Through Wonderland 1910

In 1884, Northern Pacific began promoting the Northwest in general and Yellowstone Park in particular with a Wonderland theme. At first, the railroad made a direct connection to Alice in Wonderland. In 1885, it published a romance in which a young lady from Massachusetts finds her true love in Yellowstone. But also in 1885, it published a booklet, The Wonderland Route to the Pacific Coast, with 64 pages of text and woodcuts. All of these were anonymous, but as noted below they were written by John Hyde (1848-1929), who was presumably an employee of the NP advertising department.

Click image to download a 22.1-MB PDF of this 70-page booklet.

In 1886, it issued a roughly 100-page booklet with two essays: “A Description of the Country Traversed by the Northern Pacific Railroad” by John Hyde, and “Wonderland, or Alaska and the Inland Passage” by Frederick Schwatka (1849-1892). The essay by Schwatka, a well-known explorer of Alaska and the arctic, was the longer of the two and received top billing, but was printed after Hyde’s. The booklet notes that Hyde was also the author of the the Alice in Wonderland and 1885 essays.

I haven’t been able to find a Wonderland book for 1887, but in 1888 NP published a new booklet, “Wonderland or the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, with a much longer essay by John Hyde. This was slightly revised in an 1889 edition.

For 1890, NP commissioned an essay from a woman journalist named Elia W. Peattie (1862-1935), which the railroad titled, A Journey Through Wonderland or the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Switching writers again in 1891, NP published A Ramble in Wonderland by Albert Brewer Guptill (1854-1931). This was reprinted, almost verbatim but with some new photos, in 1892.

In 1892, NP hired geographer and writer Olin Dunbar Wheeler (1852-1925) to run its advertising department. From 1893 to 1906, he issued an annual Wonderland book each consisting of a series of illustrated essays that he wrote on some scenic part of the NP line or sights that could be reached partly on the NP including Alaska and northern California. The first three books had original titles: 6,000 Miles Through Wonderland, Indianland and Wonderland, and Sketches of Wonderland. After that, the books were just titled “Wonderland” followed by the year.

As the centennial of the Lewis & Clark Expedition was approaching, Wheeler included an essay titled “On the Trail of Lewis & Clark” in the 1900 edition. (The cover of this edition was also the first of four that featured amazing bas relief images.) The next four issues also included essays about the expedition.

In 1904 Wheeler published a lengthy twovolume book that not only described the expedition but provided Wheeler’s accounts of his attempts to replicate the journey. This was one of if not these first popular account of the expedition and the first one based on the author’s own first-hand travels over the trail. A lengthy discussion of this book is available on a Lewis & Clark web site. When Wheeler died in 1925, Minnesota History published a four-page obituary written by none other than Ralph Budd.

I can’t find any Wonderland books for 1907 through 1909. But in 1910, NP issued one last Through Wonderland book shown above. The lengthy essay in this book has no author, but unlike all previous editions it includes more than a dozen full-color lithographs. My copy of the book appears to be missing the cover, but I’ve made a reconstructed version using pages from copies posted at archive.org.

Finally, it is worth noting that NP issued a series of companion Wonderland Junior booklets, at least for the years 1888 through 1896. Despite the title, these weren’t for children but presented rates and other information important to travelers inspired by the longer Wonderland essays.


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