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    America's Greatest Idea
    Now and again, the federal government gets a great idea and acts on it. Here are two: the founding of the National Park Service (NPS) in 1916 and the Federal Art Project, which put artists to work during the Great Depression. It was part of the extensive Works Progress Administration (WPA) effort to employ out-of-work Americans. Among the subjects of WPA posters: promoting travel, especially to national parks.

    The result: This year the NPS celebrates its 100th anniversary. In addition to these unique areas protected for all travelers to enjoy, nearly half of some 2,000 WPA posters created between 1936 and 1943 have been preserved in the archives of the Library of Congress. (Trivia question: Which state has the most national parks? For answer, see last slide.)
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    Grand Canyon
    Established as a national park nearly a century ago, in 1919, the Grand Canyon is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The artist for this poster and the other national parks here—Lassen and Yellowstone—is unknown.

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    See America: Caverns

    Although not named in the poster, Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico could well have inspired this art.

    Courtesy of Library of Congress

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    Fort Marion
    Fort Marion is one of some 120 national monuments under the stewardship of the NPS. Occasionally, monuments are upgraded into national parks, as with Carlsbad Caverns and recently, Pinnacles National Park in California. President Obama has created and expanded more national monuments than any other president.

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    Time for a Hike
    Part of a program to encourage outdoor recreation, this poster was drawn by Shari Weisberg. During the Great Depression, hiking offered a cheap form of activity.

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    Lassen Volcanic
    This 1938 view of Lassen is among those that decades later inspired new posters of many national parks drawn in a similar style.

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    Get outside!
    Several WPA posters concerning the outdoors promoted respect for wildlife.

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    Big Sky country
    The Federal Art Project was more active in certain states; posters promoting the West often featured Montana.

    Courtesty of Library of Congress
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    Let them grow, let them grow
    Planting trees, using water wisely, and protecting hawks were subjects of conservation posters.

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    Perhaps no other state appeared in WPA travel promotion posters as often as Pennsylvania, usually focusing on Amish communities. Katherine Milhaus drew a dozen such posters for rural Pennsylvania.

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    The first of its kind
    Yellowstone was not only the first U.S. national park but also the first in the world, established in 1872, well before the NPS. What government organization managed the park originally? The U.S. Army.

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    You lovely island
    The artist who drew this travel poster, Frank S. Nicholson, also created the Wild Life poster (#6)

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    And the winner is...
    In answer to the question posed earlier, California has the most national parks, with nine. Alaska, a close second with eight, has the four largest parks, including Wrangell-St. Elias, more than 8 million acres

    Courtesy of Library of Congress
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    What's Next

12 Beautiful Vintage National Parks Posters