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#2616957 in Books University Press of Kansas 2002-05-13Original language:EnglishPDF # 1 9.28 x .90 x 6.24l, 1.29 #File Name: 0700611673248 pages | File size: 53.Mb Mark Daniel Barringer : Selling Yellowstone: Capitalism and the Construction of Nature before purchasing it in order to gage whether or not it would be worth my time, and all praised Selling Yellowstone: Capitalism and the Construction of Nature: 3 of 4 people found the following review helpful. Oversold but still worthwhileBy Arthur DigbeeLike many academic tomes, this book's subtitles imply a grandeur and generality that isn't to be found in the book. In this case, even the title overreaches. Barringer is really telling the story of the Yellowstone Park Company (YPC), the major concessioner for
75 years. The YPC had to fend off competitors, or buy them out, and then work with the National Park Service (NPS) to enforce its monopoly. Eventually it was unable to keep up with changes in tourism, and the book effectively ends in 1966 when the NPS terminated the YPC contract.Barringer views both the YPC and NPS as partners sharing a vision and similar weaknesses. Both saw Yellowstone primarily as a resort tourist destination, the experience of which had to be constructed and delivered to tourists in a particular way. This led to the massive construction project of Mission 66, which sparked a public reaction against the park service and threatened YPC's financial health. Neither park service nor concessionaire was well equipped to handle changes in the public view of national parks, as tourism became a possible threat to Yellowstone's natural resources.This is a nice hook for the story but it overstates the case. The NPS has continued to push a tourist-based vision, built around concessions and automobiles, that represents a continuation of the story. The particular construction of nature in Yellowstone wasn't much different than the construction of nature in other parks - - which makes one wonder whether the outcome in Yellowstone was essentially inevitable and not the result of what YP Company did. Barringer might try to imagine alternatives in order to show where agents had choices to take other paths, and whether structure largely forced the outcome we see.The meat of the book is a conventional, if short, history of the YP Company against the background of other concessioners, other parks, and NPS history. The introduction has a great overview of the transition from the myths of the Old West to the myths of the New West, and the conclusion has a very useful summary of the central argument. Those framing chapters are worth the price of admission.4 of 6 people found the following review helpful. Concessionaires and NPS create an idealBy Ranger ReubMany Americans think a visit to a National Park might allow them to escape the world of capitalism. However Selling Yellowstone: Capitalism and the Construction of Nature explains that it is not possible. Mark Barringer, an assistant professor of history at Stephen F. Austin State University, details how the forces of capitalism have been shaping the national parks since Yellowstone's designation in 1872. The book chronicles the history of concessions and park policy in from the park's beginning, focusing on a concessionaire monopoly built by Harry W. Child near the turn of the 20th century and carried on by his family after his death. Early on, Child built lavish hotels that catered to wealthy Easterners arriving by rail. His stagecoaches transported guests to each major point of interest with a hotel nearby, including Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. These stately edifices became just as much an attraction as the park's natural phenomena. The advent of automobiles ushered in a more egalitarian era of National Park tourism. The middle class took advantage of its new found mobility and started visiting the national parks, symbols of national pride and a way to get "back to nature." This group of tourists largely shunned the park hotels, viewing them as snobbish, and instead camped. With the coming of motorization, National Parks became places of expected recreation instead of just scenery (58). Selling Yellowstone illustrates that during its first 40 years the NPS and concessionaires were partners in park management and that public opinion largely determined park policies. However, in the 1950s and 1960s attitudes about what national parks should be began to change. During that period, wilderness advocates became more influential, arguing that parks were "pristine wilderness whose inherent value was threatened by alteration" (147). By the early 1960s public opinion was divided between what national park policy was better - accommodation or preservation. At this time, Barringer explains, the NPS and its concessionaires were faced with "molding a landscape with expectations impossible to fulfill" (162). Barringer's thesis is clearly that the NPS and its concessionaires presented their product to fit the perceptions of the natural setting prominent at the time. Early Yellowstone concessionaires created an idyllic form of nature that would appeal to tourists. Throughout the volume Barringer illustrates the key role advertisements and presentations, either by the concessionaires or the NPS, had in shaping public opinion. The volume, however, suffers from poor word choice throughout. For instance, Barringer overuses the word mythology. The word means anything to him. He definitely stretches too far when stating that campfire programs give a "mythological connection to nature." Campfire programs actually can give the audience a connection with nature. Such presentations educate on key environmental and policy issues, which inspire their listeners to take better care of national parks. Alternate word choices instead of mythology could have been "imagined," "perceived," "idealistic" or "preconceived." Adding to the word choice problem, Barringer redundantly emphasizes his thesis, even using some of the same words. Reading such statements over again becomes tiresome. Despite its weaknesses, the volume presents an excellent history of National Park policy with Yellowstone's concessionaires as the focal point. Readers get an idea of what was happening in other major national parks like Yosemite, Mount Ranier and Glacier during the same time period. The book demonstrates thoroughly that no policy or idea in history is static. Each generation reinterprets what is ideal and seeks to obtain gratification through that ideal. For over a century, Yellowstone National Park has been a monument to wildness in America. But long before flames swept through Yellowstone in 1988, that wildness had come under fire from encroachments that were making the park one of our nation's most commodified pieces of real estate. For as long as they've existed, parks like Yellowstone have been the scene of some of the most intensive commercial activity in the American West. Selling Yellowstone recounts the story of such activities in our oldest park from the 1870s through the 1960s. It is the first book to examine critically the place of business in the development of America's national parks, demonstrating the prominent role played by profit-driven entrepreneurs in shaping the physical landscape of what is generally perceived as unaltered wilderness.
Challenging popular perceptions that our national parks are protected from commercialism, Mark Barringer reveals how businessmen, with the support of the National Park Service, marketed Yellowstone as a museum of mythology: a landscape created to look like what Americans wanted to believe the Old West once was. Together, the NPS and the concessionairesparticularly Harry W. Child's Yellowstone Park Companyaltered the park repeatedly to fit a desired image and then creatively promoted it for mass consumption. As a result, the concessionaires virtually owned Yellowstone, selling it piecemeal to receptive customers as if it were an inexhaustible commodity. First marketed as a nature museum to be viewed from the comfort of stagecoach seats or hotel room windows, the park was transformed from a wilderness preserve to a series of roadside attractions. Roads were built to geysers and waterfalls; wolves were eliminated and bison were bred; visitors were given a choice between comfortable hotels and more rustic lodges and camps. The Yellowstone Park Company sought to meet all of the public's expectations, reaping the profits from satisfying American idealizations. Contemporary environmental attitudes eventually forced significant policy changes in the parks, but shifting political winds continue to determine such matters as snowmobile access to Yellowstone. Barringer's book contributes to the ongoing debate over the character and limits of the social construction of nature as it raises important questions about what our national parks represent, why so many people continue to feel so strongly about them, and what must be done to protect them. "Taking about a century of western history as its scope, Selling Yellowstone is particularly valuable for the insights it provides into the complexities of public-private operations in the development of Yellowstone National Park and how those operations altered over time in response to changing attitudes Americans held toward nature and wilderness."Mansel Blackford, author of Fragile Paradise "This important book shows thatin the world of national parksgeysers, bears, canyons, and waterfalls have more in common with railroads, hotels, automobiles, and capitalism than one might at first imagine."Richard West Sellars, author of Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History "A valuable contribution to the flourishing literature on national parks and tourism."Peter J. Blodgett, Curator, Western Historical Manuscripts, Huntington LibraryFrom the Back Cover"Taking about a century of western history as its scope, Selling Yellowstone is particularly valuable for the insights it provides into the complexities of public-private operations in the development of Yellowstone National Park and how those operations altered over time in response to changing attitudes Americans held toward nature and wilderness."--Mansel Blackford, author of Fragile Paradise "This important book shows that--in the world of national parks--geysers, bears, canyons, and waterfalls have more in common with railroads, hotels, automobiles, and capitalism than one might at first imagine."--Richard West Sellars, author of Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History "A valuable contribution to the flourishing literature on national parks and tourism."--Peter J. Blodgett, Curator, Western Historical Manuscripts, Huntington LibraryAbout the AuthorMark Daniel Barringer is assistant professor of history at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.