The nostalgia of Haynes Guides to Yellowstone

“Frank Jay Haynes (October 28, 1853 – March 10, 1921), known as F. Jay or the Professor to almost all who knew him, was a professional photographer, publisher, and entrepreneur from Minnesota who played a major role in documenting through photographs the settlement and early history of the great Northwest. He became both the official photographer of the Northern Pacific Railway and of Yellowstone National Park as well as operating early transportation concessions in the park. His photographs were widely published in articles, journals, books and turned into stereographs, and postcards in the late 19th and early 20th century.” – Wikipedia

According to Yellowstone Forever, “In 1884, Haynes opened a photography store and studio at Mammoth Hot Springs. This would be the first of numerous such photo shops to be erected throughout the park. Haynes was, for all intents and purposes, the official photographer of Yellowstone National Park for years to come. His dedication to the park and to photography was carried on by his son, Jack Ellis Haynes. Millions of photographs, postcards, guidebooks, and souvenirs later, the Haynes family came to have a great impact in bringing Yellowstone to the world.”

His prolific output included a yearly Haynes Guide to Yellowstone that, with the later management of his son Jack, was published up until 1966. The heavily illustrated guides included maps, points of interest, and park rules and regulations. You can find a downloadable PDF of the 1916 guide here. These guides come up for sale at online booksellers and eBay from time to time. Many of Haynes’ early popular color photographs were hand-tinted. He also found success with his stereo camera and the resulting stereographs as well as a bulky camera that produced images on 20″ x 24″ glass plate negatives that showed a great deal of detail.

The preface of the 1916 edition shows that Haynes had an extensive vision of what the guides should accomplish: “The purpose of this book is to guide the tourist on his tour of Yellowstone National Park and to make his visit pleasant and interesting. To this end, it names, describes, and pictures all the points of interest in the park and presents in concise and readable form the scientific and historical information necessary to a clear understanding of the various phenomena.”

Haynes served as the official photographer for Yellowstone National Park as well as the Northern Pacific Railway. The railroad, which served the park, had a fair amount of interest in promoting Yellowstone just as the Great Northern Railway was instrumental in the development and promotion of Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Because of his enthusiasm and enormous photographic output, Haynes was well-positioned to provide the stuff of which the park guides were based. Jeff Malcolmson, in “A Photographic Journey to Wonderland” (Montana The Magazine of Western History, Summer 2022) writes that Haynes’ “First journey into Yellowstone would define the trajectory of his career as perhaps the most prominent early photographer of the park.”

In his cutline for the portrait of Haynes, Malcomson says, “Note that he is armed with a revolver and a knife, ready to do battle with any wildlife” Personally, I don’t think either would be very effective against a charging grizzly. I’d rather have bear spray (not pepper spray).

When I was in Yellowstone in 1965, I wish I’d been aware of the guides. I would have purchased a copy of the penultimate edition even if it would be some years before I discovered what a treasure I had.


Hotels in the National Parks – a sternly worded memo

Why we’re out there – NPS Photo

When many of today’s historic hotels in the National Parks first opened, America was a different kind of place, so people appreciated “rustic” and didn’t expect to have all the comforts of the city out in the woods because, well, if they preferred the comforts of the city they would stay in the city.

From time to time, I complain about the inconsiderate people who ruin camping experiences for everyone else by “serenading” the woods with loud music, loud TV sets, video game racket, and various other hobbies that have no place in a wilderness setting. Frankly, I’m there to get away from all that. Those who are addicted to racket can (a) wear earphones or (b) go away.

The same Internet that makes it possible for me to say a few kind words about old hotels gives others an opportunity to say nasty things about those hotels even though old buildings in a restricted environment can’t (and shouldn’t) compete with one’s favorite, modern resort. But, I can’t help but wonder why people complain about the very things they should have expected to find.

People, The Hotels are Really Old

I wonder why we can’t tolerate “rustic” these days as good sports rather than griping on line about things that are, quite frankly, to be expected in a hotel built 100 years ago in an environment that isn’t kind to structures and in a place that cannot be disturbed by the kinds of “improvements” we take for granted in big city hotels that operate year-around with full access to the best transportation, water, power, DSL and everything else anyone could possibly ask for in a hotel.

Old hotels are likely to have smaller rooms, older-style bathrooms, thinner walls, floors/ceilings that creak and groan, balcony doors and windows that might rattle in the wind, no television or hotel-wide WiFi or DSL. We used to call this kind of thing charming because going to a National Park was traditionally considered “roughing it” even if you didn’t sleep in a tent. Light sleepers can take white noise machines. WiFi addicts can: (a) find the designated WiFI areas (if any), (b) consider entering a 12-step program before staying in a historic hotel so that the lack of instant access to the world outside the park won’t be more important than enjoying what is there, (c) Go away.

When staying in a National Register listed hotel, it’s good to remember that preservation of historic structures always trumps restoration, much less renovation.  Buildings are updated to comply with codes. But updating them because people want modern bathrooms, TV sets in rooms with less insulation between rooms, and a five-star, New York City experience in a wilderness setting is not only destructive to the historic building, but down right lousy management. In the preservation business, we often talk about Paul Bunyan’s axe. If you keep using it, you have to tolerate its fragility and construction and chop accordingly; otherwise, when you replace the handle one year and replace the axe head another year, it might look like Paul Bunyan’s axe. But it isn’t. It’s now a replica and no longer a historical treasure.

You Don’t Expect Granny to Dance Like a Teenager

I don’t know, maybe fewer people are tolerating granny these days because she’s old and acts her age and cannot do this or that with the same efficiency and style as a much younger person. Yes, I know, science will probably figure out how to keep replacing granny’s parts so that one day granny will be a teenager again. Of course, she won’t be granny any more either.

Old buildings also act their age, especially when their age=history. We cannot have it both ways. If we want to stay in a historic hotel, then we need to love it for what it is rather than taking away all of its history by modernizing the original building away over time with “improvements.”

In many ways, the National Park Service is the ultimate steward of these properties, because NPS  controls what can be changed and what cannot, how the hotel must function within a pristine environment, and even how much you pay for a room. Suffice it to say, the hotels are old, expensive to maintain and difficult to operate.

We’re there for nature, not pampering; so it would be nice, I think, for some constructive reviews on sites like TripAdvisor rather than listing “faults” that really are the realities of rustic accommodations in century-old hotels.


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