The Upper Missouri Expedition generated a lot of good will for the Great Northern. The 19 editorials reprinted from papers from Portland to Boston in Editorial Comment on the Upper Missouri Historical Expedition of 1925 were only the tip of the iceberg: the GN identified more than 1,200 articles published about the expedition by various newspapers. Whether that good will translated into enough revenue to make the expedition worthwhile is impossible to say.
Great Northern officials, at least, felt that the trip was a good investment. Near the end of the expedition, they were already talking about another trip to “the old Oregon country” in 1926 and a “James J. Hill Memorial Expedition” in 1927. The Oregon expedition will be the subject of future posts.
Click the image to download Agnes Laut’s book, The Blazed Trail of the Old Frontier, which features 35 drawings by Charles Russell as well as numerous photographs, many of which also appear in Flandrau’s papers. The PDF of the book is 48.9-MB.
Tour member and historian Agnes Laut wrote, and Charles Russell illustrated, a 271-page book titled, “The Blazed Trail of the Old Frontier: Being the Log of the Upper Missouri Historical Expedition” that was published in 1926. In addition to Laut’s flowery prose, it contains significant excerpts from many of the lectures and speeches given during the trip. Out of copyright but not yet available in ebook format, used copies are available for around $20 to $30.
All three of the monuments built by the Great Northern for the 1925 expedition still exist. Though Verendrye is a ghost town today, the Thompson Monument is in good condition and cared for by state historical groups. The Camp Disappointment obelisk, however, is neglected and has been vandalized by graffiti. Fort Union is now a national historic site managed by the Park Service; the flag pole erected by the Great Northern has been replaced by a reconstruction of much of the original trading post, much as Ralph Budd dreamed of doing, built in the late 1980s.
In 1931, six years after the expedition, Congress paid for the erection of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Obelisk at the summit of Marias Pass. Highway 2, which parallels the Great Northern across Montana, had for a time been called the Theodore Roosevelt Highway. It is a little bit ironic that the Roosevelt Obelisk and Stevens statue stand side by side today, but Roosevelt would probably be pleased that his monument stands much taller than Stevens’ statue.