Establishment of Glacier National Park 

U.S. #748 from the 1934 National Parks issue.

On May 11, 1910, an act of Congress officially created Glacier National Park in Montana.

The earliest-known inhabitants of present-day Glacier National Park arrived about 10,000 years ago and were members of the Salish, Flathead, Shoshone, and Cheyenne tribes. By the early 1700s, the Blackfeet were the predominant tribe in the area, particularly in the prairies east of the mountains. Kalispell and Kootenai lived and hunted in the western valleys.

Many tribes in the area believed the mountains were home to great spirits. Individuals would embark on long vision quests to the peaks to discover what the spirits had to share. Chief Mountain was long considered to be a home of powerful medicine that the tribes would seek out in times of need.

U.S. #764 – Imperforate, ungummed re-issue from the Farley’s Follies set.

In the late 1700s, French, English, and some Spanish trappers began finding their way into the area. British trapper David Thompson of the Hudson Bay Company is credited as the first white man to see the area’s natural wonders, arriving in the 1780s. Upon seeing the Rocky Mountains, he wrote, “their immense masses of snow appeared above the clouds and formed an impassible barrier even to the Eagle.”

U.S. #C149 from the Scenic American Landscapes series.

When the Lewis and Clark Expedition explored the American West in 1806, they came within 50 miles of the current park. They were searching for Marias Pass, but the overcast sky blocked it from their view. Had it been a clearer day, they might have had an easier journey traveling through the mountains. By the early 1800s, more European and American trappers were traveling through the area in search of fashionable beaver pelts. They were met by the aggressive Blackfeet that sought to protect their land and bison, their main source of food.

U.S. #C149 FDC – 2012 Glacier National Park First Day Cover.

Soon, more explorers arrived and began asking the natives about an easier passageway through the mountains – Marias Pass. The Blackfeet knew of it, but would not share its location. In the 1850s, Washington Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens negotiated treaties with the tribes in the hopes of discovering the pass. The 1855 Lame Bull Treaty established the Blackfeet Reservation, giving the tribe their own land, and American explorers the freedom to find the pass.

Item #M7183 – Arrow block of #764.

However, by the 1880s, smallpox had reduced the Blackfeet’s numbers and the last of the bison were killed. James Willard Schultz, an American who had become part of the tribe, wrote to George Bird Grinnell, editor of Forest and Stream magazine, for help. Grinnell visited the area many times. He wrote articles to promote government assistance to the Blackfeet, and eventually to encourage the establishment of a National Park.

Grinnell worked with officials of the Great Northern Railway to persuade Congress to protect the area, serving both the interests of conservation and tourism. In 1889, one of the railway’s explorers, John F. Stevens, discovered the Marias Pass. Within two years, the Great Northern Railway crossed the Continental Divide. To promote business, the railway advertised the natural splendors of the area. Meanwhile, George Bird Grinnell continued to promote the conservation and protection of the area through his magazine. In 1897, their combined efforts saw the area designated as a forest preserve. In this capacity mining was still allowed, but proved unsuccessful and did not last long.

Item #CNMTGL25D – Glacier National Park quarter.

Grinnell and other conservationists recognized the importance of preserving the park like Yellowstone and other parks before it. He continued to push Congress and publish articles supporting this idea. In one of these, he called the area the “Crown of Continent,” a name that has been associated with the park and surrounding ecosystem ever since. After several decades of lobbying, Congress approved the creation of the park. President William Howard Taft signed the bill into law on May 11, 1910, establishing Glacier as America’s 10th National Park. For his efforts, Grinnell is often celebrated as the “Father of Glacier National Park.”

When the park was first established, then-president of the Great Northern Railway, Louis W. Hill, built hotels and chalets throughout the park. This increased tourism and reminded visitors of the luxurious Swiss Alps, earning the park the nickname, “America’s Switzerland.”

Click here for photos, history, and more about the park from its official National Park Service website.

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  1. Glacier is a beautiful National Park, as they all are. It is sad to note that our national parks are under stress at the present time. They are woefully under funded with a huge backlog of long delayed infrastructure projects. And now, President Trump has ordered a “review” (whatever that means) of the National Monuments established in the last twenty years by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama. What President Theodore Roosevelt said about the Grand Canyon applies to all of our National Parks and Monuments., “Leave it as it is. It cannot be improved by man.”

  2. Congress on both side of the aisle must uphold everything in their power to prevent President Trump from willfully putting to an end the protection put in place for our National Parks. We need to preserve for our children the wonders and beauty of our natural monuments for generations to come.

    1. Where do you get the idea that President Trump doesn’t want to protect the national parks. He has never expressed any such idea. You need to stop watching the worthless media and use some common sense.

  3. Come on, give the President a break. President Trump ordered a review (What do you mean you don’t know what that means?) of all National Monuments established since 1996 (no, Yellowstone NP is not in jeopardy). He didn’t do this so he could drill for oil or build hotels on the land, he did it because he was told by certain State officials that they were tired of the Federal Government just coming in and declaring their land National Monuments. There were some States officials from several States that told him this before he was ever elected. Noteworthy of that was the State of Utah that saw 1.35 million acres made in to a National Monument by President Obama; many in Utah were outraged including the Governor and a U.S. Senator (Orin Hatch). I did not vote for President Trump (so don’t accuse me of that), but he is our President and deserves the benefit of the doubt for people to do a little research instead of falling for fake news. Get over it…Trump won.

    1. Trump ordered the recent National Monuments to be reviewed…WHATEVER THAT MEANS! They can review them all they want, but the President does not have the power to cancel or reduce them. The Antiquities Act of 1908 gives the President the power to designate a National Monument on any federally owned land. These monuments are on land owned by the people of the United States, not Utah, not California, not any particular state. The law does not mention cancelling or reducing the size of a monument that has already been created. If Trump tries that, he will immediately be sued, and that will be in the courts for years, long after the happy day when Trump is gone. Yes, Trump won in the electoral college, but he is quickly finding out that aa President, he has to follow the laws of the land just as we all do.

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