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Petition from 300 members of the United States Daughters of 1812, February 10, 1904

In the late 1800s railroads promoted tourism in the Southwest, which generated popular interest in American Indian cultures. Unfortunately, vandalism of ancient ruins also increased, prompting archeologists to seek federal protection of antiquities. The Daughters of 1812 was one of many groups that raised awareness of the issue and petitioned Congress to preserve these sites as national monuments.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

Excerpt:
Whereas, With few exceptions the enlightened nations of the world have passed laws declaring their archaeological monuments and prehistoric objects to be the property of the nation . . . ; Therefore, your petitioners pray the Congress of the United States to enact a law or laws governing the right of collection, exploration or excavation in or adjacent to any prehistoric monuments and ruins on Government lands

Petition from 300 members of the United States Daughters of 1812, February 10, 1904 Petition from 300 members of the United States Daughters of 1812, February 10, 1904 Petition from 300 members of the United States Daughters of 1812, February 10, 1904

Protecting 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. Archaeologists anxious to prevent looting of American Indian relics urged Congress to pass broader protective legislation. Congress did so, empowering the president to move quickly to save threatened archaeological, historic, or natural sites. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, one of North America’s largest prehistoric structures, has been preserved under the Antiquities Act since 1918.

Every cliff dwelling, every prehistoric tower, communal house, shrine and burial ground is an object which contributes something to the advancement of knowledge and hence is worthy of preservation.

Edgar L. Hewett, Circular Relating to Historic and Prehistoric Ruins of the Southwest and Their Preservation, 1904