When I embarked on publishing these iconic prints of Yellowstone National Park, little did I know the journey that awaited me. Initially, the park itself declined to carry these prints, leaving me no choice but to approach Hamilton Stores, the concessions who had been serving the park for nearly a century. It was John Grieve, one of their esteemed buyers, who granted me the opportunity to showcase my prints in four of their flagship stores. The response was overwhelming – we sold a staggering $60,000 worth of prints within a mere three months that summer.
Driven by a desire to contribute directly to the National Park Service (NPS), I revisited the park and proposed the inclusion of these posters in the NPS bookstores. However, once again, I faced rejection. As a former ranger myself, having served at Grand Teton, I hoped to witness the profits from these prints benefiting the NPS. Undeterred, I scoured various stores and stumbled upon a solitary box of note cards hidden at the far end of a shelf. Adorned with a graphic of Fort Marion, it was destined to remain unnoticed. The salesperson, unaware of the significance of these images, didn’t comprehend the true value they held.
Ironically, at the cash register, an incongruous display of toe rings caught my attention. In my opinion, such merchandise was unsuitable for a park bookstore. I firmly believed that my silk screen reproductions of the historic art, originally crafted by the WPA (Works Progress Administration), were far superior to toe rings. I argued that the NPS had a responsibility to educate visitors about their parks. These toe rings, akin to the cheap rubber tomahawks popularized during the 1950s TV westerns era, and the imitation turkey feather headdresses, once a symbol of noble attire for Native Americans, failed to uphold the standards that the NPS should cherish.
I warned the park officials that unless they elevated their standards, I would resort to printing bumper stickers and affixing them to cars in NPS parking lots, much like the obtrusive advertising for “Sea Lion Caves.” Of course, I never carried out this threat, but instead, I started sending these bumper stickers to all my loyal customers. It was a playful yet pointed reminder to the NPS, urging them to maintain the quality they should be known for.
At Ranger Doug’s Enterprises, we stand alone in offering these WPA national park reproductions in silk screen. We firmly believe that they are a perfect fit for NPS bookstores, enabling them to effectively interpret the wonders of their parks. Regrettably, many internet-based “artists” have resorted to printing these reproductions on-demand, using cheap materials and amateur techniques. To make matters worse, some even incorporate the Department of the Interior seal, a federal emblem protected by proprietary rights. Astonishingly, Big Bend National Park has endorsed these Chinese knock-offs that brazenly feature the official seal.
Around a decade ago, I introduced a striking red, white, and blue American flag bearing the words “Made in America.” To my astonishment, within a week, a competitor who prints their products in Shanghai scrambled to highlight on their website that $0.85 out of every dollar spent on their items remains in the US. Sounds impressive, right? However, the reality is that they actually spend a mere $0.15 on printing and shipping, effectively multiplying their selling price by six! You can find their claim here [^1^].
Now you know the backstory. Display this bumper sticker with pride, cherish its message, and if you happen to visit an NPS bookstore without encountering our products, be sure to inquire why. Incidentally, these bumper stickers have gained quite a following on the Indian Reservations.
[^1^]: Made in the USA Notice