find evidence of this development by searching the collection on tourist and recreation and National Park Service to see examples of the maps provided hikers and vacationers. This search will retrieve modern maps of the parks created by the National Park Service that highlight tourist resources such as information centers, hiking trails, and roads.

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