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Yellowstone Storekeepers - Ole Anderson & Andrew Wald

Creating Art from Yellowstone Resources


Copyright 2020 by Robert V. Goss. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by an information storage and retrieval system without permission in writing from the author.

Ole Anderson and the Specimen House

Since the earliest days of the creation of Yellowstone Park in 1872, visitors have had a passion for collecting natural curiosities to take home as mementoes of their visit. Some tourists were content to merely pick up pretty stones and other fascinating specimens of nature lying about. Not satisfied with that, other more aggressive excursionists resorted to actually breaking off pieces or large chunks of hot spring and geyser formations, taking whatever they could fit into their luggage or onto their horses and wagons.

Ole Andersons "Coated Specimens" tent at Mammoth Hot Springs 1880s

Scoyen Photo, Yellowstone Gateway Museum 2006.044.0636

One tourist-related curio activity that seems to have been tolerated in the early days of the park was the creation of beautiful “coated specimens.” Curiously, the minerals that have continuously built up the Mammoth terraces also collect and adhere to any other objects within its flow, including trees, plants, pine cones, twigs, and rocks, forming a glistening white coating. It took little time for early explorers to realize that this coating would also form on horseshoes, wire-made objects, bottles or any other rigid materials that might be lying about. Once this concept caught on, the sparkling brilliance of these encrusted objects almost immediately made them desirable keepsakes for park visitors.

Ole Anderson Specimen Store tents

Other known 'specimen coaters' include “Specimen Bill” Lindstrom, made somewhat famous by T.W. Ingersoll, who immortalized him on a stereoview, busy at his profession on the Pulpit terraces;  David Dobson, Wm F. Ramsdell, and Frank Phiscator were other who practiced the trade in the 1870s to the early 1880s.​ James McCartney, who maintained a 'rustic' log hotel near the base of the Mammoth Terraces ca1871-1880, practiced the art of coating wire baskets and other trinkets to sell to his guests or other early visitors.


One visitor in 1886 was particularly enamored of coated horseshoes, exclaiming, “The amuletic horseshoe is in great demand. A horseshoe that is sown in corruption, ragged, rusty, dusty and with the nails still twisted in it is raised in incorruption, a thing of beauty and a joy forever. It is in very truth the materialized ghost of a horseshoe.”

Although ‘coating curiosities’ was practiced by any number of tourists and hangers-on in the park, Ole Anderson is believed to have established the first formal coating operation at Mammoth Hot Springs. An immigrant from Sweden who came to America around 1880, he may have worked his way west laboring on the Northern Pacific Railroad. Ole most likely erected his tents on the flats between Liberty Cap and the future Cottage Hotel site, and began peddling his specimens to the public. Presumably Ole received verbal approval from Superintendent Conger for his enterprise, as no official documents have been located concerning the matter.

Specimen Coating racks at Mammoth Terraces

Left: Coating racks at Mammoth Hot Springs, ca1876.

WH Jackson photo,

NARA 517292

Right: Coating racks at Mammoth Hot Springs, 1870

Montana State Univ, Bozeman  No.147665


Specimen Coating racks at Mammoth Terraces

Anderson’s operation was formalized in 1889 when the Army granted him a written permit to conduct his business. He was allowed to keep and sell various objects coated with minerals from the hot springs, bottles of colored sand from the Grand Canyon, and other unspecified curiosities. Old photographs of Ole’s sale cabinets and coating racks reveal quite a variety of objects that would have been for sale. These included horseshoes (many embellished with lettering, bears, etc.), bottles, candle holders, toy cannons, vases, teapots, coffee cups, picture frames, animal figurines, bookends, and pine cones.

Ole would also custom coat items for tourists. One traveler reported that, “You can send him your favorite horse’s old shoe and tell him to put your wife's initials across it; this he does with a fine wire and then places the shoe in the mineral springs and the deposits will cause the whole shoe, wire and all, to become a beautiful cream white, making a nice ornament for your house . . . and cost $1 and postage.” This visitor claimed it would make a nice remembrance of, “your favorite horse, your wife, and Yellowstone Park,” in that order.

Beginning in 1891, Ole began making requests to Interior for permission to erect a permanent store and residence to replace his tent facilities. He was, no doubt, becoming weary of dealing with rain, snow, wind, and other adverse conditions while living and working in a tent. Ole’s plea was acted upon in 1895 and he received a ten-year lease to begin April 3, 1896. His new store and residence was completed in 1896, becoming known as the “Specimen House.”

Cottage Hotel Museum, Coated Specimens
Coated Specimens rack, Ole Anderson
Specimen House of Ole Anderson
Ole Anderson Park Curiosity Shop

Left Top: Advertisement for Coated Specimens at the Cottage Hotel Museum at Mammoth.

                [Yellowstone Guide and Manual, published by GL Henderson, 1885]

Left Bottom: Specimen House at Mammoth, ca1900.  [Leroy Anderson Collection]

Right Top: Display of coated specimens at the Specimen House, ca1900.  [YNP Archives, No.587]

Right Bottom: Specimen House, also known as "Park Curiosities."  [YNP Archives, No. 51493]


Ole's lease was renewed in 1906 and he was allowed the privilege of selling post cards, spoons and other curios, but not general wares. By 1908 Ole had been in business in the park for 25 years and was 51 years old.  He decided to sell out his business to George and Anna Pryor, who turned the operation into a coffee shop and curio store. The Anderson family moved to Helena year-round after the sale and he continued in life as a carpenter until his death in 1915 at age 58. His wife Christina, lived in Helena for another 30 years before she passed on. 

Coated Specimen, Yellowstone Park Bear

Coated Specimens crafted by Ole A. Anderson

[From the Leroy Anderson Collection]

Coated Specimen, Woodsmen of the World

Andrew Wald - Yellowstone's Sand Artist

Andrew Wald, an early associate of Ole Anderson, created an utterly unique class of curios crafted from Yellowstone's natural resources.  Painstakingly sorting colored sands from Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon, Wald fabricated stunning scenes of nature and wildlife in specially produced glass bottles. His early designs employed simple wavy patterns, which became more intricate as he gained experience. In a very meticulous manner, the grains were carefully arranged with specially devised instruments to achieve the desired artistic effect. The bottles were then packed full and sealed so that the sand would not become loose and spoil the pattern. on. 

A native of Norway, Andy Wald immigrated to the United States around 1869-70. Although renowned for his work in some circles, relatively little is known about his life. He is believed to have ventured to Yellowstone in the early 1880s, perhaps with the arrival of the Northern Pacific RR to Cinnabar. He apparently joined with Ole Anderson and his coating enterprise, no doubt later fashioning his sand bottles and operating under the auspices of Ole’s verbal and written permits. According to Yellowstone Park photographer Frank J. Haynes, Wald originated his idea of filling bottles depicting pictures of animals, geysers, and scenes with different colored sands in 1888. Prior to that, Wald and perhaps Ole, may have been selling simple bottles of colored sands for the tourists.

Andy Wald Bottled Sand Art
Andy Wald Bottled Sand Art
Andy Wald Bottled Sand Art

Wald received his first written permission to conduct his sand business and to set up his own tent to sell his artwork to tourists in 1893. The work required intense concentration and required many hours of labor to produce a finished bottle. A woman remarked in later years that he used, 72 different colored sands. By the early 1900s, Andy Wald, once described as, “the famous old-timer who lives any old place where he hangs up his hat,” was living as a boarder with the Anderson family at Mammoth. He and Ole seemed to be the last remaining practitioners of creating sand art and coated specimens. Anderson’s lease was renewed in 1906, allowing the men to continue creating these beautiful artistic pieces.

When Ole Anderson retired in 1908, the Pryor & Trischman store at Mammoth employed Andy Wald to continue his craft of “pounding sand” until at least 1922, when he would have been about 70 years of age. The “Sand Man,” Yellowstone’s consummate sand artist passed away September 22, 1933 in Livingston, Montana where he had been in poor health for the previous five years. He was esteemed as, “the friend of every park resident . . . [and] leaves no known relatives but a host of personal friends and admirers.” After a brief service, Andy Wald, 'The Sand Man,' was buried the following day at Tinker’s Hill cemetery in Gardiner. To honor the unique artist, sands from the Grand Canyon were sprinkled over his casket.

Andrew Wald Tombstone Gardiner
Bottled Sand Art labels, Andrew Wald
Bottled Sand Art labels, Ole Anderson

Left: Andrew Wald Tombstone at Tinker's Hill in Gardiner.

Middle-Right: Labels from the bottoms of Wald's Sand Art

In 1908, the Livingston Enterprise reported an account of fascinating account of Geyser Bob & Andy Wald participating in a unique event. The article described a beer baseball game played in Gardiner between the ‘Fats’ and the ‘Leans,’ where a single earned one beer and reaching third base merited three beers. Famed sand artist Andrew Wald was the ‘bartender’ and manned the keg of beer located at first base. The game was umpired by none other than the famous stagecoach driver and storyteller “Geyser Bob.” Although lasting only two innings due to rain, the game was nonetheless exuberantly regaled as, “one of the most exciting played in Montana.” The Leans triumphed by a score of 14 to 6. Of course, even without the rain storm, after twenty round trips past third base, it is likely the teams may have been too befuddled to compete effectively through additional innings. The article described Wald as “…the famous old-timer who lives any old place where he hangs up his hat, and is noted for his ability for pounding sand in bottles in the Yellowstone Park.”

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