After Adjournment at the end of the Morning Session on October 16, 1912, Pillsbury showed reels of the movies he had made in the meadows of Yosemite, contrasting what was still there with the waist-high proliferation of flowers which had presented themselves to his eyes on the occasion of his first trip to Yosemite in 1895. What a difference those years had made.
To save a few pennies for horse fodder the Park Service had been mowing the meadows to create fodder for their horses. We will never know how many species of flowers were destroyed by the mower. But with the nature movies Pillsbury had started making and showing in 1909 and the lapse-time movies of flowers raising their faces to the sun and swaying with their natural motion, through Pillsbury's camera visible to the human eye for the first time, those attending could see, and understand, the living reality of the meadows.
The assembled superintendents decided the wildflowers must be preserved. The mower, as Pillsbury put in, was put on the blink.
Today we understand the power of movies, the impact on the viewer. In 1912, the effect was stunning. To see them, so like ourselves in their struggles for life, was to feel for them, love them, was to be moved with a desire to protect them.
After Pillsbury began showing these early films to Women's Clubs, Horticultural Societies, Garden Clubs, and Town Halls, schools educating both children and college aged men and women, a move began to preserve the wildflowers.
Pillsbury was responsible for this. A modest man, he claimed little credit for the change sending those interested in this work to the Sierra Club. Pillsbury was a Preservationist in the same model as John Muir. But he was also highly technologically savvy. In 1912 he had already invented a slicer for microscope slides and the first circuit panorama camera. Applying the new technology of films he took nature to the people, beginning a mass movement for preservation.
In this way the voice of the wildflowers themselves was heard by people, first in California and then across America.
Arthur C. Pillsbury was a man who had canoed alone down the entire length of the Yukon River from its headwaters to the ocean, nearly 3,000 miles, he understood the hazards which accompanied the beauties and majesty of the Earth's wilds. Too many were unprepared to appreciate what they would encounter, putting themselves in danger. From the time he bought the Studio of the Three Arrows in 1906 until he was forced out of Yosemite in 1927 Pillsbury took the photos of the Sierra Club's annual High Trip. You are going to ask your self how this can be true if there is no mention of Pillsbury in the histories of the Park Service or the Sierra Club. These are questions which need to be answered. Although Pillsbury died in 1946 the reasons behind these omissions matter to you today more than you can imagine. Sign up to receive IMAGE, our newsletter.