Devils Tower Becomes First American National Monument

U.S. #1084 – There have been several attempts to rename Devils Tower to honor its Native American history.

Devils Tower Becomes First American National Monument

On September 24, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt declared Devils Tower in Wyoming to be the first National Monument under the Antiquities Act.

Devils Tower is a nearly vertical monolith of volcanic rock which rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River, which meanders below it. This rock formation is believed to be about 40 million years old. Once buried, erosion slowly stripped away the softer soils that once covered this impressive landmark.

The tower is of great significance to several Native American tribes, who know it as Mateo Tepee, or Grizzly Bear Lodge – this name comes from an old legend. According to that legend, seven young girls were out playing when a grizzly bear began to chase them. They jumped on a small rock and prayed to the Great Spirit for help. As the rock grew, the bear tried to climb it but slid down, leaving giant claw marks. The girls then went to the sky and became the seven stars of the Pleiades.

It got its current name in 1875 when Colonel Richard Irving Dodge led an expedition through the area. One of his men misinterpreted the name as Bad God’s Tower, which soon became Devil’s Tower.

In 1892, Senator Francis Warren proposed setting the tower and surrounding lands aside for conservation. He succeeded and it was made into a forest reserve, though it was quickly reduced from 60 to 18 square miles. Later that year, he introduced a bill to establish the area as a national park, but no action was taken for over a decade.

U.S. #1039 – It’s unknown whether Roosevelt ever visited the tower, though he may have seen it from a distance on one of his hunting trips in the Black Hills.

In June 1906, Congress passed, and President Roosevelt signed, the Antiquities Act, which gave the President the authority to establish national monuments from public lands to protect significant natural, cultural or scientific features.

Wyoming Representative Frank W. Mondell was among Devils Tower’s greatest supporters and urged President Roosevelt to make it a monument. As such, Devils Tower became the first national monument just three months after the act was passed.

Click the images to add this history to your collection.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
[Total: 18 Average: 4.8]

Share this article

32 responses to "Devils Tower Becomes First American National Monument"

32 thoughts on “Devils Tower Becomes First American National Monument”

  1. At the beginning if the article, you referred to the president as Franklin Roosevelt. That should read Theodore Roosevelt. Franklin was not president until 1932.

    Reply
  2. Love this daily feature with explanations of the history behind the subjects of various stamps. To make this feature even more interesting to stamp collectors, it would be great to add information about the stamp itself, when warranted, e.g., who designed it, why it was picked as a subject of a stamp (if it’s not obvious), and any philatelic points of interest. That would be great. But, I’ll keep reading every day even without those possible additions.

    Reply
    • Hi Ron,

      Have you tried clicking on the stamp images. The images link to the info on the specific stamp. I think you’ll find the info you’re looking for on those web pages.

      Have fun!

      Reply
  3. I truly enjoy this series! Thank you for creating “This day in History”. I learn “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say.
    One small error in this one, first paragraph states it was Franklin Roosevelt but it was Theodore that declared it a NM.
    Keep up the great work, I love reading these every day.

    Reply
  4. I, as well as many others, it seems love and appreciate this Day in History. I like how the stamp and story appear instead of having to click to go there. Keep up the good work and know it is appreciated. This is something I can share with the kids I come in contact with at the youth table at our stamp clubs show. The tangible information to bring the past too today’s kids.

    Reply
  5. I really enjoy reading the stories. I have sent many stories to my grandson’s, hopefully they will get some good history lessons. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  6. The movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” used Devil’s Tower as a setting for communication and eventually meeting aliens from outer space. Seems I saw a similar geologic formation in the foothills of Eastern Colorado. Of course the Colorado formation was smaller.

    Reply
  7. Theodore Roosevelt used the newly passed Antiquities Act to create our first National Monument. A National Monument has the same protections that a national park has, but a new national park must be created by a act of congress. Many presidents have used the Antiquities Act to protect scenic and historic sites when congress refused to act, usually because special interests oppose losing resources that they want to exploit.

    Reply
  8. At 82 years of age and a very long time stamp collector…. Mystic Stamps
    Day In History is the very first email that I press to watch….I thank you
    Mystic for bring this interesting program for me to enjoy ever day….History
    was my minor in college….esp. American History which seems to be a missing
    part of school classes today……………..don’t go away Mystic……..

    Reply
  9. Like Mr Autobelli I am 72 and been collecting sim
    Nce I was about 12, that along with the fact I love U.S. History NSAID this new series ,
    ‘Day In History’ so much pleasure to read. I am looking forward to each day taking time to r
    Enjoy this.
    Thank you so much for your gift to each of us.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Love history?

Discover events in American history – plus the stamps that make them come alive.

Subscribe to get This Day in History stories straight to your inbox every day!