Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"Deep" South: Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, and Environmental Knowledge, 1800-1974
by Warrick, Alyssa Diane, Ph.D., Mississippi State University, 2017, 336; 10642996
Abstract (Summary)

Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is the longest known cave in the world. This dissertation examines the history of how scientists and non-scientists alike contributed to a growing body of knowledge about Mammoth Cave and how that knowledge in turn affected land use decisions in the surrounding neighborhood. During the nineteenth century visitors traveled through Mammoth Cave along with their guides, gaining knowledge of the cave by using their senses and spreading that knowledge through travel narratives. After the Civil War, cave guides, now free men who chose to stay in the neighborhood, used the cave as a way to build and support their community. New technologies and new visitors reconstructed the Mammoth Cave experience. Competing knowledge of locals and science-minded individuals, new technologies to spread the cave experience, and a growing tourism industry in America spurred the Kentucky Cave Wars during the late-nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, cutthroat competition between caves crystallized support for a national park at Mammoth Cave. Park promoters met resistance. Cave owners’ knowledge of what they owned underground helped them resist condemnation. Those affected by the coming of the national park made their protests known on the landscape, in newspapers, and in courtrooms. The introduction of New Deal workers, primarily the Civilian Conservation Corps, at Mammoth Cave and a skeleton staff of National Park Service officials faced antagonism from the local community. Important discoveries inside Mammoth Cave hastened the park’s creation, but not without lingering bitterness that would affect later preservation efforts. The inability of the park promoters to acquire two caves around Mammoth Cave was a failure for the national park campaign but a boon for exploration. The postwar period saw returning veterans and their families swarming national parks. While the parking lots at Mammoth Cave grew crowded and the Park Service attempted to balance preservation and development for the enjoyment of the visiting public, underground explorers were pushing the cave’s known extent to new lengths. This new knowledge inspired a new generation of environmentalists and preservationists to use the Wilderness Act to advocate for a cave wilderness designation at Mammoth Cave National Park.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hersey, Mark D.
Commitee: Giesen, James C., Hui, Alexandra E., Marshall, Anne E.
School: Mississippi State University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Mississippi
Source: DAI-A 79/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Environmental Studies, History
Keywords: Conservation, Exploration, Kentucky, Knowledge, Mammoth Cave, National park
Publication Number: 10642996
ISBN: 978-0-355-56950-6
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