Collections from Montana 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 Montana. We invite you to explore museum collections from Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Glacier National Park, Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and Big Hole National Battlefield.

This horseshoe is a record of year-round historic ranching in the area as evidenced by ice calks, which are round metal knobs smithed onto the horseshoe for added traction. This horseshoe was used at the Mason-Lovell Ranch, a homestead located 13 miles east of Lovell, Wyoming. The ranch is one of four historic ranches in the Bighorn Canyon, and is known for open range cattle ranching and dude ranching. The ranch was settled while this part of the country was still considered wild, and settlers domesticated the local wild horses and lived here year round.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, BICA 71

This costume, worn by waitresses employed by the Great Northern Railway, is representative of the company's “See American First” promotional campaign. The campaign was orchestrated by the company to attract passengers to their trains and guests to their grand hotels and backcountry chalets in Glacier National Park. The rustic Swiss-themed architecture and decor of the hotels and chalets were designed to lure well-heeled travelers to an American national park experience rather than a conventional grand tour of the European Alps. Images of charming waitresses dressed in Old World outfits serving elegant multiple-course meals were complemented by those of colorful cowboys leading horseback rides and dashing young men driving bright red touring busses through the spectacular landscape of towering mountains and glacial-blue lakes. Elements of this successful campaign became synonymous with the Glacier National Park experience and remain iconic symbols of the park and its rich history.

Glacier National Park, GLAC 7727–7730 and GLAC 7732

This Dougherty wagon has an incredible story that not only connects the two families who called this ranch home, but also ties Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS to two other National Park Service sites.

This wagon was purchased by Johnny Grant in 1862. It was shipped to Fort Benton, MT from St. Louis, MO up the Missouri River. The Missouri River was a natural “highway” to the West, and steamboat traffic into Montana reached enormous proportions during the early 1860s, bringing both passengers and merchandise. Conrad Kohrs later acquired the wagon with the purchase of the ranch from Johnny Grant.

Dougherty wagons were made for long distance travel and during the Civil War they were adapted for use as an ambulance. The park Dougherty wagon served in both capacities. Following the Battle of the Big Hole in 1877, it was used as an ambulance to carry injured soldiers to St. Joseph Hospital in Deer Lodge, MT. This was also the carriage wagon the Kohrs family used for their seven week tour of Yellowstone National Park in 1883. This was reported in the New North West Newspaper: “Mr. Conrad Kohrs and family left for the National Park Saturday with carriage, riding horses, provision wagon and all the necessary paraphernalia for a good camping trip.” (New North-West Newspaper August 31, 1883).

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, GRKO 1655

This Model 1873 Springfield Trapdoor Carbine was recovered from the Little Bighorn battlefield hours after the conclusion of hostilities on June 25th and 26th, 1876. This particular carbine was acquired by Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in 1982 from a private donor. While there are many surviving examples of weapons from this world renowned battle, this is the only firearm in the park's collection that can be forensically linked to the battlefield.

A massive wildfire swept the majority of the battlefield in 1983. The resulting vegetation loss allowed a rare opportunity for archeological investigation. Project archeologists employed forensic techniques such as studies of firing pin markings on cartridge cases and rifling marks on bullets.

In the 1984 field archeological season, many spent cartridge cases from the battle were discovered, Including spent .45-55 cartridge found on an area of the battlefield known as Greasy Grass Ridge. Analysis of firing pin imprints on this case linked it directly to this model 1873 Springfield Carbine in the park's collection, definitively placing the carbine at the battle.

Greasy Grass Ridge was the site of a failed cavalry charge by Company C of the 7th US Cavalry. All of the Company C soldiers were killed during the fight, and it is likely that native warriors recovered their weapons.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, LIBI 7936

On the morning of August 9, 1877, First Lieutenant Charles Woodruff of the United States Army 7th Infantry penned this note to his wife, Louise. Just a few days before the Battle of the Big Hole, Colonel John Gibbon appointed Woodruff his adjutant (assistant); Woodruff accompanied Gibbon and the 7th Infantry as the unit attacked the village of non-treaty bands of Nez Perce camped at “the place of the ground squirrels,” ten miles west of present-day Wisdom, Montana. The telegram briefly describes the course of the infantry's attack, their retreat, siege, and casualties.

Big Hole National Battlefield, BIHO 3572

Thomas Moran created this field sketch, one of many, while documenting the thermal features and other natural wonders of the Yellowstone region as part of the first federally funded expedition into the area. The expedition was sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and led by geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden. Hayden realized the importance of having artists and photographers accompany the group in order to document the area's features. Moran, hired by the Northern Pacific Railroad, was not the expedition's official artist (this title belonged to Henry Wood Elliott). However, Moran's sketches were the only ones executed in color and concisely captured the complex features. His sketches, along with the photographs of USGS photographer William Henry Jackson, were exhibited to Congress, leading to the creation of the world's first national park. Since Yellowstone National Park was set aside because of its geothermal wonders, this sketch of what is now known as Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin, was integral to the park's designation.Yellowstone National Park, YELL 8536

Thomas Moran created this field sketch, one of many, while documenting the thermal features and other natural wonders of the Yellowstone region as part of the first federally funded expedition into the area. The expedition was sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and led by geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden. Hayden realized the importance of having artists and photographers accompany the group in order to document the area's features. Moran, hired by the Northern Pacific Railroad, was not the expedition's official artist (this title belonged to Henry Wood Elliott). However, Moran's sketches were the only ones executed in color and concisely captured the complex features. His sketches, along with the photographs of USGS photographer William Henry Jackson, were exhibited to Congress, leading to the creation of the world's first national park. Since Yellowstone National Park was set aside because of its geothermal wonders, this sketch of what is now known as Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin, was integral to the park's designation.

Yellowstone National Park, YELL 8536

Credits: Story

Park museum staff from: Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Glacier National Park, Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and Big Hole National Battlefield.

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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