Journalist and Montana native Clayton (Stories from Montana’s Enduring Frontier) reconsiders the history of Yellowstone National Park through its social functions, sharing a collection of stories that contextualize the development of core American ideals through “nature that has been made culture.” He brings forth much about how our national identity has shaped our relationship with land, wildlife, and our understanding of the balance between accessibility and conservation. Each of the book’s 11 chapters highlights a different key point in the development of Yellowstone as a uniquely American icon. For example, chapter three, “Informal,” talks about the 1904 building of the Old Faithful Inn, a huge luxury accommodation with a log-cabin aesthetic that established the idea of rustic glamour for Americans. “Patriotic,” the fifth chapter, discusses the idea of Yellowstone as a “museum of democratic equality” in the 1920s. Chapter 10, “Threatened,” shows how ecological science clashed with media representations of patriotic and frontier traditions and the popular understanding of them in the management of Yellowstone’s 1988 wildfires. Clayton succeeds in presenting Yellowstone as a core American institution that shares an intimate relationship with Americans as a cultural concept and that acts as a mirror through which Americans have redefined themselves across generations. Illus. Agent: Laura Wood, Fine Print. (Aug.)
Clayton illuminates the history and development of Yellowstone. He enthusiastically tells the foundational stories of the magnificent park, which continues to capture the imagination of millions, and explains Yellowstone’s impact on how we manage our natural resources.
The author has crafted a book that will appeal to national park aficionados and fans of Yellowstone National Park, and by breaking down the pivotal moments in bite-size chunks, he’s also written a terrific page-turning experience.
A fine book about Yellowstone National Park. Wonderlandscape offers more than a few surprises. A great primer on Yellowstone history and a unique discussion of the park’s place in America, in both physical and cultural geography.”
Energetic and insightful.
Clayton leads the reader on an enjoyable path to knowledge. ‘You didn’t have to be excited about geology or wildlife or frontier conditions to love Yellowstone,’ Clayton wrote. ‘You could come because you wanted to be a better citizen, take a civics lesson, become inspired about your country’s ideals. Yellowstone had been discovered and set aside by vacationing middle-class folks just like you, who had a spirit of patriotism just like yours.’ Think of that the next time you drive through the East Gate.
Offers new and interesting perspectives on more than 150 years of human interpretations of the world’s first national park. Clayton uses entertaining anecdotes, thorough research, and vivid storytelling to emphasize the ways imagery and language have been used to shape our impressions of Wonderland.
Though Yellowstone National Park's natural wonders are many, Clayton demonstrates that its cultural history is equally rich. He's written about the West before in books (The Cowboy Girl) and journals (Montana Quarterly) and lives on the outskirts of Yellowstone. This text fits into ten chapters (or "stories" as the author calls them), all titled with one-word adjectives (e.g., "Special," "Rugged," "Patriotic," "Teachable," and "Threatened"). Organized chronologically, the volume traces Yellowstone's Anglo (i.e., not indigenous) history from the park's inception in 1872 to the forest fires of 1988; in an epilog, Clayton considers, among other possibilities, its supervolcanic end. The cast of characters includes both the famous and less well known: painter and printmaker Thomas Moran, photographer Ansel Adams, naturalists Ernest Thompson Seton and Frank and John Craighead, the Old Faithful Inn's architect Robert Reamer, and even the "smarter than the average" cartoon bear, Yogi. Readers get a sense of the park's changing meaning over time and will see a fascinating interplay between nature and culture, each shaping the other. VERDICT A consummate American location receives a considered, nuanced treatment. National parks—especially Yellowstone—are widely popular, and this title should attract rapt audiences who wish to learn more about nature, history, or travel.—Robert Eagan, Windsor P.L., Ont.
A sensitive portrait of the iconic national park in terms of the American people's place in it.American history and culture converged in the creation and preservation of Yellowstone National Park, as Montana journalist Clayton (Stories from Montana's Enduring Frontier: Exploring an Untamed Legacy, 2013, etc.) delineates in his fine survey. The author proceeds chronologically in his exploration of the many layers of Yellowstone's significance, from its geological magnificence to its function as a romantic symbol of American self-image and illustration of the dire urgency for ecological attention. Clayton chronicles the stories of people who have been profoundly moved by the natural site and how their sagas dovetail with a larger cultural picture, beginning with the first intentional American expedition (the author sets aside Native American life for another study) by "upper-class explorers" in 1870-1871, which included painter Thomas Moran, who "intended to transform the nature he witnessed into art, into a piece of culture for others to consume," and "scientist-bureaucrat" Ferdinand Hayden. As the concept of a romantic Western landscape merged with the sense of America's Manifest Destiny, Yellowstone grew in political stature and importance, as did its need for preservation by the 1880s (although Clayton reminds us that the National Park Service was not founded until 1916). Other significant personages in the development of the park as a cultural touchstone (and not just a sanctuary for wild animals) included architect Robert Reamer, who designed and built the eclectic Old Faithful Inn in 1903-1904; National Park leaders Horace Albright and Hermon Carey Bumpus, who advocated for roads and museums to make the park more accessible and "teachable"; twin brothers Frank and John Craighead, who conducted groundbreaking experiments with electronic trackers on grizzlies and other animals; and the valiant firefighters and ecologists who helped the park return to health after devastating fires in 1988. A thoughtful study of a celebrated natural wonder that has come to truly "embod[y] American ideals."