Automobiles were allowed into Mount Rainier National Park in 1908, General Grant (now Kings Canyon) National Park in 1910, Crater Lake National Park in 1911, Glacier National Park in 1912, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in 1913, and Mesa Verde National Park in 1914. Throughout these years, the transportation companies in Yellowstone were able to keep the “infernal machines” out of the park by pointing out that the one-lane roads would have to be shared by the autos and the 400 horse-drawn vehicles (which translates into nearly 1400 horses!) that they operated–a sure recipe for trouble! But, finally, in April 1915, Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane announced that automobiles would be allowed into Yellowstone beginning August 1st. The park’s superintendent, fearing congestion at the gate, let the first vehicles into Yellowstone on July 31st. Permit #1 was issued to Mr. and Mrs. K.R. Seiler of Redwing, Minnesota. Mr. Seiler paid $5 in order to drive his Ford “Model T” into Yellowstone. In those days, no mechanics or auto parts were available inside the park, so the automobilist was required to show that he carried a good stock of spare fluids and parts and that his brakes were good enough to assure that the vehicle could skid to a stop!
Within a few years after admitting the automobile into Yellowstone, large yellow signs with black arrows (or often simply arrows painted on rocks or barns) were seen along America’s northern coast-to-coast highway. These signs pointed the driver to Yellowstone. The Yellowstone Trail, as the road was called, ran from Plymouth, Massachusetts, through Chicago and Minnesota’s Twin Cities, to Yellowstone and on to Seattle, Washington.
It is also fitting to note that Yellowstone’s first automobile permit went to a Ford “Model T.” Henry Ford’s mass-produced vehicle was responsible for getting Americans on the road, and Yellowstone was an early popular destination. With the arrival of that “Model T” on a pretty July evening so long ago, Yellowstone took a giant step forward in genuinely becoming a park “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”