Grand Circle History that Inspired ADG's Newest Coffee Table Book

Grand Circle History that Inspired ADG's Newest Coffee Table Book

In early October, our team launched the Illustrated Guide to the Grand Circle, our newest coffee table book and a thorough guide to one of America's greatest national treasures. The book features over 150 pages of in-depth exploration of the many National Parks, State Parks, National Monuments, local recreation areas, forests, scenic trails, waterways, wildlife, and towns of southern Utah and northern Arizona.

Of course, as our deep love of American history is part of what inspires us to create vintage-styled poster art, we also included a section in the Illustrated Guide to the Grand Circle on the history of that region, complete with interesting stories and significant events that helped shape that corner of the southwest into the preserved treasure that it is today.

Indigenous History of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona

Written as a collaborative effort between Anderson Design Group founder Joel Anderson and historian/author Daniel S. Pierce, the Illustrated Guide to the Grand Circle opens with a creative introduction, a map of the Grand Circle, and some information on various itineraries to consider when planning a trip to the Grand Circle. Then co-author and talented historian Daniel S. Pierce dives into the history of the Grand Circle, beginning with the region's Indigenous history.

Despite the generally hostile desert environment of the Grand Circle region, humans have inhabited the area for eons. Some historians place human habitation in the region that is now southern Utah and northern Arizona as far back as 12,000 years into the past, potentially further.

From about 12,000 to about 7,000 years ago, Paleo-Indians, also known as Archaic Peoples, inhabited the American Southwest, benefiting from a cooler, wetter environment just after the last Ice Age. Paleo-Indians left artistic and religious paintings and carvings in the large canyon walls, caves, mesas, and boulders readily available in the Grand Circle.

From Ancestral Puebloans to the Fremont Culture, the centuries following the Paleo-Indians saw different Indigenous tribes inhabit the Grand Circle, with some tribes leaving a rich anthropological history for us to study, like the Cliff Dwellings that were built between 1150 and 1300 A.D. These massive cliff structures can still be toured today, built by Ancestral Puebloans. 

In the following centuries, Utes, Paiutes, Comanche, Shoshone, and Navajo tribes inhabited the southwest, some building subsistence farms, others living a more nomadic lifestyle. Many of the descendants of these tribes still live in the region, practicing ancient traditions such as Navajo art, blanket making, and maize farming.

Euro-American Settlers Begin to Stake Claims in the Grand Circle

While European exploration of the Grand Circle dates as far back as 1540 when Spanish explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado sent one of his lieutenants, Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, to explore the Grand Canyon, it took a long time for European explorers and their descendants to permanently settle the region. The inhospitable climate and the challenges of farming, ranching, and traveling across the Grand Circle region discouraged most European colonists from establishing permanent settlements.

By the 1800s, Mormon groups, U.S. Geological Surveyors, miners, ranchers, and Army regiments did begin to explore, map, and settle different parts of southern Utah and northern Arizona. In 1869, Major John Wesley Powell became the first white man to travel down the entirety of the Grand Canyon on a Colorado River rafting expedition, effectively mapping the region for the U.S. Geological Survey. 

By the early-20th century, there was growing national interest in the Grand Circle, thanks to exploration, map-making, and the expeditionary ventures of early American settlers.

A Natural Beauty Meant for Preservation; 20th Century Highlights

The 1900s saw a surge of activity in the Grand Circle, from mining operations to railroad endeavors, from Hollywood movie-making to road-building, from a post-World War II boom in exploration and uranium prospecting to a bipartisan effort in both state and federal governments to set aside parts of the Grand Circle as National Parks and National Monuments.

Truly, perhaps the most notable events of the 20th century in the Grand Circle region was the rapid-fire succession of conservation efforts, one after the other, that wise men and women alike deemed necessary lest the region become over-commodified and exploited. For a quick summary of 20th-century conservation work that we now enjoy a century later, consider this timeline:

- In 1893, the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve was created, one of the nation's first federally designated public lands.

- 1907 saw the designation of Dixie National Forest. 

- In 1908, Natural Bridges National Monument was created, the first National Monument ever designated in Utah.

- The National Park Service was established in 1916, and just three years later, Grand Canyon and Zion Canyon were both designated as National Parks.

- In 1928, Bryce Canyon National Park was established.

- From 1933 to 1941, the Civilian Conservation Corps built many roads, bridges, and public facilities in National Parks, Monuments, and Forests throughout the Grand Circle, making these beautiful places considerably more accessible to visitors.

- In 1959, Dead Horse Point State Park was designated. And in 1962, Kodachrome State Park was established, with Coral Pink Sand Dunes following one year later in 1963 and Canyonlands National Park and Goblin Valley State Park following the next year in 1964.

- 1971 saw the official designation of Capitol Reef National Park and Arches National Park. 1972 saw the establishment of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.

- In 1996, Grand-Staircase-Escalante National Monument was established.

Thankfully, all of the above parklands and recreation areas are still in operation today, with many of them having been expanded and significantly improved since their initial designation. To this day, Americans and international visitors alike can travel to the Grand Circle and observe its history carved into the stone around them, or held with care in local museums, or etched into the artworks of the Indigenous tribes that still live there.

The Grand Circle; A Rich History that Inspires Vintage Poster Art

The above sections are only a fleeting glance at the history of the Grand Circle, a history explored in one of the sections of ADG's newest release, The Illustrated Guide to the Grand Circle. To decorate your coffee table with this stunning rendition of the American Southwest complete with poster art and written descriptions of the region, we created a beautiful hard cover edition. And for those who'd like to use the book as a guide and take it with them on their adventure into the Grand Circle, we created a soft cover edition.

While our team at Anderson Design Group has always had a deep admiration for the wild beauty of the National Parks and the natural wonders of America, the rich history behind these places is equally exciting. And since most of America's preserved parklands were designated in the early and mid-20th century, it's no coincidence that our vintage poster art takes its inspiration from the Golden Age of Illustration and Design of that same time period; the WPA poster works and illustrations that were used to announce and promote the very first American National Parks.

The Illustrated Guide to the Grand Circle is a great place to start if you're interested in learning about the region or know someone who would appreciate the book as a gift (Christmas is not too far on the horizon!) And if you'd like to see some of the poster art, retro designs, and vintage illustrations used in the book, check out the following poster collections:

63 American National Parks

American National Monuments and Natural Wonders

American Travel

Until next time, safe travels, wherever your hiking boots may take you!

-Ren Brabenec

Anderson Design Group Staff Writer


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