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Devil’s Tower, photograph by John C. H. Grabill, 1890

Devil’s Tower, a 1000-foot monolith in Wyoming, was the first national monument protected under the Antiquities Act in 1906. Since then, the act has enabled the creation of more than 120 other national monuments, including the Grand Canyon (1906), the Statue of Liberty (1924), and the nation’s largest fully protected conservation area, Hawaii’s Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (2006).

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Devil’s Tower, photograph by John C. H. Grabill, 1890

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