The Old Central Files Collection (OCFC) span from the late 1800’s through circa 1950. The collection is comprised of 40 linear
feet (80 boxes) of material revealing the management strategies and interactions of Yosemite National Park in the early 20th
century. Materials range from general correspondence and memoranda to construction permits/plans and search & rescue reports.
The OCFC contains material produced by Yosemite National Park which illuminates various aspects of park operations during
the early 20th century including personnel activities, budget and hiring authorities, interpretation & education methodologies,
concessionaire partnerships (Yosemite Stage and Turnpike Company, Best’s Studio, Pillsbury Pictures, Yosemite Park & Curry
Company, etc.), transportation/construction contractors and projects (Yosemite Valley Railroad Company), natural and cultural
resource management, and scientific research in Yosemite National Park. A majority of the documents in the collection are
inter-office and inter-agency correspondence and memoranda that led to decisions in the National Park Service.
Yosemite construction projects and development plans are found in the OCFC, most of which have accompanying oversize blueprints
and photographic documentation. Charts and graphs illustrate park field operations, specifically documenting field research
requests and subsistence programs. Publicity efforts, particularly partnerships with media and transportation outlets like
the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the Yosemite Valley Railroad Company, are prevalent throughout the collection.
Other records highlighting land management strategies and development plans further expose park operations during its period
of establishment. The majority of the material in the OCFC dates from 1910-1950.
Material Type: The Old Central Files consist of correspondence, reports, brochures, clippings (information artifacts), telegrams,
memorandums, personal papers, office files, black-and-white photographs, color photographs, maps, comprehensive plans, blueprints
(reprographic copies), chronologies (lists), application forms, postcards, bar & line graphs, schedules (time plans, records,
etc.), conceptual drawings, bulletins, minutes, surveys (documents), topographic surveys, questionnaires, pamphlets, leaflets,
publications, legal documents, contracts, ledgers (account books), and notebooks.
The Yosemite Old Central Files Collection (OCFC) depicts early park operations and reflects some of the trends and momentous
changes in the management of Yosemite National Park and of the National Park Service as an agency from its inception until
c. 1950. The documentation exposes the origin of Yosemite’s management strategies – particularly regarding natural & cultural
resources, construction & development, concessionaire partnerships & visitor use, and interpretation & education methodologies
– and reflects the early history one of the world’s first national parks.
The first effort to set aside Yosemite as a protected area occurred on June 30, 1864, when President Abraham Lincoln signed
a bill creating the Yosemite Grant. Carved from California state lands, the Grant was initially ceded back to the state for
management. This act marks the first federally mandated instance that land was set aside specifically for conservation efforts
and public use, and set a precedent for the 1872 creation of Yellowstone as the nation’s first national park. In response
to growing conservation concerns in the years following, Congress established Yosemite National Park on October 1, 1890. Beginning
in 1891, the U.S. Army’s Fourth Cavalry Regiment administered the new national park. Yet despite the park’s formation based
on the boundaries delegated by original Yosemite Grant, the State of California retained control and oversight of the Yosemite
Valley and of the Mariposa Grove. In 1906, Congress and President Theodore Roosevelt enacted legislation incorporating both
Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove under the control of the U.S. Army. The Fourth Cavalry Regiment eventually passed administrative
responsibility to the National Park Service (NPS) after Congress created the agency in 1916.
The Yosemite National Park Old Central Files Collection consists of a variety of materials created, received, and managed
by the National Park Service as the park “central files” from the parks origin until circa 1950. These documents are fundamental
program records that contain critical information regarding the administration and management of the park over time, including
the establishment of park policies and planning efforts. The OCFC is organized following the original Filing Scheme of the
National Park Service, a Dewey decimal based coding system that was implemented in 1925. Records created prior to 1925 were
integrated into the new Dewey decimal central file coding system by park staff. These numeric decimal codes designate functional
record series reflecting fundamental park operations including History & Legislation, Administration & Personnel, Budget Bureau,
Supplies and Equipment, Publicity, Lands & Development, Natural and Cultural Resources, Interpretation & Other Services, and
In the 1930s, a series of acts governing the National Archives and Federal Records Center (FRC) resulted in the transferring
of records to one central branch records center in San Bruno, CA. By the 1950s, the DO-19 alphanumeric code system replaced
the original Dewey decimal code system as the primary filing schedule, and official park correspondence was done in triplicate.
Extra copies were often sent to the Pacific West Regional Office (PWRO) and the Washington Support Office (WASO). Yosemite
records sent to WASO have been transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at College Park, Maryland,
and contain documentation that is not located on site at Yosemite. The Yosemite Archives has primarily received these records
in two ways: through return of materials stored at the FRC at San Bruno,
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CA, and through direct transfer of inactive records from staff managing the central files at the park. The bulk of the records
were returned to the park from the FRC between 1976 and 1991, but park Museum and Archives staff also received accessions
directly from the park Mail & Files Clerk in 1976 (specifically File Code 660-05 – Water Supply, General). The majority of
these records were kept in the Yosemite Valley Museum & Library Building until they were transferred to the new archives facility
at the El Portal Administrative Site in the early 2000s.
However, the records are not complete. Because these files were originally governed by an internal records disposition schedule,
a time frame delineated how long certain materials must be retained. As a result, records deemed by the park staff to have
historical significance were sent to the Yosemite Research Library while many others were either destroyed or sent to the
FRC in San Bruno, CA. In 2007, records were retrieved from the Research Library and rejoined with the larger record group
already in the Archives. Although some file unit titles in the record group are designated "temporary" according to the Filing
Scheme of the National Park Service, these folders contains important archival information – primarily due to their informational,
evidential, and/or intrinsic value – and will be permanently preserved. Yosemite Archives Staff completed processing and cataloging
of an accretion to the collection in 2012.
For the 2014 Accretion found in Series XII, these records were received from the Interpretation and Education Division in
1988 and stored in the Museum attic until 2007, when they were transferred to the Archives in El Portal in association with
unprocessed Interpretation and Education Division records. The records address the history and development of the Yosemite
Museum and the work of park naturalists from the early 1920s through the end of the 1940s, with a few documents dated into
the early 1960s. They appear to have been removed from their original context within Old Central Files for reference and research
and held separately for many years. In order to maintain the original context of these records as well as their arrangement
as received into the archive, a separate subseries has been created with folders arranged according to the Old Central File
code. Notations have been added to the finding aid where individual folders from this subseries would have originally been