Five Old Men of Yellowstone

The Rise of Interpretation in the First National

Yellowstone has undergone a number of transitions in the 140 years since its national park designation in 1872. The period from the late 1930s through the early 1970s marked one of the most significant as the Park Service shifted focus from public recreation to interpretation and education. The vast wilderness and numerous awe-inspiring natural spectacles of the park became less objects of passive enjoyment and more subjects to be engaged, interpreted, and understood by visitors. The park was transformed from a playground into a classroom where active learning processes could take place. Charged with instituting these interpretive interactions were five remarkable ranger naturalists who served as both protectors and educators. Stephen Biddulph tells the story of the five men, his own father amongst them, tasked with inspiring a generation of visitors to the park.

Biddulph’s masterfully woven narrative—part biography, part historical narrative—offers both fascinating factual details about Yellowstone and charming colloquial story telling. The interpretive initiatives of the rangers—nature walks, campfire programs, game stalks, and auto caravans—are enlivened by the colorful personalities of the five men who conducted them. Historians will find that Five Old Men of Yellowstone provides a missing link in the park’s extensive literature, while its humor and sentiment make for an accessible book that will be enjoyed by park history buffs and curious visitors alike.

Stephen G. Biddulph, son of one of the “Five Old Men,” spent his first eighteen summers in Yellowstone Park and has been a life-long student of Yellowstone. A retired Marine Corps officer, a Vietnam veteran, and a mental health therapist and drug addiction counselor, Biddulph is married with six children and nineteen grandchildren.

Table of Contents:

List of Figures
List of Maps

Part One/Hello Yellowstone!
1. The Wisdom of Nature
2. Foundations of Interpretation
3. Five Old Men of Yellowstone
4. Early Ranger Life in Yellowstone
5. Family Life in Yellowstone

Part Two/Protecting Yellowstone
6. Black Alice and Prohibition
7. Patrolling Yellowstone’s Highways
8. Protecting Yellowstone’s Bears
9. Fighting Yellowstone’s Fires
10. Old Faithful’s Best Friend

Part Three/Interpreting Yellowstone
11. The True Observer
12. Into the Woods
13. The First Naturalist at Fishing Bridge
14. Trailside Museums
15. Walks, Talks, and Stalks

Part Four/Discovering Yellowstone
16. Discovery
17. Fact or Fancy
18. In Search of Ghosts
19. The Science of Geysers
20. Earthquake

Part Five/Good-bye Yellowstone!
21. Mission 66
22. Ambassadors of Yellowstone
23. End of an Era


Praise and Reviews:
“This work adds considerably to the literature on Yellowstone and the National Park Service. Its examination of the early days and activities of the first rangers is unique.”—Tamsen Emerson Hert, author of the article “Luxury in the Wilderness: Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon Hotel”