Acclaimed naturalist John Muir, whose passion for the outdoors inspired Americans to experience and preserve natural spaces, was influential in establishing Yosemite National Park in 1890. After first visiting the area in 1868, Muir committed himself to protecting Yosemite’s natural beauty, rooted in a belief that the government should designate and maintain wilderness areas for the enjoyment of all citizens regardless of economic or social standing. “Everybody needs beauty . . . places to play and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike,” Muir wrote.
A founding member of the Sierra Club, Muir served as president from its inception in 1892 until his death in 1914. Muir and his fellow club members petitioned Congress to preserve Yosemite’s boundaries when California Representative Anthony Caminetti proposed opening it up to farming and mining in 1893. The petition includes a four-point list detailing the damage to the park if it were developed, along with a map illustrating the reduced size advocated by the legislation. Congress eventually sided with the conservationists and decided to maintain the original boundaries for the time being.