Synopses & Reviews
Does a beloved institution need its own myths to survive? Can conservationists avoid turning their heroes into legends? Should they try? Yellowstone National Park, a global icon of conservation and natural beauty, was born at the most improbable of times: the American Gilded Age, when altruism seemed extinct and societys vision seemed focused on only greed and growth. Perhaps that is why the parks creation myth” portrayed a few saintlike pioneer conservationists laboring to set aside this unique wilderness against all odds. In fact, the establishment of Yellowstone was the result of complex social, scientific, economic, and aesthetic forces. Its creators were not saints but mortal humans with the full range of ideals and impulses known to the species. Authors Paul Schullery and Lee Whittlesey, both longtime students of Yellowstones complex history, present the first full account of how the fairy tale origins of the park found universal public acceptance and the long, painful process by which the myth was reconsidered and replaced with a more realistic and ultimately more satisfying story. In this evocative exploration of Yellowstones creation myth, the authors trace the evolution of the legend, its rise to incontrovertible truth, and its revelation as a mysterious and troubling episode that remains part folklore, part wish, and part history. This study demonstrates the passions stirred by any challenge to cherished national memories, just as it honors the ideals and dreams represented by our national myths.
“The book should appeal to serious students of Western history and the conservation movement as well as those more philosophically inclined.”—Mark Hertig, Nebraska History Robert E. Walls - Journal of American Folklore
"Paul Shullery and Lee Whittlesey have written a book that explores more than the `campfire myth' and the creation of Yellowstone as the first national park."-Western Historical Quarterly(Western Historical Quarterly)
“This book is a productive and provocative exploration of the connections among national institutions, evolving ideologies, and the symbolic power of stories. It has much to offer to those interested in the social, cultural, and scientific issues that constitute environmental studies today.” —Robert E. Walls, Journal of American Folklore Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
“This book is valuable because it offers a complex vision of the origins of the national park ideal rather than a simple campfire story, and it is accessible to general readers. It is also an interesting tale of the use, and possible misuse, of history.”—Kathy S. Mason, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society Kathy S. Mason
“A gem. . . . One can only hope that this entertaining volume, which is as much mystery as history, will be widely read, enlightening us about both the park and the pitfalls of myths.”—Robert W. Righter, South Dakota History Robert W. Righter
“A fascinating, courageous, and curious little book.”—Outdoor News Bulletin South Dakota History
"The discussion concerning the place of myths, legends, and solid history is thought provoking. For history graduate students it is a case study in how bureaucracy can change over a generation or two, how myths can begin, and how difficult it can be to destroy them."—Richard A. Bartlett, Oregon Historical Quarterly Mark Hertig - Nebraska History
Yellowstone National Park, a global icon of conservation and natural beauty, was born at the most improbable of times: the American Gilded Age, when altruism seemed extinct and societys vision seemed focused solely on greed and growth. Perhaps that is why the parks “creation myth” recounted how a few saintlike pioneer conservationists labored to set aside this unique wilderness against all odds, when in fact, the establishment of Yellowstone was the result of complex social, scientific, economic, and aesthetic forces. Paul Schullery and Lee Whittlesey, both longtime students of Yellowstones complex history, present the first full account of how the fairy-tale origins of the park found universal public acceptance, and of the long process by which the myth was reconsidered and replaced with a more realistic and ultimately more satisfying story.
About the Author
Paul Schullery is the author of many books on the American West, including Searching for Yellowstone and Old Yellowstone Days. He wrote and narrated the PBS film Yellowstone: Americas Sacred Wilderness and is currently scholar-in-residence at Montana State University Library. Lee Whittlesey is park historian for the National Park Service at Yellowstone National Park. He is the author of several books, most recently Ho! for Wonderland: Travelers Accounts of Yellowstone, 1872-1914 and A Yellowstone Album: A Photographic Celebration of the First National Park.