Dating as far back as 1898, these colorized historical photos bring the history of the world’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park, to life in vibrant detail.
Like Old Faithful, some things never change. Rather, our brief time on this remarkable planet makes it seem so. But in reality, nature is an ever-changing constant; the ultimate paradox.
These remarkable glimpses into the history of Yellowstone show both sides of the coin. Everyday fashion was in a different league entirely 100-years-ago. As was transportation, made clear by the phenomenal photograph of horse-drawn carriages passing through the Rocky Mountain Divide below.
Structures like Cleopatra’s Terrace and the Grotto Geyser Cone have changed since the early 1900s, too. Yet as the 1910 photo of Old Faithful shows below – even with 150 Years of Yellowstone behind us – the Queen of Geysers remains true to her name over a century later.
Woman Standing at Gap of Golden Gate (circa 1910)
Above, an early 20th century woman marvels at the snow atop an old Gap of Golden Gate stone wall. Behind her, the timeless landscape of the gap is preserved via a fascinating form of imaging.
Known as a magic lantern slide, this incredible form of historical photography could “capture” color in photographs well before the invention of “true” color photography.
Two Horse-Drawn Carriages along Snowy Trail, Rocky Mountain Divide (circa 1910)
Using the same magic lantern technique, this photo of horse-drawn carriages traversing the Rocky Mountain Divide shows just how much has changed over the last century.
Of course, many visitors continue to travel Yellowstone on horseback. But the wagons above are far past their glory days, as this rare colorized photo shows.
The View From Pt. Lookout over Lower Falls (1904)
Another timeless sight, Yellowstone’s Lower Falls is one of the most recognizable waterfalls in North America. Yet as this hand-colored gelatin silver print from 1904 shows, the evergreen forests surrounding the falls have managed to thicken in the last century. Take a look at the 21st century photo of Lower Falls below for comparison:
If we do our part as stewards of the environment, chances are that any photo taken another 100-years from now will fall right in line with the ones above.
Commotion in the Devil’s Ink Pot (circa 1910)
Possibly the most striking of historical photos on display here, this 1910 magic lantern slide, titled Commotion in the Devil’s Ink Pot, showcases a Yellowstone National Park ranger on horseback as he surveys the iconic feature.
To this day, rangers patrol Yellowstone on horseback. Here’s to hoping this time-honored tradition continues for countless centuries to come.
Eruption of Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park (circa 1910)
Some things never change. And if any feature of Yellowstone warrants such an idiom, it’s Old Faithful, Queen of Geysers. Her very name elicits a rarity in ever-changing nature: consistency.
This remarkable photo from 1910 remains one of the best ever taken of an Old Faithful eruption, the glowing sunset in the background giving it an even more timeless feel.
Cleopatra’s Terrace and Grotto Geyser Cone (circa 1903)
Here we have a fascinating example of nature’s duality. Certain features in Yellowstone, such as Cleopatra’s Terrace, remain much the same today. Others, however, like Grotto Geyser, have changed quite a bit over the centuries.
Seen above in 1910 via a color photomechanical photo, then again towards the end of the 20th and into the 21st centuries below, Grotto Geyser’s shape changes much faster due to it’s volatile nature.
Eruption of Riverside Geyser, Yellowstone National Park (circa 1920)
Located on the Fire hole River within the Upper Geyser Basin, Riverside Geyser is almost as reliable as Old Faithful. Almost.
Riverside Geyser eruptions occur every 5.5 to 7 hours. They have since the time of this early 20th century photo (not to mention the millennia beforehand). And when they do, steam shoots water to heights of 75 feet (23 m) in an arch over the river, sometimes causing brilliant rainbows.
Summit Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs (circa 1898)
Yellowstone’s history stretches back not only to the last century, but the one before it. In 1872, Congress would establish Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park.
By the time this color photochrome print of Summit Basin was taken in 1898, Sequoia National Park & Yosemite National Park were around as the second and third national parks.
But it wouldn’t be until August 25, 1916 that President Woodrow Wilson would sign the National Park Service into existence. That year, NPS would become a new federal bureau in the Department of the Interior.
President Theodore Roosevelt’s Western Tour, Yellowstone National Park (1903)
Although not as vibrant as the others on this list, the hints of color in this stereoscopic photo of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Western Tour make it a marvel nonetheless.
“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
Roosevelt was instrumental in the creation of the American Conservation Movement. His attention to Yellowstone, specifically, would help pave the way for the National Park Service’s founding. And only by continuing to conserve America’s great wilds in his stead can we ensure another century of marvelous Yellowstone National Park photos.