Charles Browne Mount Rainier Park Ranger photographs and other material, 1929-1967  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Browne, Charles, 1896-1982
Charles Browne Mount Rainier Park Ranger photographs and other material
1929-1967 (inclusive)
1929-1931 (bulk)
1 box, including 81 photographs, (.21 cubic feet)
Collection Number
2009.16 (accession)
Photographs and other materials related to the work of a National Park Ranger, mostly in Mount Rainier National Park, including materials related to search and rescue operations
Museum of History & Industry, Sophie Frye Bass Library
Sophie Frye Bass Library
Museum of History & Industry
P.O. Box 80816
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-324-1126
Fax: 206-780-1533
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public by appointment.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Charles Browne was born in Tacoma, Washington on July 15, 1896. Browne was an avid mountain climber since his youth, climbing all the major peaks in the Northwest and leading parties of mountaineers to the summit of Mount Rainier. As a young man, Browne worked as a seaman and a logger before becoming a park ranger around 1927, first working summers before being hired as a full time ranger. Ranger Browne spent many years in Mount Rainier National Park, transferring to Olympic National Park sometime prior to 1941. Browne was also a champion skier and a longtime member of the Mountaineers Club. After 37 years of service, Browne retired from the National Park Service in 1965. He and his wife lived in Port Angeles, Washington until his death in January 1982.

Charles Browne took part in several search and rescue operations as part of his Park Ranger duties. He led the team that helped rescue four climbers and recover the bodies of two others in the "Greathouse accident" on Mount Rainier in 1929. For his leadership in the rescue operation and the recovery of the bodies of Edwin Wetzel and Forrest Greathouse, Ranger Browne was awarded the first citation for heroism ever given by the Department of the Interior.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Photographs, writings, correspondence and clippings related to Charles Browne's work as a Park Ranger, mostly at Mount Rainier National Park, and also at Olympic National Park. Photographs include images of Browne alone and with other Park Rangers, tourist groups and others; of search and rescue parties; and of the Greathouse rescue operation in 1929. Writings include a handwritten autobiographical essay and short poems by Browne. Correspondence is related to Browne's role in the Greathouse party rescue and recovery operation in 1929, including a letter from National Park Service Superintendent O.A. Tomlinson notifying him of receipt of a special citation from the U.S. Department of the Interior, the first of its kind ever issued. Most of the clippings document search and rescue operations, particularly the 1929 Greathouse search and the 1931 search for climber Robert Zinn.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

View selections from the collection by clicking on the camera icons in the inventory below.

Restrictions on Use

The Museum of History & Industry is the owner of the materials in the Sophie Frye Bass Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from MOHAI before any reproduction use. The museum does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

Charles Browne Mount Rainier Park Ranger photographs and other material, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Photographs, 1929-1967Return to Top

81 photographs

All of the photographs depict scenes in Mount Rainier National Park unless otherwise indicated.

Container(s) Description Dates
Charles Browne
11 photographs
Mostly photographs of Charles Browne at work in Mount Rainier National Park.
1929-1936; 1967
1: Charles Browne with ice axe in snow
2: Charles Browne in ranger uniform near car with Mount Rainier in background
1/3 circa 1930
4: Charles Browne in parka near skis
circa 1930
5: Charles Browne in front of Camp Muir building
Paul A. Williams (photographer)
circa 1930
6-7: Man on skis, probably Charles Browne
2 photographs
circa 1930
8-9: Charles Browne in front of building in Paradise Valley
2 photographs
circa 1931
10: Charles Browne sitting near fireplace in living room of White River entrance ranger station
circa 1936
11: Charles Browne at New Year's Eve party
Writing on verso: Golf Club, New Year's Eve, 1967.
Ranger work
The majority of the photographs are taken during the time Browne worked as a ranger at Mount Rainier National Park.
circa early 1930s
12-18: Charles Browne and others in deep snow on and near park buildings
6 photographs
Photographs, probably taken after blizzards which covered park buildings deeply in snow, depict Charles Browne and others near buildings, digging out buildings, standing on roofs, and skiing down a roof.
circa early 1930s
3 photographs
1/7 1930
20: Bear exiting from trap
21: Charles Browne and bear facing each other
Writing on verso: C.R. Browne at Paradise, Mt. Rainier National Park
circa 1930
22: Four man survey team on Tatoosh trail
Identifications on verso: left to right--Charles Browne, O.A. Tomlinson (Superintendent), Ed Davidson, landscape architect, and Asahel Curtis, Chairmen of the Rainier National Park Advisory Board
Other writing on verso: Surveying choice of routes for Stevens Canyon road--1930 or 1931 (probably '31)
circa 1931
23-26: Charles Browne and another man climbing near crevasses
4 photographs
Photographs depict the two men in shirt sleeves carrying ice axes and backpacks near crevasses.
27-37: Ranger groups
11 photographs
These photographs depict posed groups of rangers, mostly near park buildings. Charles Browne appears in most of the photographs. Some of the photographs include men who appear to be National Park Service officers.
circa 1930s
Charles Browne and others
38: Charles Browne with man and women
circa 1920s
39: Charles Browne and three men on skis
circa 1929
40: Charles Browne with four men on skis, Browne shaking hands with one of them
circa 1929
41-42: Charles Browne and climbing party, possibly other rangers
These two photographs depict a group of climbers resting on rocks, and outside the Camp Muir building. As they appear to be the same individuals and are numbered consecutively by the photographer, they were probably taken on the same climb.
43-44:  Charles Browne and climbing party, possibly other rangers
These two photographs depict a group of climbers posed on flat ground with ice axes and in snow outside the Camp Muir building.
45: Charles Browne leading five women on hike in snow
circa 1930
46: Charles Browne and Ellsworth Lumley in front of building
Written on verso: "Lumley."
circa 1930
47: Charles Browne with eight men on snowshoes
circa 1930
48: Charles Browne in ranger uniform with group of men, women and children on path near grassy field
Written on verso: C.B. Browne - Paradise Ranger leading a nature walk, 1930
49: Port Angeles Ski Patrol members and Charles Browne on skis in Deer Park, Olympic National Park
Neil Mortiboy (photographer)
Left to right: Charles Browne, junior patrol member Gary Kish, and Port Angeles Ski Patrol members Hans Culland, Curtis Barnard and Wilfred Bower.
1948 January
Search and rescue operations
1929; 1931
1929 rescue operation
Often referred to as "the Greathouse accident," the most highly publicized tragedy in Mount Rainier climbing history occurred on July 2, 1929 when six climbers slid into a deep crevasse on upper Ingraham Glacier. On the first summit attempt of the 1929 season, apprentice guide and Lincoln High School football coach, Forrest Greathouse, and climber Edwin A. Wetzel were killed and the other four climbers badly injured. The search and rescue operation spanned six days, with the body of Forrest Greathouse recovered on July 7th, chopped from the snow and ice by Charles Browne, who had been lowered into the crevasse.
Greathouse search parties
50: First search party
This photograph depicts the group of men who conducted the first, futile search for the Forrest Greathouse's body, returning July 6. Standing left to right: Charles Browne, Thomas Hermans, Waldo Chamberlain, John Day, Monty Snider, Kenneth Olson, Frank Willard, Orville Pound, Ben Smith, Nulson Widman, John M. Davis, Harold Lancourt. Kneeling: Ellsworth Lumley and Lewis Buckmaster.
1929 July
51:  Second search party
This photograph depicts the group of men who conducted the second, successful search for Forrest Greathouse's body, leaving July 6, many of them the same men who had just returned from the first search. Standing left to right: Dr. Otto Strezik, Walter Best, Otto Geise, Lewis Buckmaster, Charles Browne, Harry Hale, Kenneth Olson, John Day, Monty Snider, Nulson Widman and Ben Thompson.
Caption attached to verso: Rescue Climber's Body. Led by Charles Browne, ranger in Rainier National Park, eleven volunteers recovered the body of Forrest Greathouse from a crevasse on Mount Rainier. Greathouse was one of two men killed when a group of six men fell into the crevasse while making their way down the mountain after climbing to the summit. The body lay in the crevasse for five days before it could be reached.
1929 July
52-71:  Greathouse rescue
20 photographs 3.5 x 5.5 inches
All of the photographs are marked with photographer's number 29-436 plus a letter suffix. Some of these photographs appeared in the Seattle Times and were possibly taken by a Times staff photographer. The photographs depict the area of the crevasse, rescuers climbing to the crevasse, men inside the crevasse, and Greathouse's body being recovered.
1929 July
Robert Zinn rescue
An unroped two-man non-guided party was among five groups leaving Camp Muir for the summit on July 4th weekend of 1931. The two man party consisted of brothers Kenneth and Robert Zinn. As the Zinn party followed two other parties to the summit, Robert Zinn became exhausted and was told to wait where he was. As he sat down, he began a slide of 3,400 feet, striking Nisqually Glacier. A search party headed by District Ranger Charles Browne searched in vain on July 6th, and returned on the 7th, looking into every crevasse along the line of the fall, finally finding Zinn's body in a crevasse about 75 feet above the edge of 200-foot ice cliff.
1931 July
72:  Rescue team on horseback
Identifications written on verso. Left to right: Pony Guide Paul Anderson, Chief Ranger John Davis, Ranger L.E. Devlin, District Ranger Charles Browne, Ranger Don Loehrke, Guide Frank Willard, Guide Bill Butler, Robert Mace, Pony Guide "Stub" Bennett.
1931 July 7
73: Rescue team seated with ice axes
Identifications attached on verso. Left to right: Chief Ranger John Davis, George McCormick, Bob Hogan, Guide Doug Ward, Ranger Howard Coombs, Guide Bill Butler, Ranger Don Loehrke, Ranger Robinson, Orville Pound, James Pryde, Ranger L.E. Devlin, Guide Frank Willard, Ranger Frank Greer, District Ranger Charles Browne.
1931 July 7
Miscellaneous photographs
74: Charles Browne and woman in snow holding trophies
Written on verso: Winners of Mountaineers Club ski races at Snoqualmie Pass. Mrs. Costello - Chas. B. Browne - Harper Cup - Snoqualmie Lodge - 1922
75: Mountaineers Annual Banquet at Chamber of Commerce Banquet Hall, Seattle
Harry A. Kirwin
Charles Browne is seated at long table at left
1930 February 7
Panoramas of Mount Rainier National Park
5 photographs 5 x 13 inches
76: Anvil Rock lookout
77: Mount Rainier from Fremont lookout
78: Mount Rainier view
79: View south from Anvil Rock, showing heavy fog
80: Little Tahoma Rock and Cowlitz Glacier
81: Panorama of the survey camp at Moose Lake, Olympic National Park
1 photograph 5 x 12 inches

Writings and correspondenceReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
82: Biography
Three page handwritten biographical outline, probably written by Charles Browne,
after 1936
83: Letter from Charles Browne to O.A. Tomlinson, Mount Rainier Park Superintendent
5 pages
Letter consists of a detailed report of the 1929 Greathouse rescue operation.
1929 July 8
84: Letter from Arthur Wetzel
Handwritten letter of thanks from the brother of Edwin A. Wetzel, who, along with Forrest Greathouse, died in the accident on Mount Rainier for which Browne lead the rescue.
1929 July 26
85-88: U.S. Department of the Interior press releases
Four press releases which mention Charles Browne: one reporting on an inspection by Superintendent Tomlinson on a climb to the summit; one announcing upcoming training session in fire fighting, led by Browne and others; and two announcing Charles Browne's citation for "heroism and exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service," the first such citation ever issued by the department, for his leading role in the 1929 rescue operation on Mount Rainier.
circa 1929-1930s
89-92: U.S. Department of Interior correspondence regarding Browne's citation for heroism and subsequent promotion
4 letters
Three letters are addressed to Charles Browne, and one to Mount Rainier National Park Superintendent O.A. Tomlinson
1929 July-August
93-97: Miscellaneous correspondence
5 items
Includes a letter from the Seattle Chamber of Commerce citing Browne's heroism in recovering the body of his colleague on Mount Rainier (1936); a letter from the Department of the Interior regarding rules for cross country skiing at Olympic National Park (1941); and letters regarding his retirement in 1965.
98-99: Poems by Charles Browne
2 poems

Clippings, 1929-1948Return to Top

5 folders

Container(s) Description Dates
100-101: Mount Rainier accident and rescue
2 folders
Folder 30 includes articles accounting the climb, accident search and aftermath (survivors); folder 31 contains articles in praise of Charles Browne's leading role in the rescue, including his receipt of the first citation for heroism issued by the Department of the Interior.
1929 July
102: Robert K. Zinn accident and rescue operation
1931 July
103: Charles Brown--miscellaneous
104: Mount Rainier National Park--miscellaneous
Includes a clipping about the recovery of the body of Richard J. Pearce from an avalanche and an ascent of Mount Rainier by Park superintendent O.A. Tomlinson.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Mountaineering--Washington (State)--Mount Rainier National Park
  • National parks and reserves--Search and rescue operations--Washington (State)--Mount Rainier National Park
  • Park rangers--Washington (State)--Mount Rainier National Park
  • Personal Names :
  • Browne, Charles, 1896-1982
  • Geographical Names :
  • Mount Rainier National Park (Wash.)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Ephemera
  • Photographic prints