Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Four That Made Monument Valley Famous

I remember seeing pictures of Monument Valley long before I knew it was Monument Valley.  I suppose I saw images of its beauty in westerns and cowboy movies.  Not until this summer did I learn more about the place and how it became so well known.
When we visited a few weeks ago, I learned we get to enjoy this beautiful place because of the efforts of some key individuals that helped bring 'the West' into our homes:
  • Harry Goulding 
  • Josef Muench 
  • John Ford 
  • John Wayne 
Here are some brief notes of four people that made Monument Valley famous:

Harry Goulding was a veteran of World War I and was a sheep inspector for the U.S. government. It was during his time traveling through southwestern Colorado, southern Utah and Northern Arizona that he developed a love for Monument Valley, the Navajo people and the wide open spaces.

He married his girlfriend Leone (whom he called "Mike") in 1923 and they moved to Monument Valley.
Harry and 'Mike' Goulding - 1939
They were able to homestead 640 acres, became sheep herders and started Goulding's Trading Post.

With the Depression in the 1930's the hard life there got harder.  Harry heard that Hollywood director John Ford was looking for good locations to shoot Westerns.  Harry was down to his last $60 and decided to try to get John Ford to come to Monument Valley. In 1938, Harry and Mike went to Los Angeles with photographs of Monument Valley taken by Josef Muench. It was Muench's photographs that got Ford's attention and the director agreed to film in Monument Valley.

Josef Muench first saw Monument Valley in 1935 and was a professional photographer.  He and Harry Goulding became good friends during his many visits.
Photographer Josef Muench
At Harry's request he put together a collection of 8 x 10 photographs of the spectacular Monument Valley that Goulding showed to director John Ford.

Muench devoted his whole life to photography and loved Arizona.  He made over 160 visits to Monument Valley and over 200 to the Grand Canyon.  Later his photography was a centerpiece in Arizona Highways magazine where he worked over 50 years.  He also traveled extensively and photographed around the world:  Africa, Alaska, Asia, Canada, Colorado, Europe and Hawaii.  He said, "My camera is my constant companion"

John Ford was directing western movies when Harry Goulding found out that he was looking for some good locations.
Director John Ford
When John met Harry Goulding and saw his photographs of Monument Valley he was convinced it was a good place to film some Westerns.  A few weeks later, shooting began for the movie 'Stagecoach' in Monument Valley.  Hundreds of crew and support staff made their way to nearby Kayenta, AZ and Monument Valley, adding much needed income to the locals during the Depression stricken area.

John Wayne was Ford's choice in the starring role for his movie 'Stagecoach'.
John Wayne in 'Stagecoach'  
He was on location in Monument Valley for that and some other movies made there including 'Searchers' and 'She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.  'Stagecoach' was a hit and elevated John Wayne into stardom.  He had been on screen for nine years previously and his career was languishing among the lesser known 'B' movies.   

Now when I think of Monument Valley I will remember these people and their roles in its history.  In the museum at Goulding's Trading post, a note John Wayne wrote to Harry Goulding said something to the effect "We both know how much we owe to this place..."

And we owe a lot to them for helping us see more of the beauty and history of the West!

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!


  1. That was a bit of interesting information on Monument Valley that I didn't know about. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    We never had time to visit Monument Valley this past winter so it will have to wait for another visit. We want to be able to spend more time in that area rather than just have a passing glimpse. Glad you are enjoying the area.

  2. We'll be there and staying at Goulding's Campground in about three months! Thanks whetting our appetite!

  3. If you haven't been to the Western Movie Museum near Moab, check it out. Sounds like you would enjoy it.