This five-minute video introduces Doug Leen, a national park ranger, who has spent years searching for a group of rare New Deal posters. A collection of advertising posters created in the 1930s and 40s through the Works Progress Administration, a New Deal program, depicted heroic vistas of national parks and monuments, including Zion, Yosemite, Glacier and Grand Canyon. But few records were kept, and through the years, most of the posters were lost. The National Park service archive didn’t have a single original. A former park ranger is on the hunt to complete a collection of posters by artists commissioned by the government celebrating national parks.
The Case of the Missing Park Posters: An Ex-Ranger Hunts for New Deal-Era Art
A former park ranger is on the hunt to complete a collection of posters by artists commissioned by the government celebrating national parks.
A collection of advertising posters created in the 1930s and 40s through the Works Progress Administration depicted heroic vistas of national parks and monuments, including Zion, Yosemite, Glacier and Grand Canyon. But few records were kept, and through the years, most of the posters were lost.
In 1970, Doug Leen, a national park ranger working on a cleanup day at Grand Teton’s Jenny Lake ranger station uncovered a W.P.A. poster that read “Meet the Ranger Naturalist at Jenny Lake Museum.” He took it home and hung it up.
“Every time I walked by, it kinda talked to me,” Leen told Retro Report in this video, created with support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project. “The more I looked at this poster, the more I realized there was a story to be told.”
The original poster was in fact a rare find. The National Park Service archive didn’t have a single original print. All it had were old negatives and black-and-white photographs.
Before long Leen’s discovery spiraled into an obsession. Now a retired dentist living in Alaska, he has dedicated the last 50 years to tracking down a complete set of the 14 original silkscreen prints in what he calls “a hobby run amok.”
Using the original W.P.A. designs, he started making reproductions and selling the posters. Of the original collection, Leen has located 12 posters. His quest continues to find the two that are still missing.
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Students will examine New Deal programs and learn about a former park ranger who is on the hunt to complete a collection of posters of national parks and monuments that were created through the Works Progress Administration.
- Examine New Deal programs to determine their purpose and effects
- Investigate the legacy of New Deal public works projects.
- Design a poster for a public amenity to communicate a message about its history and/or importance.
- What programs were created during the New Deal? What problems were they meant to address?
- What role did public projects, including art, play in New Deal programs?
- How does visual art play a role in our feelings about our community or country?
- Transcript for “The Case of the Missing Park Posters: Ex-Ranger Hunts for New Deal-Era Art” (Retro Report)
- “Works Progress Administration” article from the Library of Congress.
- “The Living New Deal” interactive map.
- Optional resources for learning about National Parks:
- D2.Civ.5.9-12. Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.
- D2.Civ.13.9-12. Evaluate public policies in terms of intended and unintended outcomes, and related consequences.
- D2.Geo.2.9-12. Use maps, satellite images, photographs, and other representations to explain relationships between the locations of places and regions and their political, cultural, and economic dynamics.
- D2.Geo.5.9-12. Evaluate how political and economic decisions throughout time have influenced cultural and environmental characteristics of various places and regions.
- D2.His.1.9-12. Evaluate how historical events and developments were shaped by unique circumstances of time and place as well as broader historical contexts.
- D2.His.3.9-12. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context.
- D2.His.5.9-12. Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.
- D4.3.9-12. Present adaptations of arguments and explanations that feature evocative ideas and perspectives on issues and topics to reach a range of audiences and venues outside the classroom using print and oral technologies (e.g., posters, essays, letters, debates, speeches, reports, and maps) and digital technologies (e.g., Internet, social media, and digital documentary).
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1 Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7 Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.