With a long beard cascading down his chest, a cowboy hat perched on his head and a paintbrush in his hand, he painted scene after scene of the American west. He captured the imagination of the American public. It was in large part thanks to his paintings that Yellowstone National Park was created. His name was Yellowstone Moran.
Thomas Moran was born in 1837 in Lancashire, England. Immigrating to the United States with his parents, he was raised in Pennsylvania where he had his first glimpse of mountains, the Appalachians. It was in Philadelphia that he got a job as a wood engraver at Scattergood & Telfer. However, he found working with wood tedious and decided to switch to painting. He sought employment at Scribner's Monthly magazine where he became the chief illustrator. In the meantime, he was influenced by local painter James Hamilton. J.M.W. Turner became his mentor.
Dr. Hayden, the director of the U.S. Geological Survey, invited Thomas Moran to accompany him to Yellowstone, on the request of American financier Jay Cooke. Their expedition, where Moran would paint wilderness scenes, would be funded by Cooke and Scribner's Monthly. They set out in 1871, camping in the wilderness for 40 days and visiting 30 sites. William Henry Jackson was also along for the trip as the official photographer.
When the U.S. Congress saw Moran's breathtaking paintings, its members decided to create Yellowstone National park. It also decided to name a spot in the park after the painter, called "Moran Point". One of Moran's earliest works, The grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, was purchased by the American government for $10,000. Other works followed including "Chasm of the Colorado", painted by Moran in 1873, and now hanging in the Smithsonian Museum of Art.
Success bred success as Moran painted more landscape scenes. Originally part of the Hudson School of painting, he later became known as part of the Rocky Mountain School. Tourists arrived at Yellowstone via the Northern Pacifric Railway. Many booked rooms at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. And many gazed in awe at the vistas that Moran had made famous with the stroke of his paintbrush.