Conservation: "Learn to Read the Trailside as a Book"

Eugenicists profoundly shaped California's landscapes from the development of interpretive nature parks to the improvement of plants and animals in agriculture through genetic manipulation. The names of noted eugenicists are literally inscribed on California's landscape, for example: Madison Grant Forest and Elk Refuge in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park; Mount Jordan (named for David Starr Jordan, first president of Stanford University and noted eugenicist) in Sequoia National Park; Vollmer Peak (named for eugenicist and criminologist August Vollmer) in the hills above Berkeley; Charles M. Goethe Park on the American River in Sacramento.

Far from a singular perspective on the environment, eugenicists could be found among preservations as well as parks and recreation enthusiasts. They penned narratives touting California's superior species and biological versatility, the protection of ancient wilderness, and the rationally managed utilization of the soil. Their "origin stories" revolved around celebration of the cultural and scientific conquest of the West by fabled "races" of the Anglo-Saxons and Nordics and condemnation of the inferior "stock" of immigrants, especially Mexicans.

Eugenicists founded, directed and financed environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Save-the-Redwoods League which was started in 1918 by three of the most important eugenicists of the early twentieth century: John C. Merriam, Henry Fairfield Osborn, and Madison Grant. The Save-the-Redwoods League's initial membership roster included other noted eugenicists, including Charles M. Goethe, as well as businessmen, scientists, and engineers who endorsed eugenic goals. For these preservationists, saving the redwoods was a metaphor for defending race purity and ensuring the survival of white America. This racial logic formed the bedrock of the modern environmental movement. Throughout the twentieth century and into the new millennium, the alliance between eugenic racism and environmentalism remained evident in calls for zero-population growth, immigration restriction and mandatory birth control including sterilization programs in the less developed world, as well as more recent campaigns for greenbelts and no- or slow-growth policies.

C. M. Goethe's personal history crystallizes the intimate relationship between eugenics and environmentalism. Goethe credited his interest in eugenics to his boyhood amazement at California's fascinating flora and fauna. Goethe was instrumental to the environmental movement in California. Beyond his membership in dozens of environmental organizations, such as the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society, he donated thousands of dollars to naturalist projects and directly funded plant biology and genetics research. He gave more than two million dollars to the Save-the-Redwoods League. Goethe enabled Stephen Mather, inaugural director of the National Park Service, to launch the interpretive parks program in Yosemite in 1920 and was designated "Honorary Chief Naturalist." Goethe's commitment to nature conservation was celebrated in the installation of an arboretum in his honor at Sacramento State in 1961. When he died, the San Francisco Chronicle eulogized him as "America's Great Old Man of the conservation movement."


"I don't think you could minimize the importance of C. M. Goethe in this whole program of nature conservation. There's no question that he had a great effect on Stephen Mather and Madison Grant and some of the pioneers, both in the formation of the National Park Service and of the Save-the-Redwoods League."

Newton Drury (Director of National Parks Services, circa 1940s), 1964


Plan for the C. M. Goethe Arboretum, Warner L. Marsh, March 1960

C. M. Goethe Arboretum

Warner L. Marsh founded the Charles M. Goethe Arboretum Society to create an arboretum on the Sacramento State campus in honor of Charles M. Goethe, a man who had a lifelong interest in education and conservation, in 1959. Marsh was the first president and chairman of the society. The purpose of the society was "to administer the functions of the C. M. Goethe Arboretum... and to engage in other horticultural, conservation and educational activities." On March 25, 1961, Sacramento State officially dedicated the arboretum to Goethe. He could not attend the dedication ceremony and President Guy A. West accepted the redwood plaque marker in his place.

The arboretum is located near the front entrance of the campus. Native plants to California and rare plants throughout the world are planted in the arboretum. Included in the arboretum are labels with information regarding the plant names. Since the late 1960s, some plants have died due to neglect and vandalism. The iris garden and the rose garden have dwindled and died. In the summer of 2005, the arboretum name changed from the C. M. Goethe Arboretum to the University Arboretum. Currently, the arboretum is about 3 acres and has over 600 types of trees and flowers.

 



Photograph of Warner L. Marsh,
November 11, 1939

Warner L. Marsh

Warner L. Marsh, founder of the C. M. Goethe Arboretum Society, was a prominent landscape architect whose interest included conservation education and planning of natural areas.

 



Founding of the C. M. Goethe Arboretum Society

The C. M. Goethe Arboretum Society was organized and incorporated in January 1960. The officers in 1969-1970 were: Directors - Warner L. Marsh, George C. Dobbins, Jack R. Dennison, President - Glenn S. Carlson, Vice-President: W. J. Amstutz, Secretary and Treasurer: Jack R. Dennison.

Founding of the C. M. Goethe Arboretum Society, December 1968, Warner L. Marsh Papers


"SSC Plaque, Speakers Honor C. M. Goethe." Sacramento Bee. March 26, 1961

"SSC Plaque, Speakers Honor C. M. Goethe"

The arboretum was officially dedicated to Charles M. Goethe on March 26, 1961. With assistance from the Save-the-Redwoods League, a 602 year-old Mendocino County redwood log was used for a dedicatory marker.



Letter from C. M. Goethe to Warner L. Marsh,
March 28, 1961

Letter from C. M. Goethe to Warner L. Marsh

C. M. Goethe wrote Warner L. Marsh saying that, "Press reports describe your contribution to the C. M. Goethe Arboretum.... Of course, he [Goethe] grasps that far beyond this, is the influence of all you have done in bettering tens of thousands of human lives."

 



Tour of Arboretum, Photograph, April 1965

Tour of the Arboretum

George Dobbins, past president of the C. M. Goethe Arboretum Society, Inc., led a tour of the arboretum in April 1965.



Iris and Rose Garden, Photograph, May 1966
Warner L. Marsh papers

Iris and Rose Garden

The iris garden is in the forefront with the rose garden in the background in the C. M. Goethe Arboretum, May 1966. The iris collection was donated in memory of Mr. Lloyd Austin.


President Guy West Speech, circa 1964

President Guy West Speech on the Donation of the Iris Collection

President West stated that "We are proud to have this iris garden as an important part of our growing, thriving arboretum dedicated to a man whose life and works are becoming increasingly significant to the people of this state and especially to those of the Sacramento area. In the arboretum we have a most fitting living memorial to an outstanding citizen of our area, whose 89th Birthday we now celebrate."



Letter from George Dobbins to President Robert Johns, September 24, 1966

Letter from George Dobbins to President Robert Johns

George Dobbins, the President of the C. M. Goethe Arboretum Society, wrote this letter to President Robert Johns to request a meeting to discuss the condition of the arboretum. Dobbins also said that, "The C. M. GOETHE ARBORETUM on the Sacramento State College Campus represents contributions from many organizations in this community. They have a deep interest in the arboretum and the Society."



University Arboretum Sign, September 2005

The University Arboretum Sign

The University Arboretum sign replaced the C. M. Goethe Arboretum sign in September 2005.


"Eugenics' aim is, to build...better humans. This can be done by adding the technique of Artificial Selection to that of Mother Nature's Natural Selection."

C. M. Goethe, Eugenics Pamphlets, no. 33, p. 1


Charles M. Goethe and Save-the-Redwoods League

Charles M. Goethe was an influential member in the Save-the-Redwoods League. In 1918, the Save-the-Redwoods League was founded in California by three of the most important eugenicists of the early twentieth century: John C. Merriam, Henry Fairfield Osborn, and Madison Grant. Other membership in the league included other noted eugenicists, businessmen, scientists, and engineers who endorsed eugenic aims. The Save-the-Redwoods League's goal was to preserve redwood trees from destruction and extinction. The redwood groves represented ancient history that needed to be saved for future generations to enjoy. League members raised or donated money to pay for half the cost of buying the redwood groves with the state matching the cost. Later, these redwood groves became apart of the state or national parks system. Goethe assisted the league by contributing three redwood groves: Mary Glide Goethe Memorial Grove in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Grove (later became part of the Jedediah Smith State Park), and the Drury Brothers Memorial Grove. He also aided in the founding of the Luther Burbank Grove.


"Saving the Redwoods"

"Saving the Redwoods" is a pamphlet published by the Save-the-Redwoods League. Charles M. Goethe was present at the Madison Grant Forest and Elk Refuge Dinner on July 29, 1948. He is pictured at the table in the foreground on the far left.

Save -the-Redwoods Leaggue. "Saving the Redwoods."
Pamphlet. Berkeley. circa 1949

Map of Redwood State Parks

Map of Redwood State Parks from John B. Allard's Nature Notes From California State Redwood Parks. Sacramento State College Publications, Natural History Series, No. 4. Sacramento: Sacramento State Foundation, 1951.

Allard, John B. Nature Notes from California State Redwood Parks. Sacramento State College Publications, Natural History Series, No. 4. Sacramento: Sacramento State Foundation, 1951


Letter from C. M. Goethe to Librarian at Sacramento State, January 23, 1956

Letter from C. M. Goethe to Librarian at Sacramento State

C. M. Goethe said in a letter to the Sacramento State Librarian, "Some years ago, writer purchased a redwood grove on Smith River, Del Norte County, California. This he gave to the State of Calfiornia as the 'Bible Toter Jedediah Smith Memorial Grove....' [Jedediah Smith] had made possible the starting of the movement by which California became the 31st star in our flag...The above is written to tell you how deeply the writer feels about conservation of all irreplaceable assets."

"Does not data herein as to seed selection, as to weed control, - as to improvement of domestic fruits, vineyard grapes based on wild stock, stimulate thought as to the possibilities of parallel improvement of human questions as to the possibilities of control of weeds, even of human weeds."

C. M. Goethe, The Elfin Forest, p. 80


"Nature Study in National Parks Interpretive Movement." Yosemite Nature Notes. July 1960. pp. 156, 157, 158

C. M. Goethe's remarks on the nature study field excursions

"Our strategy was once weekly at each resort a daytime Nature Study field excursion. This was to be followed by a lecture. Returns were to follow each succeeding week."

 

"A sane eugenics program thus must go much farther than mere negative eugenics. Much can be done, of course, in weeding out the markedly defective strains, just as one weeds one's garden, or one's sugar beet plantation."

C. M. Goethe, Sierran Cabin...from Skyscraper, p. 168


Letter from C. M. Goethe to the Librarian at Sacramento State College, May 14, 1955

Letter from C. M. Goethe to the Librarian at Sacramento State College

C. M. Goethe writes about the National Parks Movement and the donation of the National Parks Magazine to Sacramento State Library. Goethe said, "If we can raise a generation biologically literate, can we not hope to have a different type of voting in matters of conservation? We-2 made repeated field studies of the European 'Nature-Field-Study-Excursion' to work out a technique suitable for America. Thus began, at Yosemite, what has come to be called the National Parks' Interpretive Movement."



Letter from Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson to Charles M. Goethe, May 23, 1966

Letter from Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson to Charles M. Goethe

Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson responds to Charles M. Goethe's concern for "the wild beauties of the Grand Canyon."