Earth Day was conceived by a Wisconsin senator named Gaylord Nelson in 1970. The day was a mass celebration aimed at educating the public about the need to protect, restore and preserve the environment.
Nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population participated in the first Earth Day, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In New York, motor vehicles were banned from a small portion of the city for few hours in observance of the event, according to Gaylord Nelson’s newsletter, which was released in May after the April 22 event.
In the senator’s home state in the city of Madison, site of the current day political conflict between teachers unions and the incumbent governor, Earth Day was observed with a Sanskrit invocation and the reading of the last chapter of the Book of Genesis followed with an apology to "God for man’s assault against the landscape," according to Nelson’s 1970 newsletter.
Check out the attached videos of the 1970 CBS News report of the event and its political reaction by the Nixon White House.