Professional photographer George L. Beam had a private studio in Denver, Colorado, and a position with the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. In September 1923, Beam and his supervisor Frank A. Wadleigh, traveled to Thompson, Utah, at the invitation of prospector Alex Ringhoffer, who had discovered an exotic landscape of arches and pinnacles. A party of six, including Ringhoffer’s sons and son-in-law spent two days exploring an eroded sandstone ridge that Ringhoffer had dubbed “The Devil’s Garden.”
“We found what undoubtedly is the fifth in size of the known natural bridges. We had but two days at our disposal and could only cover a small part of the district in that time, but Beam managed to make forty or fifty exposures, and his pictures will convey some idea of the freakishness of the region,” wrote Wadleigh.
Beam took 40-50 large format monochrome photographs, documenting this landscape and the expedition. Wadleigh sent the images to Stephen T. Mather, Director of the National Park Service, with a letter recommending that this exciting new landscape be made a new national monument. Mather showed Beam’s photographs of what is now known as the Klondike Bluffs and Marching Men to influential people in Washington and New York, to build political support for the creation of Arches. In 1929, President Herbert Hoover proclaimed the new Arches National Monument.
These images were never publically displayed, and were out of sight for many years before James L. Ozment added them to his collection of railroad photographs. MNA archaeologists Kim Spurr and David Purcell discovered the Beam photographs in the digital archives of the Denver Public Library, while researching the Arches National Park administrative history for the National Park Service, one of many collaborations underway at MNA.