John Muir was born in Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland in 1838 and emigrated with his family to the United States of America in 1848. Throughout his life he developed an ever-growing fondness for wild places and wild creatures. Largely self-taught this son of East Lothian became a poet, philosopher, preacher, inventor and mountaineer, as well as an expert in the fields of botany and geology.
His journeys into the vast wilderness of 19th.Century America brought him to discover the oneness and order of the natural world in which ‘every rock, plant and animal is a golden thread in the infinite fabric of life, and from which no fibre can be pulled without spoiling the whole.’
‘When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with all the other stars, all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty. This show is eternal.’
This extraordinary man, regarded today as the ‘Father of Conservation’, was truly ahead of his time. His passionate concern for the future of our planet, allied to a unique clarity of thought and expression, enabled him to influence the world’s most powerful men through his writing. It seems extraordinary by today’s standards but he persuaded the then President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt, to join him on a three-day excursion into the wilderness of Yosemite. It’s believed to be the only time in US history that a President has been without his Secret Service bodyguard. Together they explored the, mountains, forests and rivers of the Sierra Nevada; they hugged trees in a lightning storm and slept under the stars. Roosevelt left Yosemite a convert to the idea of conservation.
‘Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of the safety and continuance of the nation.’
America must have seemed like a bounty of infinite resource to the early settlers, but 19th C industrialisation and exploitation were already beginning to take their toll on the natural environment. It was to be several years before the National Parks Service Bill was signed and passed into law “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations”, but one can only imagine with horror how America, and perhaps the rest of the planet, might look today had the exploitation of its resources continued unabated throughout the 20th C. John Muir’s legacy in the form of America’s sixty-two National Parks is there for all to see and enjoy, and his thoughts and writings have encouraged conservation worldwide thanks to those three days in the wilderness.
The US Congress passed legislation on June 8, 1872 that approved government production of postal cards, and the first government-produced postcard was issued on May 1, 1873.
Although not on this format, the following words were written by President Roosevelt to John Muir a few weeks after he returned to Washington.
The John Muir tartan was created in 1998 by David McGill for the 150th anniversary of John Muir’s arrival in the United States and was launched at a reception in the San Francisco Bay area City of Pleasanton in 2002 when Muir’s grand-son accepted an inscribed tartan clock and picture frame on behalf of the Muir family. It is registered on the Scottish Tartan Register No.2682