Galen Clark 18141910

Carleton Watkins (18291916)
Albumen silver print, c. 186566

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Drawn to California by the gold rush, Galen Clark instead fell in love with the beauty of the Yosemite Valley and its surrounding forests. He built a cabin there in 1857, hoping to recover from a bout of tuberculosis. While hunting he discovered a large grove of sequoia trees nearby and named it after Mariposa County.

In 1864, partially in response to Clark’s promotional efforts to preserve this land, President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation granting the Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove to California as park land. Clark became known at the time as the “Guardian of Yosemite” for his role as a guide and a protector of the valley. San Francisco photographer Carleton Watkins met Clark on one of his many trips to Yosemite and created this mammoth plate image of Clark standing next to the “Grizzly Giant,” one of the famous redwoods in the Mariposa Grove.