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The Haynes legacy lives on



By Maria Wyllie

On January 5, 1887, 13 men embarked from Mammoth on an expedition through Yellowstone National Park. Five days in, their leader, Arctic explorer Frederick Schwatka, fell ill traveling along the Gibbon River from Norris to the Firehole Hotel and could go no further.

While most of the group waited to see if Schwatka would recover, the expedition’s photographer, Frank J. Haynes, pressed on with a guide and two hearty outdoorsmen hired to handle equipment.

The men used Canadian web snowshoes and 10-foot long, four-inch wide Norwegian skis in the deep snow, towing toboggans laden with heavy photographic equipment and chemicals to develop photos in the field.

Knowing his images would constitute the first complete mid-winter portfolio of Yellowstone, Haynes was determined to photograph the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins and Yellowstone Falls.

After reaching Canyon Hotel on January 20, where Haynes captured photos of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and the Lower Falls on fragile, photographic plates, he was hungry for more. Haynes decided to lead his party northeast along the edge of the Grand Canyon so he could photograph new winter sites.

They left Canyon on January 23 and began climbing 10,243-foot Mount Washburn. After only a few hours, a blinding snowstorm obscured all landmarks, trapping them for 72 hours. With little food and no extra clothing, they almost died.

Finding a stand of small fir trees, they used their skis to dig a snow pit for shelter and built a fire. When the skies cleared two days later, they skied roughly 12 miles to Yancey’s Pleasant Valley Hotel just north of the Tower-Roosevelt junction.

After resting there for a day, they made the trek back to Mammoth on January 27, returning with 42 photographs documenting their 29-day, 200-mile journey.

This collection of images from the harrowing winter journey of 1887 is only part of the Haynes legacy.

Haynes first visited Yellowstone in 1881 while working as a photographer for the Northern Pacific Railroad. Falling in love with the park, he returned every summer thereafter to photograph its wonders. In 1884, he secured the first commercial concessions in the park, and for the next 84 years, his family operated 13 photo shops in the park under the name Haynes, Inc. In 1900, they began selling “penny postals,” cards depicting iconic Yellowstone scenes that cost only a penny.

A new book, The Haynes Family in Yellowstone National Park: 1881-1968 by Susan and Jack Davis, explains that the postcards had a broad impact, introducing Yellowstone’s natural wonders and beauty to America – and the rest of the world – during a time when few had visited the park.

It was Frank Haynes’ son Jack who was responsible for the postcards’ popularity. He developed the idea of the “Haynes 100 Series,” a collection of postcards arranged by number that followed the “grand loop tour” around the park.

After assuming ownership of Haynes, Inc. in 1916, Jack managed the business until his death in 1962. He earned the nickname “Mr. Yellowstone” for his longtime commitment to the park – from business to conservation and education.

“He took a strong interest in preserving its natural wonders and quality of its character,” wrote the Davises.

The National Park Service, through a partnership with the Yellowstone Park Foundation, has restored one of the Haynes’ operations, the Old Faithful Photo Shop, and is opening it to visitors starting this summer. Originally built by Jack in 1927, the restored structure, known as the Old Faithful Haynes Photo Shop, is now LEED-certified. Its mission is twofold: honoring the Haynes family and helping fundraise for the park.

A modern, interactive exhibit offers an interpretive history, telling the Haynes’ story and the role photography played in establishing the park and promoting tourism there.

Another informs visitors about YPF, the park’s official fundraising partner since 1995. Although the foundation has raised more than $70 million for the park it has never had a facility there. In this exhibit, whimsical 19th century aesthetics juxtapose 21st century technology to explain YPF’s strategic initiatives heard through vintage phone receivers and seen on modern video screens.

Yellowstone National Park Deputy Superintendent Steve Iobst, who oversaw the restoration, says the shop’s proximity to the Old Faithful Inn should help YPF reach a captive audience.

By mixing technology with a vintage look and feel, the space invites tourists to step back in time and imagine Yellowstone in the early 1900s. The welcome desk is a Haynes original, and reproductions of Frank Haynes’ photography equipment are displayed alongside antique souvenirs, such as the Haynes Guides, which were the first Yellowstone guidebooks to use photographs.

A digital darkroom allows guests to upload their Yellowstone photos in real time, email them or temporarily become part of the exhibit by displaying their photos on the electronic entry wall.

Whether visitors have their picture taken in the Haynes photo op, which uses a vintage postcard image for the background, or watch Old Faithful erupt through vintage cameras, they will play a role in both preserving and continuing the park’s photographic history – one that was nearly buried on the steeps of Mt. Washburn 126 years ago.

This story was first published in the summer 2013 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.

Find more about the Old Faithful Haynes Photo Shop at

More information on the Haynes family:

“At the Greatest Personal Peril to the Photographer,” by William Lang, Montana: The Magazine of Western History, 1983 winter edition.

The Haynes Family in Yellowstone National Park: 1881-1968, by Susan and Jack Davis, 2013.

This story was first published in the summer 2013 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.

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