Montana State University

Manuscript describing first comprehensive exploration of Yellowstone now available at MSU Library

October 25, 2013 -- Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service

Subscribe to MSU Newsletters

Bobcat Bulletin is a weekly e-newsletter designed to bring the most recent and relevant news about Montana State University directly to friends and neighbors via email. Visit Bobcat Bulletin.

MSU Today e-mail brings you news and events on campus thrice weekly during the academic year. Visit the MSU Today calendar.

MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571

The earliest draft of a handwritten manuscript describing the first comprehensive exploration of Yellowstone National Park is now available for the public to view at the Montana State University Library.

The manuscript details an 1869 expedition by David E. Folsom, Charles W. Cook and William Peterson from Diamond City, Mont., which was the first of three journeys that led to the establishment of Yellowstone National Park, according to Kim Scott, university archivist. Scott said Folsom is the principal author of the manuscript, although Cook received credit when it was published, in heavily edited form, in a magazine in 1870.

“This is a very important acquisition,” Scott said. “Not only is it the earliest comprehensive description in existence of the park’s major features by a Euro-American, but the text differs in many substantive ways from the published versions which have appeared over the past 143 years.” 

Scott said that over the years, a handwritten copy sent to the magazine as well as another copy that Cook kept both were destroyed by fires. Folsom, however, handed his manuscript down to his descendants, and Folsom’s great-grandson contacted the MSU Library about the manuscript after reading an article Scott wrote about the manuscript’s fate. The library purchased the manuscript, along with other letters and documents, this fall.

With scholars now able to compare Folsom’s original manuscript to the earlier published versions, the acquisition provides valuable opportunities for research, said Kenning Arlitsch, dean of the library.

"The acquisition of the Folsom diary represents our continued commitment to building a stellar collection of Yellowstone National Park materials,” Arlitsch said.

Among the library’s other documents in the collection are two original letters from one of the park’s first historians, Hiram M. Chittenden, and one from the park’s second military superintendent, Capt. George S. Anderson, all written to Folsom regarding his experiences in Yellowstone. 

The Merrill G. Burlingame Special Collections is home of hundreds of valuable manuscript collections pertaining to Yellowstone National Park, Montana agriculture and engineering, Montana Native Americans, and trout and salmonids.  It is located in the MSU Library and open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information on the MSU Library’s Special Collections, call 994-4242 or visit

Contact: Kim Scott, (406) 994-5297 or