The Yellowstone National Park and Detroit Connection, Part I

While in grad school, I spent a summer working at the Yellowstone Research Library  in Yellowstone National Park. As the library intern, I provided reference service to patrons, led visitor tours of the rare book room, operated the Yellowstone Bookmobile, and cataloged until I could catalog no more. One day, while taking a break from cataloging, I decided to search the library’s holdings for “Detroit”, my hometown. To my surprise, I got a hit.

The Yellowstone Research Library collects everything, as you might imagine, related to Yellowstone National Park. Park staff members are the main patrons of the library, so the collection includes a lot of books to support them in their work, or to entertain them on their down time. The library has scientific books and papers related to geysers and other thermal features, geology, wolves and bears, botany, and so many other things found in Yellowstone’s diverse ecosystem, as well as publications on the history and culture of the area. They also have romance, science fiction, and children’s books set in the park. One day while out in the bookmobile, I read Boxcar Children #61 The Growling Bear Mystery. The library has some gems in its rare book collection, including works (some signed) by John Muir, and early Yellowstone travel books, in addition to others which may warrant their own blog post in the future. The library resides with the archives and museum collection in the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center in Gardner, Montana.

“For the benefit and enjoyment of the people”

Ulysses S. Grant signed the act establishing Yellowstone as a national public park in 1872, which dedicated the land “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Early explorations and the work of photographers and artists, including William Henry Jackson and Thomas Moran, made the case for the area’s uniqueness and need for preservation. If you’ve never been, I highly highly recommend adding it to your bucket list.

How amazing is the Grand Prismatic Spring?

Philetus W. Norris served as the second superintendent of the park from 1877-1882. Prior to its establishment as a national park, and even in the early days, nothing and no one was around to stop visitors from hunting the animals, clogging the hot springs with their trash, and carrying out other general abuse of the natural resources. As the first superintendent to earn a salary for the job, Norris built roads and trails, sent specimens to the Smithsonian, established a conservation program, and wrote poetry, histories, and guidebooks about the park. He spent a great deal of time exploring and his legacy remains in all the areas he named after himself.

Back to the catalog: when I searched “Detroit”, I found an article in the vertical files about Colonel Norris. As it turns out, after Norris served as Yellowstone Superintendent, he established the Village of Norris in what is now northeast Detroit. As was his nature, he left a legacy there as well, which I will explore in my next post. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, for more Yellowstone photos, visit the blog I kept during my stay:


One thought on “The Yellowstone National Park and Detroit Connection, Part I

  1. Pingback: The Yellowstone National Park and Detroit Connection, Part II | Adventures Past and Present

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