Mary Roberts Rinehart and Glacier National Park

Mary Roberts Rinehart, 1914

Mary Roberts Rinehart, 1914

​Mary Roberts Rinehart studied nursing - and hated it! - but during her time in nursing school she met Stanley Marshall Rinehart, a physician 10 years her senior.  After her graduation from nursing school in 1896 at age 20, she and Dr. Rinehart were married. She took on the role of a dutiful Victorian wife and mother ... while it was likely that she did do some writing during this time, none of it was published.

That all changed during the stock market crash of 1903, when suddenly she and her husband lost all of their savings.  With three sons at home, Mary took to writing ... mostly mysteries and within a year had written 45 short stories.  Her rise to fame was in 1907 with the novel The Circular Staircase. Throughout the rest of her life she wrote novels, plays and short stories and was regularly published in such beloved periodicals as The Saturday Evening Post and Collier's.  Her 1930 murder mystery "The Door" inspired the phrase "the butler did it" (Spoiler Alert: The butler did it).

Are you a fan of Batman?  Then thank Mary Roberts Rinehart.  In 1920 she wrote a play "The Bat" followed by a novel of the same name in 1926.  In the story a wealthy family rents an old mansion for the summer, and the characters are murdered one by one by a villain in a bat costume that they call The Bat.  Comic book artist Bob Kane was intrigued by the evil Bat when he created the bat costumed superhero Batman.

All of this has nothing to do with Glacier National Park, the inspiration for our newest Sock of the Month ... the Logan Pass Socks.  But the story of Mary Roberts Rinehart takes a glacier-sized turn with Howard Eaton ...  

Wives Wanted! Lake McDonald (now Glacier National Park).  1901

Men at Lake McDonald, now part of Glacier National Park in 1901, looking for wives.
(The man second from the left is holding a cat ...
our shop kitten Scout said that he's probably
the pick of the litter.)

Howard Eaton is known as the founder of the "Dude Ranch."  By the 1890s the American frontier was gone and Americans became very nostalgic for those bygone cowboys.  A rancher and an expert guide, Eaton opened his ranch to visitors, allowing tenderfoots from the East to play cowboy by rounding up cattle, sleeping in a rough cabin, and eating bacon and beans from a chuck wagon.

Say "dude" today and I can't help thinking of a surfer, but in the 19th century a "dude" was a dandy, a real fancy-pants who paid a lot of attention to his clothes and appearance, but again, we digress!

In 1910 Glacier National Park opened, and Eaton wanted to show off his favorite park with a publicity stunt that would bring visitors to his ranch.  While visiting out east, he approached Mary Roberts Rinehart about accompanying him on a tour of Glacier.

But this was to be no luxury tour ... Mary would be expected to travel by horseback and sleep in a tent.  She initially refused, but having grown up somewhat of a tomboy and always ready for an adventure, she eventually relented and agreed to go along.  The adventure started immediately on arrival ... when she got off the train at West Glacier, Mary was greeted by ​Howard Eaton and the shocking presence of a 93-year-old chief of the Blackfeet Indians named Three Bears.

The tour was 11 days long and included 42 people, almost half of which were women.  Her fellow travelers included her husband and three sons (ages 18, 15 and 13).  Along with an assortment of friends, guides, hands, cooks, a photographer, a motion picture cameraman and even a cowboy artist Charles M. Russell.  Needless to say, the trip was well documented.  There was a total of 33 horses and two supply wagons ... they estimated the complete tour was over 300 miles.

"No woman ever really knows a man until she has camped with him."  Mary Roberts Rinehart

Mary Roberts Rinehart and Blackfeet Indians, 1915

Mary Roberts Rinehart
with Blackfeet Indians, 1915

The number of horses is significant and added to the cowboy-like appeal of the adventure.  When we think of the 19th century we think of riding horses, but most people didn't ride on horses.  It was much more efficient to drive a horse pulling a wagon or a carriage ... one horse or a team of two horses could transport multiple people and a lot of gear.  Wealthy people rode horses for entertainment and prided themselves on their horsemanship, but generally when most people traveled they were pulled by horses, not sitting directly on top of a horse.  Cowboys were an exception to that rule, since they traveled in untamed areas without roads and impassable by wagon.  While a wagon or a carriage travels slow and steady, a single horse is able to sprint to catch a runaway cow or avoid danger when necessary. 

Eaton Party in Glacier National Park, 1915

Mary Roberts Rinehart's tour in Glacier National Park, 1915.
Check out the enormous tent
in the background!

The horse assigned to Mary was named Gold Dollar, and much of the tour was on horseback - except when the hills were too steep even for a horse.  Then each rider dismounted and lead his or her horse.  Mary wrote of dismounting Gold Dollar to travel through a pass:

If you believe, as I did, that a pass is a valley between two mountains, I am here to set you right . . . [A pass] is a bloodcurdling spot up which one’s horse climbs like a goat and down the other side of which it slides as you lead it, trampling ever and anon on a tender part of your foot. A pass is the highest place between two peaks. A pass is not an opening, but a barrier which you climb with chills and descend with prayer.

​At the completion of the trip Mary wrote two books, Through Glacier Park in 1915: Seeing America First with Howard Eaton (1915) and Tenting Tonight: A Chronicle of Sport and Adventure in Glacier Park and Cascade Mountains (1918). 

Her descriptions were vivid and full of humor, bringing the adventure of the west to her fans in the east.  The success of the two books may be part of the reason that visitors to Glacier Park boomed, with just 14,265 visitors in 1915 exploding to 70,000 visitors a year in the 1920s. 

Are you planning to jump on your horse and ride up and down the passes of Glacier National Park?  Or maybe you prefer to lounge at home in a comfy chair reading about traversing difficult mountain terrain.  Either way your feet will be pampered and pretty in our new Logan Pass Socks. 

Happy Knitting! ... Scout

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