Collections from Wyoming National Parks

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from every national park museum collection in Wyoming. We invite you to explore museum collections from Devils Tower National Monument, Fossil Butte National Monument, Fort Laramie National Historic Site, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park.

This oil painting by Herbert A. Collins has hung in the Devils Tower National Monument Visitor Center since 1937, and is the only original exhibit piece that remains on display today. The painting depicts an American Indian legend of the tower's genesis. Over 20 American Indian tribes have traditional associations with the tower, and many tribes believe that the tower's cracks are the scratches of a bear that clawed at its sides as the tower rose from the earth. In the Kiowa legend, for example, seven little girls were chased by a bear and jumped onto a rock. One of the girls prayed for the rock to save them. The rock began to grow upwards, pushing the girls higher and higher. When the bear jumped and attempted to reach the girls, it scratched the rock.

Devils Tower National Monument, DETO 18

Fossil fishes have attracted scientists and commercial fossil collectors to Fossil Butte National Monument since its discovery in the late 1800s. David Haddenham quarried on Fossil Butte from the early 1900s until the early 1950s. Haddenham and Robert Lee Craig, a contemporary collector across the valley, sold specimens to fossil collectors and museums around the world. Largely through their efforts the fossils of ancient Fossil Lake became world renowned.

Today, on private and state-owned lands outside Fossil Butte National Monument, many commercial fossil collectors quarry the limestone rock deposited in the ancient lake. Primarily through their efforts we now know that the ancient ecosystems included 27 species of fish including the world's only articulated freshwater stingrays, eight species of primitive mammals including the world's oldest articulated bats, over 300 species of plants including palm fronds, ferns, Equisetum (scouring rush), a large variety of deciduous leaf species, two snake species, three lizard species, two crocodilian species, seven turtle species, over 25 bird species, shrimp, crayfish, ostracods, and numerous insects waiting formal identification or scientific description. These fossils make this the most abundant, diverse, and exceptionally preserved eocene (52 million years old) fossil deposit in the world.

Fossil Butte National Monument, FOBU 13666

The Sutler's Store, built in 1849, was the center of commerce at Fort Laramie for military and civilian populations. Soldiers, family members, and emigrants, as well as the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoes who frequented the fort, all did business at the Sutler's Store. The store stocked a variety of items including tobacco and smoking supplies, firearms and ammunition, housewares such as cups, plates, and bowls of ceramic and tin, sewing notions, calico fabric and beads, and food items such as brown sugar, nuts, jellies, canned seafood, vegetables, and sauces. A selection of clothing and footwear was available, including otter hats, cloth sunbonnets, straw hats, shirts, coats, vests, and boots for the entire family. If the post trader did not have an item in stock, they also had the ability to order and receive large items such as furniture. The post trader also regularly traded buffalo robes and other animal skins with Native Americans. The Sutler's Store operated at Fort Laramie from 1849 to 1890.

Because cash was frequently unavailable, most merchandise was sold on credit. Store tokens were given to soldiers and were eventually reimbursed by a paymaster's check made out to the Sutler. This token comes from the era when Seth Edmund Ward was Post Trader from 1857 to 1871. Ward was born in Virginia in 1820. At age 12 he lost his father and started wandering into the New West, mainly working herding jobs. He traded with various tribes from the Red River to the Yellowstone until he formed a partnership with William LeGuerrier, which brought him to the Fort Laramie area. This token could have purchased items we know Ward carried in his inventory, such as lemon sugar, green tea, olive oil, castile soap, wool socks, brandy peaches, or perhaps even perfume for a soldier's sweetheart.

Fort Laramie National Historic Site, FOLA 512

Sioux women were known for their signature buckskin dresses with fully beaded yokes. Often the beaded shoulder background was blue, representing a lake reflecting in a blue sky. Cross patterns represent either the four directions or the morning star. The U-shaped design positioned at the center of the breast is reminiscent of the tail of an animal. This can also represent the turtle which possessed power associated with a woman's capacity for childbirth and the natural cycles related to femininity. This dress was selected due to its beauty and the Sioux's long standing connection to Grand Teton National Park and the surrounding landscape.

Grand Teton National Park, GRTE 5065

Credits: Story

Park museum staff from: Devils Tower National Monument, Fossil Butte National Monument, Fort Laramie National Historic Site, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park.

National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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