History ETDs


Guy McClellan

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For many visitors, Yosemite's park boundaries symbolize a division between nature and civilization. On a busy day in Yosemite Valley, however, that divide seems nonexistent. Cars slither by, glinting in the sun. The valley echoes with camera clicks. Tourists stream into grocery stores and souvenir shops. The post office sorts mail and the dentist cleans teeth. In short, Yosemite Valley is little different than a small town. The American West is defined by wilderness but dominated by cities. Yosemite Valley, the park's population center, exemplifies the tension between the two. My research examines this ideological conflict through the lens of youth counterculture. Like many other places, Yosemite experienced some form of turmoil during the late 1960s. Much of this was related to increased visitation. Expecting a refuge from urban life, visitors instead found traffic, noise, and air pollution. Worst of all, they found an influx of hippie visitors who irritated park rangers and visitors alike. That irritation boiled over on July 4, 1970, when hippies and park authorities clashed in Stoneman Meadow. As a result, the park began refusing entrance to youths, especially those with long hair or vans. In the words of the Berkeley Tribe weekly, Yosemite had become 'an occupied zone. The Stoneman riot carries larger implications for the study of the American West. National park tourism is often viewed as a distinctive part of American identity, promoting self-sufficiency, ruggedness, and family values. Yet places like Yosemite also offered an escape from these norms. Although federally owned, national parks symbolized escape from the moral authority of civilization. Campgrounds allowed hippies to form and reform communal living situations overnight. Tourism is a pliable construct, capable of accommodating disparate moral and political factions. My research explores the role of national parks in highlighting--and mediating--conflicting visions of nature, family, and nation in the late 1960s.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Truett, Sam

Second Committee Member

Wilson, Chris



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