A stunning western rarity of central importance to the story of the preservation of Yellowstone National Park, the presidency of Chester Arthur and the career of Yellowstone’s chief photographer

Journey through the Yellowstone National Park and Northwestern Wyoming 1883. Photographs of party and scenery along the route traveled and copies of the Associated Press dispatches sent whilst en route.

Washington, D.C: 1883.

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About the item

One of 12 copies produced for President Arthur and the members of the expedition. Title leaf and 43 text leaves printed recto only and tipped in. 104 albumen prints mounted on the rectos of 44 card leaves, including 32 large-format images measuring 6 x 8.75 inches and 72 dome-top half stereoviews measuring 3.75 x 2.875 inches. Oblong folio. A stunning western rarity of central importance to the story of the preservation of Yellowstone National Park, the presidency of Chester Arthur and the career of Yellowstone’s chief photographer. Contemporary dark brown morocco, upper cover titled in gilt, sympathetically rebacked, minor wear at board edges. Title leaf and two text leaves in expert facsimile on period paper, some minor edge fading to some images. Provenance: John Schuyler Crosby, with two related telegrams to him, laid in.

Item #353735

An exceptionally rare and important photographically-illustrated work documenting President Chester Arthur’s legendary trip to Yellowstone National Park at a critical moment in its history, featuring photographs by expedition member Frank Jay Haynes, who would subsequently become the official Yellowstone photographer. Just twelve copies of this album were made, one for each of the principal members of the expedition. Until now only six were known to be extant, all held by institutions. This newly-discovered seventh example—originally owned by expeditionist and territorial Montana governor John Schuyler Crosby—is believed to be the only known example in private hands.

Established as the world’s first national park in 1872, by 1883 the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad had reached the northern boundaries of the park and numerous unresolved issues, particularly those relating to the park’s management, acreage, and the role of private enterprise in its development, were being debated locally and nationally. Indeed, the very future of the park was called into question.

Poaching and vandalism, seemingly beyond the control of the park’s administrators, were one source of concern. Another was an exclusive concession contract signed by Assistant Secretary of the Interior Merritt L. Joslyn allowing Rufus Hatch, a New York businessman and President of the Yellowstone National Park Improvement Company (which was planning to build the National Hotel at Mammoth Hot Springs), to develop businesses at seven different locations in a 4500 acre segment of the park. Even more concerning, Hatch was granted unlimited access to timber, coal, and water in the park. This deal was opposed by Yellowstone Superintendent Patrick Henry Conger and Gov. John Schuyler Crosby, as well as such figures as General Philip H. Sheridan, then in charge of the Army of the West, U.S. Senator George G. Vest of Missouri, conservationist George Bird Grinnell, editor of Forest and Stream, and others. In an official report Sheridan wrote following a tour of Yellowstone in 1882, he noted that the park “has now been placed in the hands of private parties for money making purposes, from which claims and conditions will arise that may be hard for the government and the courts to shake off.”

The opponents were particularly concerned about the effect on wildlife of such development and argued for an expansion of the park. In addition to favoring expansion and more carefully controlled development, Sheridan proposed management of the park by the military if the superintendent was unable to effectively protect it. This much-publicized controversy ultimately resulted in Hatch agreeing to a renegotiation of his lease, which now allowed for the construction of the National Hotel, but greatly reduced the acreage available to him and revoked his exclusive rights to operate businesses in the park. Moreover, the Secretary of the Interior introduced stricter rules, including a ban on hunting, and Congress greatly increased funding for the park, a significant portion of which was devoted to administration and protection. Much to Sheridan’s disappointment, however, Congress did not vote to expand the park. In addition, new controversies emerged, including those surrounding the role and influence of the soon-to-be-completed Northern Pacific Railroad and a proposal to build a rail line through the park, both to transport tourists and to carry gold and silver bullion from mines recently established in Cooke City, Montana.

It was at the height of this debate over the future of the park that Sheridan and Vest proposed the idea of a Yellowstone expedition for high-ranking government officials, ideally including President Chester Arthur, whose support they hoped to gain for the preservation and expansion they envisioned. In the spring of 1883 they began organizing the tour while they awaited the president’s response to their invitation. After considerable deliberation, President Arthur finally accepted in late June or early July, but his decision soon prompted concern and criticism. As Arthur had assumed the presidency following the assassination of President James Garfield, there was no sitting vice president at the time and “no U.S. President had ever embarked on such a long and potentially hazardous trip” (Goodyear). Moreover, Arthur had been diagnosed with Bright’s disease, a potentially terminal kidney condition, and was known to be in fragile health. After much criticism from the press of both the president’s participation as well as the taxpayer-funded expedition itself, both Sheridan and Arthur were forced to defend the planned outing. The president noted that he, like anyone, needed a vacation and that the trip would afford him the opportunity to “practically study the Indian question” and would be worth more to him in “instruction and health than twenty seasons at Saratoga or Newport would be.” Sheridan concurred, and added that the extension of the park he proposed was “principally on the southern line—a country over which we will pass—and I am in hope that the information these gentlemen may acquire will have a tendency to induce Congress to adopt my views.”

Ultimately, the criticism abated and the president headed west, leaving Washington, D.C. on July 30th, 1883, accompanied by Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln, Senator Vest and his son George G. Vest Jr., Arthur’s friend Dan G. Rollins, Surrogate of New York, and General Anson Stager, a friend of Sheridan’s. Following stops in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia; Louisville, Kentucky (where they were joined by General Sheridan and his brother Michael); Chicago, and Cheyenne, the President and party arrived at Green River, Wyoming Territory on the Union Pacific Railroad on August 4th. Following a day’s rest, they traveled 156 miles by spring wagon to Fort Washakie on the Shoshone Reservation, where the expedition proper would begin, arriving there on the 7th. Others joining the party—at Green River and Fort Washakie— included the original owner of this album, Governor John Schuyler Crosby; Lieutenant General and Aide-de-Camp James F. Gregory; W. P. Clarke, Captain, 2nd Cavalry and Aide-de-Camp; U.S. Army Surgeon W.H. Forwood; and photographer Frank Jay Haynes, whose acquaintance General Sheridan had made while in Yellowstone the previous season. Acting as military escort was Troop G of the Fifth Cavalry, under Captain E. M. Hayes, consisting of seventy-five men who would accompany the party for the entire expedition. Michael Sheridan was given the assignment of writing daily dispatches reporting on the party’s experiences and progress, while a few were written by James Gregory as well. These dispatches were delivered by riders to the nearest telegraph office, sent to the Associated Press to be distributed to newspapers, thus keeping the historic expedition very much in the public eye. Interestingly, they would subsequently be used as the text for the present album, although not originally intended for that purpose.

Over the course of roughly three weeks, the party traveled by horseback 330 miles from Fort Washakie to Mammoth Hot Springs. At the Fort, located on the Shoshone Reservation, the party was greeted upon arrival on the 8th of August by large contingents of the Shoshone and the Arapahoe, who “dashed around the President’s party most gaudily and fantastically arrayed, displaying their skill in horsemanship and gratifying their curiosity.” The President met with Washakie, chief of the Shoshones, and Black Coal, chief of the Arapahoes, the next day, “thanking his visitors for calling upon him,” congratulating them “upon their fine appearance,” assuring them “of his interest in their welfare,” and commending them for “their exemplary conduct and growing attention to the practice of industrial pursuits.” Senator Vest had a separate meeting with the chiefs, in which he urged them to “accept tenure in severalty instead of severalty in common,” a land ownership idea resisted by most Native Americans, but ultimately imposed upon them with the passage of the Dawes Act in 1887.

The party set out from Fort Washakie on horseback on August 9, led in part by Arapahoe guides through the spectacular region south of the park as well as the park itself along a route established by Sheridan during the previous year’s expedition. Near the Fort, they crossed the Little Wind River and later that day reached the top of a divide, gaining their first view “of Crow Heart Butte and the Owl Creek, Wind River and Shoshone Mountains” and camping that evening on Bull Lake. The President proved himself “a good horseman,” coming into camp “like an old campaigner,” and soon caught his first trout of the trip in a nearby stream. Indeed, for President Arthur, an ardent and formidable angler who held the record at the time for the largest known Atlantic salmon caught on rod and reel, the prospect of fishing the Yellowstone’s storied rivers was a prime motivation for the journey.

Over the course of the next few days the party traversed the Wind River Valley, encountering Crosby Canyon, a stunning “gorge in the mountains carved by the Master’s hand” and on the 12th of August “the gorgeous masses of rocks known as Red Buttes” on the Wind River, near the western boundary of the Shoshone Reservation. On the 15th, the party ascended Robert Lincoln Pass, camping on the crest of the divide between the Wind River Valley and the valley of the Snake River–the backbone of the Rockies. The following day they reached the Gros Ventre River, obtaining their first view of the Teton Mountains. Proceeding along the Gros Ventre, the party arrived at the Buffalo Fork of the Snake River on the 20th, a little more than a day’s travel from the southern boundary of Yellowstone Park. Traveling through the foothills of the Shoshone Mountains to avoid the treacherous “marshy bottoms of the Snake River,” they camped that evening at a crossing of the Snake River, where the fishing was so good that the President decided to linger a day. On August 24th, the expeditionists arrived at the Upper Geyser Basin in Yellowstone, camping near Old Faithful. Although they intended to stay a day, the lack of forage for their animals forced them to march to Yellowstone Lake the next day. Their campsite was “one of the most attractive spots which has greeted our eyes since we began our march through the wilderness,” where they had the opportunity to verify the truth of the oft-repeated statement that it was possible to catch a trout in the lake and, while it was still on the hook, fling it “into an adjacent geyser and bring it forth cooked.” On the 28th, the party traveled eighteen miles to the Canyon of the Yellowstone, passing the mud geysers “Editor’s Hole” and Devil’s Caldron” along the way. After a day’s stay experiencing the majesty of the canyon and the falls, they arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs on the 31st, camping some 300 yards from the hotel, where, at the end of the day, they attended “an informal reception.” While the trip had posed certain risks, the health and spirits of the President and the rest of the party held out, no accidents occurred, and the excursion was apparently enjoyed by all. The party left Yellowstone on Sept. 1, boarding a train on the Northern Pacific Railroad at Livingston, and the President arrived back in Washington on the 7th, after an absence of nearly six weeks.

The idea to create a commemorative album for each of the twelve principal participants seems to have emerged subsequent to the trip and is credited to Robert Lincoln, to whom Sheridan wrote on October 20th, enclosing six copies of his brother’s recent dispatches for him “to use in connection with the photographs if it is still your determination to have them printed in book form.” The task of overseeing the creation of the albums fell to Haynes, who is known to have visited the printer—possibly the Government Printing Office— when he was in Washington, D.C., and may have had the albums bound there well.

The album consists of seventy-five photographs taken during the trip as well as additional Yellowstone images. Haynes had just thirty-five large glass plates with him when he arrived at Fort Washakie (three of which he used prior to the arrival of the President) and approximately fifty smaller-format stereographic glass plates. Thus, he had to supplement the large views and the half stereoviews he took on the expedition with twenty-three half stereoviews “of famous landmarks in the park that he had captured during the two previous summers” (Goodyear) as well as six taken in the fall after Arthur’s departure. The expedition participants seem to have been pleased with Haynes’s work. Secretary Lincoln remarked, “I must say that I never saw such fine photographs, and they are all the more remarkable in being taken under the difficulties which you must have encountered. They will always make for me a most interesting reminiscence of our journey.”

Haynes was twenty-nine years old, with a studio in Fargo, Dakota Territory, when Sheridan met him in Yellowstone in the summer of 1882. While initially a portrait photographer, he was increasingly turning to work outside the studio. Most significantly, the Northern Pacific Railroad had commissioned him to document its construction as well as the newly established towns and other scenes along the railroad. In response to an invitation from Charles Fee, the Northern Pacific general passenger agent, Haynes first visited and photographed Yellowstone in 1881. His work was sufficiently well received that he returned the next season. Following his 1881 visit, Haynes set his mind to getting a foothold in the park, twice applying to the Department of the Interior for a lease to establish a studio there. Both applications were denied, but Haynes managed to make headway with officials of the Yellowstone National Park Improvement Company, who made him the official company photographer and “superintendent of art.” By May of 1883, he was selling photographs out of a large tent he set up at Mammoth Hot Springs. Haynes undoubtedly saw Sheridan’s invitation to serve as the expedition photographer as a chance to achieve his goal of establishing a permanent studio in the park. In this, his instinct proved correct. Following the expedition, Haynes traveled to Washington, D.C., where he met with various officials to plead his case, including Senator Vest, who introduced an amendment to a pending Yellowstone bill which resulted in Haynes obtaining the lease he sought. Indeed, Haynes was able to build two studios, one at the Upper Geyser Basin and another at Mammoth Hot Springs, and would remain the official Yellowstone photographer for the rest of his career, publishing a multitude of individual photographs, albums, view books, and guides. His son Jack Ellis Haynes assumed the mantle of official photographer in 1916.

Haynes’s historic photographs capture not only the sublime scenery of the region, the southern portion of which had scarcely been visited by non-Native Americans, but also document the encampments and activities of the party as they made their way to Yellowstone. Of the 104 photographs in the album, thirty-two are large format (these appear first) and seven include the President. The album opens with views of Fort Washakie and the Washakie Hot Springs, outdoor group portraits of the Shoshone and Arapahoe chiefs respectively, and shots of the “presidential ambulance train,” the “Indian reception of the President” and the “presidential escort.” These are followed by images of the Washed Bluffs and Crow Heart Butte of the Wind River Valley; Crosby Canyon and the Natural Bridge; the Gros Ventre River; the Snake River and the Tetons; the company’s various encampments; the party fording the Gros Ventre and Snake Rivers; Arthur and his companions at lunch; and a group portrait of the party near the Upper Geyser Basin. Subsequent photos, all half stereoviews, consist of additional shots of most of the preceding subjects, as well as numerous fishing subjects and such Yellowstone features as the Great Falls, the Upper Falls, Tower Falls, Mammoth Hot Springs, Old Faithful, Cleopatra’s Terrace, and others. Trout fishing was a priority on the trip. While none of the photographs show the President in the act of fishing, two show ample catches of trout he landed on the Wind River and the Gros Ventre. Others show trout caught by Senator Vest, General Stager fishing at Trout Point, and other fishing subjects.

The text for the album comprises Sheridan’s dispatches on the terrain covered each day and its challenges; the beauty of the scenery (“The Upper Wind River, where gorgeously colored and fantastically shaped mountains alternate with those which are covered with grassy slopes and timbered ravines”); the location and nature of their encampments (“Picturesque Camp Lincoln, with its banks of snow lying placidly and slowly melting near the trail, and near the snow-flowers, which had all the freshness of early spring, tender forget-me-nots, wild asters, buttercups, columbine”); Native American topographical lore (Crow Heart Butte “got its name from a great battle between the Shoshones and the Crows many years ago. The victory of the Shoshones was celebrated by burning the hearts of the dead Crows on the summit of the Butte”); and other aspects of the region. Enlivening the narrative are reports on the activities of various members of the expedition: Robert Lincoln goes elk hunting with two Native American guides; the President, an ardent and formidable fisherman who held the record at the time for the largest known Atlantic salmon caught on rod and reel, catches thirty-five trout weighing forty-five pounds during a single outing; W. H. Forwood discovers “an extinct species of rhinocerous and two vertebrae of a large fossil saurian” on the bank of Yellowstone Lake, and so on.

Although President Arthur does not seem to have taken a public stance on issues affecting Yellowstone, the expedition nevertheless had the effect that General Sheridan and Senator Vest intended, although it did not immediately result in the expansion they desired (that would take another forty-nine years, with the addition of 7000 acres under President Hoover). “Much had changed in the park in the short period after the president’s visit. While many understood the trip to be largely recreational, it brought into focus a series of pressing issues, which Congress and others addressed during this period—albeit often incompletely. By the time of Arthur’s death, Congress had called on the War Department to run the park. A new superintendent was now in place. Furthermore, a syndicate from St. Louis now owned the National Hotel, and visitation had continued to grow. The summer of 1883 proved to be a watershed moment in Yellowstone’s history. After eleven years of neglect and uncertainty, the modern park was born” (Goodyear).

Laid into the present album are two original telegrams from General Sheridan to Governor Crosby, suggesting the provenance of this copy of the album. One telegraph, dated 21 July 1883, informs Crosby that the party would “start from Green River Station…on morning of August 4th at seven o’clock am”; and the other dated 23 July 1883, states that “there was an error in the transmission” of the previous and instructing Crosby to be “at Green River Monday morning Aug. sixth.”

The six other known surviving copies of this extraordinary album are held by: Library of Congress (President Arthur’s); Yale University, Beinecke Library (Senator Vest’s); Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library (Robert Todd Lincoln’s); Southern Methodist University (Michael Sheridan’s); Yellowstone Research Library (original owner unknown); and Princeton University (original owner unknown).

REFERENCES: Goodyear, Frank. A President in Yellowstone : The F. Jay Haynes Photographic Album of Chester Arthur’s 1883 Expedition (Norman, OK, 2013); Hartley, Robert E. Saving Yellowstone : The President Arthur Expedition of 1883 (Westminster, CO, 2007); Haynes, Jack Ellis. “The Expedition of President Chester A. Arthur to Yellowstone National Park in 1883,” Annals of Wyoming, January, 1942, VOl. 14, No. 1, pp. 31-38.