The Sandman of Yellowstone

I am pretty sure we all know what “sand art” is. Did you know that Yellowstone had it’s very own Sandman?

His name was Andrew Wald. He was born in 1853 in Sweden and immigrated to the United States around 1869-70. Not much is known about his life. It is believed that he arrived in Yellowstone in the early 1880s and it is thought that he might have at one time been employed by the Northern Pacific Railroad If that is true he most likely arrived in Cinnabar, Montana while working for the railroad.

It was reported by Frank Haynes, the Yellowstone Photographer, that Andy originated his idea of making the sand art in 1888. He would collect the colored sand from locations in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone as well as from what is now known as the Norris Geyser Basin. He received permission from various acting superintendents over the years to collect his sand but was cautioned ”…not to disturb or mar the natural formations or other objects of interest” while he was collecting his sand.

On a side note – he also served as the winter keeper at the Lower Basin Hotel for at least one winter while residing in Yellowstone.

In 1893 he received permission to erect a tent at Mammoth and it was then that he began selling his artwork to the tourists. In addition to selling his creations from his tent store he also supplied Ole Anderson with sand art which Mr. Anderson sold in his Specimen House curio shop. It is reported that he probably worked in Mr. Anderson’s curio shop at times. When Mr. Anderson retired in 1908 and sold his store at Mammoth to Pryor & Trischman Andy was employed by the new owners to continue his “sand pounding” which he did until at least 1922. To his friends as well as to visitors he was known as “Sandy” or “The Sand Man.”

He spent his winters perfecting his sand art and preparing for the busy tourist, wanting to insure that he had plenty of articles to sell to the tourists in the summer. The art he had perfected required a great deal of time and concentration to get the finished product just right. It is reported that it was not unusual for him to earn upwards of $3,000 during the four months his objects were for sale. We have no way of knowing what he charged for his creations back then, but I can tell you that in doing some research on Yellowstone sand art, I came across one of his original pieces listed for sale on e bay and the asking price was $430.00.

An article about the Sandman in the Spokane Chronicle reported that “he was not a provident man and spent his money almost as fast as he got it in playing poker, shooting c raps and drinking When he would lose a large sum of money he would almost invariably drink heavily for a week or ten days During such sprees he neglected his business and let many dollars slip through his fingers in that way.” The article continued that in spite on these problems “he sold his bottles of sand to many of the royal families of Europe when they visited the park, besides the thousands of people of lesser rank and distinction the world over.”

He passed away on September 22, 1933 in Livingston, Montana and the next day he was buried in the Gardiner cemetery. The inscription on his headstone reads “Pioneer Sand Artist of Yellowstone Park 1853-1933.”