Past Exhibit: Views in the 19th Century
Related 2011 Exhibit: "Views & Visitors: The Yosemite Experience in the Early 20th Century" at the Yosemite Museum
Past 2010 Exhibit: "Views & Visitors: The Yosemite Experience in the 19th Century" (description below)
RL2739 Yosemite Research Library
In 1875, J.C. Dotry of New York City wrote: "Very, very, very fine scenery but very, very hard to get to" of his journey across the country. The weary traveler's comment appeared in a thick book called the Grand Register of Yo-Semite Valley that sat on the porch of the Cosmopolitan Bathhouse and Saloon. The Cosmopolitan's register was kept out where all visitors could sign and browse through other tourist entries. Take, for example, what Mrs. E.S. Carr of Oakland, Calif., scribed in 1873: "People should be sure to try Smith baths and mint juleps if they wish to have it said they have seen the Valley."
The Cosmopolitan definitely became part of the experience of Yosemite's visitors in the late 1800s. Its story was a central element in the Yosemite Museum's "Views & Visitors: The Yosemite Experience in the 19th Century" exhibit, which hung in the Yosemite Museum Gallery in 2010.
The Cosmopolitan's register, weighing more than 70 pounds, contains more than 10,000 signatures on 800 pages. U.S. presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James Garfield signed in, as did many other distinguished visitors. Thousands flocked to Yosemite, which had become a well-known scenic wonder of the western United States in the late 1800s.
RL16861 Yosemite Research Library
The Cosmopolitan Bathhouse and Saloon was built by John C. Smith, who opened this bathhouse and saloon in 1871 in Yosemite Valley. Known as a spot where visitors could get an excellent bath of hot or cold water at any hour of the day, the Cosmopolitan was furnished extravagantly with billiard tables, full-length mirrors, bathtubs, and a fully-stocked bar. The Cosmopolitan attracted many travelers who appreciated its unexpected comforts. Wealthy individuals from the northeastern United States, Californians, and a large number of foreigners made up the majority of visitors. Many entered their names and comments in the Cosmopolitan's register.
The Cosmopolitan operated until 1884, when it was closed down by the Yosemite Commissioners as inappropriate—any saloon in Yosemite should be operated in conjunction with a hotel. The structure was used for almost an additional 50 years until it burned in 1932.
The Cosmopolitan's register was donated to Yosemite National Park by the Yosemite Fund in 2007.
Other details about traveling to the Yosemite region in the 19th century:
Did You Know?
When it opened to the public on May 29, 1926, the Yosemite Museum became the first museum building in the national park system, and its educational objectives served as a model for parks nationwide. It still functions much as it was originally intended, and currently exhibits items which mainly reflect the Native occupation of Yosemite Valley and its surroundings. When in the park, you can visit with one of three cultural demonstrators who primarily staff the Museum.