Historically Thinking

Historically Thinking

Episode 254: Saving Yellowstone

March 07, 2022

In 1871 an expedition entered the territory now encompassed by Yellowstone National Park. Led by doctor and self-taught geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden, it was to be the first scientific expedition into that mysterious place. But it was also, says my guest Megan Kate Nelson, part of a larger struggle over the expansion of federal power during Reconstruction. Hayden would be one of the three men who would strive for control of Yellowstone, and the surrounding territory. The others were Jay Cooke, a Philadelphia investment banker raising capital for the Northern Pacific Railroad; and a Lakota leader known to English speakers as Sitting Bull, who was determined to stop the building of the Northern Pacific. These are some of the protagonists of Nelson’s new book Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America.  

Megan Kate Nelson is a writer and historian, living in Massachusetts. She was previously on the podcast in Episode 23 discussing her book Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War.

For Further Investigation

An excerpt from Megan's book appears on the website of Smithsonian magazine
If you're interested in learning more about the historical discipline of Environmental History, you should listen to this very early conversation with my old friend Brian Leech