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S. 4698, A Bill for the preservation of American antiquities (Antiquities Act of 1906), February 26, 1906

In January 1906 Representative John F. Lacey of Iowa introduced a bill in the House drafted by Edgar Lee Hewett; Senator Thomas M. Patterson of Colorado introduced a companion bill in the Senate. It passed Congress as the Antiquities Act, giving the president authority to set aside natural, scientific, and cultural resources as national monuments under the care of federal agencies.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

S. 4698, A Bill for the preservation of American antiquities (Antiquities Act of 1906), February 26, 1906

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