Early bird’s-eye view of Glacier National Park

Aeroplane Map OF GLACIER NATIONAL PARK [and on verso:] GLACIER NATIONAL PARK [:] AEROPLANE MAP FOLDER. [Minneapolis?]: Great Northern Railway, [ca. 1913-1919?]
Halftone printed in color, 18”h x 32”w at sheet edge when opened, folding to 9” x 4”. Very minor soiling, minor wear at fold intersections and edges, and just a hint of toning visible along folds on verso. Still better than very good.

An early bird’s-eye view of Glacier National Park issued by the Great Northern Railway, highlighting both its natural grandeur and its transformation into a mass-tourism destination.

President Taft signed Glacier National Park into being in 1910. Located on more than one million acres in northwestern Montana, abutting the Canadian border and bounded on the southwest by the Flathead River, the Park features spectacular scenery and diverse flora and fauna. It came to be after the cession of the land by the Blackfeet under pressure in 1895, followed by years of lobbying by a coalition of conservationists, hunters and the Great Northern Railway. The Railway’s route paralleled the far bank of the Flathead, and it of course stood to gain by the increased ridership of visitors attracted to the Park’s wonders.

This brochure was issued by the Great Northern early in the Park’s history. The recto features a large bird’s-eye view, self-described as an “aeroplane map” though it was almost certainly drawn not from aerial survey but by extrapolating from existing topographical maps. The image strikes an interesting balance: On the one hand the exaggerated vertical scale emphasizes the Park’s vast and rugged landscape, while on the other hand much attention is paid to the tourist-friendly infrastructure of rail, roads, trails, hotels and Swiss-style “chalets” (the latter built by the Great Northern, not the Federal government). The whole is executed in a rather pleasing pastel palette, though the color selection conveys an inaccurate impression of aridity more proper to the Southwest. The verso is divided into 16 panels with extensive descriptive text and illustrations describing the Park’s natural wonders.

The brochure prominently displays the name of the Great Northern Railway in a number of places, but no printer or date is given. However the text on the verso lists one H. A. Noble as General Passenger Agent for the Railroad, which allows us to tighten the dating considerably: Noble was appointed to this position in 1911, while no later than 1919 he is listed consistently as Assistant General Passenger Agent. As to why he was demoted, I cannot say.