Passage to Wonderland

Passage to Wonderland: Rephotographing Joseph Stimson's Views of the Cody Road to Yellowstone National Park, 1903 and 2008

Michael A. Amundson
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Passage to Wonderland
    Book Description:

    In 1903 the Cody Road opened, leading travelers from Cody, Wyoming, to Yellowstone National Park. Cheyenne photographer J. E. Stimson traveled the route during its first week in existence, documenting the road for the state of Wyoming's contribution to the 1904 World's Fair. His images of now-famous landmarks like Cedar Mountain, the Shoshone River, the Holy City, Chimney Rock, Sylvan Pass, and Sylvan Lake are some of the earliest existing photographs of the route. In 2008, 105 years later, Michael Amundson traveled the same road, carefully duplicating Stimson's iconic original photographs. InPassage to Wonderland, these images are paired side by side and accompanied by a detailed explanation of the land and history depicted.

    Amundson examines the physical changes along "the most scenic fifty miles in America" and explores the cultural and natural history behind them. This careful analysis of the paired images makePassage to Wonderlandmore than a "then and now" photography book--it is a unique exploration of the interconnectedness between the Old West and the New West. It will be a wonderful companion for those touring the Cody Road as well as those armchair tourists who can follow the road on Google Earth using the provided GPS coordinates.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-204-7
    Subjects: History, Art & Art History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. Map
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  5. Passage to Wonderland
    (pp. 1-6)

    The road from Cody, Wyoming, to Yellowstone National Park has been called the “most scenic fifty miles in the world.” Officially designated the “Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway,” the road follows the North Fork of the Shoshone River to the high mountains of the Absaroka Range and the park’s East Entrance. Along this course it has no major exits or entrances—it is an expressway to Yellowstone. It first leaves Cody between Cedar and Rattlesnake Mountains, then winds its way past Buffalo Bill Dam where the Shoshone’s North and South Forks converge to form Buffalo Bill Reservoir. The road hugs its...

  6. 1 J. E. Stimson, Photography, Rephotography, and Me
    (pp. 7-28)

    Between 1889 and 1948, Joseph Elam Stimson photographed Wyoming and the American West, producing more than 7,500 images of landscapes, mining, railroads, community life, ranching and farming, and tourism. Most of these shots were made on 8×10-inch glass plates and are artistically composed and incredibly sharp. They are not a cross-section of the Progressive Era West but instead promotional photographs, specifically composed and created for Stimson’s various employers—including the Union Pacific Railroad, the Wyoming state government, and the Federal Bureau of Reclamation. On many of the images Stimson placed a small stamp, circumscribed by the boundaries of a sun,...

  7. 2 History of the Cody Road to Yellowstone
    (pp. 29-50)

    When J. E. Stimson traveled the Cody Road in July 1903, he was probably one of the first fifty people to take the new route to Yellowstone’s East Entrance. His images record a brand-new highway cut through the wilderness. Except for his conveyance, a survey of his photographs shows no other tourist or wagon. Indeed, a close look reveals only a few wagon tracks embedded in the soft dirt. When I followed in his footsteps more than a century later, hundreds of cars whizzed by every time I set up the camera. But as I looked through the viewfinder, I...

  8. 3 Photographs and Rephotographs
    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 51-52)

      When J. E. Stimson explored the Cody Road over four days in the summer of 1903, he made images both going to Yellowstone and on his return to Cody. I have reconstructed these images into a single linear geographic passage moving westward on the road from Cody to Yellowstone, representing the scenes a traveler would encounter during the trip to the park. From the town, the route flanked Cedar Mountain to the south, crossed over to Irma on the South Fork of the Shoshone, then moved over to the North Fork and followed it all the way to Yellowstone Park’s...

    • THE CODY ROAD: 1903 & 2008
      (pp. 53-130)

      The road to Yellowstone begins in Cody, and this view is a classic Stimson shot. As with many of his town photographs, Stimson composed this one from a nearby hill to give the viewer a “bird’s-eye” view of the town. The vantage point is the north side of Cody’s upper bench below the current community building. The photo looks to the northwest, with Heart Mountain on the right horizon, the Shoshone River in the center, and Rattlesnake Mountain to the left. The absence of the far distant mountains attests to the fact that Stimson’s dry-plate emulsions were very sensitive to...

    • J. E. Stimson’s 1910 Return to Cody
      (pp. 131-140)

      J. E. Stimson returned to Cody in the summer of 1910 and made photographs of the Shoshone Irrigation Project and the nearby Big Horn Basin communities of Worland, Kane, Ionia, and Lovell. Since his 1903 visit, much had changed. The federal Bureau of Reclamation had carved a new road between Cedar and Rattlesnake Mountains west of Cody to access Shoshone Dam. Travelers marveled at its twists, turns, tunnels, and excessive grade. When that project was completed in 1910, the waters inundated the communities of Irma and Marquette, as well as much of the original path of the Cody Road as...

  9. 4 Afterword
    (pp. 141-144)

    It has been four years since I rephotographed J. E. Stimson’s trip to Yellowstone over the newly opened Cody Road. In that time I have married and moved into a new home in Flagstaff. Because my dog Nellie had been ill and then passed away in the spring of 2011, I have spent exactly six nights away from home since returning from Wyoming. In that same amount of time, several hundred thousand people have traveled the Cody Road to Yellowstone. There have been avalanches across it at Sylvan Pass and fires along its shoulders. The road endures.

    In the process...

  10. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 145-152)
  11. Index
    (pp. 153-156)