Seeing Yellowstone in 1871: Earliest Descriptions and Images from the Field

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9780803287877: Seeing Yellowstone in 1871: Earliest Descriptions and Images from the Field

In 1871 the young mineralogist Albert Peale set out with the vaunted Hayden Expedition to map and explore the Yellowstone Basin. Ferdinand Hayden asked Peale, his former student, to write a series of letters to the Philadelphia Press about the survey’s work. Just as these letters, the first impressions of Yellowstone sent back from the field, introduced nineteenth-century readers to some of the most breathtaking wonders of the American West, they allow readers today to rediscover one of the nation’s most beloved and visited natural areas as it was just five months before it became the world’s first national park. Written by a scientist for the general reader, Peale’s letters convey the grandeur of Yellowstone with great clarity and immediacy, even as they offer apt, detailed descriptions of the basin’s geologic features, from the geysers—Giant, Grotto, and Mud, among others—to the creeks and rivers, craters and springs. Illustrating these descriptions are the earliest artistic images of Yellowstone, also done during the expedition—watercolor field sketches by Thomas Moran, photographs by William Henry Jackson, and the now little-known works of the party’s official artist, Henry Wood Elliott. Ranging from dramatic panoramic landscapes to lighthearted sketches of the expedition’s more personal moments, these images combine with Peale’s written impressions to give readers a true and rare sense of what it was like for these men to marvel at Yellowstone for the first time.

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About the Author:

Marlene Deahl Merrill is a documentary editor, historian, and Oberlin College Affiliate Scholar. She is the editor of Yellowstone and the Great West: Journals, Letters, and Images from the 1871 Hayden Expedition, available in a Bison Books edition.

Review:

"The absorbing immediacy of the text and the eyewitness mood of the photographs and illustrations make this book a special treat in the literature of Yellowstone. All modern park explorers will recognize kindred spirits in Albert Peale and his artistic co-adventurers."—Paul Schullery, author of Searching for Yellowstone (Paul Schullery)

"Gives readers everywhere a glimpse at the park’s history and the Yellowstone that once was."—James Warden, Gillette News-Record (James Warden Gillette News-Record)

"Together, the art and letters give us a sense of what it was like for these explorers to experience Yellowstone before roads and other amenities were added. This will give any Yellowstone visitor or admirer a new historical perspective on the park."—Wildlife Activist (Wildlife Activist)

"The title is descriptive of the book's intent: to present the earliest published, photographic and artistic descriptions of Yellowstone's wonders, derived from the Hayden Survey of 1871."—JEP, Nebraska History (JEP Nebraska History)

"This attractive, softcover book will give readers the essence of a journey that helped open the West to the American imagination. . . . A very good addition to any library about American history, art, photography or wilderness."—Outdoor News Bulletin (Outdoor News Bulletin)

"Peale's descriptions are detailed, readable, and witty. . . . But 1871 was not really so long ago, and today's readers really ought to know what things were like when, to most folks, Yellowstone might as well have been on the moon."—Kliatt (Kliatt)

"The book's on-the-spot sketches and watercolors have an immediacy that studio paintings made long after can’t convey."—Montana Standard (Montana Standard)

"Based on the handwritten journals kept by Albert Peale and fellow scientist, George Allen, the book also includes stunning photos and paintings, maps and brief biographies of the expedition’s members."—Denver Westerners Roundup (Denver Westerners Roundup)

"Here is another fascinating chapter in the legacy of the famous Peale family of Philadelphia. Marlene Merrill introduces us to Albert Peale, a twenty-one-year-old mineralogist with Hayden, who escorts us through Yellowstone on the historic 1871 expedition of discovery. His words, and the enticing images by artists who accompanied Hayden, combine to provide a travelogue that is both remarkable and memorable in its charm and immediacy."—Peter H. Hassrick, author of Drawn to Yellowstone: Artists in America’s First National Park (Peter H. Hassrick)

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Marlene Deahl Merrill (Editor), Marlene Deahl Merrill (Introduction)
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