Circular Relating to Historic and Prehistoric Ruins of the Southwest and Their Preservation, by Edgar L. Hewett, 1904
In the early twentieth century there was a growing demand for American Indian artifacts among private collectors. Edgar Lee Hewett’s report on historic and prehistoric ruins of the Southwest, commissioned by the Department of the Interior, explained the historical and cultural significance of these antiquities and persuaded Congress to act to protect them and other national heritage sites.
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries
Preserving American Antiquities
The Antiquities Act of 1906 was the first U.S. law to provide general protection for cultural and natural resources on federal lands. Previously Congress used specific acts to create national parks and other protected areas. Representative John F. Lacey of Iowa, chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, introduced the new legislation in response to archaeologists anxious to prevent looting of American Indian relics. Broadening federal protection beyond American Indian antiquities, Congress empowered the president to move quickly to save threatened archaeological, historic, or natural sites.
The immensity of man’s power to destroy imposes a responsibility to preserve.
Representative John F. Lacey, Address to the League of American Sportsmen, 1901