Editor’s note: The following article delving into the history behind the Haynes Photo Shop in Yellowstone National Park was written by Megan Regnerus of the Yellowstone Park Foundation. We're happy to reprint it here for you with the Foundation's permission.
Yellowstone National Park was a wild and remote place in the late 1800s, and in winter it beckoned only the heartiest, most adventurous souls.
Renowned photographer Frank Jay Haynes was certainly one of those adventuresome explorers. At a time when photography required hauling heavy equipment and chemicals to develop photos in the field, Haynes took the first known winter photos of the park interior during an epic, 29-day, 200-mile ski and snowshoe trip.
The date was January 5, 1887, when Haynes set out with arctic explorer Frederick Schwatka and 11 other guides, pulling sleds laden with their gear. The group traveled from Mammoth to Norris in two days, but the altitude affected Schwatka, and he abandoned the tour. Haynes and three other guides then decided to continue on and visit both the Lower and Upper geyser basins as well as Yellowstone Falls.
That’s when things got bad. In an attempt to reach a place called Yancey’s from Canyon, the party became stranded for three days on the slopes of Mount Washburn in a blinding, frigid snowstorm. With scarce food and shelter, the group nearly died.
Once the weather cleared they did finally make it to Yancey’s, where they recuperated before returning to Mammoth.
When all was said and done, the group traveled nearly a month and covered 200 miles, during which the temperatures varied from -10 degrees to -52 degrees below zero. But perhaps the biggest feat: Haynes returned with 42 photographs in the middle of winter – the first ever taken in the park that time of year. Small wonder that a man of Haynes’ resolve went on to create a legacy of photography in Yellowstone. He and then his son,
Jack Ellis Haynes, ran the photography concession in Yellowstone from 1884 to 1967, taking and selling their own photos of Yellowstone in their shops, and developing photos taken by Park visitors.
An astute businessman, F. Jay Haynes began producing postcards in 1897, when the post office first began the mailing of postcards.
Now collector’s items, the postcards, which were photos that were hand-painted by artists, were called “penny postals.” They allowed customers to write a message and send a photo at the same time for a penny. When Jack took over the family business in 1916, he continued producing these popular images until 1940.
A hard and innovative worker himself, Jack was known for offering overnight photo developing services where tourists could drop their film off at the Haynes Picture Shop in Mammoth and pick up the developed photographs the next day! He even prided himself on his employees’ overnight courier service to get visitors’ photos delivered to wherever they were staying in the park.
Together, the Haynes’ photographs of the park could be seen anywhere from Atlantic steamers to resorts in Europe. They helped Yellowstone gain international recognition for its natural wonders, promoting western tourism and the enduring value of our national parks.