757 - 1935 2¢ National Parks: Grand Canyon, imperf, no gum
US #757 is one of the 1935 “Farley’s Follies” Special Printings.

On February 26, 1919, Woodrow Wilson signed legislation establishing the Grand Canyon National Park. It’s one of the country’s most popular national parks and is considered one of the Wonders of the World.

2512 - 1990 25¢ Grand Canyon
US #2512 pictures the Grand Canyon as it might have looked 500 years ago.

The history of the Grand Canyon began up to two billion years ago when some of the oldest rock in the canyon was lifted to create a great mountain range nearly six miles high. Over millions of years, the land was raised, eroded and raised again several times. Then, about six million years ago, the Colorado River began carving through the rock, creating the vast canyon.

2016 First-Class Forever Stamp - National Parks Centennial: Grand Canyon National Park
US #5080e – National Park Centennial stamp picturing The Grand Canyon of Arizona, from Hermit Rim Road, by Thomas Moran

Beginning about 11,000 years ago and lasting until the end of the last ice age, the Paleo-Indians roamed the Grand Canyon area hunting large game. Over thousands of years, these people developed into the Archaic tribes. Some of the noted tribes to inhabit the canyon were the Hohokam, Mogollon, Anasazi, and Tusayan.

3183h - 1998 32¢ Celebrate the Century - 1910s: Grand Canyon
US #3183h was issued as part of the Celebrate the Century series.

Some of the earliest Americans to enter the Grand Canyon region were trappers and mountain men led by Indian guides. Likely, one of the first to see the canyon was James Ohio Pattie, who reached the area in 1826 with a group of fur trappers and mountain men. In the coming years, more and more Americans returned from the West with tales of this awe-inspiring canyon, so the US Department of War sent an expedition to the area. The goal was to study its natural resources, find railroad routes to the West Coast, and determine the possibility of creating an up-river navigation route from the Gulf of California. Joseph Ives led the two-month, 350-mile expedition. Putting aside his impressions of the canyon’s beauty, Ives reported that it and the surrounding area were “altogether valueless” and that his expedition would be “the last party of whites to visit this profitless locality.”

4054 - 2006 39¢ Grand Canyon, Largest Canyon
US #4054 – The Grand Canyon was honored as the “Largest Canyon” on the 2006 Wonders of America sheet.

In the mid-1800s, valuable minerals were discovered in the canyon and its surrounding areas, leading thousands to come and stake their claim. The problem many did not initially realize was how difficult it would be to get their discoveries out of the canyon. Over time, many gave up and moved on, but others saw the real future in the canyon – tourism. One such person was John Hance, who became the canyon’s first settler. He promoted mining, built and improved trails, and opened a hotel. Around the same time, another settler named William Wallace Bass created more roads into the canyon and trails within it than any other pioneer of the era.

4917 - 2014 First-Class Forever Stamp - Hudson River School Paintings: "Grand Canyon" by Thomas Moran
US #4917 – This panting by Thomas Moran shows Zoroaster Peak in the Grand Canyon.

While some sought to profit from the canyon, others realized the need to protect it. Senator Benjamin Harrison was the first person to introduce legislation calling for the creation of Grand Canyon National Park. His 1882 bill failed and he tried again unsuccessfully in 1883 and 1886. It was not until after Harrison became President that he was able to provide some protection to the area. It was established as the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve in 1893, though some mining and logging was still allowed.

C135 - 2000 60¢ Grand Canyon, s/a
US #C135 – Click the image to read about the error that almost occurred with this 2000 Airmail stamp.

Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon in 1903 and was in awe at its beauty. But it would be another three years before he made any progress to further protect it. Roosevelt took the first step in 1906 when he declared it the Grand Canyon Game Preserve, which reduced livestock grazing. He continued to fight for a national park, but was blocked by landowners and mining claim holders. Roosevelt made some progress in 1908 when he established the canyon and surrounding area – a total of more than 800,000 acres – as a national monument. Meanwhile, Arizona officials continued to promote the idea of a Grand Canyon National Park, but their bills were defeated several times between 1910 and 1911.

1934 2¢ National Parks: Grand Canyon, Arizona
US #741 – Issued as part of a series to promote the national parks.

In 1912, Arizona became America’s 48th state, and four years later the National Park Service was officially formed. Both of these events helped the process of establishing the Grand Canyon as a national park. Finally, on February 26, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson signed the legislation officially establishing the canyon as a national park. The timing was perfect, as it put an end to proposals to dam the Colorado River. It also forbid private development and granted the Fred Harvey Company the only rights to develop commercial businesses.

2010 Grand Canyon National Park Quarter, D Mint
Item #CNAZGC25D – Grand Canyon National Park Quarter, Denver Mint
2010 Grand Canyon National Park Quarter, P Mint
Item #CNAZGC25P – Grand Canyon National Park Quarter, Philadelphia Mint
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  1. This illustrates one of the greatest and most important environmental laws ever passed by Congress, the Antiquities Act of 1906. This allows the President the power to declare any land already under the jurisdiction of the U.S. to be a National Monument. As in the case of the Grand Canyon, mining interests, timber companies, and others opposed the creation of a national park. Theodore Roosevelt used the Antiquities Act to declare the Grand Canyon to be a National Monument. It was later elevated to National Park status. Presidents from Roosevelt to Obama have used this act to create National Monuments when Congress lacked to will to designate them as National Parks. Under the jurisdiction of the National Parks system, National Monuments have essentially the same protection as National Parks, and many National Monuments have later been elevated to National Park status. Sometimes, Congress gets it right.

      1. Here is a fact for Ernest: Obama has used executive action less than any president since FDR and has used it correctly when congress fails to act. In the last seven years, congress has failed to act on anything of importance–including the great National Monuments and Parks of this country.

  2. Great documentary on this part of USA, and lovely stamps. This eye-opening historical (not re-written) sketch shows how those with society/civilisation in mind had to counter-balance others with profit/exploitation as their prime drive, who are still at it today (e.g., Trans-Canada pipeline) at the expense of destroying the environment for local (all) Americans.

    This snippet is a great comment on the battles people with foresight have waged against those with only personal advancement in mind. Today we can all enjoy this marvel (one of the new world’s natural wonders?) without fears of the 1% despoiling the area for ephemeral personal gains (cattle ranch, burger chains, TPIP, guns and bombs, etc).

    Many thanks President Wilson, and those of similar ilk (Arizona State, President Harrison, First Nations) for having the vision that drives us forward as an outstanding culture in the world, and US Post for issuing these great stamps in testimony. GdR

    1. I’ve backpacked the Canyon multiple times and can’t get over how awesome it is. And yes, what about John Wesley Powell’s efforts to explore this natural wonder! Otherwise, great report.

  3. I loved Grand Canyon at first sight. I didn’t realize how many stamps were released in honor of the Canyon, Thanks.

  4. I was in Arizona several years ago on a working trip and had the chance to visit the Grand Canyon.
    As this was a “side trip” taken between work I only had just about 4 or 5 hours to see it but that short amount of time will be burned into my memory for the rest of my life. Almost 15 years later I still want to take a trip back, I think everybody should see it when they can and do yourself a favor and catch the sunset it was the most stunning I had ever seen.

  5. Note to Earnest O: Every President who has used the Antiquities Act to designate a National Monument has been criticized for abusing his power. I think Earnest O. has a previous bias against President Obama. Once saved, these natural wonders and historic sites are thereby preserved for all time, or one hopes. As author, Wallace Stegner said, “National Parks are the best idea America ever had.”

  6. The stamp will be coming this June 2 2016 with 16 stamps (100 years National Parks Centennial including Grand Canyon National Park stamp again).

  7. When you are publishing your great historical articles, you may want to omit things related to Darwin’s Theory re: Billions of years. Our great country was built on a Biblical foundation and not on such far-out Theories. Science is the study of facts which are constantly unfolding and being uncovered and have never so far contradicted our Biblical beliefs.

  8. Any chance we could just enjoy the hard work Mystic puts into these articles, and the beauty not only of the stamps and the places they portray and knock off the political whining?

  9. It amazes me how religion and politics can get intertwined in these discussions of the wonders of nature that we live with each day.
    Enjoy it —- period.
    I visited there with my family many years ago when traveling in our motor home. We reached the overlook my wife and 3 kids were still sleeping it was about 8:00 AM so I went to take a look and didn’t believe what I was seeing, truly awe-inspiring. Ran to wake up the family they came out to take a look still groggy but let me tell you they woke up fast and still talk about that experience to this day some 45 years later.

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