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Fitchburg, Massachusetts

Portrait of William Isaac Marshall.

The following William I. Marshall biography was taken from Lee H. Whittlesey’s article, "Everyone Can Understand a Picture": Photographers and the Promotion of Early Yellowstone. It appeared in Montana, The Magazine of Western History, Summer 1999 issue.

William Isaac Marshall (1840-1906) must have been a fascinating character, and the photos he sold and otherwise distributed in the 1870s have a lot to say about early Yellowstone Park. Although he was technically not a photographer, he is included here because he purchased the large Yellowstone and Montana photo collection of Joshua Crissman and sold those pictures under his own copyright. By his own admission he arrived in Montana Territory in July, 1866 (he appears in the Virginia City census for 1870), and resided at Virginia City through October, 1875. He joined the stampede to that town for gold, and the Hayden survey party met him there in 1871, where he was working on a mining claim.

Marshall stated that he visited Yellowstone with his family in 1873 and 1875, bragging that he took the first children ever (two of his own and one other of a co-traveler) through the park. As mentioned, he sold Crissman stereoviews of Yellowstone. These views, which were titled simply "The National Park," reached at least to number 122 in his series, and we know from existing images that there were at least that many in the series. He advertised and sold these views to teachers, clergymen, and others at his lectures on Yellowstone and by mail as promoted through articles he wrote about the park for National Education Association Proceedings. In 1879, Marshall proposed to begin conducting commercial tours of Yellowstone, and he did bring at least one such group into the Park.

From this it is apparent that Marshall planned to take a number of tour groups to Yellowstone. However, best evidence is that he made only four trips to the park: in 1873, 1875, 1881, and 1882. From descriptions of Marshall ("highly educated, a fluent talker"), we can also deduce that he was an excellent speaker. Marshall sold his stereos for three dollars per dozen and his eight-by-ten photos for seventy-five cents each. He bragged that they had received awards at the 1876 Centennial Exposition.

Marshall, important here not only for the Crissman photos he sold but also as one of Yellowstone’s earliest tour guides, was later an educator in the east, and he was often referred to as "Professor" in various mentions of him. The National Union Catalogue shows that he published several books on Oregon and educational subjects. After 1875, he moved back to Fitchburg, Massachusetts, for his stereo views had the name of that place stamped on them with the copyright date of 1876, and his published articles gave that place as his residence. In 1887, he moved to Chicago where he became principal of the Gladstone School. He apparently remained interested in Yellowstone for the rest of his life, because as late as 1902, he visited the park and was given a permit to collect geological specimens. He sent a book manuscript in 1904 to Park Superintendent John Pitcher for comments, and that book was subsequently published. And he gave more than two hundred lectures to various educational associations on Yellowstone, Yosemite, and mining.

No. 8. Looking S. Up Fire Hole Fork Of Madison Branch Of Missouri River.

The typical Marshall orange mount style. This view of the Upper Geyser Basin was taken by Joshua Crissman.

Marshall Orange Mount Verso.

An orange mount verso from Marshall’s "Giant Geyser Series." There is no appreciable difference between his orange or yellow mount versos.

No. 81. Middle Fork Fall, 135 Ft. High

Marshall’s yellow mounts are also still available today. This image shows Osprey Falls on the Gardner River near Mammoth.

Marshall Yellow Mount Verso.

The yellow mount verso from the "Gardiner’s River Series." All Marshall views had these elaborate reverse styles.


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