What a Grand Canyon!

United States - Scott #757 (1935)
United States – Scott #757 (1935)

On January 11, 1908, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt declared the massive Grand Canyon in northwestern Arizona a national monument, stating that “The ages had been at work on it, and man can only mar it,”  Roosevelt had first visited the Grand Canyon in 1903. An avid outdoorsman and staunch conservationist, Roosevelt established the Grand Canyon Game Preserve on November 28, 1906. Livestock grazing was reduced, but predators such as mountain lions, eagles, and wolves were eradicated. Roosevelt along with other members of his conservation group, the Boone and Crockett Club helped form the National Parks Association, which in turn lobbied for the Antiquities Act of 1906 which gave Roosevelt the power to create national monuments. Once the act was passed, Roosevelt immediately added adjacent national forest lands and redesignated the preserve a U.S. National Monument. Opponents such as land and mining claim holders blocked efforts to reclassify the monument as a U.S. National Park for 11 years. Grand Canyon National Park was finally established as the 17th U.S. National Park by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on February 26, 1919.

The Grand Canyon is known in Hopi as Ongtupqa, in Yavapai as Wi:kaʼi:la, Navajo Tsékooh Hatsoh, and Spanish Gran Cañón. It is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in Arizona, United States. The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and attains a depth of over a mile (6,093 feet or 1,857 meters).

Map of the Grand Canyon National Monument, 1908.
Map of the Grand Canyon National Monument, 1908.

Today, the canyon and adjacent rim are contained within Grand Canyon National Park, the Kaibab National Forest, Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument, the Hualapai Indian Reservation, the Havasupai Indian Reservation and the Navajo Nation. President Theodore Roosevelt was a major proponent of preservation of the Grand Canyon area, and visited it on numerous occasions to hunt and enjoy the scenery.

Nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. While some aspects about the history of incision of the canyon are debated by geologists, several recent studies support the hypothesis that the Colorado River established its course through the area about 5 to 6 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River has driven the down-cutting of the tributaries and retreat of the cliffs, simultaneously deepening and widening the canyon.

Current archaeological evidence suggests that humans inhabited the Grand Canyon area as far back as 4,000 years ago[1] and at least were passers-through for 6,500 years before that. Radiocarbon dating of artifacts found in limestone caves in the inner canyon indicate ages of 3,000 to 4,000 years. In the 1950s, split-twig animal figurines were found in the Redwall Limestone cliffs of the Inner Gorge that were dated in this range. These animal figurines are a few inches (7 to 8 cm) in height and made primarily from twigs of willow or cottonwood. This and other evidence suggests that these inner canyon dwellers were part of Desert Culture; a group of semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer Native American.

The Ancestral Pueblo of the Basketmaker III Era (also called the Histatsinom, meaning “people who lived long ago”) evolved from the Desert Culture sometime around 500 BCE. This group inhabited the rim and inner canyon and survived by hunting and gathering along with some limited agriculture. Noted for their basketmaking skills (hence their name), they lived in small communal bands inside caves and circular mud structures called pithouses. Further refinement of agriculture and technology led to a more sedentary and stable lifestyle for the Ancestral Pueblo starting around 500 CE. Contemporary with the flourishing of Ancestral Pueblo culture, another group, called the Cohonina lived west of the current site of Grand Canyon Village.

Ancestral Pueblo in the Grand Canyon area started to use stone in addition to mud and poles to erect above-ground houses sometime around 800 CE. Thus the Pueblo period of Ancestral Pueblo culture was initiated. In summer, the Puebloans migrated from the hot inner canyon to the cooler high plateaus and reversed the journey for winter. Large granaries and multi-room pueblos survive from this period. There are around 2,000 known Ancestral Pueblo archaeological sites in park boundaries. The most accessible site is Tusayan Pueblo, which was constructed sometime around 1185 and housed 30 or so people.

Grand Canyon South Rim photographed from Powell Point with warm evening light at 18:11 on September 8, 2013.
Grand Canyon South Rim photographed from Powell Point with warm evening light at 18:11 on September 8, 2013.

Large numbers of dated archaeological sites indicate that the Ancestral Pueblo and the Cohonina flourished until about 1200 CE. But something happened a hundred years later that forced both of these cultures to move away. Several lines of evidence led to a theory that climate change caused a severe drought in the region from 1276 to 1299, forcing these agriculture-dependent cultures to move on. Many Ancestral Pueblo relocated to the Rio Grande and the Little Colorado River drainages, where their descendants, the Hopi and the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico, now live.

For approximately one hundred years, the canyon area was uninhabited by humans. Paiute from the east and Cerbat from the west were the first humans to reestablish settlements in and around the Grand Canyon. The Paiute settled the plateaus north of the Colorado River and the Cerbat built their communities south of the river, on the Coconino Plateau. The Navajo, or the Diné, arrived in the area later.

All three cultures were stable until the United States Army moved them to Indian reservations in 1882 as part of the removal efforts that ended the Indian Wars. The Havasupai and Hualapai are descended from the Cerbat and still live in the immediate area. The village of Supai in the western part of the current park has been occupied for centuries. Adjacent to the eastern part of the park is the Navajo Nation, the largest reservation in the United States.

The first Europeans reached the Grand Canyon in September 1540. It was a group of about 13 Spanish soldiers led by García López de Cárdenas, dispatched from the army of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado on its quest to find the fabulous Seven Cities of Gold. The group was led by Hopi guides and, assuming they took the most likely route, must have reached the canyon at the South Rim, probably between today’s Desert View and Moran Point. According to Castañeda, he and his company came to a point “from whose brink it looked as if the opposite side must be more than three or four leagues by air line.”

The report indicates that they greatly misjudged the proportions of the gorge. On the one hand, they estimated that the canyon was about three to four leagues wide (13–16 km, 8–10 miles), which is quite accurate. At the same time, however, they believed that the river, which they could see from above, was only 6 feet (2 meters) wide (in reality it is about a hundred times wider). Being in dire need of water, and wanting to cross the giant obstacle, the soldiers started searching for a way down to the canyon floor that would be passable for them along with their horses. After three full days, they still had not been successful, and it is speculated that the Hopi, who probably knew a way down to the canyon floor, were reluctant to lead them there.

Grand Canyon as photographed by William Bell in 1872 as part of the Wheeler expedition
Grand Canyon as photographed by William Bell in 1872 as part of the Wheeler expedition

As a last resort, Cárdenas finally commanded the three lightest and most agile men of his group to climb down by themselves (their names are given as Pablo de Melgosa, Juan Galeras, and an unknown, third soldier). After several hours, the men returned, reporting that they had only made one third of the distance down to the river, and that “what seemed easy from above was not so”. Furthermore, they claimed that some of the boulders which they had seen from the rim, and estimated to be about as tall as a man, were in fact bigger than the Great Tower of Seville (which then was the tallest building in the world, measuring 270 feet or 82 meters). Cárdenas finally had to give up and returned to the main army. His report of an impassable barrier forestalled further visitation to the area for two hundred years.

Only in 1776 did two Spanish priests, Fathers Francisco Atanasio Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante travel along the North Rim again, together with a group of Spanish soldiers, exploring southern Utah in search of a route from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Monterey, California. Also in 1776, Fray Francisco Garces, a Franciscan missionary, spent a week near Havasupai, unsuccessfully attempting to convert a band of Native Americans. He described the canyon as “profound”.

James Ohio Pattie and a group of American trappers and mountain men were probably the next Europeans to reach the canyon in 1826, although there is little supporting documentation. The signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 ceded the Grand Canyon region to the United States. Jules Marcou of the Pacific Railroad Survey made the first geologic observations of the canyon and surrounding area in 1856.

Jacob Hamblin (a Mormon missionary) was sent by Brigham Young in the 1850s to locate easy river crossing sites in the canyon. Building good relations with local Native Americans and white settlers, he discovered Lee’s Ferry in 1858 and Pierce Ferry (later operated by, and named for, Harrison Pierce) — the only two sites suitable for ferry operation. In 1857 Edward Fitzgerald Beale led an expedition to survey a wagon road from Fort Defiance, Arizona to the Colorado River. On September 19 near present-day National Canyon they came upon what May Humphreys Stacey described in his journal as “a wonderful canyon four thousand feet deep. Everyone (in the party) admitted that he never before saw anything to match or equal this astonishing natural curiosity”

'Noon Day Rest in Marble Canyon' from the second Powell Expedition, circa 1872
‘Noon Day Rest in Marble Canyon’ from the second Powell Expedition, circa 1872

A U.S. War Department expedition led by Lt. Joseph Ives was launched in 1857 to investigate the area’s potential for natural resources, to find railroad routes to the west coast, and assess the feasibility of an up-river navigation route from the Gulf of California. The group traveled in a stern wheeler steamboat named Explorer. After two months and 350 miles (560 km) of difficult navigation, his party reached Black Canyon some two months after George Johnson. In the process, the Explorer struck a rock and was abandoned. The group later traveled eastwards along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

A man of his time, Ives discounted his own impressions on the beauty of the canyon and declared it and the surrounding area as “altogether valueless”, remarking that his expedition would be “the last party of whites to visit this profitless locality”. Attached to Ives’ expedition was geologist John Strong Newberry who had a very different impression of the canyon. After returning, Newberry convinced fellow geologist John Wesley Powell that a boat run through the Grand Canyon to complete the survey would be worth the risk. Powell was a major in the United States Army and was a veteran of the American Civil War, a conflict that cost him his right forearm in the Battle of Shiloh.

More than a decade after the Ives Expedition and with help from the Smithsonian Institution, Powell led the first of the Powell Expeditions to explore the region and document its scientific offerings. On May 24, 1869, the group of nine men set out from Green River Station in Wyoming down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon. This first expedition was poorly funded and consequently no photographer or graphic artist was included. While in the Canyon of Lodore one of the group’s four boats capsized, spilling most of their food and much of their scientific equipment into the river. This shortened the expedition to one hundred days. Tired of being constantly cold, wet and hungry and not knowing they had already passed the worst rapids, three of Powell’s men climbed out of the canyon in what is now called Separation Canyon. Once out of the canyon, all three were reportedly killed by Shivwits band Paiutes who thought they were miners that recently molested and killed a female Shivwit. All those who stayed with Powell survived and that group successfully ran most of the canyon.

Two years later a much better-funded Powell-led party returned with redesigned boats and a chain of several supply stations along their route. This time, photographer E.O. Beaman and 17-year-old artist Frederick Dellenbaugh were included. Beaman left the group in January 1872 over a dispute with Powell and his replacement, James Fennemore, quit August that same year due to poor health, leaving boatman John K. Hillers as the official photographer (nearly one ton of photographic equipment was needed on site to process each shot). Famed painter Thomas Moran joined the expedition in the summer of 1873, after the river voyage and thus only viewed the canyon from the rim. His 1873 painting “Chasm of the Colorado” was bought by the United States Congress in 1874 and hung in the lobby of the Senat

A panoramic view of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim. Photo taken on September 26, 2004.
A panoramic view of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim. Photo taken on September 26, 2004.

The Powell expeditions systematically cataloged rock formations, plants, animals, and archaeological sites. Photographs and illustrations from the Powell expeditions greatly popularized the canyonland region of the southwest United States, especially the Grand Canyon (appreciating this, Powell added increasing resources to that aspect of his expeditions). Powell later used these photographs and illustrations in his lecture tours, making him a national figure. Rights to reproduce 650 of the expeditions’ 1,400 stereographs were sold to help fund future Powell projects. In 1881, he became the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Geologist Clarence Dutton followed up on Powell’s work in 1880–1881 with the first in-depth geological survey of the newly formed U.S. Geological Survey. Painters Thomas Moran and William Henry Holmes accompanied Dutton, who was busy drafting detailed descriptions of the area’s geology. The report that resulted from the team’s effort was titled A Tertiary History of The Grand Canyon District, with Atlas and was published in 1882. This and later studies by geologists uncovered the geology of the Grand Canyon area and helped to advance that science. Both the Powell and Dutton expeditions helped to increase interest in the canyon and surrounding region.
The Brown-Stanton expedition was started in 1889 to survey the route for a “water-level” railroad line through the canyons of the Colorado River to the Gulf of California. The proposed Denver, Colorado Canyon, and Pacific Railway was to carry coal from mines in Colorado. Expedition leader Frank M. Brown, his chief engineer Robert Brewster Stanton, and 14 other men set out in six boats from Green River, Utah, on May 25, 1889. Brown and two others drowned near the head of Marble Canyon. The expedition was restarted by Stanton from Dirty Devil River (a tributary of Glen Canyon) on November 25 and traveled through the Grand Canyon. The expedition reached the Gulf of California on April 26, 1890, but the railroad was never built.

Prospectors in the 1870s and 1880s staked mining claims in the canyon. They hoped that previously discovered deposits of asbestos, copper, lead, and zinc would be profitable to mine. Access to and from this remote region and problems getting ore out of the canyon and its rock made the whole exercise not worth the effort. Most moved on, but some stayed to seek profit in the tourist trade. Their activities did improve pre-existing Indian trails, such as Bright Angel Trail.

“Foot of Toroweap Looking East” by William H. Holmes (1882). Artwork such as this was used to popularize the Grand Canyon area.

By the end of the 19th century, the Grand Canyon was attracting thousands of tourists each year. A rail line to the largest city in the area, Flagstaff, was completed in 1882 by the Santa Fe Railroad. Stage coaches started to bring tourists from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon the next year. A spur of the Santa Fe Railroad to Grand Canyon Village was completed in 1901. The first scheduled train with paying passengers of the Grand Canyon Railway arrived from Williams, Arizona, on September 17 that year The 64-mile (103 km) long trip cost $3.95 ($100.17 as of 2018), and naturalist John Muir later commended the railroad for its limited environmental impact.

The first automobile was driven to the Grand Canyon in 1902. Oliver Lippincott from Los Angeles, drove his Toledo Automobile Company-built car to the South Rim from Flagstaff. Lippincott, a guide and two writers set out on the afternoon of January 4, anticipating a seven-hour journey. Two days later, the hungry and dehydrated party arrived at their destination; the countryside was just too rough for the ten-horsepower (7 kW) auto. A three-day drive from Utah in 1907 was required to reach the North Rim for the first time.

Competition with the automobile forced the Santa Fe Railroad to cease operation of the Grand Canyon Railway in 1968 (only three passengers were on the last run). The railway was restored and service reintroduced in 1989, and it has since carried hundreds of passengers a day. Trains remained the preferred way to travel to the canyon until they were surpassed by the auto in the 1930s. By the early 1990s more than a million automobiles per year visited the park.

West Rim Drive was completed in 1912. In the late 1920s the first rim-to-rim access was established by the North Kaibab suspension bridge over the Colorado River. Paved roads did not reach the less popular and more remote North Rim until 1926, and that area, being higher in elevation, is closed due to winter weather from November to April. Construction of a road along part of the South Rim was completed in 1935.

By the late 19th century, the conservation movement was increasing national interest in preserving natural wonders like the Grand Canyon. National Parks in Yellowstone and around Yosemite Valley were established by the early 1890s. U.S. Senator Benjamin Harrison introduced a bill in 1887 to establish a national park at the Grand Canyon. The bill died in committee, but on February 20, 1893, Harrison (then President of the United States) declared the Grand Canyon to be a National Forest Preserve. Mining and logging were allowed, but the designation did offer some protection.

After becoming president in 1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt made environmental conservation a major part of his presidency. After establishing the National Wildlife Refuge to protect the country’s animals, fish and birds, Roosevelt turned his attention to federal regulation of public lands. Though a region could be given national park status — indicating that all private development on that land was illegal — only by an act of Congress, Roosevelt cut down on red tape by beginning a new presidential practice of granting a similar “national monument” designation to some of the West’s greatest treasures. He established the Grand Canyon Game Preserve on November 28, 1906. Livestock grazing was reduced, but predators such as mountain lions, eagles, and wolves were eradicated.

Plaque at Roosevelt Point in the Grand Canyon.
Plaque at Roosevelt Point in the Grand Canyon.

Roosevelt added adjacent national forest lands and re-designated more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon area into a U.S. National Monument on January 11, 1908.   “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he declared. “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Congress did not officially outlaw private development in the Grand Canyon until 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Grand Canyon National Park Act, officially establishing the 17th U.S. National Park on February 26, 1919.

An area of almost 310 square miles (800 km²) adjacent to the park was designated as a second Grand Canyon National Monument on December 22, 1932. Marble Canyon National Monument was established on January 20, 1969, and covered about 41 square miles (105 km²). An act signed by President Gerald Ford on January 3, 1975, doubled the size of Grand Canyon National Park by merging these adjacent national monuments and other federal land into it. That same act gave Havasu Canyon back to the Havasupai tribe. From that point, the park stretched along a 278-mile (447 km) segment of the Colorado River from the southern border of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to the eastern boundary of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Grand Canyon National Park was designated a World Heritage Site on October 24, 1979.

Today, more than 5 million people visit the canyon each year. The canyon floor is accessible by foot, mule or boat, and whitewater rafting, hiking and running in the area are especially popular. Many choose to conserve their energies and simply take in the breathtaking view from the canyon’s South Rim–some 7,000 feet above sea level–and marvel at a vista virtually unchanged for over 400 years.

Grand Canyon from the South Rim at dawn. Photo taken on March 27, 2013.
Grand Canyon from the South Rim at dawn. Photo taken on March 27, 2013.

Scott #757 was amongst the imperforate reissues produced by the United States Post Office Department now known as “Farley’s Follies.”  It was places on sale on March 15, 1935, in Washington, D.C., as duplicates of the original presentation sheets given to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and other officials. The original stamps, perforated 11, had been released on July 24, 1934, and catalogued as Scott #741. Three designs had been submitted to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on June 1 of that year, the BEP having received instructions to prepare an issue on May 16. Postmaster General James A. Farley approved the model on June 6. Acting Postmaster General W.W. Howes approved the die proof on July 10.

The stamp was designed by Victor S. McCloskey Jr., after a photograph by G.A. Grant of the National Park Service. It pictures a view of the Grand Canyon as seen from the Grand Canyon Lodge and features the peaks known as Deva, Brahma, and Zoroaster Temples, and the Bright Angel Canyon. The color was personally selected by President Roosevelt and while a radical change from the usual carmine of the 2-cent denominations at the time, reflects the color seen by travelers when first experiencing the Grand Canyon. L.S. Schofield engraved the vignette frame and the lettering was done by W.B. Wells.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing was instructed to print the stamps on July 11, 1934, with the first printing taking place two days later. The Bureau made its first delivery to the Post Office Department on July 15 and they were first placed on sale at the Grand Canyon post office in Arizona and in Washington, D.C. on July 24. In all, eight plates were used in printing the 74,400,200 copies of Scott #741 that were issued. When it was decided to issue imperforate versions, these were sold in sheets of 200 as well as blocks of four. During the first day sale on March 15, 1935, the blocks of four were available at the Benjamin Franklin Station in Washington, D.C., while the sheets of 200 were only sold at the Philatelic Agency. Only the first four plates were used to print Scott #757 with 12,119 sheets issued for a total of 2,423,800 plus 80,710 blocks of four were issued (322,840 stamps) for a total of 2,746,640 copies of Scott #757.

ASAD featured the one-cent National Parks set stamp on the 100th anniversary of the U.S. National Park Service in August 2016. That article includes an explanation of the Farley’s Follies issues.

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