The National Park Foundation, the National Park Service (NPS), and the United States Mint recently announced the launch of a limited edition series of coins honoring the 2016 National Park Service Centennial. It’s hoped that the coins – which will be available at participating park locations across the National Park System later this year – will help raise millions of dollars in support of America’s national parks. According to the NPS the commemorative coins honor the National Park Service’s first century of service “protecting, preserving, and sharing some of our nation’s greatest natural, historical, and cultural resources.” One of the coins in the centennial series honors the enormous conservationist contribution made by Teddy Roosevelt – the 26th President of the United States – and that of John Muir, a Scottish-born naturalist who guided the president into the Yosemite Valley wilderness during a visit in 1903 and who went on to found the Sierra Club.
Although this is not the first coin to honor the rough rider and military veteran it’s a fitting tribute to the efforts made by him to preserve enormous swathes of public lands “for the benefit and enjoyment” of the American people and is a perfect complement to existing U.S. memorials to his memory. Probably the best known of these memorials is Luigi Del Bianco’s stunning granite likeness of the President carved into the face of Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and the Roosevelt Arch – the cornerstone of which was laid by the president in 1903 – which greets visitors at the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Gardner, Montana.
The NPS Teddy Roosevelt Centennial Coin
The gold coin obverse (heads side) features the Scottish-born naturalist, writer, and conservationist John Muir alongside President Theodore Roosevelt and features Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome mountain in the background. Half Dome provided the basis for Muir’s theory of glaciation in the Yosemite Valley which was ridiculed at the time but later came to be accepted as geological fact. Inscriptions on the coin are “LIBERTY,” “2016,” and “IN GOD WE TRUST.” United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Don Everhart designed and sculpted the obverse.
Roosevelt was one of America’s most renowned conservationist presidents
The Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir gold coin reverse (tails side) features the National Park Service logo, with the inscriptions “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,” “E PLURIBUS UNUM,” and “$5.” Everhart also designed and sculpted the reverse. After becoming president in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt left a stunning conservation legacy that was much admired, both by his successors in the Oval Office and by the American people. Teddy Roosevelt created the United States Forest Service (USFS) and went on to establish 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments by enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act.
The Devil’s Tower National Monument
The Devil’s Tower National Monument (established in 1906) was the first of 18 national monuments created during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. The 600-foot (180 m) high tower of rock had long been sacred to many Native American tribes (including the Shoshone and Lakota) and visitors to this site can still see the prayer packets and offerings dangling from trees surrounding this remarkable magma-based rock tower. Roosevelt went on to establish the Grand Canyon National Monument (which formed the basis of the National Park that was still to come) and Mount Olympus National Monument (which later became Olympic National Park.)
Theodore Roosevelt: Conserving America’s Future
Teddy Roosevelt and the American Bison
“The primary cause of the buffalo’s extermination, and the one which embraced all others, was the descent of civilization, with all its elements of destructiveness, upon the whole of the country inhabited by that animal. From the Great Slave Lake to the Rio Grande the home of the buffalo was everywhere overrun by the man with a gun; and, as has ever been the case, the wild creatures were gradually swept away.” [William T. Hornady – The Extermination of the American Bison – 1889.] Although Teddy Roosevelt had hunted buffalo and even wrote about these exploits [see “Hunting Buffalo With Teddy Roosevelt”] he later became an advocate for the protection of these mammals and the landscape across which they had once roamed so freely. “It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals — not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people were awakening.” He penned these words in the early 1900’s!