The park’s history book features historic images, accounts | yellowstone national park

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It was an idea whose time had come. No one had thought of it before. And finally, the right people had both the idea and the will to see it through.

After all, who doesn’t love reading someone else’s mail?

Bozeman residents and collectors extraordinaire, Jack and Susan Davis, are authorities on Yellowstone National Park, with a large collection of 20,000 artifacts, containing 10,000 postcards.

(The Davis Collection is now part of the museum collection at the Gardiner Heritage and Research Center, where the public can access it.)

The problem with postcards, however, is that most collectors collect the front of the postcard and ignore the writing on the back.

They put their own original spin on Yellowstone, writing and publishing “Postals from Wonderland: Yellowstone Postcard Messages”. Using only their own massive collection, the book uses 925 different postcard messages, with 160 full color pages. It breaks down the postcard-perfect Yellowstone experience into 12 chapters about bears, fishing, camping stagecoaches, the Old Faithful Inn, and the Geyser and Mammoth Hot Springs. You get the picture.

With over 7,000 books printed on Yellowstone over the past 150 years, the fact that there is still an idea that hasn’t seen the light of day is amazing.

By word of mouth, they have already sold 700 copies, “even before the start of the tourist season”, jokes Jack. “It sells itself.”

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Yellowstone National Park. That makes this book a tip of the hat and a birthday present for America’s first national park.

Susan was destined to make this book: As a girl, her family lived in South Tracy, the same street where Mrs. Isabel Haynes, the widow of Jack Haynes, lived. The Haynes family has been a pioneer of YNP photographers and dealers for 87 years.

She remembers walking past the Haynes house when she was little, not thinking that one day she would write a book about the neighbor who lived there. She told the Belgrade News that as a child she never met Ms Haynes, although there are several postcards of Haynes in her book. “And I spoke to him once on the phone,” Jack added.

In an ironic twist of fate, the first Yellowstone souvenir Susan ever bought (and that was 55 years ago) was a box of Haynes postcards. And, “Yeah, that box of Haynes cards that I still had,” she laughed. “And it ended up going back to the Park with the whole collection.”

Jack Haynes died in 1962; Isabel, in 1993. For years they ran Haynes Picture Shops throughout the park and had an exclusive deal in Yellowstone to sell pictures and film.

“The Haynes family really stood up for Yellowstone,” Jack recalls. “And more specifically, postcards.” Their “influence years” spanned from 1881 to 1968, when Isabel sold the Haynes Photo Shops to Hamilton Stores.

Susan’s fatal connection to the park predates her own birth. His family moved here from Wisconsin in 1948, and his father worked for Don Corcoran Pulpwood, felling trees to ship them to Wisconsin for pulpwood.

“His dad worked at Big Sky and laid the roads in 1951,” Jack recalls.

“He logged with draft horses and floated the trees down the Gallatin River to Gallatin Gateway, where they were loaded onto train cars.”

Susan added: “There was a stagecoach from Yellowstone National Park in the yard, and I should have asked for it. When I was a kid, I used to play it at the ranch. My family used to go there often when I was young. I played there when I was a kid. It’s an interesting connection. It was the B Bar K ranch; now the Lone Mountain Ranch. Don owned the ranch and all the land that is now Big Sky.

“We have been merchants of postcards for 35 years. Collecting postcards from Yellowstone, I thought to myself, “I really like the messages. I returned them, read them and bought them for the messages. I would look for postcards from Yellowstone. We collected all those years,” she recalls, “I would hand them in to read and buy them for the messages. Someday we’re going to write a book about it, I thought. Finally, we made it.

Collecting has changed with the Internet, Susan thought.

“We had all these collectors across the country looking for Yellowstone artifacts for us, including postcards.” And then eBay came along. “It made it possible for anyone to sell anything to anyone else at the push of a button.”

It took six months of daily work for the Davises to write this book.

“It took over our lives,” Susan said.

The story of the Yellowstone postcards is the story of the park itself and even the story of Bozeman.

“Bozeman in the very beginning had the most impact on the park because the entrance to the park was from Fort Ellis. Bozeman was the starting point; Livingston didn’t exist,” Jack said.

A chapter is dedicated to Yellowstone’s gateway communities, including Gallatin Gateway. With regard to data collection, “gateway communities were hard to find; there weren’t many postcards written about them. Small communities, little written on it. Cooke City, hard to collect. Gallatin Gateway, hard to collect. Gardiner had the most visitors until 1913 because of the Northern Pacific Railroad, then the West Entrance had more visitors because of the Union Pacific Railroad.

“Then the dynamic changed with more visitors entering the West Yellowstone entrance. There are actually two entrances to the west, the Gallatin Gateway to the north and the Idaho Gateway to the west.

Focusing on the postcard messages themselves, this book presents a handful of historic “firsts”:

The Davises discovered the name of the actual bear that became Yellowstone’s iconic bear, p. 135, and that this bear was well known to the employees of the Old Faithful Inn. Prior to their discovery of this 1912 postcard message, the bear was not known to have a name, nor was anything known about its background.

“When people get more information,” added Jack, “the story gets more interesting.”

Many of the couple’s favorite Yellowstone posts are, of course, about bears. “We could have written a book just about bears. Begging bears, feeding bears, taming bears. There are a lot of funny bear messages,” Susan said.

The postcard used on the cover of the book is a personal favourite. It shows Roosevelt’s 1907 Arch, the dirt road leading to the park, and vegetation and a reflecting pool that are no longer there.

“The Famous Madonna of Nature, a Bear Nursing Two Cubs, p. 95, and a felt Yellowstone pennant attached to a postcard on p. 131 are also favorites,” she continued.

Another historical first: their book contains a message written by a tourist on July 29, 1904, just weeks after the opening of the Old Faithful Inn. This message, at p. 38, contains hitherto unknown first-hand information regarding the historic opening of the inn.

The historical “firsts” are numerous: the Davises discovered that they had some photographs taken by Thomas J. Hine, a Chicago photographer who took the first photographs at Yellowstone in 1871. William Henry Jackson, with the Hayden Expedition in 1871, was credited with all that historic glory, but only because Hines’ work was destroyed in a fire in Chicago. Since these were not postcards, but stereo views (predating postcards by 27 years), this historical rarity was not included in this book but was donated to YNP.

“These two parts started at Fort Ellis; Thomas Hines was part of the John Barlow Expedition. Jackson became famous for his photos basically because he survived,” Jack added. Only 17 of Hines’ Yellowstone photos are believed to have survived this fire; the New York State Archives has seven and the Davises have two.

“Nobody knows where the others are,” Jack said. “Ours are important because technically they were the first.”

Barlow and Hayden’s expeditions are credited with helping to form the new Yellowstone National Park.

This book contains another name almost lost to history: A Famous Park Cook, who will henceforth be known by his name, is on p. 80. A map shows Larry, the cook at the Thumb Lunch Station in 1908, catching a fish and cooking it in the Thermal Cone. (It was common practice, until the park made it illegal in 1911.) “The great thing about this map is that we have the date and the cook’s name,” Jack interjected.

Another ancient custom, now illegal, is found on p. 130. Women are photographed picking wildflowers for the dining tables in the park.

Stagecoaches have their own chapter. They were the only means of transportation in the park until August 1, 1915, when automobiles were allowed on a trial basis. In 1916, stagecoaches and cars were in the park.

“Having both didn’t work; it was chaotic,” Jack said. “In 1917, there was only motorized transport.”

“Postals from Wonderland” has the only postcard from Yellowstone Charlie Russell Park illustrated by Charlie Russell – a family of bears acting like tourists and gossiping about scared tourists climbing a tree to get away from the bears. “That postcard is why the CM Russell Museum in Great Falls carries our book,” Susan laughed.

Yellowstone was ahead of its time, with its Wylie Permanent Camping Co., the “glamping” of a hundred years ago. Wylie Posts have their own pages in this book. Wiley was the Superintendent of Bozeman Schools and started his “Wylie Way”, a five-day camping trip for $35, when hotels charged $50.

“Postcard messages are a family affair,” Jack continued. “Keep your family history. Write it down so you can give it to someone. We’ve been collecting postcards here for 44 years and we’ve heard all these stories:

“My mother worked at the park. My grandfather worked at the park, etc., etc. And when you ask ‘where did she work? When was your grandfather here? they don’t know because they didn’t ask. »

The heyday of Yellowstone’s memorabilia collection was from 1988 to 2001, Susan said. “The Yellowstone fires of 1988 brought everyone’s attention to the park. And, after September 11, 2001, everything stopped.

MSU is hosting a “Conversations About Collecting Yellowstone” conference June 6-8. This will be a retrospective on Yellowstone’s memorabilia collection over the past 150 years. The Davises both thought, “What will the next 150 years bring?” We are now in the digital age. Written correspondence is more important than ever. The postcard messages in our book are important historical documents. They reflect the social history of their time, and we must save them.

“Postals from Wonderland: Yellowstone Postcard Messages” can be purchased at YNP at Yellowstone Forever and Xanterra Gift Shops, Montana Gift Corral at Belgrade Airport, Gallatin History Museum, MSU Bookstore, and Museum of the Rockies for $24.95.

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