Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Lost and Found

Rediscovering the WPA Poster Art

of Our National Parks 

My newest book by Douglass Leen
is a PRIZE for anyone who 
loves our National Parks
(Dust cover)

Ranger of the Lost Art
by Douglas Leen
Printed at Paragon Press, Salt Lake City, UT
Hand bound at Roswell Bindery of Phoenix

Closer look at cover art


An article appeared in the Seattle Times on October 23, 2023, "Seattle adventurer uncovers hidden history of national park posters." Later, in November, the Times announced: Please join Ranger Doug for a book signing this weekend, for his new book Ranger of the Lost Art, November 4, 2023 at Ranger Doug’s Headquarters, 25 Nickerson Street, Seattle WA, 10AM-3PM.  I was there to purchase a copy of the new book ...

Title Page
Signed by Doug

Thank you Doug!

The story of this book via The Seattle Times:

By Gregory Scruggs

 In 1971, when Doug Leen was a Grand Teton National Park ranger in his early 20s, his boss assigned him to clean out a barn, its contents destined for the dump. A silk-screen print on stiff cardboard caught his eye. Above the peaks of the Grand Tetons, “MEET THE RANGER NATURALIST AT JENNY LAKE MUSEUM” was printed on the poster in bold, green and purple type. Despite stains marring the poster, Leen could see its artistry. He took it back to his cabin.

A half-century later, that encounter has become the life’s work of this former Seattle dentist turned Alaskan frontiersman. His goal: uncover the forgotten history of National Park poster art created by designers and printers working for the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression.

Decades of archival sleuthing, gallery auctions, junk store reconnaissance and negotiations with private collectors have culminated in Leen’s new book.

 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 

Pages 42 - 43
Showing the Wind Cave poster.
By the way, if you enjoy critters like
the buffalo in the poster above,
check out Saturday's Critters.

Ranger Doug
Credit: Kevin Clark / The Seattle Times


  1. Hello,
    It would be nice to meet Ranger Doug. The book would be a lovely gift for the national park lover. Thanks for sharing the book. Take care, enjoy your day!

  2. That is so interesting John! Thanks for sharing

  3. This is great! Social history reconstructed. It would be interesting to see how many wpa artists became well known in other art fields, too. I'm thinking illustrators and cartoonists.

  4. It's a good thing that some people are persistent and keep digging to bring us some interesting history.

  5. John--You find the most interesting history to post about. How lucky are we that Ranger Doug became immersed in the WPA poster artists and located so many of these lost treasures. It may be of interest to your readers that the famous photographer, Ansel Adams, was commissioned by the WPA to photograph the National Parks. His project was halted by WWII. Many of these photographs are well-known and can be seen on the Internet.

  6. This is fascinating information and a book well worth purchasing. Thanks, John, for he great review. Well done!

  7. It would be fascinating to meet Ranger Doug. Thank you for introducing him.

  8. Well, that is amazing story. The older I get the more I'm fascinated with what happened did centuries ago.

  9. Thank You John for this post about Ranger Doug! What a fascinating endeavour he took on! It looks like a beautiful book. Congratulations to you on your "prize" addition to your collection of amazing treasures. I looked closely at each poster that he is standing in front of in the last photo. I really like the Canyonlands National Park poster, I feel I can relate to that one, I may have stood in that same area while hiking there many years ago.

  10. wow story of how Doug started to think about rediscovering the history of poster art of national parks sounds fascinating !
    thanks for sharing it so we could know Doug dear John.

    even though i think that your part of land is like a huge park still your love for parks particularly is deep and makes me think as you are among people who visited national parks often :)
    i can say this more because i just read your beautiful poem in comment box on my latest post that was a raw piece of poetry .
    i found your poem poignant and splendid !!!!!!!!!!!
    what a true and honest expression presented with mastery !
    i think i did not know you write poetry so i must say you are amazing poet !
    wishing you much peace ,health and happiness and so to your family!

  11. Great post for the national park lover, that's me. I would love to see them all before I am not able to travel. Doug's posters are wonderful and a treat to see or have one. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, enjoy your day and the new week ahead. PS, thank you for leaving me a comment.

  12. Hello John
    I know I commented here previously!
    Think blogger may have put my comment in spam folder?

    Hope you are having a good weekend.

    All the best Jan

    1. Jan, I'm sorry about missing your comment. This moderation thing is a true pain. I treasure your comments so I'll be on extra alert. Thank you for your comment today. I'll be checking back with you on your blog. Best to you and Eddie, John

  13. This is amazing! I love national parks and vintage art, so this book sounds like the perfect combination.

  14. Hello John :=)
    How exciting to actually meet Ranger Doug and get your new book signed by him.Thank you for sharing "Ranger of the Lost Art" with us. The colourful National Poster Art photos are a historical national treasure thanks to Ranger Doug's tenacity and insight as to what would be lost if they were not saved. I wish our National Parks were closer to where I live but they are miles away. I know you will get hours of enjoyment from this new addition to your already extensive collection of historic National park memorabilia.
    All the best

  15. What a treasure and something so special for you! I love learning more about our parks. Thanks for sharing. Hugs, Diane

  16. John, this book is a real treasure and I can completely understand that it is very precious to you - I would feel exactly the same way. But I am such a lucky person, because I got a wonderful little package with a full set of 55 postcards featuring the art of the posters, sent to me by a true angel from up North. I enjoy these postcards so very much, and since I visited many of our National Parks, a good number of these cards brought back wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing the work of the Ranger of the Lost Art.

  17. I treasure our time spent in our National Parks and we have been privileged to visit most of them. (The remaining ones are certainly on our bucket list, but time grows short!) I've seen displays of some of this art in various places, and would love to see the book.

  18. I'm a big fan of WPA poster art. I picked up a nice one on Joshua Tree and have it framed in my living room. Ranger of the Lost Art looks interesting. I think I'll check it out, and thanks for the tip!

  19. ...we have several fabulous state parks because of the Great Depression and the CCC. Nearby we also have the New Deal Gallery, it's the world’s only gallery dedicated to WPA easel art. I have seen 10 murals that were produced through the Treasury Department's Section of Painting and Sculpture (1934–43) and were funded as a part of the cost of the construction of new post offices to employ artists during the depression. All of this history should not be forgotten!

  20. What a captivating glimpse into the world of WPA poster art and the dedication of Ranger Doug in preserving this rich history!
    Thanks for sharing, John!


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