Research Tips: Yellowstone's History at Your Fingertips

April 18, 2013 Posted by: Jackie Jerla, Librarian

The Superintendents Monthly Narrative Reports (SMNR) are a highly regarded source of information for Yellowstone's staff and researchers.They are an early report of the fledgling National Park Service which itself was authorized only in 1916. The first SMNR in the research library is dated 1917 and was submitted by Charles Lindsley, acting superintendent from 1916-1919.

Consider these words of Horace Albright (Superintendent of Yellowstone from 1919-1929) when he arrived on the scene:"When I arrived, the permanent staff consisted of Lindsley, twenty-five rangers, and a few engineers and maintenance people. But counting the temporary personnel hired for the summer, there were actually 258 employees in the park, including one blacksmith, a few mechanics, a buffalo keeper and a buffalo herder, and summer rangers. As superintendent, I was of course responsible for all of them, plus the concessioners and their numerous employees, and I also had to see that the transportation system and primitive telephone line were properly run and maintained…Growing numbers of tourists were coming to Yellowstone by automobile. Although we had three hundred miles of roads, most were narrow, one-way roads built for stages, and every one was in urgent need of improvement. The campgrounds lacked running water and were extremely primitive, and the concessioners' camps had inadequate sanitation facilities. I plunged into the work at hand, meeting the staff and coping with the dozens of situations that presented themselves at the height of the park's busy season." This is from Horace M. Albright's book The Birth of the National Park Service : the Founding Years, 1913-1933as he told it to Robert Cahn. (A very interesting read located in the research library.)

The SMNR detail information on at least 15 topics in the park, every month, narrated by the person most familiar with the park's activities, Yellowstone's superintendents. Some of the topics covered are employees, animals-domestic, forest fires, fishing, improvements, monies transmitted, natural phenomena, visitors, wild animals, protection and care of game, and arrests and violations of the law.

Snogo rotary snowplow clearing Dunraven Pass, May 24, 1933. Superintendents Monthly Narrative Report, May 1933, Yellowstone Research Library.

Snogo rotary snowplow clearing Dunraven Pass, May 24, 1933. Superintendents Monthly Narrative Report, May 1933,  Yellowstone Research Library.

The research library has bound volumes of the SMNR from 1917-1967. Why do the reports stop here? The last volume, 1967, posted this news:

"Informational memorandum to all field offices from the DOI director June 12, 1967 - subject : discontinuance of superintendent's monthly narrative report.

The Superintendent's Monthly Narrative Report is one of the oldest reports still existing in the Service. It originated under the first Director and continues today as Report NPS (AM-4). There was a time when it was the report and as such, recorded the significant accomplishments, milestones, problems, and events that from month to month presented the story of the park.

The Service has expanded and grown in many ways since the 1st SMNR. Authority and responsibilities have been widely decentralized… a complex organization. "

We are happy to announce the digitization of the Superintendent Monthly Narrative Reports. This is being made possible through the Open Parks Grid project, a collaboration of Clemson University and the National Park Service. Check it out at

Sources: The Birth of the National Park Service : the founding years 1913-1933 Horace M. Albright told to Robert Cahn, The Yellowstone Story, Vol. 2 by Aubrey Haines

library, reports, Superintendents

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Last updated: November 30, 2015

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