Main content

George Vaux Jr. diary of a trip to Yellowstone Park


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The Vaux family was deeply involved with Quaker and Native American issues in the nineteenth and early 20th centuries. George Vaux, Sr. was an active member of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and other Quaker meetings throughout the world. Both George Vaux, Jr. and his sister Mary Morris Vaux Walcott served as commissioners for the U.S. Board of Indian Commissioners.

George Vaux, Jr. (1863-1927) was born on December 18, 1863 in Philadelphia. He graduated from Haverford College in 1884. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in law he worked as a lawyer for P. Pemberton Morris, focusing much of his practice on prison reform and penology. He served as an inspector on the board of Eastern State Penitentiary. His interest in Friends’ education brought him to be involved in Friends Select School, Westtown School, and Haverford College. Vaux was also active in the establishment of what is now Cheyney University. He was also involved in the establishment of the House of Refuge in Philadelphia which became Sleighton Farms when it was relocated to Glen Mills in 1910.

Appointed in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt to serve on the Board of Indian Commissioners, Vaux became the Commission's chairman in 1913 and held that post until his death in 1927. In addition to his interests in prison reform, Native American affairs, and education, Vaux was an accomplished photographer. A collection of his photographs are in the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. He was an avid amateur geologist and his extensive collection of minerals was donated to Bryn Mawr College after his death.

On April 2, 1907, George Vaux, Jr. married Mary Walsh James. They had two sons. George Vaux, Jr. died on October 24, 1927 in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania at the age of 64.

The diary entries are dated from August 11 to September 10, 1885. It is probable that George Vaux Jr. made his journey with families members. Although none are specifically named as such, there are references to “Papa” and “Sister.”A reference to taking a walk with “the girls” indicates there were at least two young women in the group. Vaux’s entries go into great detail listing sites which might strike the reader as quite ordinary. There are many, many descriptions of hot springs, geysers, and other natural formations. There are, however, descriptions that stand out as having a particular effect on Vaux.

On August 14, 1885 Vaux and his party stopped in Chicago at the grand Pacific Hotel on their way to Minnesota. The Chicago Board of Trade captured his imagination. He waxed eloquently on how beautiful the building was with its eighty foot high ceilings and stained glass windows. He wrote a detailed description of the trading in wheat, corn, and pork, and was taken with the “frenzy” that consumed the traders on the floor as they plied their profession. Along with the traders, “telegraph boys run hither and thither and the whole affair seems like pandemonium.”

A trip through Dakota (then a territory) was replete with views of huge wheat farms covered with “little shocks of golden grain.”

On August 19 after arriving at Yellowstone Park, the first order of the day was to pay a visit to the superintendent of the park, a Colonel Wear. Insight into the relatively high social status of the Vaux’s is given by the fact that a member of the party, Anna, had letters of introduction from the “department at Washington.”

The morning of their final journey home was spent in Chicago. Vaux was pleased to receive two letters from “thee,” presumably the “M” referred to in addressing the letters. The morning was spent shopping.

Aside from giving the reader a view into the life of a well-to-do Philadelphia Quaker family, entries like those above gives the reader an insight into the culture and times in which the Vaux trip was made.

Gift of David M. Morris, 2014.

Accession number 2014.069.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Randi M. Kamine
Finding Aid Date
; 2015.
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Collection Inventory

Print, Suggest