I recently acquired through eBay a set of photographs taken during a tourist visit in August 1917. A number of them are of the usual tourist activities back then: watching Old Faithful erupt and touron foolishness like the molesting of bears. But a few of them contain geyser views of interest.
This first one shows Castle Geyser steaming in the foreground, but it's the background that caught my eye and why I acquired the lot. Back there we not only see the old Army post buildings, but what appears to be an eruption of Lion Geyser. (I could be wrong, in which case this photo gets even better.) It's rare to see eruptions of any of the "other" geysers in these old photos, and nice to have some photographic record of that activity, no matter how small.
Here's a view of Castle slopping, but taken from an unusual position. In the foreground is Shield Spring, which today is that feature enclosed by a corral and a frequent receptacle for touron trash. To the left of Castle a surging Tortoise Shell Spring is also visible. The old road can also be seen running just behind Shield, and in the right background, we can see the Army post buildings again.
A nice shot of the Old Faithful Inn, probably taken from the porch of today's Lower Hamilton's Store. Despite the lack of the West Wing and the parking lot, it looks quite similar to the view today.
This is what a tour group somewhere on Geyser Hill looked like 90 years ago. The difference in dress is remarkable, but also notice that the boy on the left is holding what appears to be a camera in his left hand. This photo also is the only one with a typewritten caption on the back:
Photo by Edward Frank Allen
Groups of tourists of all ages, but unified in their rapt attention, follow a guide about the formations and listen to the wisdom he pours through a megaphone[.]
It's a little hard to see what's going on in the scan here, so I've attempted to enhance the contrast. The band of light seen above the person is in the orginal photo, and my adjustments didn't make it any better. There's a feature erupting on the right, throwing water droplets as high as the ridgeline. But I can't figure out what this might be. It appears that it's in the Lower Basin, but could be Crater Hills. If it were in the Upper Basin, which I doubt, it could easily be Tardy Geyser or Sawmill Geyser. If it's Lower Basin, then could this be Twig Geyser, just to the east of Fountain Geyser?
But this demonstrates one of the problems with old photos. Often they aren't labeled. Not surprising, since people didn't seen them until they were back home from their trips, and didn't really care about much more than "it's a geyser erupting next to what's-his-name". But they also often don't contain enough framing or background to tell what it might be. What's worse is that cultural landmarks can change, too. Roads and trails can shift, and what's an important feature then could be today's scummy hole (like Economic Geyser).