Lost to History: A. A. Anderson

July 15, 2012 Posted by: Frances Harrell, 2011 Archives Intern

A. A. Anderson, ca. 1900A. A. Anderson, ca. 1900

I call him the Forrest Gump of the 19th Century. Though, truly, his lifetime spanned 40 years into the 20th. His name was Abraham Archibald Anderson, but in his later years he answered to "Colonel."

So why do I call him Forrest Gump? Well, for one thing he knew everybody. Though a tiny collection, in the A. A. Anderson Papers we have a letter from Teddy Roosevelt while he was president, Buffalo Bill Cody while he was in London living the life of a world class celebrity, and Gifford Pinchot while he was the first chief of the US Forest Service (he's a pretty big deal around here). He studied painting with Alexandre Cabanal, rubbed elbows with Mark Twain in Paris, and his portrait of Thomas Edison hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. He even painted the tail of the plane (see http://aerofiles.com/bella-columbia.jpg) Clarence Chamberlin flew in the second transatlantic flight-the first with a passenger! So how had I never heard of him?

I suppose that's just how history works, sometimes. It makes me wonder who of the marginally renowned people that dot our landscape this decade will not ring any bells in a hundred years. Luckily, almost all of us leave documentary evidence of our comings and goings. A.A. Anderson left us some letters and an autobiography, and with a little digging I found him all over the place.

In 1900, President Roosevelt made Anderson the first Special Superintendent of the Yellowstone Forest Reserve, based out of Anderson's personal ranch near Wapiti. Preceding the 1905 establishment of the U. S. Forest Service, the Reserve began as the Yellowstone Timber Land Reserve in 1891, was expanded and renamed the Yellowstone Forest Reserve in 1902, and is considered the first national forest. Adjoining Yellowstone National Park to east and south, the land was eventually divided into Targhee, Teton, Wyoming, Bonneville, Absaroka, Shoshone and Beartooth National Forests.

The letter below from President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt communicates his interest in the Reserve:

Sources: National Portrait Gallery (http://www.npg.si.edu); A. A. Anderson, The Yellowstone Forest Reserve (1927); A. A. Anderson, "The Yellowstone Forest Reserve: Its Foundations and Development," The Annals of Wyoming 4.4 (April 1927).

 Letter, President Theodore

Letter, President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt to A. A. Anderson, 1903

A. A. Anderson, Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Gifford Pinchot, Yellowstone Forest Reserve, U. S. Forest Service (USFS), archives, history

Last updated: February 25, 2014

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