Author Brent D. Glass spoke about his new book 50 Great American Places this afternoon in the Commanding Officers Quarters at Governors Island. Author talks are not unusual at Governors Island but there was a particular reason Mr. Glass showed up when he did: this August marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Service. President Woodrow Wilson signed the enabling legislation on August 25, 1916. That signing came in the midst of the presidential election and less than a year before American entered the Great War. Not all of the places about which Mr. Glass writes in his tome are under the auspices of the Park Service; some are state or local concerns, or even in the hands of privately-controlled institutions.
Glass is Director Emeritus of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution and categorized the selections into five themes, which included Democracy, Cultural Diversity, and Military. Among the sites included are the Seneca Falls (NY) Convention, the Statue of Liberty, Mesa Verde, Little Rock Central High School, and Gettysburg. That last one had special resonance for Glass; his father had trained under Eisenhower at Gettysburg’s Camp Colt during Word War I. Glass added that though Eisenhower’s job was to train doughboys in tank warfare, so unequipped was the Army that his father did not see an actual tank until he reached France. I’d read this from others’s accounts of those training exercises.
Summer is winding down but there is never a bad time to explore America’s cultural heritage. There is no substitute for going where history was made, and Brent D. Glass provides a valuable guide for doing just that.