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Travelers in the park's first years faced long, ...
Travelers in the park's first years faced long, dusty, and tediously slow stagecoach trips and could choose only between rather primitive hotels and tent camps for their overnight accommodations. Devoured by nineteenth-century readers, many of the narratives from this era are long forgotten today and are only gradually being recovered from historical archives. Park historians Lee Whittlesey and Elizabeth Watry have combed thousands of firsthand accounts, selecting nineteen tales that offer unique and engaging perspectives of visitors during Yellowstone's stagecoach era. From an 1873 newspaper serial that represents one of the earliest park's recorded trips to the 1914 "Little Journey" that popular writer Elbert Hubbard took with his wife Alice, the chronicles included here reveal the enduring captivation that Yellowstone held in the popular imagination, as it does today.
Posted June 18, 2009
Writings on Yellowstone Park are automatically nature writing. But the articles in this collection are not limited to this. From the first era of Yellowstone founded in 1872 (less than 10 years after the end of the Civil War), the articles also give historical views of Yellowstone and the society of the period and its outdoor, recreation activities. From its start, Yellowstone was a tourist draw. The title with its antiquated "Ho!" is taken from a term often used in broadsides and other ads of the time (a few of these shown in illustrations). Yet because transportation in the early part of this era was limited to trains and horse carts, the number of visitors was limited. Although it did have facilities including lodges, the Park was not nearly so developed as it became in decades following 1914 when automobiles started becoming the major means of transportation. Some of the writings describe features which are now gone and experiences that are no longer possible. And most of the writings describe features and experiences which have inevitably changed given the changes Yellowstone has undergone since its first decades.
The writings are collected from journals, letters, newspaper accounts, and other scattered writings of the period by a Park historian and guide, Whittlesey, working with the younger Watry who has written the book Women in Wonderland. The writings were selected to present such a picture of various sides of the Park as well as for their readability. Though some of the writers such as newsmen were professionals writing on assignment, most of the writers and even most of the newsmen were not literary people or highly polished writers. Though not crude or casual, the selections with their mostly plain styles and simpler communications and memories convey more directly the sights and experiences of Yellowstone than self-conscious nature writings; such as the writings of John Burrow's by contrast.
Through such varied plain though observant and literate writings of its first visitors, readers thus experience the delights, the curiosities, the newness of Yellowstone Park. The natural wonders such as the geysers, peaks, and forests are appreciatively described as well as the pleasures of hiking, fishing, and other activities. A couple of amusing anecdotes are persons washing their clothes in the hot springs and fisherman boiling their catches in them. Some of such anecdotes are found in the chapter notes making going through them as informative and fun as the text.