Collecting the Postal History of Yellowstone National Park – by Ken Hamlin
Postal history was traditionally defined as a "study of rates, routes, markings (including cancels), and means of transport" of the mail. Or, more recently some have expanded the definition to include "anything to do with the collection, transportation, and delivery of mail". The collector may focus as broadly or as narrowly as they want, and many change their objectives over time.
Let us start where we left off in the previous article with the post offices and postmarks of Yellowstone National Park.
I have never seen a Mammoth Hot Springs cancel for the 1875 - 1877 period. Finding one would be a great challenge. I also have not seen cancels for Firehole, Wyoming. Finding cancels for Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming for the period 1880 - 1902 is also a challenge, but there are cancels out there to be found.
After 1902, the cancellation was changed to Yellowstone Park, Wyoming and occurs in several types. This cancellation was for the main post office at Mammoth.
During the late 1920s, or by 1930 (the earliest in my small collection), mail sub-stations were established in YNP with their own cancellations. Mail was taken from these stations to the main post office for forwarding. These stations were: Old Faithful, Fishing Bridge, Canyon, Lake, and Grant Village (the last). There also are variations in types of cancels within these stations.
Three types of Old Faithful Station cancels, 1935, 1955, and 1967.
Two types of Fishing Bridge Station cancels, 1930 and 1963. Also note that by 1963, National has been inserted into the post office name.
Four types of Canyon Station cancels, 1946, 1954, and 1966.
Lake Station 1973 and Grant Village Station 1980 cancels. Note that by 1973, PARK in the post office name in the cancel is shortened to PK.
There are undoubtably other types of these cancels to be discovered and date extensions for earliest and latest also to be determined. At some time between 1960 and 1963, the post office name in the cancel at Mammoth was changed from Yellowstone Park, Wyo. to Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. There are also more recent cancelation types and the cancellations of official Park mail that can be collected.
Yellowstone National Park postal history is not my specialty so, there are other cancel types to be found and reported and you, the readers may help supply those.
Other Related YNP Postal History Collection Areas
A number of Gateway or entry towns around Yellowstone also had cancelations related to Yellowstone National Park. Below, I present some examples from Montana. Because I do not collect Wyoming or Idaho, I do not have examples for those states, but they likely also had YNP related cancels.
Two Livingston, Montana slogan cancels that mention Yellowstone National Park are at the top. The cancellation at top right is limited to May 1919 - April 1920 and is quite scarce. Bozeman and Helena also had slogan cancels that mention YNP. The bottom cancel was used at Mammoth for the centennial 100th Anniversary year of Yellowstone National Park.
A collector could expand a cancel collection to include those of Gateway communities in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming because many YNP postcards were also mailed from those towns. I show, for example, three Montana cards below.
West Yellowstone existed as Riverside (1908-1909) and Yellowstone (1909-1920) before becoming West Yellowstone in 1920. The West Yellowstone cancel at bottom from the 1930s is a variety known as a DEPR cancel (Depression Era cancel). Riverside/Yellowstone/West Yellowstone was a major mailing point for postcards sent by tourists as the fronts of the cards above (see below) indicate.
A collector of YNP related postal history might consider expanding into the area of illustrated envelopes used by YNP concessionaires and businesses. I show some examples below, but there are others and variations of these.
A collector might also expand into postcard scenes related to YNP mail as in the image below.
Real photo postcard image of Samuel P. Eagle's store and post office at Yellowstone, Montana, 1914. Previously Riverside, and later West Yellowstone, Montana. This is another Yellowstone National Park mail related postcard.
Another YNP mail related collectible below that some of you may have types of in your collections.
Souvenir mailed from Yellowstone National Park. The rectangular box cancel is typical for 3rd and 4th class mail. These mailed souvenirs were popular in the 1930s-1950s but are no longer legal to be mailed today as stand-alone tagged items.
Another postal collecting area is philatelic cancellations created just for collectors. I, personally, do not collect these, but many do, and I show some examples for those who would like to add this area to your collecting.
The 100th Anniversary cancel at top was actually misused 32 years later. At lower left is a 125th Anniversary cancel and at lower right is a First Flight cancelation cover for the opening of the West Yellowstone airport in 1935.
Another example of collecting the postal history of Yellowstone National Park is the wonderful book by Susan and Jack Davis: Postals from Wonderland - Yellowstone postcard messages. iVintageimages. This book gives a social history of YNP using messages written on postcards and mailed. A similar project for mail sent and received by soldiers when they were overseeing the Park or those by summer employees of the Park and its concessionaires would be an interesting specialty collection.
At least four stamps have been created specifically for Yellowstone National Park. You might collect these, and to make it more difficult, you might try collecting them on commercial cover (mail that is not sent by a collector).
The first Yellowstone stamp was part of a National Parks year series, the five cent Old Faithful stamp. Because the first-class rate for mailing a letter was three cents at the time, it is hard to find this stamp as a single properly used on an envelope. This is the most common example of proper single use - paying the postage rate to a foreign country.
The eight cent Old Faithful stamp issued for the Centennial of Yellowstone National Park in 1972 was the next YNP stamp. The top image is used on a commercial cover and the bottom is a First Day of Issue cancelation on an illustrated envelope for collectors.
Two more recent stamps have been issued featuring Yellowstone National Park images.
The 2009 $17.50 Express Mail stamp features Bison and Old Faithful. This stamp will be hard to find properly used on an Express envelope.
The 2016 Forever stamp featuring bison and geysers in YNP. It pays first class postage.
As with all collecting areas, the collector can set their own objectives. Beyond what I have covered here, you might expand to items related to stagecoaches which carried some of the mail and various photographs and ephemera related to stagecoaches. You might also expand into collecting the tour companies. For example, a Wylie brochure stated: "Letters to be received when entering or leaving the Park should be addressed "Care Wylie Company, Gardiner, Mont.," if making the North Entrance Tour; or "Care Wylie Company, Yellowstone, Mont.," if making the West Entrance Tour; or "Care Wylie Company, Cody, Wyo.," if making the East Entrance Tour." I have not seen any envelopes with these markings and an area of collecting might be for mail RECEIVED in Yellowstone National Park.
I have shown only some examples of collecting YNP postal history. Collecting the postal history of Yellowstone National Park is only as limited as your imagination, research, interests, and new finds. You will discover previously unknown history along the way.
Article by Ken Hamlin