Natural and technological wonders: embracing modernity at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This study addresses the intersection between nature and technology through the case of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, predominantly in the 1920s and 1930s. In this case, the National Park Service, along with private actors, attempted to develop the caves along modern lines and advertised the developments through publicity materials. Visitors accepted the modern developments enthusiastically, and some sources even show a conflation between the natural features and technological developments at Carlsbad Caverns. With the installation of a 750-foot elevator in 1931, the National Park Service reached an indisputable level of modernity at this park, which visitors embraced heartily. The acceptance of technological and modern features at this particular National Park demonstrates compatibility between Americans' perceptions of nature and technology in the 1920s and 1930s. This study traces this perspective of compatibility through to the end of the twentieth century, and into the twenty-first century, to show a continuation of ideas relating to the value of modernity within a natural space, focusing particularly on the Underground Lunchroom.