Uncovering America's Heritage... Coin by Coin
2005 California Quarter
The California quarter, the newest in the 50 State Quarters® Program, is my Coin of the Month. As you can see by the words in the design, the quarter pays respects to both the Yosemite Valley and John Muir.
Yosemite has a lot going for it: mountain wilderness, giant redwood trees, some of the world's highest waterfalls, and the most granite domes in any one place in the world. Congress saw the need to save this natural resource as a park when it granted the land to California. The grant was signed by President Abraham Lincoln himself. The land became Yosemite National Park in 1890, making it our nation's third oldest national park.
The park is a living laboratory for studying the environment and keeping many animals and plants safe. Yosemite is a national park largely because of the work of a famous naturalist—which brings us to John Muir and the month of February.
In February of 1849, 11-year-old John Muir saw a major change in his life: he and his family left their home in Glasgow, Scotland for Fountain Lake, Wisconsin. Working the new farm and watching nature there helped him to be ready for his hard travels in the wilderness as an adult.
Muir is most famous as a naturalist and writer. In 1892, he and others founded a club where people could work together to protect and restore nature. He served as the club's president until he died in 1914 at 76 years of age. Now, many places bear his name...and a date on the calendar bears it as well: the state of California celebrates John Muir Day every April 21 (his birthday).
Many people suddenly started moving to California when gold was discovered there in 1848, but the state's wealth of natural wonders makes it even more worthy of its nickname, "The Golden State."