Skip to main content

Billy Hofer Yellowstone glass plate collection

Identifier: MSS 9008

Scope and Contents

Contains thirty-five glass plate negatives of photographs taken by Billy Hofer while he was a guide in Yellowstone Park. Photographs include landscapes within the park as well as groups Hofer guided. There are also photographs of Hofer's cabin in Cinnabar, Montana. Dated 1887.


  • approximately 1885-1887


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from the Billy Hofer Yellowstone glass plate collection must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Coordinating Committee.

Biographical / Historical

Billy Hofer was a Yellowstone National Park and Rocky Mountain guide.

Thomas Elwood Hofer was born in 1849 [estimated] to John Hofer and Mary Weeks. He lived in Chicago until 1972, when he came to the West. He gave tours of Yellowstone Park and Clark's Fork from 1880 to 1907 [approximate]. For a number of years he also served as a mail carrrier, guide, and army scout in Yellowstone, and was called "Uncle Billy." He also learned the art of photography while in the park. Hofer eventually applied for a lease to maintain a stable and corral at Mammoth in order to conduct his guiding business. In 1907 Hofer received a 10-year lease to operate boats on Yellowstone Lake. He formed the T.E. Hofer Boat Co. In 1908 he bought out the E.C. Waters, Yellowstone Lake operation. Articles of incorporation were filed in March of 1908, and included three directors: Hofer, W.A. Hall, and C.N. Sargent. His company operated the ferry service with the ‘Zillah’ from West Thumb to Lake Hotel, provided fishing boats to hire for visitors, and he operated the businesses in conjuction with his boat operations. Financing for the buyout of the E.C. Waters' was obtained from H.W. Child and the Northern Pacific Railroad. In 1910 Child bought out Hofer's interests. He guided some notable people through Yellowstone, including Theodore Roosevelt. He ran a number of businesses through which he conducted his guiding. Billy Hofer died on April 23, 1933 in Clinton, Washington.

Biographical / Historical

Lee H. Whittlesey (1950-) worked in the National Park service for many years.

Lee H. Whittlesey was born on February 2, 1950 in Oklahoma. He began his career for the National Park Service at the age of 18, working in the NPS personnel office. He loves backpacking and hiking, and found these hobbies through working in the NPS. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma, and moved to Yellowstone after school. There, he became the head of tour guides and buses, and he then became the law enforcement ranger in West Yellowstone after attending law school at the U of Oklahoma in 1983. He has published many books about the Yellowstone area, and has become a well known environmental historian.


3 boxes (1.5 linear ft)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Glass plates purchased from Thomas Robinson, who found them in a yard sale in Montana.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased; Thomas Robinson; March 2017.


Utah and the American West and LDS cultural, social, and religious history (19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts collection development policy V.v.4, November 2014).


Descriptions of individual glass plates provided by former Yellowstone National Park historian Lee H. Whittlesey.

Processing Information

Processed; Maddi Stanley, student processor, 2017.

Processed; Meghan Hoesch, student processor, 2019.

Register of Billy Hofer Yellowstone glass plate collection
Maddi Stanley
2017 June 16
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States