'Ranger Doug' Traveling Country to Talk About Rare National Park Posters

An old Airstream trailer is turned into a work of art. The owner is using it to take rare national park posters around the country for the National Park Service's 100th birthday.

The trailer is almost 70 years old, pulled out of a collectors warehouse, and decorated inside by Molesworth furniture recreator Lester Santos in Cody. Santos said this was his most unusual assignment, yet appropriate.

"The people that started the Airstream company, they were making airplanes," Furniture Maker Lester Santos said. "And then after the war ended they needed something to do. They started making these trailers. And that was about the time that Thomas Molesworth was in his heyday…the late forties, early fifties."

Molesworth's style was definitely western. His factory was in Cody. His furniture is very collectible. But so are a small stack of posters in Santos' studio. They belong to collector Douglas Leen.  

Leen said he is, "… just beginning a fifteen month tour around the National Park Service and giving campfire talks about WPA posters that I discovered and reproduced."

WPA posters were created by depression era workers to convince people to visit their national parks. "WPA stands for the Works Progress Administration," Leen said.

The CCC, or Civilian Conservation Corps, produced only 700 posters like this. Leen said less than fifty are left today. So, "Ranger Doug" is carrying the historic posters from park to park in his historic, and historically furnished camper. He's giving the talks for free, before the posters are turned in to the Smithsonian.

"This is public art," Leen said. "Because they're posters, they're rare, they get thrown away. But I wanted the public to see them directly, not just reproductions."

Leen is giving his next talk at the Big Horn National Recreation Area near Lovell next weekend. If you want to find out when the posters will be at a park near you, you can look up the schedule at www.rangerdoug.com.

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