James A. Garfield National Historic Site | Underground RR Freedom Network
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area | Circle X Ranch
California National Historic Trail | Echo Information Center, UT
Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail | Echo Information Center, UT
Pony Express National Historic Trail | Echo Information Center, UT
Highlighting this month’s stamps are a set of five new stamps for the U.S. Civil Rights Trail partnership program. The U.S. Civil Rights Trail, which was just launched in 2017, actually has nothing to do with the National Historic Trails that so frequently feature in these regular passport cancellation update blog posts. A National Historic Trail can only be designated by Congress, and must reflect a route whose significance arises from actually being used in history. The U.S. Civil Rights Trail, however, is instead a branding mechanism to encourage both Americans and international tourists to explore the historic legacy of the 20th Century struggle for African-American civil rights in this country.
This program actually originated in an effort by the Obama Administration to identify additional American sites for recognition as World Heritage Sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO.) Despite the vast natural, historic, and cultural heritage of the United States, this country currently only has 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. That total is tied for just 10th most in the world with Iran, and behind such countries as Italy (#1 with 54 sites), Spain (47 sites), and Mexico (34 sites.) The idea of the US Civil Rights Trail is to connect together all of the significant sites associated with the civil rights movement, that might ultimately become suitable for nomination to be recognized as a World Heritage Site. UNESCO encourages such “serial nominations” that include multiple related and thematically connected locations together as a single “site,” so the concept of the US Civil Rights Trail could well boost the United States’ chances of being so recognized.
Currently, the US Civil Rights Trail actually includes nearly 100 different places in 14 primary destination cities, as well as in dozens of secondary destination cities. Some of the 14 primary destination cities need little introduction to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the history of the civil rights movement, including Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, and Washington. Others included in the 14 primary destination cities may be less familiar. Farmville, Virginia was the site of a school desegregation case that was ultimately rolled into the more famous Brown v. Board of Education case from Topeka, Kansas. Sumner, Mississippi is part of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and was the site of the infamous murder of Emmitt Till (January 2017 Parkasaurus). Greensboro, North Carolina was the site of the first sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter.
This month’s batch of new cancellations for the US Civil Rights Trail covers the fully-operational National Park Service sites in the National Park Service’s Southeast Region. The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, Georgia preserves both the home where the famed civil rights activist grew up and the Church where he first began to preach, and also has a fantastic visitor center. In an innovative approach, the visitor center includes a number of kiosks where you can actually hear the words of Martin Luther King from records of his speeches, and you can wander in and out of them as you browse the exhibits.
Eventually, National Park Service sites that are included in the US Civil Rights Trail, but are located outside the Southeast Region may eventually also request cancellations for the US Civil Rights Trail. As of this writing, that list would include:
Brown v Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas;
Gateway Arch National Park in St. Louis, Missouri (site of the courthouse where the original trial that became the landmark Supreme Court case Dred Scott v Sanford was argued);
the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC (site of Marian Anderson’s famous concert after she was denied access to Constitution Hall, and of course, of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (Parkasaurus | March 2015);
Among the other stamps this month is a new cancellation for the Alaska Public Lands Information Center in Anchorage, Alaska which provides information on all sorts of public lands in south-central Alaska. This location had already been a cancellation location for the Iditarod National Historic Trail and for Lake Clark National Park & Preserve. Now it gets a cancellation of its own.
The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area was established in 1978 in suburban Los Angeles as part of the movement to establish urban National Recreation Areas. Like many newer national parks, this area is largely run in partnerships with the state of California, local governments, universities, and private land holders. In fact, the National Park Service actually only controls just a bit more than 23,000 of this park’s nearly 157,000 acres, which is just 15% of the total land. The Circle X Ranch is among those federally-managed parcels of land. The Ranch was formerly a Boy Scout Camp, but now serves as the only National Park Service-managed campground within the park.
The Echo Canyon Information Center is a highway rest area accessible from westbound Interstate 80 in eastern Utah. It formerly had stamps for the California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express National Historic Trails from 2011 until the center temporarily closed in 2016. Now that the center has reopened, it has a new set of Passport cancellations.
Finally, there are are six stamps that have been removed from the list this month.
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail | El Camino Real Int’l Heritage Ctr, NM
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail | Junaluska Memorial & Museum, NC
California National Historic Trail | Salt Lake City, UT
Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail | Salt Lake City, UT
Oregon National Historic Trail | Salt Lake City, UT
Pony Express National Historic Trail | Salt Lake City, UT
The El Camino Real Heritage Center in central New Mexico and the Intermountain Region Trails Office are both temporarily closed for rennovations. The Memorial and Museum to Cherokee Chief Junaluska, who fought with Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, in Robbinsville, North Carolina was damaged several years ago during severe storms and has been closed indefinitely.
Writing about the World War II Memorial has gotten me to thinking about what makes a national memorial a national park. According to the National Park Service, there are 30 national memorials in the U.S. National Park System. However, as with so many things in counting national parks it isn’t quite as simple as that. Under Federal Law, only Congress has the exclusive right to designate a national memorial. This means that there is no provision like an Antiquities Act for designating national memorials the way that there is for the President to designate national monuments. Moreover, similar to national monuments, not all national memorials have been assiged to the National Park Service for inclusion in the U.S. National Park System – in fact with there being 64 national memorials that I have been able to identify, the National Park Service is only directly responsible for around half of them.
NPS National Memorials in Washington, DC
Let’s take a closer look at national memorials by starting with the 12 national memorials listed by the National Park Service that are in or around the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.:
There are also two more memorials in the above category that are planned for future construction. The Eisenhower Memorial(*) has recently received final design approval, and is hoping to complete construction in the next few years. The Adams Memorial(*), a tribute to the remarkable family that produced the second and sixth Presidents of the United States, is still in the design and fundraising stages.
So overall, this first set of memorials are dedicated either to “great Americans” – primarily former Presidents of the United States, or else to those who served, and in many cases, gave their lives, in one of the major wars of the 20th Century.
However, there is still the small matter of those asterisks above. What becomes a little tricky here is that five of these twelve memorials (as well as the two under development) have actually not been specifically designated as national memorials by Congress – as national memorial is a rather specific legal honor and title that can only be conferred by Congress. However, each of those memorials is of a sufficent size and distinction that the National Park Service has determined that each of them should count separately as individual national parks in the National Park System. As such, in listing all of the different units in the National Park System, the National Park Service goes ahead and lists all of the above as national memorials.
Given that recognition, its hard to be pedantic about the the specific legal distinctions. Take for example, the case of the World War II Memorial. The fundraising drivde by the American Battle Monuments Commission to build this memorial was explicitly called the National World War II Memorial Cammpaign. The non-profit partners of the memorial calls themselves “Friends of the National World War II Memorial.” Regardless of the technical legal status, almost all Americans, including, I would imagine, almost all Members of Congress, consider it to be the National World War II Memorial. So in the interests of simplicity and clarity, I’m going to conside each of the above memorials to also be a national memorial, if for no other reason than by popular acclamation and by the de facto designation as such by the National Park Service.
So those twelve constitue the first entries on the list of national memorials. Let’s look at a few more:
In addition to these twelve, seven other national memorials in the greater Washington, DC area are included as part of other, larger units of the U.S. National Park System:
the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial is also part of Pennsylvania Avenue National Historic Site in downtown Washington, DC – but it is one of only two of these sseven sites without its own Passport stamp;
This second group is a bit more of a mixed bag than the first group. The Memorial to the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence is straight-forward enough, and in keeping with the theme from the first group of honoring the “Founding Fathers” of the Nation. The Nation’s desire to honor the Preisdent who saved the Union is evident by there being two designations relating to Abraham Lincoln, in addition, of course, to the Lincoln Memorial itself in the first group. Four others are dedicated to specific groups of people who served, or more accurately, to specific types of service. The mixed-nature of this list is perhaps most-highlighted by the absence of the Air Force Memorial from this list, which has apparently not been formally designated a national memorial, and resides on Department of Defense land at the Pentagon, and so is outside the National Park System as well. With neither official recognition by Congress as a national memorial, nor listing by the National Park Service as a national memorial, there just was no way to include it on the list. Even though, with all due respect to the service of the many U.S. Navy Seabees over the years, it seems inconsistent to have the Seabees Memorial on this list, but not the Air Force Memorial.
Indeed, there are many other memorials in the National Park System which are also not on that list, and in some cases, it almost seems to be simply a paperwork oversight that they have not been designated as national memorials, while many similar memorials have been. For more on them, check out Sidebar#1.
NPS National Memorials Outside Washington
Outside of Washington, DC, however, the National Park System includes 18 other national memorials that are also individual national parks. All of these were designated by Congress as a national memorial in their very name, however, so their inclusion on the list is straightforward. The 18 are:
Port Chicago National Memorial – marks the site of a tragic explosion on the American Home Front in the East Bay of San Francisco during the Second World War, in which the victims were largely African-Americans;
Once again, this set of national memorials also appears to be quite the mixed bag, although some themes definitely emerge. Many of the sites are associated with the earliest days of America’s exploration and settlement – although San Diego’s Cabrillo National Monumentis notably absent from this list as it is a national monument rather than a national memorial. Several of the others, such as Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Lincoln Boyhood are on the list because they primarily rely upon reconstructions, rather than actually-preserved historic resources – or in the case of Hamilton Grange, have been moved from their original location. Three others are the site of major tragedies, with significant loss of life. Others, like Mount Rushmore, are truly memorials in the traditional sense.
For some more related facts to national memorials that count as national parks, you can again check out Sidebar #2.
There are also three other memorials that are part of larger national parks outside of the Washington, DC area:
White Cross World War I Memorial is a white cross that was erected in 1934 in California’s Mojave Desert, and is now located on private land within Mojave National Preserve in order to settle an “establishment of religion” claim against the memorial;
U.S.S. Oklahoma Memorial is also in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and is also part of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. (Note: the U.S.S. Utah Memorial is also located in Pearl Harbor, but it does not appear to have been designated a national memorial by Congress. ) The U.S.S. Missouri Memorial, which is the ship that hosted the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, is also located in Pearl Harbor. Although it is not part of the National Monument, it too has its own Passport stamp.
At the risk of getting too far into the weeds, the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial was previously a stand-alone unit of the National Park System. As such, the National Park Service listed it as a national memorial, for the reasons I described above for the WorldWar II Memorial and others. In 2008, however, President George W. Bush designated it as part of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, and so the National Park Service now lists it as a national monument, rather than a national memorial. However, since there was clearly no intention to de-designate the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial as a national memorial, I’m going to continue to include it on this list. You can read about four other national parks that arguably could be included on this list, despite not having the word “memorial” in their name in Sidebar #3.
The Rest of the National Memorials
In addition to all of the above, four other national memorials are officially considered to be Affiliated Areas of the National Park System, along with two others that have unofficially had that status. Status as an Affiliated Area makes the site eligible for additional technical assistance on preservation from National Park Service staff, as well as for inclusion in the Passport to Your National Parks program:
In addition, the (5) AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco California and the (6) David Berger Memorial (an American-Israeli dual-citizen who was killed as a member of the Israeli Olympic Team at the 1972 Munich Olympics) in suburban Cleveland, Ohio both have been incorrectly listed as Affiliated Areas by some sources in the past. As such, both have previously been part of the Passport Program, but no longer receive official Passport stamps from Eastern National. In any event, both appear to continue to benefit from National Park Service technical assistance from Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Cuyahoga Valley National Park, respectively.
Finally, the following 18 national memorials have no connection with the U.S. National Park System, but round out the complete list of national memorials:
National Civil Defense Monument – also located in Emmitsburg, Maryland;
U.S.S. Indianapolis Memorial – located in its namesake city and commemorates the last ship in the U.S. Navy to sink during the Second World War;
World War Memorial in Guam – marks the site where Japanese sodliers raped and massacared Guamanian civilians at the Fana Caves during the closing days of World War II.
There is a distinctly military theme, not surprisingly, to many of the memorials on this list. It is amazing, however, to think that Riverside, California, of all places, is tied with New York City for the most national memorials of any place in the country outside of Washington, DC. It is also interesting to note the three memorials on the above list that are dedicated to American civilians outside of public service. Albert Einstein is such a towering figure in the history of science, that a national memorial to him is completely unsurprising. The Bosque Redondo Memorial is in keeping with the list of National Park System national memorials that commemorate tragedies in our Nation’s history – although it is worth noting that this event gets a national memorial, whereas the removal of the Cherokee from the eastern United States gets the Trail of Tears of National Historic Trail commemorating the full route. Finally, the most unusual entry on this list is Robert L. Kohnstamm, whom I’m not sure many readers of this past will have previously been familiar with. For example, he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry! He apparently played a role in preserving the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood and in opening Mt. Hood to recreational skiing. A full article about him can be read here.
So, after this exhaustive summary of national memorials here is a summary of the results:
12 national memorials recognized by the National Park Service as stand-alone national parks in Washington, DC;
7 other national memorials in Washington, DC that are managed by the National Park Service;
18 other national memorials that are also stand-alone national parks, outside of Washington, DC;
3 other national memorials located inside the boundaries of national parks outside of Washington, DC;
6 national memorials that are either formally or informally affiliated with the National Park System;
18 national memorials that are located outside the National Park System entirely.
That makes a total of 64 national memorials!
Out of these 64, 26 of them are dedicated to wars, military victories, military service, or public service (I’m including the Astronauts Memorial and Civil Defense Memorial here.)
19 more national memorials are dedicated to U.S. Presidents (incluing four to Abraham Lincoln alone), other U.S. Founding Fathers (I’m including Federal Hall in this group ), or to Robert E. Lee.
Eight more national memorials are dedicated to the exploration and settlement of the United States.
Seven of the national memorials are dedicated to the memory of national tragedies.
Finally, four of the national memorials are dedicated to civilians primarily for civilian accomplishments in the areas of science, conservation, or civil rights.
By no means do any of the above seem to be complete lists. The closest might be the memorials to the Founding Fathers, although if Kosciuszko is on the list of national memorials, then the names of Lafayette, Rochambeau, and von Steuben are conspicuous by their absences. The list of explorers with national memorials, however, seems far too short, and almost random in its selection. While hardly anyone could object to a national memorial to the scientific achievements of Albert Einstein or the Wright Brothers, that area of achievement can only be described as under-recognized. As with many things in the National Park System – there will no doubt be more to come in the future. In the meantime, the list of 64 national memorials provides an interesting starting point for those looking to remember our Nation’s past and history, going even beyond just those sites managed by the National Park Service.
Bonus Fact: Congress has actually passed a resolution calling for the final resting of place of the RMS Titanic to be designated as an international maritime memorial to the men, women, and children who perished aboard her. Of course, the Titanic sank in international waters, so its not at all clear who would have the jurisdiction to carry this out, but it is fun to think about.
I’ve recently come across two absolutely amazing pictures from national parks, and both are very well worth checking out:
1) NASA’s long-running Astronomy Picture of the Day blog featured a new picture from Yellowstone National Park on August 27th. This amazing shot, taken within the last month by professional photographer Dave Lane is a stunning composition of the Milky Way arching over multi-colored thermal hot springs. Be sure to check it out!