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Ted Swem, Interview 1, Part 1

Ted Swem was interviewed by William Schneider on October 10, 1991 at his home in Evergreen, Colorado. Ted was also interviewed by Bill Schneider on July 6, 1993 (ORAL HISTORY 93-15-26 through 93-15-29). Ted had a long career with the National Park Service, and in this interview offers a historical overview of events and policies that led up to the expansion of the national park system in Alaska. Ted was interviewed in his den, which was really a working office. Although he was retired, he continued to collect information on park service areas and issues. His particular interest in Alaska was evidenced by many of the books, articles and photographs in the room. In this first part of a two part interview, Ted talks about his early days with the National Park Service, coming to Alaska, and the Park Service's early role in Alaska.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 91-22-25

Project: Gates of the Arctic National Park
Date of Interview: Oct 10, 1991
Narrator(s): Ted Swem, Sr.
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


1) His personal background and early influences

2) First introduction to Alaska

3) Formal schooling and job history

4) Ted Swem's employment with the National Park Service

5) Transferred to Washington D.C. in 1961

6) Mission 66

7) Highlights of his first trip to Alaska in 1962

8) Impression of the trip to Alaska, and its potential for the National Park Service

9) Establishment of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation and increase in funding for parks

10) National policies of the Kennedy administration and the 1960's that led to additions of the National Park system

11) His early interest in Alaska

12) Return trip to Alaska in 1963

13) Swem's return to Washington D.C.

14) The next important trip to Alaska in 1965

15) National Park Service involvement in Wrangell-St. Elias

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


Section 1: Cedar Rapids, IO -- born\ father -- family settled in Iowa in 1840's\ midwest upbringing\ brother\ mother -- outdoor and nature interests\ father -- civil engineer\ railroads -- Wyoming and Montana\ boy scout\ boy scout camp -- director of nature study|

Section 2: Cedar Rapids\ grade school principal -- trip to Alaska\ principal -- description of trip\ cruiseship\ local college -- attended\ trip -- camping in Yellowstone and Teton\ geology class trip\ National Park Service -- first contact with\ Stagner, Howard\ Teton National Park\ Stagner, Howard -- Swem worked with years later\ Stagner, Howard -- Chief Naturalist at Teton\ Mission 66 Program\ Natural Landmark Studies|

Section 3: Coe College -- Cedar Rapids\ geology trip\ Iowa State University\ 1940 -- graduated\ forestry and wildlife management majors\ Harvard University -- graduate school\ WWII\ Swem -- no military service\ Cedar Rapids\ civil engineer work\ Colorado -- 1943 move to\ Colorado Game and Fish Department\ Wildlife Technician\ Coordinator for Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration\ Department of the Interior\ Bureau of Reclamation\ Denver, CO -- regional office\ U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service\ National Park Service\ Omaha, Nebraska\ water development -- Missouri River Basin\ reservoir management -- state level\ National Park Service -- summer 1938\ summer student technician\ Childs, Frank\ Baker, Howard\ Hummel, Ed\ Bureau of Reclamation|

Section 4: National Park Service\ student technician\ Bureau of Reclamation -- regional office in Denver\ biologist -- first one in Bureau of Reclamation\ National Park Service -- worked closely with\ Baker, Howard\ Omaha Regional Office\ Mission 66 Program\ Regional Chief of New Area Studies\ Brown, Chet\ boundary studies\ Fort Bent, CO\ Fort Larned\ Wilsons Creek, MI\ Ozark National Scenic Riverways\ Voyageurs National Park\ Hieb, Dave\ Knowles, Larry\ Denver\ Mintzmyer, Lorraine|

Section 5: Thompson, Ben\ cooperative activities -- Washington D.C.\ new area and boundary studies\ 1961 -- move to Washington D.C.\ Bowen, Bill\ new area studies\ Parks For America\ National Park Service\ areas that warrant protection or study\ Mission 66\ Parks For America -- identify areas in\ Udall, Stewart\ Wirth, Connie\ Kennedy, Pres. John\ Secretary of the Interior\ Alaska\ Bowen, Bill\ Thompson, Ben\ Allin, Roger\ Collins, George\ Parks For America|

Section 6: Mission 66\ mid 1950's\ Eisenhower, Dwight\ Wirth, Connie\ National Parks -- poor conditions\ national attention\ parks -- improvement and development\ planning\ Swem, Ted\ Allin, Roger\ National Park Service -- increase and improve planning\ Parks For America -- information compiled\ Olcott, George\ Thompson, Ben|

Section 7: Bowen, Bill\ Thompson, Ben\ Udall, Stewart\ proposals\ work hours\ Alaska -- first trip\ Secretary of the Interior's Advisory Board on National Parks\ resolutions\ Hawaii -- trip\ Thompson, Ben\ Bowen, Bill -- trip to Hawaii\ Swem, Ted -- trip to Alaska\ Collins, George\ Allin, Roger\ Wood-Tikchik area\ Bureau of Land Management\ Bureau of Indian Affairs\ areas -- possible additions to National Park Service\ Lake Clark\ Mt. McKinley National Park\ Katmai\ Round Island -- natural landmark area\ Bering Sea\ Walrus area\ Gates of the Arctic\ Arrigetch Peaks\ Anchorage\ Fairbanks\ Wood-Tikchik Lake\ camping\ Hammond, Jay\ fishing\ Agulukpak River|

Section 8: Alaska -- impact on Swem\ Allin, Roger\ Alatna area\ many potential areas\ Alaska -- vast\ memo\ Willis, Frank\ Thompson, Ben\ National Park Service -- do more in Alaska\ spectacular areas in Alaska\ Lake Clark\ Wood-Tikchik\ Allin, Roger -- very knowledgeable|

Section 9: Bureau of Outdoor Recreation\ Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission\ Eisenhower, Dwight\ National Park Service\ Secretary Udall\ recommendations\ Land and Water Conservation Fund Act -- Congress\ Bureau of Outdoor Recreation -- established\ Crafts, Ed|

Section 10: National Park Service personnel moved to Bureau of Outdoor Recreation\ Treaty of Potomac\ Department of Agriculture\ Department of the Interior\ Kennedy, John F.\ Cascade Mountains\ Sawtooth\ Hartzog, George\ Swem -- National Park Service representative in Forest Service meetings\ National Park land additions\ Mt. Rainier\ Treaty of Potomac\ Bureau of Outdoor Recreation\ National Park Service -- agreement\ Crafts, Ed\ Allin, Roger|

Section 11: book -- grizzly bears in Alaska\ Holzworth, John\ New York\ Admiralty Island\ 1930 -- book published\ National Park Service -- correspondence\ Washington, D.C.\ letter -- Holzworth\ Thompson, Ben\ Sumner, Lowell\ Arctic Wildlife Refuge\ Forest Service area\ Admiralty Island\ brown bear\ Glacier Bay\ monument addition\ National Park Service -- response to Holzworth|

Section 12: Olson, Sig\ Olson, Sig Sr.\ Secretary Advisory Board\ Wirth, Connie\ Wilderness Society\ Camp Denali -- Mt. McKinley National Park\ Wood-Tikchik area\ Lake Clark\ Iliamna\ Wrangell-St. Elias\ McKinley\ Murie, Adolf\ Murie, Olaus\ Skagway\ Chilkoot Pass\ Gold Rush history\ Service, Robert\ tram\ Dyea\ Allin, Roger\ Skagway -- 1962\ Golden North Hotel\ Wilderness Society Meeting\ Marshall, Bob\ Marshall, Jim\ Marshall, George\ Gates|

Section 13: advisory board meeting\ Olson, Sig\ National Park Service -- resolution\ Chilkoot Pass|

Section 14: Udall, Stewart\ Advisory Board -- Alaska trip\ Hartzog, George\ 1964 -- Swem promotion\ Thompson, Ben\ new areas -- National Park Service\ Olson, Sig -- influence\ Scoyen, Eivind\ Wirth, Connie -- memo to\ Yellowstone\ Glacier Bay\ Willis, Frank\ Yosemite\ Advisory Board -- Alaska trip\ Skagway\ Wood-Tikchik\ Round Island\ Brooks Camp\ Katmai\ Lake Clark\ McKinley\ Wrangell-St. Elias|

Section 15: Wirth, Connie\ study of area\ Collins, George\ Coffman, John\ study -- 1940's\ Willis, Frank\ Canadian-U.S. international park\ Parks For America|