BOOK REVIEW: 59 Illustrated National Parks: 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service

National parks played a big part in my family’s summer this year. We visited Mount Rainier NP twice, Olympic National Park, and Lassen Volcanic National Park. And to gain entry into those parks we had my son’s Every Kid In A Park 4th grader pass. We made memories in those parks, and we will surely visit them again for new experiences.

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Mount Rainier NP with my kids, July 2016

Visiting national parks this year felt like a duty we had to complete since 2017 is the National Park Service’s centennial. One hundred years ago, the United States formed an agency to oversee national parks (predominantly in the West) that you could count on your two hands. Of those ten, we’ve been to six: Yellowstone, Mount Rainier, Crater Lake, Glacier, and Lassen Volcanic (the others are Sequoia, Wind Cave, Mesa Verde, and Rocky Mountain). While in national park gift shops this summer, we saw products showing vintage-style artwork depicting parks. This artwork graced a series of posters put out in the late 1930s and early 1940s as a way to encourage American citizens to travel and see their country. Long forgotten, only 11 of 14 WPA posters have been rediscovered (and new designs created for other parks) and have become popular depictions of notable landscapes. I purchased a bunch of postcards this summer. Beautiful, no?

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I look forward to a book in the future that showcases all of the WPA designs (old and new) that stem from the passion of former park ranger Doug Leen (you can order posters and other products through his website). Until then, I can enjoy a book that presents newly-commissioned poster art for all 59 national parks from a group of artists working with designer Joel Anderson.

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Joel Anderson and Nathan Anderson, 59 Illustrated National Parks: 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service (Nashville, TN: Anderson Design Group, 2015), 160 pp.

The 70+ poster images show the wondrous variety of natural features that grace the American landscape, from Cascadian peaks in the Pacific Northwest to the swamps of Everglades National Park in Florida (presented chronologically from when each park was established, starting with Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and ending with Pinnacles National Park, established in 2013 by President Barack Obama). And while this large coffee table book is a visual treat whether you check it out because of your love for national parks or of art in general, the authors provide plenty of detailed historical information about each park. Here are the poster images for the three national parks we visited this summer:

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Whether for yourself or as a gift to a national park-loving friend, reading and enjoying the images in 59 Illustrated National Parks is a great way to celebrate the NPS centennial. Also prints of these posters are available for purchase, as well as postcard sets, from the Anderson Design Group website.

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