Yellowstone Bear Menu

From about 1923 to 1960, Union Pacific ran a series of ads directed at travel agents featuring what became known as the “Yellowstone bears.” These somewhat clownish characters were probably intended to reassure potential tourists that Yellowstone and its wildlife were safe to visit. These ads were so attractive that Union Pacific/Yellowstone historian Thornton Waite wrote a short book about them.

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These bears were used on this children’s menu. The menu is undated, but is probably from before World War II. The appearance of “The Overland Route” logo on the menu side suggests it is probably from 1933 or before. The style of bears suggests that they were drawn by artist Walter Oehrle, who also did most of the Yellowstone bear ads.

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The above ad is from 1933–note the “Overland Route” logo–and features bears getting a fanciful notion of the park entrance ready for visitors. The ad below is from 1950, and presents a better idea of the park, with Old Faithful Inn and Old Faithful geyser in the background. Note also that Old Faithful geyser is on the June, 1950 calendar reminding travel agents that Yellowstone Park would be open for business in June.

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