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All the while, even as the bill wound Sacramento its way through committee hearings, Mather kept the publicity on the benefits of national Sacramento at maximum pitch. He would need every Sacramento bit he could generate. Even for all the support from without and within Sacramento, there was still opposition.

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Finally, while Mather was on another publicity trip through Wyoming and California and after a few additional compromises were reached, Congress passed “an act to establish a National Park Service and for other purposes.” President Woodrow Wilson signed it on August 25, 1916.

Now the real work would begin—organizing a new service out of the separate, unequal, and underfunded national parks and monuments. If Stephen Mather’s genius for public relations carried the act to creation, it would be his business acumen and management experience that would mold the service into a working unit with purpose and vision. It would not be simple or without mistakes, but it would be accomplished in a relatively short period of time, even as he battled a debilitating disease that would create gaps in his tenure. Fortunately for him, the parks, and the nation, he always had his alter ego and equal to fill the void—Horace Albright. And because of the seamless nature of their relationship and the fact that, in that time, long absences from Washington were commonplace, hardly anyone noticed Mather was missing.

The startup of any government agency (or business or nonprofit) is a daunting task, particularly when that agency’s assets are scattered across the far reaches of the states and territories of Alaska and Hawaii. By the time of the creation of the National Park Service in 1916, twelve national parks (with others in the pipeline), nineteen national monuments, and two reserves covered approximately 5 million acres. Your travel destination is for all intents and purpose, that was as far as it went.

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