Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume 65, Number 3, 1997

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Managing Editor Associate Editor




Utah Historical Quarterly was established in 1928 to publish articles, d o c u m e n t s , a n d reviews contributing to knowledge of Utah's history. T h e Quarterly is p u b lished four times a year by t h e U t a h State Historical Society, 300 Rio G r a n d e , Salt Lake City, U t a h 84101. P h o n e (801) 533-3500 for m e m b e r s h i p a n d publications information. M e m b e r s of the Society receive t h e Quarterly, Beehive History, Utah Preservation, a n d t h e bimonthly Newsletter upon p a y m e n t of the a n n u a l dues: individual, $20.00; institution, $20.00; s t u d e n t a n d senior citizen (age sixty-five or over), $15.00; contributing, $25.00; sustaining, $35.00; p a t r o n , $50.00; business, $100.00. Materials for publication should be submitted in duplicate, typed double-space, with footnotes at the end. Authors are encouraged to submit material in a computer-readable form, on 3J4 inch MSDOS or PC-DOS diskettes, standard ASCII text file. For additional information on requirements contact the managing editor. Articles represent the views of the author and are not necessarily those of the Utah State Historical Society.

Periodicals postage is paid at Salt Lake City, U t a h . POSTMASTER: S e n d address c h a n g e to Utah Historical G r a n d e , Salt Lake City, U t a h 84101.

Quarterly, 300 Rio


Contents SUMMER 1997 \ VOLUME 65 \ NUMBER 3










FRONT COVER, clockwise from upper left: Historic Sites Fun Run, May 1978, sponsored by the preservation staff; tour of historic Spring City during 1975 Annual Meeting; USHS Fellow Helen Z. Papanikolas researching at Kearns mansion; Society director Max f. Evans as Western Union agent who fired shot signaling statehood at centennial reenactment on January 4, 1996 (photograph courtesy o/Deseret News); Evelyn Partner showing preschoolers how to pull handcart replica in museum. BACK COVER, clockwise from u p p e r left: Lucy Valeria and Stanford]. Layton during 1976 DominguezEscalante expedition bicentennial; California schoolteacher Todd I. Berens, left, on a visit to the Society with students researching historic trails; USHS Fellow Dale L. Morgan in a lighthearted moment; Linda Thatcher and David Merrill inventorying library holdings prior to move from Kearns mansion; 1979 Annual Meeting in San Juan County included tour of antiquities section salvage dig at White Mesa; USHS Fellow Juanita Brooks autographing'Hot by Bread Alone: T h e J o u r n a l of Martha Spence Heywood, 1850-56, at party in May 1978; Society trek to Promontory in 1969; Philip F. Notarianni, right, and his nephew Ronald S. Johnson, second from left, demonstrating traditional Italian sausage making in Kearns mansion kitchen for a Beehive History article as John S. H. Smith, Larry Jones, and Linda Edeiken watched. Photographs, except as noted, are from USHS collections.

Š Copyright 1997 Utah State Historical Society

Books reviewed STERLING M. MCMURRIN and L.JACKSON NEWELL. Matters of Conscience:

Conversations with Sterling M. McMurrin on Philosophy, Education, and Religion . .BRIGHAM D. MADSEN


W. ETULAIN. Re-imagining the Modern American West: A Century ofFiction, History, and





Q. CANNON. Remaking the Agrarian Dream: New Deal Rural Resettlement in the Mountain West F. ALAN COOMBS


Army Wives on the American Frontier: Living by the Bugles MARK R. GRANDSTAEF




In this issue Almost lost amid the parades, speeches, and other kinetic excitement of the Golden Jubilee in July 1897 was the meeting of a few dozen Utahns at the Templeton Hotel in Salt Lake City Gary Topping. to create a state historical society. Yet, w h e n the last float was n o t h i n g m o r e t h a n a fading image in a wide-eyed child's memory and the final hyperbolic speech had dissipated into the summ e r air, the organizational work of those history-minded visionaries was already beginning to prove itself as the greatest legacy of that grand celebration. From its modest beginnings of a century ago, the Utah State Historical Society has grown to 3,000 members, developed a research collection of over a million items, published over 250 issues of Utah Historical Quarterly, led the historic preservation movement in Utah for a quarter century, offered grants a n d technical assistance in support of local history initiatives, created energetic antiquities and museums programs, and much more. Such growth and success did not occur without setbacks, frustrations, and other difficulties. Fortunately, men and women of foresight, commitment, good humor, and an enduring love of Utah history have always been there to guide the organization along the path outlined on July 22, 1897. It is time to tell the story of those m e n and women. The editorial staff of Utah Historical Quarterly commissioned Gary Topping, a former Historical Society staffer a n d present professor of history at Salt Lake Community College, to do the j o b . Employing all the skills of the true professional, Dr. Topping spent two years examining the pertinent sources, interpreting the facts with reasoned a n d m a t u r e j u d g m e n t , placing all key developments within larger contexts, and packaging it all in a lively, entertaining narrative. His achievement is more than worthy of that great promise which animated the Society's perspicacious founders a century ago. Find a cool a n d quiet place, turn the page, and enjoy a nifty trip down history's lane.

Rich County's float heads down Main Street during the huge parade of July 22, 1897, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Mormon pioneer arrival in the Salt Lake Valley. Note Brigham Young Monument unveiled three days earlier. In this time of heightened historical awareness, a group of citizens met on the evening of the grand parade day to found the Utah State Historical Society. All photographs are from USHS collections unless noted otherwise. Opposite: Notice in fAeDeseret News of the Society's July 22 organizational meeting.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society BY GARY TOPPING

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society SPECTACULAR SCENE THE LIKE OF


Historical Society Call,

Which Was Never Before Witnessed To t h e P e o p l e of U t a h : B e l i e v i n g tho " J u b i l e o c e l e b r a t i o n " in t h e West" blared the Deseret of t h e a d v e n t of t h e P i o n e e r * an a p p r o Evening News on July 22, 1897, a n d p r i a t e t i m e for the founding of a society, w h i c h s h a l l h a v e for Its objects t h e en • for o n c e p i o n e e r western j o u r n a l oour&gomcnt of historical research ami i n q u i r y by iho exploration a n d investiism, infamous for hyperbole, was not gation of aboriginal m o n u m e n t " a n d rem a i n s , the collection of s u c h materia! a« exaggerating. It was the climax of a m a y s e r v e to illustrate itae trowth of U t a h a n d t h o i n t e r m n u u t a i n region, tho week-long blowout of patriotic p r e s e r v a t i o n in a p e r m a n e n t depositor:' of m a n u s c r i p t s , d o c u m e n t s , papers an 1 e n e r g y celebrating t h e G o l d e n tracts of v a l u e ; the d i s s e m i n a t i o n of inf o r m a t i o n a n d t h e h o l d i n g of meetingM at J u b i l e e , the fiftieth anniversary of stated i n t e r v a l * for tha i n t e r c h a n g e of v i e w s a n d criticisms, t h e u n d e r s i g n e d the first Mormon pioneers' entrance t a k e t h i s m o d e of a s k i n g ail w h o m a y L>>, disposed to aid m s u c h an u n d e r t a k i n g to into the Salt Lake Valley. Beginning m e e t at t h e T e m p l e t o n hotel in Salt 'juk i Ctty on T h u r t d a y t h e 22nd d a y of *'uiy, on July 19 with the unveiling of the 1897. at 4 p . m . , for t h e p u r p o s e of taking t h e n e c e s s a r y t»tcp« l o o k i n g to the iucorBrigham Young Monument at South p o r a ' i o n of KD organization io be k n o w n Temple and Main streets, the festivia t " T h e U a h Stato Historical S o c i e t y . " I t is desired t h a t e v e r y soction of th ? ties would c o n t i n u e until July 24 State s h o u l d be represented. Salt L a k e City, U t a h , J u l y 15, 1897. with full daily schedules of parades, Holier M W e l l * O W Powers concerts, theatrical and musical perJohn R Winder C S Zir.f J T Hammond AqniHa N e b o k o r formances, and speeches. A C Bishop A O Smoot Y D Ricnarda John Henry Smith T h e i m m e n s e p a r a d e of July O F Whitney K m m a J MoVictter L.S H i l l s Eiias A Smith 22, however, was surely t h e most J o h n Q Cannon Angus M Cannon J K rwoly Aifiil^H Y o u n g extravagant event of t h e celebraR \V Y o u n g C V7 P e n r o s e U V Xioodwin K W Wilson t i o n . To t h e News t h e p a r a d e W m A Lee FSwinelitio B W e l l s L VV S h u r t l l t f F « Richards seemed to be almost as m u c h about Artiiu • P r a t t Wiiliam Howard M a r s h a l l V W B«nnett h y d r o e l e c t r i c power as a b o u t his- TGhr aonmt aHs iSmitb P L Wiiliams Charles A d m i x J o h ' "* nine tory, for the estimated o n e h u n d r e d M o r r i - L Ritchie • ; i ; a .^e Mat T h o m a s Kle .nl' »ck t h o u s a n d spectators were flooded Kllen H F e r g u s o n J o h n T L y n c h I>ai;ells C a m e r o n H a d l e v D Johneon with illumination from red, yellow, Brown () It B a i r a t i Edward P eolborn green, and blue incandescent bulbs NWa tS MM cBCr oi gr nh iacmk Horace O Whitney II C Hill whose beams b o u n c e d from color- R11u rWi t i iLt.wreuce e'.: LelJarlheO W Thatcher Buskin S p e n c e r Cluwson ful b u n t i n g crisscrossing the street RH NF M cCune RobertC Lund Chrim D i t h i Jerrold R Letcher from t h e rooftops. "No m o r e tangible evidence can be found," the reporter exulted, "that Utah is in the van of the electric age, than the marvelous display of lights that have greeted the sight seer night after night during the Jubilee." Dr. Topping is assistant professor of history at Salt Lake Community College and a m e m b e r of the Advisory Board of Editors of Utah Historical Quarterly. From 1979 to 1991 he served as curator of manuscripts at the Utah State Historical Society. He is the a u t h o r of n u m e r o u s historical articles a n d reviews and will have two books published in 1997: Gila Monsters and Red-eyed Rattlesnakes: Don Maguire's Arizona Trading Expeditions, 1876-79 and Glen Canyon and the San Juan Country.


Utah Historical Quarterly

While the parade included floats celebrating the expected patriotic and historic themes, the modern reader is perhaps most struck by the prevalence of fantastic floats depicting bizarre themes only tangentially related, if even that, to Utah or to history, particularly those with reptilian representations. Perhaps the least remarkable was a large green dragon sponsored by Salt Lake City's Chinese community, though the News reported that "an outrageous Chinese band" accompanied the beast, which it characterized as "a horrible spectacle [that] no doubt reappeared again and again in the dreams of children." Much more outrageous than that were floats depicting a grotto with "a huge green frog and a dragon staring each other in the face and a fairy looking on" and one called "The Sea Serpent at Bay," showing "a huge snake coiled about a boulder on which sat a young lady with a spear [confronting] a dragon on whose back was also a young lady with a spear." The most disturbing was one mysteriously titled "Anticipations More Than Realized," which depicted "a crocodile in the act of swallowing a fisherman. The mighty jaws were moving, and the legs of the victim still protruded." 1 Nightmare-inducing fantasies indeed! One of the greatest crowd-pleasers, though, was not a fantasy but a political figure, none other than the Great Commoner himself— once the Boy Orator of the Platte—William Jennings Bryan, who had just completed the first of his three unsuccessful presidential campaigns. His fantasy of moving into the White House seemed much less improbable than those evoked on the parade floats, for he had lost the 1896 election to William McKinley by a mere half million popular votes, all of his support coming, unfortunately, from the electoral-votepoor South and West. But Utah, a mining state much impressed with Bryan's platform of debt relief through massive coinage of silver, had weighed in heavily on his side in the new state's first national election, giving him over 80 percent of its popular vote. So he was on friendly ground and garnered much more press attention than any of the local dignitaries from either church or state. Bryan had stopped briefly in Utah on a speaking tour at the first of the month and then returned for a convention of an organization called the Trans-Mississippi Commercial Congress whose purpose was to promote western economic development. Always the politician, he enjoyed being swept up in the concurrent Golden Jubilee. July 16 was designated Bryan Day at Saltair, and mining magnate Thomas Kearns presented the 1

Deseret Evening News, July 22, 1897.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


C o m m o n e r with an ornate cup fashioned from silver and gold in the ratio of sixteen to one, symbolizing the bimetallic currency standard u p o n which his political campaign h a d been based. 2 If Bryan h a p p e n e d to read the Deseret Evening News on the aftern o o n of July 21, h e would have b e e n pleased with its r e p o r t of his enthusiastic reception the previous evening at a patriotic musical prog r a m in the Tabernacle a n d its verbatim coverage of an i m p r o m p t u speech h e h a d given at the conclusion in response to clamorous audie n c e d e m a n d . Appropriate to the occasion, his remarks struck a historical note, emphasizing the n e e d to keep alive the m e m o r y of the state's pioneer heritage: As I w a t c h e d the unveiling of t h e m o n u m e n t to B r i g h a m Young this morning, I wondered how long would live die story of the j o u r n e y across t h e Plains. If m e n have k e p t for t h r e e t h o u s a n d years t h e tale of t h e search for the golden fleece, how m u c h longer will they r e m e m b e r the history of this successful search for wealth, for prosperity, for greatness which you commemorate. 3

As his eye drifted down the page, Bryan may have b e e n struck by a couple of notices that echoed his historical theme. O n e was an appeal by H . W. Naisbitt for t h e loan of "relics of t h e first p i o n e e r s o r of Nauvoo days, or any objects of historic interest," to be placed in the "Hall of Relics" which h a d b e e n drawing unexpected throngs of visitors d u r i n g the Jubilee. In fact, the special white building h a d been "crowded to its utmost capacity by visitors from all sections of Utah a n d from surrounding states a n d territories." 4 In addition, Bryan could n o t have failed to notice a "Historical Society Call" addressed to the people of Utah and inviting all interested persons to an organizational meeting at the Templeton Hotel on July 22 to form a Utah State Historical Society. T h e proposal may n o t have b e e n news to him, for all of the fifty-seven undersigned backers were p r o m i n e n t U t a h n s a n d several w e r e e i t h e r Bryan D e m o c r a t s or Republicans well known to him: Gov. H e b e r M. Wells, J o h n Q. Cannon, J u d g e C. C. Goodwin, Dr. Ellen B. F e r g u s o n , H e n r y W. Lawrence, - T h o m a s G. Alexander, "Political Patterns of Early S t a t e h o o d " in Richard D. Poll, ed., Utah's History (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1978), p. 414. Richard Hofstadter says Bryan's political career had been bankrolled in part by Utah silver interests since 1892; see The American Political Tradition & the Men Who Made It (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948), p. 193. Bryan Day is described in the Deseret Evening News, July 17, 1897. Ironically, both Salt Lake City newspapers at this time were carrying ongoing r e p o r t s of the Klondike gold strike t h a t would shortly e x p a n d the c o u n t r y ' s gold supply a n d effect national debt relief without the necessity of adding to the silver in circulation, thus dooming Bryan's 1900 campaign on that issue. 3 Deseret Evening News, July 21, 1897. 4 Ibid.


Utah Historical Quarterly

The Historical Society was organized in the Templeton Building on the southeast corner of South Temple and Main Street on July 22, 1897.

Abraham O. Smoot, Alfales Young, Franklin S. Richards, and Jerrold R. Letcher. T h e call, moreover, was d a t e d July 15, the very day of Bryan's arrival in Salt Lake City, and it seems inconceivable that the Commoner's friends who had worked untold hours to solicit such highpowered backing for the project would not have mentioned it in some way during the previous week. And perhaps it is not even speculating too remotely that it was recent discussions with his historically minded friends that had borne spontaneous fruit in his Tabernacle remarks. Credit for creation of the Utah State Historical Society belongs, m o r e than anyone else, to an aggressive lawyer-journalist, a Bryan backer and friend, whose name appears with inappropriate modesty at the very e n d of the callers of the organizational meeting, Jerrold Ranson Letcher. 5 He was, frankly, a carpetbagger who h a d arrived in Salt Lake City in 1890 at the age of thirty-nine to seek his fortune in law and politics. A native of Missouri, he was educated in the public schools of that state a n d received t h e LL.B. d e g r e e from the law school of Missouri State University in 1875. After briefly practicing his profession in Missouri, he moved to Ouray, Colorado, in 1878. There h e became active in Democratic politics, representing his district in 5 Although n o press reports during Bryan's visit link him with Letcher, the latter's wife is listed twice as one of Mary Bryan's intimates during h e r visit: at an immense reception in the City and County Building on July 14 (Mary Bryan had preceded her husband's arrival) and at a small luncheon on July 15 at the home of Mrs. Joseph L. Rawlins. Deseret Evening News, July 15-16, 1897.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


the state legislature and his party at t h e Democratic N a t i o n a l Convention in Chicago in 1884. U p o n moving to U t a h , Letcher immediately began promoting the development of state political parties along the lines of the national parties, which he h o p e d would replace the political d o m i n a n c e of the M o r m o n c h u r c h with a more democratic structure. Thus he formed a D e m o c r a t i c party j o u r n a l a n d acted as its reporter while helping in the formation of "democratic societies" in the interest of nationalizing Utah party politics. The year 1894 was a big one Jerrold R. Letcher, the driving force behind the Historical Society's founding, from Bench for Letcher. For o n e thing, h e and Bar of Utah. married Sarah Black, a Missouri schoolteacher. Also, he became a m e m b e r of the last Utah Commission. This five-member body had been created in 1882 to oversee enforcement of the Edmunds Act of that year, a federal law that, among other things, disfranchised polygamists. It was the commission's responsibility to supervise Utah elections in accordance with the act's qualifications for voting and to see that the resulting legislature passed electoral laws in conformance with national standards. Not surprisingly, U t a h M o r m o n s r e g a r d e d the commission as one in a series of examples of obnoxious federal meddling in local affairs. Although it is impossible to measure the temp e r a t u r e of L e t c h e r ' s a n t i - M o r m o n i s m , s t a t e h o o d for U t a h was evidently his prized goal rather than persecution of Mormons, a n d w h e n t h e new state constitution h a d b e e n approved by Congress, L e t c h e r was a m e m b e r of t h e d e l e g a t i o n that t r a n s m i t t e d it to President Grover Cleveland for signature. 6 T h a t Letcher's m e m b e r s h i p on t h e Utah Commission was n o t i n t e r p r e t e d by M o r m o n s as i n t e n d e d p e r s e c u t i o n is eloquently 6 Biographical sketches of Letcher appear in Noble Warrum, Utah Since Statehood (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1919), vol. 3, pp. 565-66; and History of the Bench and Bar of Utah (Salt Lake City: Interstate Press Association, 1913), pp. 164—65. A concise account of the Utah Commission is in Gustive O. Larson, "The Crusade and the Manifesto," in Poll, Utah's History, pp. 268-71.

Utah Historical Quarterly


demonstrated by his effectiveness in enlisting prominent Mormons to support and participate in the Utah State Historical Society. The roster of signatories of the "Historical Society Call" is remarkable for its balance between non-Mormons (one might even say anti-Mormons) like Judges Charles S. Zane, Orlando W. Powers, and C. C. Goodwin and Mormon bluebloods like Franklin D. and Franklin S. Richards, Charles W. Penrose, and John T. Caine. Letcher's respect and influence in Utah society is also exhibited in the power and wealth > represented on the roster, from Governor Heber M. Wells, Secretary of State James T. H a m m o n d , and Legislator Eurithe K. LaBarthe was former Chief Justice Zane to the among those who endorsed the call to wealthy J o h n E. Dooly and H. F. organize a historical society. McCune. Finally, Letcher recognized the importance of women in Utah cultural life by enlisting Dr. Ellen B. Ferguson, Isabella CameronBrown, Eurithe K. La Barthe, Emma J. McVicker, and Emmeline B. Wells.7 Why form a historical society at all and why at that particular time? There is an obvious and simple answer in the interest in history naturally aroused by the pioneer Golden Jubilee. That emotional impetus, the organizers hoped, could be carried through to institutional expression. The "Historical Society Call" began by recognizing that "the 'Jubilee celebration' of the advent of the Pioneers [is] an appropriate time for the founding of a society."8 There are other reasons, though, that challenge us to probe more deeply into contemporary historical and psychological forces and developments, both in Utah and the nation at large. To begin at the national level, America in the 1890s was experiencing a complex crisis, a crisis so fundamental that Henry Steele Commager has referred to 7 8

Deseret Evening News, July 21, 1897. Ibid.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


the d e c a d e as "the watershed of the nineties." 9 U t a h n s were n o t i m m u n e to that crisis, despite the fact that, as Dale Morgan has said, Utah has written the most "cross-grained" chapter in American history. P r o m p t e d by the process of what Gustive O. Larson has called "the Americanization of Utah"—the bringing of Utah social mores a n d institutions into conformity with national standards in preparation for statehood—Utah Mormons were beginning to think of themselves as Americans. No longer were they able, as they once had been, to dismiss national misfortunes as merely just deserts for sinful ways. T h e inescapable focal point of the crisis of the nineties was the great economic depression inaugurated by the Panic of 1893 and lasting until 1897. That depression, the worst in American history to that point, h a d called attention to the existence of other problems that seemed to indicate fundamental flaws in the American way of life. For o n e thing, it h a d c o n t r i b u t e d to o u t b u r s t s of farm protest in the Populist movement and labor violence in the Homestead and Pullman strikes. It had called attention to the extent of the new consolidation in such corporate innovations as the pool and the trust, which seemed to d o o m competition within free e n t e r p r i s e as a major e c o n o m i c force. Americans were also becoming aware of the immense decline in civic virtue as the corrupt business practices of the robber barons had spread into politics at all levels. They knew of the annual torrent of immigration bringing hordes of apparently unassimilable aliens who created urban slums. Finally, although in reality vast quantities of public land still remained available, Americans were becoming worried about increasingly restrictive economic opportunities attendant upon the announced closing of the frontier. In the face of this complex crisis, then, which seemed to call into question the validity of some of America's most fundamental values and institutions, it is natural that a tendency toward introspection would develop a n d that much of that introspection would focus o n the historical development of those now challenged values and institutions. Utahns had reasons within their own history and culture for such introspection as well. In the half century since the arrival of the first 9 H e n r y Steele Commager, The American Mind: An Interpretation of American Thought and Character Since the 1880's (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950), p p . 41-54. In addition to Commager, my thesis which follows is based on Henry F. May, The End of American Innocence: A Study of the First Years of Our Own Time, 1912-1917 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1959), and especially J o h n Higham, "The Reorientation of American Culture in the 1890's," in Writing American History: Essays on Modern Scholarship (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1970), pp. 73-102; and Richard Hofstadter, "Cuba, the Philippines, and Manifest Destiny," in The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays (New York: Vintage Books, 1967), pp.


Utah Historical Quarterly

M o r m o n settlers, Utah history had seen some of the most fundamental c h a n g e s i m a g i n a b l e . R a t h e r like t h e P u r i t a n " e r r a n d i n t o t h e wilderness" of seventeenth-century New England, the great M o r m o n migration was inspired by the o p p o r t u n i t y to create an ideal social order. Drawn by that inspiration, thousands uprooted themselves from the British Isles, Scandinavia, and elsewhere to live in a collectivist society in one of the most remote parts of the earth u n d e r the centralized leadership of the M o r m o n hierarchy. If that uprooting, relocating, a n d adapting to a radically new way of life in a harsh environment were n o t disorienting e n o u g h , immigrants and other outside influences almost from the beginning forced fundamental alterations in the M o r m o n way of life. As early as 1850 the influx of gold rushers a n d the achievement of territorial status m a r r e d M o r m o n isolation. D i s c o n t e n t with t h e hostile, federally appointed governors and judges was a nagging feature of the territorial period, leading at one point to an invasion of the territory by federal troops. T h e transcontinental railroad began an integration of Utah into the national economy. T h e polygamy prosecutions of the 1880s caused immense disruptions in Utah society and greatly exace r b a t e d the already raw feelings b e t w e e n U t a h M o r m o n s a n d t h e nation at large. Now, during the turbulent nineties, Utah had begun a wholesale reversal of its cross-grained traditions in order to gain stateh o o d . Surely it is n o wonder that Utahns, M o r m o n and non-Mormon alike, might be asking who they were in the midst of those apparently contradictory influences a n d experiences. If the culture at large was experiencing an identity crisis, the bewilderment must have been doubly acute in Utah. Beyond the parades, the speeches, the musical festivities, the m o n u m e n t unveilings, beyond the innocent celebration of p i o n e e r greatness and the gawking throngs filing through the Hall of Relics, lurked some very serious questions in the minds of thoughtful people. It was time to begin looking within, to begin examining the contradictory process that h a d b r o u g h t Utah to its p r e s e n t circumstance, and to try to plan a future based u p o n its best traditions. T h e focal point for that introspection would be a state historical society. While the crisis of the 1890s a n d the convoluted nature of Utah history gave a particular urgency to the forming of a historical society, on the other h a n d Utah was following a familiar pattern. T h r o u g h o u t American history, state historical organizations have appeared sometime after the closing of the pioneer period as residents have recognized their emergence into a new era of settled civilization a n d have

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Hall of Relics. Pioneer artifacts in this building inspired thoughts of a historical museum.

sought to preserve some memory of the older time. New York, for example, one of the original states (ratified the Constitution in 1788), formed a historical society in 1804, and Kansas, admitted to the Union in 1861, formed a historical society in 1875.10 The Utah State Historical Society, coming only a scant year and a half after statehood, might seem precocious unless one considers the state's lengthy territorial apprenticeship (1850-1896) during which its population and institutions, at least in the Wasatch Front metropolitan area, had moved well beyond pioneer status. Letcher's stated goals for the organization in the "Historical Society Call" have a familiarly modern ring to them, for they anticipate, at least in embryonic form, some of the Society's major programs in our own day. They were three in number: "the exploration and investigation of aboriginal monuments and remains" (thus anticipating the Antiquities Section); collection and preservation of "manuscripts, documents, papers and tracts of value" (anticipating the Library); and dissemination of historical information and "inter10 Kevin M. Guthrie, The New-York Historical Society: Lessons from One Nonprofit's Long Struggle for Survival (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1996); Charles S. Peterson, "Speaking for the Past," in Clyde A. Milner II, et a t , eds., The Oxford History of the American West (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), p p . 743-70. See also entries on Lyman C. Draper a n d Benjamin Franklin Shambaugh in Howard R. Lamar, ed., The Reader's Encyclopedia of the American West (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1977).


Utah Historical Quarterly

c h a n g e of views a n d criticisms" through scheduled meetings (anticipating the a n n u a l meetings, S t a t e h o o d Day celebrations, a n d p e r h a p s even t h e Publications S e c t i o n ) . Little imagination is required to foresee the Historic Preservation Section developing as an extension into the historical period of the c o n c e r n for aboriginal sites (though historically the Historic P r e s e r v a t i o n Section would slightly precede the Antiquities Section). And one can easily see the preservation, interpretation, a n d exhibition of m u s e u m arti- Governor Heber M. Wells opened the Society's organizational meeting. facts contained within both the i m p u l s e to investigate I n d i a n r e m a i n s a n d the impulse to collect d o c u m e n t a r y sources. Finally, Letcher urged that "it is desired that every section of the state should be represented" both at the organizational meeting and in participation in the Society's activities. In this h e was to be disappointed, for the n o r t h e r n counties were almost the only ones represented, particularly Salt Lake County, which sent n o less than sixteen delegates. Cache, Davis, Weber, and Utah counties each sent two representatives, while one delegate from Carbon and o n e from Iron County were the sole representatives from the central a n d southern parts of the state.11 Over the years, the Society would continue the effort to make itself authentically a state organization through the formation of local chapters, holding annual meetings and Statehood Day celebrations outside t h e Wasatch Front, e n c o u r a g e m e n t of local historic p r e s e r v a t i o n efforts through the Certified Local Government program, and publication in the Utah Historical Quarterly of articles on all parts of the state. Governor Wells called the July 22 meeting to order, recognized the fact that the organization was the brainchild of Jerrold R. Letcher, a n d appointed him chairman. Letcher's first act exhibited his political acumen: he invited Franklin D. Richards to address the gathering 11 Deseret Evening News, July 21, 1897; Utah State Historical Society Minutes, July 22, 1897, Utah State Archives.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


and to give his approval to the new organization. Second in seniority only to Lorenzo Snow on the Q u o r u m of the Twelve Apostles of the M o r m o n church (when Snow succeeded to the presidency in 1898, Richards became president of the q u o r u m and remained second in line to succession to the church presidency until his death in 1899), Richards was o n e of the most i m p o r t a n t figures in M o r m o n d o m . Furthermore, as church historian since 1889, he was the one person whose blessing on the Utah State Historical Society would indicate that t h e M o r m o n c h u r c h saw n e i t h e r c o m p e t i t i o n n o r conflict of interest i n h e r e n t in the new organization. As we shall see, Richards even became its first president, thus holding at once the same position for both church and state. In view of Letcher's well-known status as a non-Mormon, involving Richards at the beginning was an important step in avoiding an apparent church-state division as the new organization sought its place in Utah cultural life.12 O t h e r speakers addressed the meeting, the most significant, perhaps, being Governor Wells, who urged the writing of a "true history of the state" with due consideration to its geological features and advocated the creation of "a reading-room and a library in connection with the association." Antoinette B. Kinney endorsed Wells's library proposal. Hadley D. J o h n s o n addressed the m e e t i n g last. M o d e r n observers of the Society, well aware of the perennial struggle to raise both public and private funds to support its programs at even minimal levels, will recognize the voice of a p r o p h e t in J o h n s o n ' s comments: "He was willing to do anything to help the movement except in the way of money and in a pinch might help with money. 'You will need money, too,' he said, 'for when the society is fully organized and u n d e r good headway we will need a good building for it.'"13 Two seven-member committees were appointed, one to draft a constitution a n d by-laws a n d the o t h e r to m e e t with the J u b i l e e Commission to try to gain custody of the artifacts collected and exhibited in the Hall of Relics. Obviously, if the Society was going to assume custody of a museum collection and begin assembling a library, the constitutional committee was going to have to provide a way for the 12 While the Deseret Evening News, July 23, 1897, reports the organizational meeting, the Salt Lake Tribune of the same date carries a fuller narrative of the proceedings than either the News or the official m i n u t e s of the Society. O n Franklin D. Richards, see Andrew J e n s o n , Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1901) vol. 1, pp. 115-21. Although Davis Bitton and Leonard J. Arrington, Mormons and Their Historians (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1988), give little detail on Franklin D. Richards, their background information on the development of the Church Historian's Office is useful. 13 Salt Lake Tribune, July 23, 1897.

Utah Historical Quarterly


Archaeology intrigued the Society's founders, but activity in that field was decades away. Antiquities Section excavation at White Mesa ca. 1979.

organization to acquire some kind of p e r m a n e n t a n d legal status as well as funding for a p e r m a n e n t staff a n d physical facilities. A second meeting was scheduled for December 28 in the director's r o o m of the Deseret National Bank to examine t h e progress of each committee. T h e resulting articles of i n c o r p o r a t i o n a n d by-laws gave a fairly clear indication of the direction the new organization i n t e n d e d to t a k e . T h e s t a t e m e n t of p u r p o s e , for o n e t h i n g , was significantly e x p a n d e d from earlier versions. At the head of the list was the previously stated goal of investigating prehistoric sites, followed by a reiteration of the intention to create a m u s e u m a n d library. T h e latter goal was now augmented, though, by specific mention of a desire to collect "especially narratives of the a d v e n t u r e s of early explorers a n d pioneers." Finally, the Society was directed vaguely to p r o m o t e "the cultivation of science, literature a n d the liberal arts" a n d to hold regular meetings toward those ends. 14 Gaining m e m b e r s h i p in t h e Society, unlike today, w h e n o n e is asked only for a n a m e , address, a n d a n n u a l fee, was n o idle matter. Active m e m b e r s h i p was available to "any person of good moral character who is interested in the work of this society." Each application h a d to be "endorsed by n o t less t h a n three active m e m b e r s in good standing" and accompanied by an initial m e m b e r s h i p fee of two dollars a n d a n o t h e r two dollars annual fee. Having passed those hurdles, 14

Deseret Evening News, December 29, 1897.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


the application went before the Board of Control, where it was required to receive a majority vote.15 T h e lists of incorporators and charter members (there were separate lists, curiously, containing approximately but not precisely the same names) included, as did the signers of the "Historical Society Call," a wide sampling of Utah's most prominent citizens. Among the initial officers was Franklin D. Richards as president. Although he was seventy-six years old and in fact would die almost exactly two years later, h e was, in view of his status in the Mormon church and his role as church historian, noted above, a diplomatic choice. Furthermore, while most of the routine business of the Society was apparently carried out by the energetic Jerrold Letcher in his role as recording secretary, Richards was no mere figurehead. At the two annual meetings over which he presided, he gave a presidential address. 16 In addition to Richards and Letcher, the officers included Isabel Cameron-Brown as vice-president, J a m e s T. H a m m o n d as corresponding secretary, Lewis S. Hills as treasurer, and Antoinette Brown Kinney as librarian. Kinney, an 1887 g r a d u a t e of the University of Michigan and wife of Salt Lake City attorney and fellow charter member of the Society, Clesson S. Kinney, was paying for her vocal endorsem e n t of Governor Wells's suggestion that the Society should have a library by being a p p o i n t e d its first librarian—a librarian without books. A m o n g the m e m b e r s of the first Executive Committee (or Board of Control) were Henry W. Lawrence, a businessman, former Godbeite, and Populist gubernatorial candidate; J u d g e Charles C. Goodwin; Joseph T. Kingsbury, president of the University of Utah; and J o h n T Caine, actor, editor, and former delegate to Congress. T h e Society planned an active program. Besides an annual general meeting of the Society on the third Monday ofJanuary, the Board of Control was to meet four times a year, in January, April, July, and October. Finally, a "field day" was to be held each summer. T H E FIRST ANNUAL MEETING

T h e Society's earliest annual meetings were lively affairs featuring both music and intellectual stimulation. The first one took place 15 Ibid. Life membership was available to anyone offering good moral character, three endorsements, and fifty dollars; corresponding membership could be acquired by out-of-state residents of "literary and historical attainments" (no examination specified), and honorary membership was for "explorers and Pioneers, or persons distinguished for literary or scientific work, particularly in the line of American history, who are non-residents of the State." 16 Ibid.; USHS Board Minutes, December 28, 1897-January 16, 1899.


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in the Theosophical Hall on West Temple on the evening of January 17, 1898, less than three weeks after the Society's organizational meeting. There is reason to doubt the Deseret News report of the meeting which says it began with the election of officers, for the officers had already been chosen at the December 28 meeting, though they may have been installed or confirmed in some way.17 It is likely that the meeting launched right into the musical entertainment, a vocal solo by Miss Nellie Holliday called "Rest Unto the Weary." T h e musical component of the annual meeting remained a common, though not indispensable, feature of the meetings until the r e t i r e m e n t of Marguerite Sinclair in 1949. The address of President Richards that followed may not have been, as the News reported, "the chief event of the evening," but he clearly took his j o b seriously and put some effort into sketching his vision for the future of Utah historical work. He began by commending the Society's intention to preserve the artifacts collected during the Jubilee as the nucleus of a history m u s e u m and then went on to list the themes that he thought Utah historians should make the focal points of their research. Among those were irrigation, agriculture, the extractive industries, transportation, and social a n d political development. Dominating his recommendations, though, were cultural affairs—literature, architecture, fine arts, and Franklin D. Richards, first president of religion. T h e m o d e r n r e a d e r can the Utah State Historical Society, was also hardly fail to be struck by the fact the IDS church historian. that, in view of the recent celebration of the pioneer era, Richards made only one mention of that and devoted the rest of his address to themes that still engage Utah historians a century later. The other two addresses were given by prominent cultural figures in turn-of-the-century Utah. Dr. Ellen Brooke Ferguson, one of the

17 Deseret Evening News, January 18, 1898. The Board Minutes give a less elaborate report, with only the titles of the addresses.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


f o u n d e r s of the Society a n d surely o n e of the most energetic a n d accomplished members in its history, spoke on "The True Mission of History."18 The daughter of a prominent lawyer in Cambridge, England, she was taught from an early age by Cambridge University tutors from whom she acquired a much better education than was available in the women's seminaries to which females were often banished in that day. In 1857 she married Dr. William Ferguson and began her own study of medicine, finishing her program in the United States, to which they immigrated in 1860. In this country she ran a newspaper, practiced medicine, and traveled about the East lecturing on woman suffrage. She returned from a brief visit to England in 1876 to find her husband p r e p a r i n g to move to Utah in response to his recent conversion to Mormonism. In Utah she divided her time among medicine, woman suffrage, and Democratic politics. Widowed in 1880, she p o u r e d her energy single-mindedly into various civic causes. She was one of the f o u n d e r s of the Utah Conservatory of Music in 1878, the Deseret Hospital in 1882, and the Woman's Democratic Club in 1896. At some point in the late 1890s her commitment to Mormonism waned, and she left that church and became involved in Theosophy, a spiritualist religion f o u n d e d in the U n i t e d States in 1875 by H e l e n a Petrovna Blavatsky that was enjoying considerable popularity. It was obviously through Dr. Ferguson's agency that the Society met in the Theosophical Hall. Not long after this meeting she moved to New York.19 T h e final address, on "The Utah Pioneers," was given by Joseph T. Kingsbury, president of the University of Utah. A native of Weber County, he grew up with the University of Utah (while it was still the University of Deseret) as a student, chemistry professor, and president. A poor farm boy, he worked his way off the farm through academic excellence. After studying at the University of Deseret, which was then little more than a high school, he attended Cornell and Wesleyan universities, taking the Ph.D. in chemistry from the latter institution. R e t u r n i n g to Utah as professor of chemistry, Kingsbury was instrumental in transforming the school into t h e University of Utah (the name changed in 1892), a credible institution of higher learning with the beginnings of the campus on its present site.20 18 19

T h e Deseret Evening News gives, the title as "The Proper Field for the Historian." Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons, 1904), vol 4, p p .

602-4. 20 Ibid., pp. 355-57; Ralph Vary Chamberlin, The University of Utah: A History of Its First Hundred Years, 1850 to 1950 (SaltLake City: University of Utah Press, 1960), pp. 212, 340. See also Craig H. Bower, "Academic Freedom and the Utah Controversy, 1911 and 1915" (honors thesis, University of Utah, 1995).


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T h e Deseret Evening News reported n o n e of Ferguson's address but gave a brief sketch of Kingsbury's remarks, which appear n o t to have b e e n profound. After outlining the history of the pioneer period and describing the natural resources of the state, he went on to forecast an important role for the Historical Society in the "collection of proper and accurate data for the future historian." 21 T h e first annual meeting set the direction for the Society for years to come. O n e healthy precedent was inclusion of avocational historians as speakers, for later history w o u l d d e m o n s t r a t e t h e s t r e n g t h i m p a r t e d to t h e Society by local a n d family historians a n d history buffs. Some of U t a h ' s best history has b e e n written by the likes of L e o n a r d J. Arrington, Dale L. Morgan, Juanita Brooks, Charles Kelly, Helen Z. Papanikolas, and Wallace Stegner—all of them lacking academic degrees in history. A n o t h e r p r e c e d e n t was to involve U t a h ' s most prestigious citizens, who m a d e Historical Society m e m b e r s h i p something to be desired and respected. In a relatively p o o r state with a strongly pragmatic tradition, where cultural agencies have to compete for funding with prisons, roads, a n d other urgent matters, involving the wealthy, the prestigious, and the powerful can help give those agencies the competitive edge they need. Nevertheless, one thing was lacking a m o n g the founders of the Society: professionalism. In spite of his position as LDS church historian, Franklin D. Richards was not an academically trained historian, and h e was the only one of the founders who had any claim to professionalism, if only through his employment. It is true, of course, that the m o d e r n historical profession was only beginning to emerge at that time, as young American scholars began going to Germany to undertake seminar-based Ph.D. programs, so it is scarcely remarkable that Utah as yet would have few, if any, of them. That lack of a pool of professionals notwithstanding, the second annual meeting, held on January 16, 1899, made a significant step forward in the quality of two of the four addresses given. O n e was by James E. Talmage, at that time director of the Deseret Museum, on the topic "The Materials of History." T h e b u r d e n of his remarks was that the state's material heritage must be protected from vandalism which had destroyed "many important relics of bygone ages."22 No doubt his cornN a m e d president of the university in April 1897, Kingsbury resigned in disgrace in 1916 after the new American Association of University Professors found him guilty of preferring Mormons in faculty recruitm e n t a n d promotion. 21 22

Deseret Evening News, January 18, 1898. Ibid., January 17, 1899. The full text of the addresses is given in ibid., January 28, 1899.

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ments were prompted by the indiscriminate plundering of prehistoric sites j u s t beginning at the time as well as the heightened interest in material culture p r o m p t e d by the Hall of Relics exhibition during the Jubilee. Proper curation of the latter artifacts would r e m a i n a c o n c e r n of his and although the museology profession was at that time as embryonic as the historical profession, h e rend e r e d t h e state a significant service. T h e other address, "The Artifacts in the Hall of Relics shown here include Prehistoric Races of the old fort door and tools, rifles, and musical Southwest," was given by the instruments. inimitable Don Maguire, one of the most remarkable characters in Utah history.23 He was born into a family of Irish immigrant peddlers in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, in 1852. W h e n t h e family followed the transcontinental railroad to Utah in 1870, Maguire began learning the family trade from his father a n d brothers. Peddling led him on several remarkable journeys from his h o m e in O g d e n to N o r t h Africa, to t h e gold fields of I d a h o a n d Montana, and, most significant, to Nevada, California, Arizona, a n d even Mexico, the latter three, especially, bringing him considerable money. Much more than just an adventurer and businessman, though, Maguire was a student who kept detailed notes on the geography, economy, a n d society of the places he visited. O n e of his greatest passions was prehistoric Indian cultures. His notes on his Arizona expeditions contain elaborate descriptions of Indian ruins—famous ones like Casa Grande a n d obscure ones like a later-destroyed castle near Prescott where h e and his men camped while awaiting the business that payday at C a m p Verde would bring. U p o n his r e t i r e m e n t from peddling in 1879, Maguire devoted m u c h of his time to mining exploration a n d

23 In addition to the Don Maguire Papers at the Utah State Historical Society, see Gary Topping, ed., Gila Monsters and Red-eyed Rattlesnakes: Don Maguire's Arizona Trading Expeditions, 1876-79 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1997).


Utah Historical Quarterly

speculation a n d to excavating p r e h i s t o r i c sites. P e r h a p s his most famous excavation was the ruins near Paragonah, Utah, the site from which the evidence for his Historical Society address was derived. 24 Beginning with a general a c c o u n t of t h e prehistoric sites observed during his southwestern expeditions, h e t h e n offered a survey of the economy, architecture, weapons, a n d burMETATE IN SITU P 3 ial practices of t h e P a r a g o n a h VIEW S 4 7 80 ROLL 3 E 5 Indians. If museology a n d history Scientific documentation of archaeological were in their professional infansites and artifacts is the hallmark of Antiquities Section work as this 1980 cies, so too was archaeology, and photograph demonstrates. Maguire's excavation techniques a n d interpretations would n o more stand up to m o d e r n professional standards than would those of Richards or Talmage in their fields. Excavation to Maguire was simply artifact recovery, with no attention paid to mapping, stratigraphy, or any of the other techniques of the m o d e r n archaeologist. Also, Maguire considered prehistoric American Indians to have been a single culture, so that generalizations based on one site would apply everywhere else. Nevertheless, Talmage and Maguire were active scholars reporting curr e n t knowledge in their fields as ably as their limited training would allow, and their addresses represent a discernible progress toward the scholarly standards of the m o d e r n Historical Society. Despite what appeared to be a promising beginning, the Society rather quickly passed into the doldrums. T h e third and fourth annual meetings again featured musical selections and addresses, but from then until the twenty-first annual meeting in 1918, the meetings with few exceptions consisted only of the election of officers in dutiful obed i e n c e to the by-laws, with n o o t h e r business c o n d u c t e d . After the 1918, 1919, a n d 1920 a n n u a l m e e t i n g s which f e a t u r e d addresses AS


24 Don Maguire, "The Paragoonah Fortress," Salt Lake Tribune, J a n u a r y 30, 1893; Neil M. J u d d , Archaeological Observations North of the Rio Colorado. Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 82 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1926), 54 indicates that Maguire did his work at that site in January, 1893. Something of the growth in sophistication in archaeology is indicated in the fact that J u d d , who worked at the site in 1916, refers to Maguire's work as "mutilation."

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


( t h o u g h only the 1918 meeting i n c l u d e d music), the tradition was completely a b a n d o n e d except for the p e r f u n c t o r y elections, until 1930. Two more annual meetings with addresses followed, and then the Lecture Committee on October 3, 1931, a n n o u n c e d formal suspension of the public sessions for fear of competing with other organizations that were holding similar meetings. T h e Society's hard times following World War I are graphically symbolized by the board minutes themselves. Handsomely typewritten on ledger sheets during Jerrold Letcher's tenure as recording secretary, they rapidly declined in both c o n t e n t a n d appearance. W h e n Letcher resigned in 1920 to fill a state position called referee of bankruptcy, 25 his successors sometimes p e n c i l e d their m i n u t e s on o d d chunks of scratch paper, and in three instances merely on 3-by-5 index cards. T h e r e was little business to record, a n d from 1925 to 1927 minutes are completely lacking. Evidently, the empty exercise of electing officers with nothing to do had finally lost whatever appeal it had once exerted. This is certainly not to say that the Society was completely inactive d u r i n g those years a r o u n d World War I, for in fact some fundamentally i m p o r t a n t d e v e l o p m e n t s o c c u r r e d at that time. For o n e thing, t h e Society achieved the status of a state agency in 1917 a n d received its first state appropriation in that year—two h u n d r e d dollars to care for the artifacts from the Hall of Relics.26 It is hard to overestimate the importance of that achievement. Founded by an elite group of U t a h n s in the m o m e n t a r y r u s h of e n t h u s i a s m for t h e P i o n e e r Jubilee, the Society had easily assumed responsibilities it could never have fulfilled had it remained an elite organization funded only by m e m b e r s h i p dues and donations. Becoming a state agency laid the g r o u n d w o r k for shifting the Society's base of s u p p o r t from a tiny group—wealthy and influential though they were—to the people of Utah themselves. It was the beginning of the democratization of the Society, and that democratic support has been the Society's greatest strength. Another accomplishment of the Society during that somewhat fallow period was the acquisition of p e r m a n e n t quarters. It was obvious from the beginning that if the Society were to fulfill any p a r t of its ambitious goals of assembling a library and manuscript collection and 25 Letcher continued to be active at meetings of the Society until his death in 1922. Deseret News, July 17, 1922. 26 State of Utah, Biennial Report of the State Historical Society of Utah, 1917-1918, in Utah Public Reports.


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curation of the Hall of Relics artifacts a n d other material objects, some kind of office or museum space would be required. With both the gove r n o r a n d t h e secretary of state of U t a h p r e s e n t on t h e Society's board, it was natural that the possibility of rooms in the future State Capitol, then u n d e r discussion, would be considered. In fact, the initial call to organize the Society expressed the intention of seeking space in the Capitol. Unfortunately for the Society, as for state government, that building was slow in coming. As a result of a contest among architects for t h e b e s t design, Richard Kletting was given the commission, a n d g r o u n d was first broken in 1912. Completion of the building in 1915 marked the end of what Dale L. Morgan calls "an orphaned existence" for state government and for the Historical Society as well.27 While that o r p h a n status must have been difficult e n o u g h for the state legislature and courts, it was impossible for the Society to carry out m u c h more than board meetings and public lectures without p e r m a n e n t quarters. Thus, even though the minutes laconically mention the Society's first meeting in its new r o o m in the basement of the Capitol on J a n u a r y 17, 1916, the event must have b e e n t h e occasion for considerable rejoicing. At last, cramped and isolated as its new quarters were, the Society could begin its full role as initially planned. 28 O n e of its most neglected functions was the preservation a n d exhibition of the pioneer artifacts assembled during the Jubilee. Much of t h a t material h a d already passed o u t of the Society's custody. Lacking any facility in which even to store the artifacts properly, the Society had at first housed them in the City and County Building, but it responded positively to an offer from James E. Talmage on January 20, 1913, to place the most interesting of them on display in a special exhibit as part of the Deseret Museum in the Vermont Building on S o u t h Temple. 2 9 W h e n c o m b i n e d with materials l o a n e d by t h e Daughters of Utah Pioneers (DUP) a n d certain privately owned artifacts, they made a large and impressive exhibit, requiring expansion of the museum onto a whole new floor of the building. 30 In an attempt to realize its original goal of caring for historical artifacts, though, the Society retained some of the Jubilee material for 27

Utah Writers' Project, Utah: A Guide to the State (New York: Hastings House, 1941), p. 246. USHS Board Minutes, January 17, 1916. 29 Ibid., January 20, 1913. The minutes of December 12, 1924, indicate that the artifacts had first been stored in the City and County Building. 30 Sterling B. Talmage, "Relic Hall of the D e s e r e t M u s e u m , " Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine* (1913): 137-42. 28

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


exhibit in the Capitol. I n n o c e n t of security a n d preservation c o n c e r n s , the Society apparently placed the artifacts in u n p r o t e c t e d locations a b o u t the building. T h e consequences were easily predictable, and Jerrold Letcher c o m p l a i n e d on J a n u a r y 3, 1920, that t h e artifacts were being d a m a g e d by public h a n d l i n g . D. W. Parratt, the new secretary, r e c o m m e n d e d installation of protective screens at an estim a t e d cost of $332. A l t h o u g h the Society continued to receive donations of historical artifacts, a n d in fact assumed the additional responsibility for the new Memorial H o u s e in M e m o r y Grove, it was to be many more years before it acquired the facilities and professional expertise to care The Society is still the custodian of T h e Book of the Pioneers, a for a n d exhibit t h e m properly. unique two-volume compilation of Eventually responsibility for the pioneer reminiscences collected Capitol exhibits passed to the DUP. 31 during the 1897Jubilee. Sadly, t h e central stated p u r p o s e behind creation of the Society—curation of pioneer artifacts—has to be reckoned among its greatest early failures. T h e Society's final project during the doldrum years of the 1920s was ultimately successful, though it reached that success via a rocky road. World War I, the Great War, the bloodiest conflict in world history to that point, h a d traumatized U t a h n s as it h a d all civilized people. T h e ghastly carnage of the Marne, the Somme, and Verdun had called into question the most fundamental assumptions of western civilization: the belief in progress, the belief in democracy, the belief in science. Instead of creating a peaceful millennium of democracy and prosperity, the two great revolutions of the nineteenth cen31 Utah Writers' Project, Utah: A Guide to the State, pp. 249-50, describes the Relic Hall exhibits of the DUP in the Capitol at the b e g i n n i n g of the 1940s. In t h e "Report of the Utah State Historical Society, 1925-26," Utah Public Documents, president Albert F. Philips reported that "the property of the society was gathered together and stored in room 131 in the capitol building, a n u m b e r of relics which could not be stored in the room were placed in an enclosure in the basement of the building and still others which had been thrown into a j u n k pile resurrected a n d the Daughters of the [Utah] Pioneers placed them on exhibition with the relics which they have, for the better protection of them." An inventory of the collection is appended. After construction of the DUP Museum in 1947 some of the artifacts found their way there, while others were placed on exhibit in the Information Services Building on Temple Square.


Utah Historical Quarterly

tury h a d converged to create the world's greatest catastrophe. As the industrial revolution produced the technology to kill immense numbers of people, the democratic revolution produced immense numbers of people willing to be killed.32 At the e n d of the war, U t a h ' s war mobilization agency, the Council of Defense, turned over to the Utah State Historical Society a state-funded project to write a history of Utahns who had participated in that great conflict. Supported by a $5,000 appropriation, it was the Society's first great project, and it engaged University of Utah history professor Andrew Love Neff to write the book. 33 T h e war history caused a bustle of activity at the Society's headquarters for the next three years. For o n e thing, the legislative appropriation enabled the Society to hire its first salaried employees in the form of two secretaries—Misses Willajaskey and Marba Cannon—for a stipend of $100 per month (soon reduced to $75). Also, the Society's well-known newspaper clipping files were begun at this time, as the board engaged the Intermountain Press and Clipping Service to clip articles on Utah and the war. Unfortunately, this project was discontinued after a year.34 Neff proved to be a mighty engine of research who p r o d u c e d a draft m a n u s c r i p t of some t h r e e h u n d r e d pages. 35 Ultimately, t h o u g h , his interpretive powers proved u n e q u a l to his research energy, and he abandoned the project. At the board meeting of January 16, 1922, Neff reported that the gathering of individual biographical information on Utah's veterans was becoming an expensive redundancy, for the federal government had offered to provide similar data at n o cost. More serious, the subject appeared so diffuse to him that he was unable to discover a central theme or themes around which an integrated narrative could be organized: "The writing of a military history h a d proved impracticable because of the geographical distribution of the m e n a n d the lack of unity in the kinds of service rendered by them." Therefore Neff proposed to abandon the comprehensive history in favor of a "series of historical m o n o g r a p h s " on smaller topics focusing on "the internal history of the state during the war, stressing the organization of the state for war purposes and evaluating the extent and character of the 32 T h e author is indebted to Professor Ronald Smelser of the University of Utah for this concise summary of the significance of World War I. 33 USHS Board Minutes, March 25, 1919. 34 Ibid., May 20, 1919; J u n e 3, 1920. 35 Andrew Love Neff Papers, Utah State Historical Society.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


service p e r f o r m e d by the citizens a n d industries of this c o m m o n wealth." This contraction of the original plan might have seemed necessary to Neff, b u t the protracted discussion of the subject over the n e x t year's board meetings seems to indicate that the board was reluctant to a b a n d o n t h e larger e n t e r p r i s e . There was certainly no ambiguity on the part of the Council of Defense which, when it received the news of Neff's proposal, elected to remove the project from his hands. At the m e e t i n g of O c t o b e r 29, 1923, the b o a r d c o n s i d e r e d a request from Noble Warrum completed the Society's the governor, p r o m p t e d by the first book-publishing project. Frontispiece council, that all source material from another work of his, Utah Since assembled by Neff be turned over to Statehood. Noble Warrum, a representative of the council, for preparation of a comprehensive history along the lines of the original plan. Although a committee consisting of Neff, Levi Edgar Young, and D. W. Parratt was appointed to meet with the governor concerning what they called "this strange request," the council's wishes prevailed, and the history was finished by Warrum u n d e r the title Utah in the World War.56 And so the Society's first great publishing project came to a close. Neff's massive, though uncompleted and unpublished, manuscript still resides at the Society. At least h e had worked cheaply: the board minutes of January 19, 1920, report that at that point, of the $5,000 appropriation, the only expenditures had b e e n for the clipping service and secretarial salaries, a total of $660.69. T H E FOUNDING OF UTAH HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

No one reading through the minutes of the board of the Utah State Historical Society during the 1920s can fail to be impressed by the radical improvement simply in their physical appearance beginNoble Warrum, Utah in the World War (Salt Lake City: Arrow Press, 1924).


Utah Historical Quarterly

n i n g o n April 6, 1927. Instead of b e i n g scrawled in pencil o n t o r n scraps of p a p e r a n d so laconic that an e n t i r e m e e t i n g c o u l d be recorded on a 3-by-5 card, suddenly t h e minutes are neatly typewritten o n small three-hole binder sheets a n d fully as elaborate in content as those kept by Jerrold Letcher. Clearly something radical had happened. T h a t something radical was J. Cecil Alter, a n d for the next two decades his industrious efforts would begin the transformation of the Society into a vigorous organization with authentic scholarly standards fulfilling a vitally important function in Utah cultural life. Encouraged by the businessman-scholar Herbert S. Auerbach, aided by the tireless s e c r e t a r y - m a n a g e r M a r g u e r i t e L. Sinclair, a n d s u p p o r t e d by t h e remarkable self-made historian Dale L. Morgan, Alter started the Utah Historical Quarterly, began assembling a serious Utah history library, and secured the first regular appropriation from the state legislature. T h e m o d e r n Historical Society had begun to emerge. Given Alter's obsessive enthusiasm for Utah history, it is ironic that he was neither a native Utahn nor an academically trained historian. 37 B o r n o n a farm n e a r Rensselaer, I n d i a n a , in 1879, Alter evidently acquired his breadth of curiosity from his jack-of-all-trades father who had pursued a variety of occupations. After attending several midwestern colleges, he settled upon meteorology as a career and went to work for the U.S. Weather Bureau in 1902. H e excelled at his profession and invented an effective precipitation gauge and a system for surveying m o u n t a i n snow. When the b u r e a u assigned him to Salt Lake City in 1904, Alter found a bride, Jennie O. Greene, and a new environment into which he threw himself with u n b r i d l e d eagerness. Not content merely to study and record the weather, he served his adopted state as c h a i r m a n of the Utah State Parks Commission, as a m e m b e r of the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters, and as author of travelogs a n d historical columns in two Salt Lake newspapers. Alter's interest in U t a h history b e c a m e so c o n s u m i n g that h e rejected several opportunities to advance in his own profession that would have required leaving Utah. Instead, he filled his free time by writing a succession of books on his adopted state, including a biography of Jim Bridger, the three-volume Utah: The Storied Domain, and especially Early Utah Journalism. While o t h e r s , particularly Dale Morgan, could find fault with some of Alter's research, his writings sig37 Most of the biographical material that follows is based on Miriam B. Murphy, 'J. Cecil Alter, Founding Editor of Utah Historical Quarterly," Utah Historical Quarterly 46 (Winter 1978): 37-44.

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nificantly advanced our understanding of Utah history.38 Perhaps Alter's greatest contribution to Utah and the Historical Society was the creation of the Utah Historical Quarterly and nursing it through the disastrously lean times of the Great Depression. Forced to suspend its publication d u r i n g 1933-39, he kept the magazine alive as an idea, at least, by publishing a series of historical monographs in its place a n d then resuscitating it when sales of earlier bound volumes a n d of Early Utah Journalism h a d brought in the needed funds. Cecil Alter, weatherman and founding Publishing had been implied as J.editor o/"Utah Historical Quarterly. far back as the original statement of the Society's goals, but specific plans were not advanced until 1920 when Andrew Jenson a n n o u n c e d the intention to start a quarterly historical magazine the following year. He planned to use the magazine to publish original documents and to that e n d had secured permission to publish portions of Wilford Woodruff's diary. It was a farsighted plan, but the legislature denied the necessary funds. By 1927 the legislature was evidently in a more generous mood, for it voted an annual salary of $1,200 to be split between Alter, as secretary-treasurer of the Society and editor of the Quarterly, and Albert F. Philips, as librarian and curator of the m u s e u m . Although Alter's mounting responsibilities led to a raise in 1931 of $100 per month, that sum was, in the estimation of Alter's biographer, "more like an allowance since it was expected to cover expenses 'not provided for in appropriations for properly conducting the Society's business.'" 3 9 Eventually, though, his salary was cut to $30 per month in 1933 as the depression tightened its grip on Utah. Luckily, Alter had more reliable and substantial sources of income. 38 Writing to Marguerite Sinclair, Morgan acknowledged that he "always had the greatest admiration for his [Alter's] promotional efforts in behalf of the Historical Society, though often I d o n ' t see eye to eye with him as a scholar and historian." Morgan to Sinclair, April 15, 1943, Dale Morgan Papers, Utah State Historical Society. 39 Murphy, "J. Cecil Alter," 41.


Utah Historical Quarterly

T h e stipend was enough, nevertheless, to begin publishing the Utah Historical Quarterly. Following u p on Jenson's original concept, the board members concurred that "the Quarterly should be made up largely of journals or diaries already available, at least prospective and n o t otherwise available in print." 4 0 In fact, the early issues of the Quarterly contained a fair sprinkling of interpretive articles as well as original sources. Articles on Indians a n d military subjects were most p r o m i n e n t in the first six volumes, b u t there was a fair showing of other topics as well. Board members, according to Miriam Murphy's calculations, contributed 18 percent of the articles. Despite this promising start, the Great Depression h a d so constricted state revenues by 1933 that the legislature was forced to cut the Society's b u d g e t deeply e n o u g h to kill the young Quarterly a n d greatly reduce Alter's stipend. It was the Society's greatest crisis to that point, and something of the desperation of the board is conveyed in the language of the minutes for April 8, 1933. At the same time it a n n o u n c e d suspension of the Quarterly and Alter's salary cut, it moved that "the fate of the Quarterly be left to the Editor, Secretary-Treasurer [Alter], and that he be given 'Dictatorial' powers to do as he found possible a n d practicable, with the assurance such action would be approved by the Board. This motion was passed unanimously without discussion." Dictator Alter, indeed! O n e may reasonably d o u b t that he felt m u c h kinship with Caesar or N a p o l e o n ! T h e g r a n d i o s e t e r m seems only to have m e a n t that the board was suspending its regular meetings in the interest of economy a n d turning policy decisions as well as routine operations entirely over to Alter. T h e Quarterly may have b e e n d e a d , b u t its ghost h a u n t e d the office of the Society. During its infrequent meetings over the next few years, the board expressed regret over its loss and "hopes for a rising tide in the Society's affairs very soon." Eventually those hopes bore fruit. A l t h o u g h its i n t e n t i o n to r e p l a c e t h e Quarterly with a n n u a l monographs had not come to pass, one such monograph, Alter's Early Utah Journalism, finally came off the press in 1938. T h e book sold well, its revenues nicely augmenting sales of b o u n d copies of volumes 1-6 of the Quarterly. Finally, in 1939, the legislature was able to appropriate $5,000 for the next biennium, and the Quarterly was resurrected. 4 1 Although Alter had passed over earlier opportunities to advance in the Weather Bureau because they would take him away from Utah, he 40 41

Board Minutes, April 6, 1927. Board Minutes, April 7, 1934; April 8, 1939.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


accepted a position in Cincinnati in 1941. Perhaps he felt he had accomItah Historical tuarterty plished m o s t of what h e wanted to d o in U t a h and, as we shall see, h e certainly realized he was leaving the Hit Site of fort fipbidoux Quarterly in a strong position and the 6tt Trails, <Md forts, #ld Trappers and Traders Society in good hands. Even then, h e could n o t really bring himself to Iscaiante's Map and Boutc leave the Society. Alter continued as official editor of the Quarterly until 1945 b u t with greatly diminished effectiveness. For one thing, he was distracted by a divorce (the charge, understandably, in view of his multit u d i n o u s involvements with civic activities a n d organizations, was neglect) a n d r e m a r r i a g e to o n e of his assistants at the Weather Bureau. U t a h Historical Quarterly (JanuaryMore i m p o r t a n t , it simply did n o t April 1941) reflects interests of board members in trapper era and Father make sense to try to d o the j o b at a Escalante. distance. As Dale Morgan complained, "the Board should get down to brass tacks and appoint a new editor of the Quarterly who can work at the job. I think it is absurd to continue any longer the policy of having Alter 'edit' the Quarterly at long range. T h e necessary work cannot be done except in the offices of the Society, and if Alter is not coming back to Utah pretty soon, some other arrangement should be made." 42 Alter's last contribution to the Society was to augment the library. T h e b o a r d minutes of April 2, 1938, note that h e had offered about thirty books plus a r u n of the Salt Lake Chronicle to form the nucleus of a reference collection. O n October 8 the list was extended to a total of seventy-eight volumes. Never a wealthy man, Alter was forced to sell the books to the Society. As J o h n James r e m e m b e r e d , Alter's offers c o n t i n u e d well into t h e 1950s. "His letters were always delightful," James recalled, "and he always apologized for selling us the books, but he said h e had to. H e was retired and n e e d e d the money. H e always gave us very good prices, and within the limits of our budget we were able to buy quite a few of them." 43 JANUARY, APRIL 1941

Published in January, April July and.October, by tho Board of Control UTAH STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY Stale Capitol

SALT LAKE CITY. UTAH Reprinted April, 194)

42 Marguerite L. Sinclair to Dale Morgan, March 25 and July 12, 1943; Morgan to Sinclair, August 14, 1946. Dale L. Morgan Papers, Utah State Historical Society. 4, J o h n James, Jr., interview with Eric Redd, August 9, 1972.


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Alter was fortunate in attracting some equally energetic co-workers, and much of what the Society accomplished during that time was a collaborative effort. Herbert S. Auerbach, for example, was president of the Board of Control (later called the Board of Trustees) from 1936 until his death in 1945, bringing wealth, energy, and a passion for western history, particularly the fur trade a n d the Dominguez-Escalante expedition. As an heir to the Auerbach's department store fortune, Herbert spent his m o n e y wisely on education, travel, and assembling one of the legendary collections of western books. Born in Herbert S. Auerbach, department store Salt Lake City, Auerbach was eduheir, Society board president, and cated in Germany a n d became an Escalante aficionado. accomplished violinist who gave concerts in Europe. His graduate training at Columbia University School of Mines e a r n e d h i m a master's degree in electrometallurgy in 1906. H e worked for several years as a mining engineer, but returned to Salt Lake City where he assumed an increasing role in the family business after 1911. A life-long bachelor, Auerbach lived in the Brooks Arcade and designed and built the popular Centre Theater across State Street from his living quarters. 44 As Miriam B. Murphy has observed, "Auerbach seemed obsessed by Escalante." 45 After publishing several articles on various aspects of the Franciscan Father, Auerbach a n d Alter worked together in presenting a translation of the Escalante j o u r n a l as volume 11 (1943) of the Quarterly. A u e r b a c h h a d located a copy of the j o u r n a l at the Newberry Library, but that institution had already given permission to publish it to the great Latin American historian H e r b e r t E. Bolton of the University of California, Berkeley. Undaunted, Auerbach found another copy in Mexico City and proceeded to prepare it for publication with Alter as his editor. 46 41 J. Cecil Alter, "In Memoriam: H e r b e r t S. Auerbach, 1882-1945," Utah Historical Quarterly 13 (1945):v-viii. 45 Murphy, 'J. Cecil Alter," p. 43. 46 Ibid., pp. 42-43. Not everyone was impressed with Auerbach's scholarship. Dale Morgan called

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Auerbach's most controversial involvement with the Society conc e r n e d his i m m e n s e library of western books o n which h e h a d lavished a large fortune. During his tenure on the Board of Control, he evidently allowed it to be understood that the Society would inherit his library u p o n his death, for in fact he h a d taken advantage of his status as president of the board to acquire some bibliographic rarities.47 It was not to be, for Auerbach left n o will, and his sisters decided instead to have the collection catalogued by Brigham \foung University bibliophile Wilford Poulson and sold at auction. It was an immense blow to the Society, whose limited funds would not allow purchase of even a significant portion of the collection when forced to compete with the large acquisition budgets of the major libraries that would be bidding. Matters were even worse than that, as J o h n James, Jr., who became the Society's librarian in 1952, recalled, for anticipation of the Auerbach donation had significantly retarded the Society's book purchases, a n d James then had to start an acquisition program that was already seriously behind. 48 Alter's other co-worker was Marguerite L. Sinclair, surely one of the most remarkable people ever associated with the Society. Little is known of her background or of her personal life outside the Society. She spent some years caring for an "aged brother-in-law" with whom she was very close; in fact she characterized him as "the only father I have known for years. So I am an o r p h a n now. And it isn't any fun!" Perhaps because of that domestic obligation, she put off marriage until she was about fifty, when she married Herbert A. Reusser of Oakland, California, and left Salt Lake City. She may have met her future husb a n d while on an emergency trip to California seeking relief from chronic asthma attacks that had, at least on one occasion, required hospitalization. A truly glamorous beauty who could have passed for a 1930s movie star, Sinclair was also a talented singer who sometimes e n t e r t a i n e d state legislators while soliciting appropriations for the Society a n d also sang at annual meetings and on radio shows advertishis "Old Trails, Old Forts, Old Trappers and Traders," which appeared in the Quarterly in 1941, a "rehash of baloney." Morgan thought Auerbach a lazy researcher whose "curiosity was underdeveloped." Morgan to Marguerite Sinclair, March 15, 1943, Morgan Papers, Utah State Historical Society. 47 Marguerite L. Sinclair disclosed this fact in anti-Semitic rage when she learned that the Auerbach library was being taken over by his sisters and would not come to the Society after all. When the Society was offered a set of the Journal of Discourses, she reported, Auerbach had stepped in and b o u g h t them up "before our very noses." Since he was president of the board, she continued, "I had to let him see the list and pass on the sale, and Jew that he was, he put a fast one over, AS USUAL. I was and still am, just sick about it!" Sinclair to Dale Morgan, August 8, 1946, Morgan Papers, Utah State Historical Society. 48 J o h n James, interview with Eric Redd. Most of the collection went to Yale and to the Bancroft Library at Berkeley. The University of Utah acquired some few items like a r u n of the Frontier Guardian.


Utah Historical Quarterly

ing the Society's programs. Her hundred-watt personality won many memberships and friendships for the Society, and her seemingly bottomless energy often kept her at her desk until late at night, putting together a new issue of the Quarterly or answering letters requesting historical information. With Alter and Auerbach only occasionally present in the office, Sinclair provided the administrative continuity that helped the Society secure a firm place in Utah cultural life.49 It is unclear why Sinclair came to the Society. She apparently had n o formal training in history, though that was also true of Alter and Auerbach. She had previously been employed—at a higher salary—by the federal government, and it is not unreasonable to speculate that the Society offered her a chance to step out of a routine j o b and into management. As things turned out, she generated some real organizational m o m e n t u m and stamped her personality on the Society as no one b u t Alter had previously done. Controversy attended her hiring. T h e dramatic Democratic victory in the election of 1932, which sent Franklin D. Roosevelt to the White House and elected the Democrat Henry H. Blood as governor of Utah, reverberated down through the lesser state bureaucracy as the party filled any positions not u n d e r the civil service system with loyal Democrats. Seeking to replace Flora Bean H o m e as secretarytreasurer and librarian, the Board of Control of the Society was told by telephone that "the State Board of Examiners (which approves all State employees) would probably not look with full favor o n any applicant, especially from Salt Lake County, not formally endorsed by the District, Precinct, County and State Democratic Party Organization." T h e canny Sinclair, a Democrat, had taken care to attach just such an endorsement to her application. Evidently challenged on the matter, the board then had to assure its critics that Sinclair's hiring had been based o n her qualifications rather than h e r politics: "The Board cond e m n [s] any suggestion of political partisanship or influence, in the choice of officers or employees of the Society."50 In view of the earlier directive from the State Board of Examiners, the protestation rings m o r e t h a n a little hollow. O n the o t h e r h a n d , as Glen L e o n a r d observes, Sinclair's influence on the hiring process was a clear demon49 Sinclair's personality and the meager biographical facts given here emerge in her correspondence with Dale L. Morgan in the Morgan Papers at the Utah State Historical Society, especially Sinclair to Morgan, February 2 and August 10, 1944. See also H e r b e r t W. Maw, "In Memoriam: Marguerite L. Sinclair Reusser, 1898-1976," Utah Historical Quarterly 44 (Fall 1976): 397-98. J o h n James, Jr., who became librarian at the Society in 1952 and met her several times in her later years, r e m e m b e r e d her as "a very charming, interesting woman."John James interview with Eric Redd, p. 20. 50 Board Minutes, May 28 and October 1, 1937.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Talented, glamorous Marguerite L. Sinclair kept the Society afloat in the 1930s-40s.

stration of h e r competence in the area most needed by the struggling organization: "its new agent proved that her most capable asset was, after all, that of lobbyist."51 Her salary also aroused controversy. Sinclair demanded $120 per month, which she pointed out was $15 less than her previous j o b with the federal government. Unfortunately, it was also no less t h a n four times the salary Alter, whom she was replacing, had been drawing—a big pill for the depression-era legislature to swallow. Alter, Auerbach, and board member Levi Edgar Young of the history department of the University of Utah rushed to argue that the rate of pay was the same as that given Alter, for he had been part-time. A compromise was eventually reached: Sinclair would get her salary if she could collect the amount beyond that previously appropriated for Alter from membership and subscription receipts; travel and office budget and Quarterly appropriations were not to be touched. If those collections were to fall short of $120 in any given month, Sinclair was expected to take leave without pay.52 51 Glen M. Leonard, "The Utah State Historical Society, 1897-1972," Utah Historical Quarterly 40 (Fall 1972): 306. 52 Board Minutes, May 28, 1937.


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It was a direct challenge to h e r ability to sail h e r own b o a t through the still-stagnant waters of Utah's depressed economy, but the audacious Sinclair accepted. And succeeded. T h e r e is no record that she ever missed a minute of work for lack of salary, and in fact she continued, to the very e n d of the depression, to negotiate raises: to $135 in 1939 ( h e r previous salary with the federal g o v e r n m e n t ) , a n d to $175 in 1941. T h e Society p r o s p e r e d as well t h r o u g h h e r labors. In 1939 Sinclair r e p o r t e d , "A g o o d deal of time was s p e n t by t h e Secretary when the Legislature was in session, in the interests of the Society, c o n f e r r i n g with legislators a n d o t h e r influential p e r s o n s , whose friendships were important in getting the new $5000 appropriation." N o r was that the e n d . As Glen L e o n a r d points o u t , "while entertaining legislators with her musical talents, Miss Sinclair boosted the Society's budget during the 1940s past the ten, twenty, and then thirty thousand dollar marks." Finally, one can also easily imagine h e r h a n d in the Society's move from what Auerbach had called the "dog house" quarters in the basement of the Capitol to third floor quarters adjoining and including a portion of the Law Library/53 DALE L. MORGAN AND SCHOLARLY RESPECTABILITY

At the time of Sinclair's hiring, she told the board "of h e r visits to libraries in the east to study cataloging and filing; and of installing the [Dewey] Decimal Classification, letter a n d other filing systems." This does n o t seem to indicate formal training in library science, b u t it does indicate an interest in studying the field on her own a n d reflects h e r e n t h u s i a s m for working at t h e Society. H e r energy a n d intelligence enabled her to learn on the j o b , but she n e e d e d guidance, a n d she found that in Dale L. Morgan, the extraordinary western historian who m a d e the maps that guided the Society on its first voyages into scholarly respectability. Although Morgan worked at the Society briefly to a r r a n g e the records of t h e WPA Historical Records Survey a n d Writers Project, typically he served as an unpaid writer, editor, and bibliographer d u r i n g late-night work sessions at h o m e in Washington, D.C., or Berkeley, California. 54 53 Board Minutes, April 8, 1939, and April 5, 1941; Leonard, "The Utah State Historical Society, 1897-1972," p p . 306-307. Dorothy Mortensen, who worked at the Society in its third floor quarters, recalls that the Society occupied the Law Library except when the legislature was in session, at which time the staff had to retreat into its adjoining room. Dorothy Mortensen, interview with the author, October 9, 1996, p. 5. 54 Board Minutes, May 28, 1937. The biographical data on Morgan that follow are drawn primarily from Everett L. Cooley, "In Memoriam: Dale L. Morgan, 1914-1971," Utah Historical Quarterly 39 (1971): 85-88; and J o h n Phillip Walker, ed., Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986), pp. 7-21.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Morgan's career triu m p h e d over a s e q u e n c e of tragedies that would have stopped almost anyone. Born in Salt Lake City, h e was t h e oldest of four c h i l d r e n . His father died when he was five, and his mother had to support the family on h e r m e a g e r salary as an elementary school teacher. His most serious setback came when he contracted spinal meningitis at age fourteen and lost his hearing. "The In the 1940s the Society emerged from its "dog loss of my hearing pretty well house" quarters in the basement to the third floor broke u p the world I h a d lived of the State Capitol. in . . . ," Morgan recalled as an adult; "it c o n f i r m e d a tendency to introspection and living in a personal world; it broke m e out of most social contacts and faced me with various difficult problems of adjustment, not least among which was a grave doubt as to my competency to survive in the kind of depression we had during my high school years." 55 Locked in a silent world, Morgan turned his deafness into as m u c h of an advantage as he could. During his long, productive career as a historian, he was able to work singlemindedly in any environment, oblivious of distractions. Morgan studied art in high school with the goal of a career in commercial art and advertising, which seemed the most promising of the depression-era alternatives he could envision. But he must have shown promise already as a writer, for his senior English teacher found college tuition for him through the state Vocational Rehabilitation Department. Although poverty continued to dog his four years at the University of Utah ("I rarely had a nickel to r u b one against another," he recalled), he did considerable writing in addition to his art studies, which enabled him to recover "a measure of self respect a n d confidence in myself."56 After graduating from the U , Morgan struggled to find work in 55 Morgan to Juanita Brooks, April 12, 1942, in the Papers of Juanita Brooks, Utah State Historical Society; reprinted in Walker, Dale Morgan, pp. 25-29. 56 Ibid.


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art b u t f o u n d his writing ability in g r e a t e r d e m a n d . H e a c c e p t e d employment with the WPA Historical Records Survey in O g d e n and t h e n split his time between that a n d the WPA Writers Project. H e finally took over the latter in 1940 and produced Utah: A Guide to the State. By the time it was published, Morgan was attracting national attention as a researcher and writer, and Farrar 8c Rinehart offered h i m a c o n t r a c t to write a history of the H u m b o l d t River for their Rivers of America Series. His historical career had begun. From then until his death in 1971 he developed a record as one of the mightiest literary engines in western history, producing dozens of books and articles a n d thousands of letters. As Everett Cooley observes, "Dale c o m p r e s s e d m o r e projects into his too s h o r t life t h a n m a n y of us would d o were we given a dozen lives. "57 Morgan's research energy, mastery of complex detail, and literary productivity have m a d e him, in the eyes of m o d e r n admirers, something of a historiographical demigod. Upon closer examination, however, it seems that Morgan's competencies were quite myopic, so that for every causative force in history that h e could focus u p o n , many others escaped his vision entirely. His myopia was a reaction against the Mormon culture within which he grew up, a culture more inclined to interpret itself in myth and symbol than in factual accuracy. Thus Morgan trained himself in skepticism, rejecting unfounded myths a n d dedicating himself to a rigorously empirical m e t h o d . H e naturally gravitated toward those aspects of history that could be conclusively explained by such a method, specifically western exploration and immigration. In his studies of the fur trappers, explorers, and pioneers, Morgan was content to establish a factually accurate but superficial narrative of movement through time and space, avoiding for the most part those larger (but vaguer) questions of motivation, personality, a n d psychology, and ignoring literary and other cultural matters altogether. 5 8 This is the view of the historical process t h a t Morgan largely imposed u p o n the Utah Historical Quarterly during the 1940s and early 1950s. Morgan found the Historical Society receptive to his view of history, and his correspondence indicates the dominant role he played 57

Ibid., Cooley, "In Memoriam," p. 88. Will Bagley and Harold Schindler, for example, claim that Morgan's laborious transcripts of western newspapers enabled him "to write on virtually every aspect of western history with authority far and above that of any other scholar." WestfromFort Bridger, rev. ed. (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1994), p. ix. For a contrasting view see Gary Topping, "Personality and Motivation in Utah Historiography," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27 (Spring 1994): 75-79. 58

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during World War II and the decade following. Some of his letters provide answers to difficult reference questions passed along by Sinclair; others contain lengthy acquisition lists for the library; still others r e c o m m e n d special issues of the Quarterly. Morgan found the Society's original goal of publishing primary sources in the Quarterly m u c h to his liking. T h e first step in writing history, the veteran employee of Locked in the silent world of the deaf, Dale L. the Historical Records Survey Morgan became a legendary engine of historical realized, is to gain access to research and greatly influenced the Society's the sources. Those sources publications. were in s h o r t supply in Morgan's day, and he followed up on the Quarterly's tradition of devoting entire issues to translations or edited versions of entire diaries. Following his interest, those diaries were always from the period of exploration and settlement and more often than not were from the pens of non-Mormons or pre-Mormon explorers. The best examples were volumes 15 and 16, which completed publication of all extant diaries from the two J o h n Wesley Powell explorations of the Colorado River, a project b e g u n in 1939 with the diary of Almon Harris Thompson. Morgan's great labor of love was volume 19 (1951), called West from Fort Bridger, which contained copiously annotated editions of all extant diaries of the 1846 pioneers. Begun by local businessman J. Roderic Korns with the help of Morgan and Charles Kelly, the project, still unfinished at Korns's death, was carried to completion by Morgan. Finally, Morgan contributed two other massive pieces of research to the Society. Both projects were largely accomplished d u r i n g his lunch hours and other free time while employed by the federal government in Washington, D.C. One was his laboriously typewritten transcripts of all articles on the Mormons and the Far West from eastern and midwestern newspapers during the first half of the n i n e t e e n t h century. C a r b o n copies of this voluminous b u t still u n d e r u s e d resource went to several research libraries, including the Utah State


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Historical Society. T h e o t h e r was his g a r g a n t u a n b i b l i o g r a p h y of Mormonism, begun at the same time and still far from complete at his death. T h e Society took over those card files and tried to keep them current during Morgan's later years, but eventually the project passed to Brigham Young University, whose greater resources u n d e r Chad Flake, director of Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library, finally b r o u g h t it to publication in 1978.59 By t h e time Morgan moved to Berkeley in 1954 to work at the Bancroft Library, the Society was beginning to pass beyond its elitist and amateurish beginnings, and he was in major part responsible for its development. His energy, his literary flair, his impeccable scholarly standards, and his creative imagination—all spiced with an identifiable quotient of egotism—had led to establishment of the Quarterly as an outlet for authentic scholarship, to the beginnings of a fine western history library, and to the beginnings of a manuscript collection with his a r r a n g e m e n t of the WPA Historical Records Survey a n d Writers Project records which had come to the Society when the WPA disbanded in 1942. At the midcentury mark, then, the Utah State Historical Society still had a stake in two worlds. O n the one hand, it was still r u n by what Charles S. Peterson has called "citizen historians"—dedicated a n d e n e r g e t i c a m a t e u r s without academic training in h i s t o r y (Alter, A u e r b a c h , Sinclair, M o r g a n — n o n e h a d so m u c h as a b a c h e l o r ' s degree in the field).60 O n the other hand, "citizen historian" is not a pejorative term, particularly in Utah, where some of our best histories have been written by such people. O n e need only mention the names of Dale Morgan, Juanita Brooks, Charles Kelly, Leonard Arrington, Wallace Stegner, and Bernard DeVoto to make the point, b u t many others could be included. Nevertheless, professional, scholarly standards of research and writing were only beginning to e m e r g e , a n d m u c h of the Society's a p p r o a c h to state history e c h o e d P e t e r s o n ' s m e m o r a b l e summation of the view of a sister institution, the Kansas State Historical Society, at a similar point in its development. It was, he said, "undeviatingly committed to the grandness of Kansas, frankly promotional, thoroughly interested in beginnings, successful in collecting Kansas newspapers, wild about heroes, artifacts, sites, trails, and Indian wars, and willing to b e n d the truth for good cause." Its publications, like those of R e u b e n Gold Thwaites in Wisconsin a n d 59 60

Chad Flake, ed., A Mormon Bibliography (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1978). Peterson, "Speaking for the Past," p. 753.

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H u b e r t Howe Bancroft in California, reflected and fed "the popular taste for quantity, beginnings, and . . . uncritical, action-driven, maledominated, fact-based narrative." 61 As we have seen, u n d e r Dale Morgan's influence, the Utah State Historical Society was beginning to mature beyond those unsophisticated beginnings. But it had a way yet to go as the Society passed its fiftieth anniversary. Two events would significantly accelerate its maturation. O n e was World War II, which marked the end of the Federal Writers Project that had nurtured Morgan's development as a historian and also sharpened Utahns' focus on the distinctive features of Utah regionalism. The war began shifting the Utah mind from its preoccupation with local and regional matters to a global perspective and a concern for larger moral and historical issues. Eventually this larger perspective would interest Utah historians in the state's place o n the national and international stage and broaden their interest to include larger themes than heroes, Indian wars, and trails which, in Peterson's phrase, "seemed increasingly anachronistic in the post-World War II time of global crisis."62 The other great postwar turning point was the appointment of the first academically trained historian as director of the Society. Arlington Russell Mortensen was b o r n in 1911 in the J o h n R. Winder h o m e at 49 North West Temple across from Temple Square in Salt Lake City. His parents, who had met while on missions for the M o r m o n c h u r c h (he was editor of Liahona magazine and she was a secretary), were both in their thirties before marrying and beginning a family. "They were both old maids before they married," h e said. A l t h o u g h his eccentric p a r e n t s were n o t the iconoclasts h e later became, they were, as he recalled, "'different' people in away," and he must have inherited from them an inclination to blaze his own trail through life.63 Mortensen grew up with one foot in Utah and the other in southe r n California, w h e r e his p a r e n t s took him as a child. T h e e l d e r M o r t e n s e n b e c a m e a c o n t r a c t o r in Santa Monica a n d built m a n y houses there a n d in other suburbs of Los Angeles. During the late 1920s Mortensen's father and a partner developed a mine in southern Nevada and p u t Russ to work in it—illegally, for he was only in his late 61 Ibid., pp, 752, 754-55. The reader who checks these references will see that I have telescoped several passages. 62 Ibid., p. 759. 63 A. Russell Mortensen interview with Levi Peterson, September 9, 1985, pp. 23-24.


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teens. The mine went broke, but the father found work on the new Boulder Dam, which helped them through the early depression years. Mortensen's education was also divided between the two states. After high school in Santa Monica, he returned to Utah for college, graduating from Brigham Young University in 1937. He taught secondary school in Utah for a time before enrolling in UCLA for graduate work in history. His studies there were under John W. Caughey, a student of Herbert E. Bolton, who had studied with Frederick Jackson Turner—an intellectual lineage Mortensen was p r o u d to recite.64 His UCLA years were busy ones. In addition to his graduate studies, he taught history at San Bernardino Valley College, did research for his dissertation—a history of the Deseret News—at the Huntington Library in San Marino, and fathered six children with his wife, Bessie Burch Mortensen. During his research at the Huntington he met Juanita Brooks, who was there working on the diaries of John D. Lee which she published with Robert Glass Cleland in 1955.65 One evening as they were finishing their work for the day, someone asked Mortensen if he could give Brooks, who had no transportation, a ride to Santa Monica. They had much to talk about, not only as a couple of expatriate Utah historians but also because Mortensen happened to be a descendant of John D. Lee.66 In addition, as scholars, both were engaged in clearing off the mossy myths of Mormon history through objective investigation of the new corpus of primary sources that had been vastly enlarged by the WPA Historical Records Survey and the collecting efforts of Brooks herself. They were firm friends and allies ever after, particularly during their association at the Utah State Historical Society. With Mortensen as director and Brooks as a board member, the two stood shoulder to shoulder through many battles as they brought the organization to scholarly and institutional maturity. Tragedy visited Mortensen's life at about the time he finished his doctoral work, for his wife died, leaving him to raise their six small children alone. Fortunately, opportunity opened at the Utah State Historical Society almost at that moment, enabling him to meet his heavy obligations. J. Cecil Alter, who had moved to Cincinnati in 1941, 64 Stanford J. Layton, "In Memoriam: A. Russell Mortensen, 1911-95," Utah Historical Quarterly 63 (1995): 176-79. As a Mortensen graduate student, Layton, managing editor of Utah Historical Quarterly since 1973, c o n t i n u e d the academic genealogy. 65 A Mormon Chronicle: The Diaries ofJohn D. Lee, 1848-1876, 2 vols. (San M a r i n o , California: H u n t i n g t o n Library, 1955). 66 A. R. M o r t e n s e n interview with Levi P e t e r s o n , p . 8; D o r o t h y M o r t e n s e n interview with t h e author, O c t o b e r 9, 1996, p. 8.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


The Society's first academically trained director, A. R. Mortensen, at his desk in the State Capitol.

attempted to continue as editor of the Utah Historical Quarterly, but his absentee management worked poorly, and he abandoned it in 1945. By 1949 he found it necessary to resign from the board. In the same year, Marguerite Sinclair resigned her position and moved with her new husband to California. These departures left a gaping hole at the Society, and the board began looking for someone big enough to fill it.67 J u a n i t a Brooks saw a great o p p o r t u n i t y to c o n t i n u e a n d even increase the m o m e n t u m generated during the 1940s by Sinclair and Morgan. As a member of the Society's board, she energetically advocated Mortensen's application for the position of editor-secretary (the c o m b i n e d positions of Alter a n d Sinclair). "That's t h e m a n , " Mortensen r e m e m b e r e d Brooks telling her fellow board m e m b e r s , "That's the man. . . . She supported me with a passion." He was hired on August 29, 1950, at a salary of $4,000. 68 He was not only the first Ph.D. to lead the Society but also the first person with any academic training in history at all to have been involved in management of the organization. Mortensen b r o u g h t a personality as well as a Ph.D. H e was the storm center of the universe he inhabited, an imperious, abrupt iconoclast whose intellect and energies pulled him in a h u n d r e d ways at once. His cross-grained skepticism probably had its roots in the eccentricity of his parents, from whom he learned that a happy a n d productive life did not necessarily require conformity. That skepticism would have b e e n encouraged by his historical training, in which he was taught to put all sources, authorities, and orthodoxies to the test. 67 68

Board Minutes, September 30, 1948; July 27, 1949. A. R. Mortensen interview with Levi Peterson, p. 8; Board Minutes, August 29, 1950.


Utah Historical Quarterly

W h e n C h a r l e s Kelly, a n o t h e r i c o n o c l a s t i c h i s t o r i a n whose c a r e e r we will e x a m i n e shortly, died in 1971, Mortensen perceptively m e m o r i a l i z e d h i m in w o r d s t h a t eerily apply to Mortensen himself: He was a m a n with a barbwire personality, an individualist, opinionated a n d always strong minded; a man with a short fuse, an extreme liberal in some matters a n d very conservative in others. With it all, h e h a d a generosity of spirit, an u n d e r l i n i n g of kindness a n d loyalty to those w h o e a r n e d his respect a n d admiration. 69

M o r t e n s e n "was a difficult person in lots a n d lots of ways to live with," his widow, Dorothy, Juanita Brooks, Historical Society board remembers, member and the author of seminal works in But still there was a vibrance. H e Mormon history, urged the hiring ofRuss w a s n ' t afraid of life. So m a n y Mortensen as director. people walk around, pussyfooting around, being afraid, and he wasn't. If you want to d o something, j u s t figu r e o u t how to do it. Well, what are you waiting for? . . . H e h a d a quality of saying things that maybe you had thought that you wouldn't dare utter. And w h e n he would utter them, it'd just tickle your funny b o n e . . . . H e also h a d a certain joy-in-life quality that m a d e you feel alive.70

Finally, Stanford J. Layton, a Mortensen graduate student in later years at the University of Utah, points to "his gregarious n a t u r e a n d noisy personality, his spontaneous and contagious smile, his earthy language a n d e n d l e s s similes, his sense of loyalty to his profession a n d colleagues, a n d , always, his candor." If Mortensen's personality could be a steel trap, it was also a magnet. "His office was always a lively center of business a n d conversation," Layton continues: T h e g r a d u a t e s t u d e n t s w h o p a i d this g r a n d m e n t o r a visit c o u l d b e assured of a friendly greeting, scholarly guidance, e n c o u r a g e m e n t , a n d an entertaining story or two. If u n d e r g r a d u a t e students were sometimes u n s u r e what to make of this iconoclastic a n d sometimes shrill instructor A. R. Mortensen, "In Memoriam: Charles Kelly, 1889-1971," Utah Historical Quarterly 39 (1971): 200.

Dorothy Mortensen interview with the author, p. 30.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


who could shift in an instant from decorous lecturer to mischievous storyteller, they never had any doubt about his effectiveness as a teacher. The Mortensen classes and seminars were always full.71

O n e m i g h t well w o n d e r what kind of gremlin dust was in the Utah atmosphere to bring to office almost simultaneously the famous renegade governor, J. Bracken Lee (1949), and that scourge of the orthodox, A. Russell Mortensen (1950). Although the two were from opposing political parties, it is perhaps not too surprising that they liked and respected each other, nor that Lee sometimes drew u p o n M o r t e n s e n ' s vivid writing and historical expertise for speeches. Together, they brought welcome dashes of color to Utah life during the drab Cold War years, and the Utah State Historical Society flourished as never before, achieving its first real professional and institutional maturity. When Lee moved out of the governor's residence, the Thomas Kearns mansion on South Temple, the Society moved in. The Utah Historical Quarterly drew more and more upon scholarly authors, yet never lost its common touch, and u n d e r Mortensen's marketing enterprise made considerable progress toward becoming a popular magazine as well. He founded the State Archives and hired another Ph.D., Everett L. Cooley, to head the new program. The shaky annual meetings became a regular event, and J o h n James began building the Society's collection of books, manuscripts, and p h o t o g r a p h s . As a result of all these developments, the Society became the primary focal point for an amazing outpouring of scholarship, as people like Dale Morgan, J u a n i t a Brooks, Wallace Stegner, Charles Kelly, Stanley S. Ivins, and a multitude of others poured into the Kearns mansion to use the Society's collections and to publish their research in the Quarterly. At the center of all this activity was its great engine, Russ Mortensen, and it is impossible to dispute Stan Layton's observation that "it is axiomatic among Utah historians today that no one h a d a greater impact in shaping the image, standards, and traditions of the Society than this dynamic and talented man." 72 O n e of Mortensen's most useful accomplishments was to secure adequate quarters within which the Society could conduct the ambitious programs he had in mind for it. As we have seen, the Society had already moved from the "dog house" in the State Capitol basement to room 337. Although 337 was a significant improvement, it was still 71 Stanford J. Layton, "In Memoriam: A. Russell Mortensen, 1911-95," Utah Historical Quarterly 63 (1995): 178. 72 Ibid., 177.


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cramped. U p o n entering the room, the visitor was greeted by a secretary in a small reception area in front about ten feet square where she h a d a desk a n d file cabinets, t h e n d i r e c t e d to a larger i n n e r r o o m where most of the activity took place. Mortensen's desk was at the rear, with his back to the window. Also in the r o o m was a n o t h e r secretary and, after 1952, J o h n James, the librarian. In an adjacent r o o m was a b o o k k e e p e r and a typist. "It was of course most unsatisfactory, "James recalled. "Dr. Mortensen h a d n o privacy; n o o n e h a d any privacy. His secretary was a m o d e r a t e [sic; "marvelous"?] typist. W h e n she would get going it would s o u n d like a m a c h i n e g u n . W h e n Dr. M o r t e n s e n had visitors or I had visitors, often we would have to take t h e m out into the hall of the capitol to talk to them." 73 T h e library a n d m a n u s c r i p t collection were extremely modest; the library consisted of a b o u t 1,500 volumes occupying t h r e e glassfront bookcases in the r o o m with J o h n James, a n d the manuscript coll e c t i o n was little m o r e t h a n t h e WPA Historical R e c o r d s Survey materials t h a t were being a r r a n g e d by Dale Morgan. 7 4 Obviously the Historical Society h a d reached a limit on its growth and would have to move if it were to expand. An opportunity presented itself to Mortensen's resourceful imagination in 1951 w h e n he r e a d a story in the m o r n i n g Tribune to the effect that Governor Lee disliked the official governor's residence, the Kearns mansion at 603 East South Temple. Lee apparently wanted to move out a n d was looking for another use for the building. Mortensen r e p o r t e d for work that m o r n i n g full of enthusiasm for acquiring it as t h e new q u a r t e r s for the Society. 75 It would be a l o n g - t e r m project, though, for Lee a n d his family remained in the mansion until the e n d of his second term. T h e c a r e e r of T h o m a s K e a r n s ( 1 8 6 2 - 1 9 1 8 ) is o n e of U t a h ' s Horatio Alger stories, a classic vindication of the American D r e a m of rags to riches t h r o u g h h a r d work a n d a little luck. Kearns's p a r e n t s were Irish immigrants to Ontario, Canada, where he was b o r n . An apathetic student, h e left school as a teenager a n d j o i n e d the Black Hills gold r u s h of 1879, worked as a freighter a n d m i n e r in T o m b s t o n e , Arizona, a n d then moved to Park City, Utah, where he worked in the mines for seven years and did some prospecting of his own in his spare " J o h n James, Jr., interview with Eric Redd, August 9, 1972, p. 1; Dorothy Mortensen interview with the author, p p . 5-6. 74 Dorothy Mortensen interview, pp. 5-6; J o h n J a m e s interview, p p . 1-2. 75 Dorothy Mortensen interview, p. 9.

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time. In o n e m i n e he observed an undetected vein of silver ore leading into the u n l e a s e d Mayflower p r o p erty. H e seized the opportunity and netted an estimated fortune of $1,600,000. Kearns's new wealth gave him entry to the upper level of Utah society as well as politics. After cutting his political t e e t h as a m e m b e r of t h e city council of Park City, h e m a d e the gigantic leap to a seat in the U.S. John James and the Society's nascent library of Senate in 1901, the same some 1,500 volumes in the State Capitol. year t h a t h e p u r c h a s e d the Salt Lake Tribune. By 1902 he and his wife, J e n n i e Judge Kearns, had built an imposing mansion on South Temple, j o i n i n g nouveau riche m i n i n g magnates a n d o t h e r wealthy residents who were turning the street into an architectural showpiece. T h e three-story French Renaissance structure built of oolitic l i m e s t o n e (as was the Park Building at the U. a n d William R a n d o l p h H e a r s t ' s fabulous San Simeon m a n s i o n in California) quickly became a notable landmark and center for Salt Lake's high society. In 1937 Mrs. Kearns donated the mansion to the state of Utah. The building's impressive elegance and convenient location suggested its use as the Governor's Mansion—a role it filled for some twenty years. Governor Henry H. Blood lived in it during part of his tenure, and then it was occupied by Governor Herbert B. Maw for eight years. As we have seen, Governor Lee grumblingly lived there during his two terms but objected to the building's lack of privacy and other inconveniences as a h o m e (there was n o elevator linking its basement and t h r e e stories, for e x a m p l e ) . Lee's proverbial contrariness in this instance worked to the Historical Society's advantage. Mortensen presented his case to the Historical Society b o a r d on August 18, 1951, with all the enthusiasm h e could muster. H e h a d talked to the administrator of the Kearns estate and to the governor and found t h e m both strongly in support of the idea. "Although it


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would r e q u i r e a large sum of m o n e y to maintain this building," Mortensen admitted, "if the Historical Society should ever acquire the Governor's Mansion, it would be in a much better position to demand more money. Also, the Society would have sufficient room to house donations of private collections and libraries, which in t u r n would bring about more contributions." The legislature, however, was more impressed by the expense than the opportunity and indicated a preference for retaining the site as a governor's residence. It did appoint a committee to explore the possibility of designating larger quarters for the Society in the Capitol. 76 Mortensen acquired a powerful ally in 1954 with the appointment of wealthy lawyer, businessman, and history buff Nicholas G. Morgan, Sr, to the board. Morgan was born in Salt Lake City in 1884 to a family of Mormon pioneers. After graduating from the University of Utah, he took a law degree at Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C., and was admitted to the Utah Bar in 1910. He enjoyed an active legal career as Salt Lake County attorney and then as law clerk for future President William Howard Taft and Utah Senator Reed Smoot. His business interests included the presidency of Morgan-Walton Oil Company and development of oil fields in Wyoming and Utah. 77 Morgan was fiercely proud of his pioneer heritage and collected a significant library of books, maps, and photographs of Utah history. At the time he joined the Board of Control of the Historical Society, he was also national president of the Sons of the Utah P i o n e e r s . T h o u g h n o t known as a writer, he published biographies of his pioneer father and of Eliza R. Snow. Perhaps his most ambitious historical venture was the dismantling of the old Salt Lake City Hall (renamed the Council House) and its removal from First South and State streets to its p r e s e n t location on Capitol Hill. 78 Although, as we shall see, M o r t e n s e n h a d reason later to view Morgan as "an o p p o r t u n i s t , " Mortensen saw his own opportunity to take advantage of Morgan's wealth and political skill to the Society's benefit. If Morgan would use the Society to promote his own ends, that was part of the bargain. Upon his appointment to the board on October 22, 1954, Morgan immediately a n n o u n c e d his i n t e n t i o n to d o n a t e his library to the Society. It was a significant collection, which J o h n James estimated at 76

Board Minutes, August 18, 1951; March 28, 1953. Press Club of Salt Lake, Men of Affairs in the State of Utah (Salt Lake City: Press Club of Salt Lake, 1914); The Pioneer, January-February 1972, p. 8. 78 Ibid.; J o h n James, Jr., "In Memoriam: Nicholas G. Morgan, Sr., 1884-1971," Utah Historical Quarterly 40 (1972): 5. 77

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a b o u t 3,000 volumes, a n d although the Society already had p e r h a p s 80 or 90 p e r c e n t of them, it almost doubled the collection. Complete runs of several scarce M o r m o n periodicals were a particularly valuable accession. To house this large collection, let alone a d m i n i s t e r it properly, r e q u i r e d larger quarters. Additional staff would also be needed to catalogue these works and the large n u m b e r of p h o t o g r a p h s Morgan was adding to the sizable g r o u p of WPA p h o t o g r a p h s in the Society's possession. 79 Morgan h e a d e d a commit- Businessman and Society board member tee to pursue acquisition of the Nicholas G. Morgan, Sr., surrounded by sculptures he commissioned of prominent Kearns m a n s i o n , a role h e Utahns. accepted with alacrity. His strategy was to a p p r o a c h the matter through the Kearns heirs, getting their approval first a n d t h e n presumably getting them to join him in lobbying the legislature. H e was confident e n o u g h of its eventual success that his report on May 19, 1956, i n d u c e d the b o a r d to p o s t p o n e t h e a n n u a l m e e t i n g from October to the following February, hoping that the gathering could then be held in the mansion. His optimism was not misplaced, for the board minutes of August 14 report passage of House Bill 225, which gave the mansion to the Society and appropriated an annual b u d g e t of $10,000 for its maintenance. 8 0 T H E KEARNS MANSION YEARS

M o r t e n s e n ' s e n t h u s i a s m a n d vision a n d Nicholas M o r g a n ' s energy and political savvy had carried the day. T h e Kearns m a n s i o n would house the Society for over twenty years.81 To be sure, working in 79 J o h n James interview, p. 4. James's memory late in life may have inflated the size of the Morgan library, which the Board Minutes of January 11, 1958, give as 2,000 volumes. T h e minutes also refer to 2,300 u n c a t a l o g u e d p h o t o g r a p h s from Morgan a n d the WPA, a n d 1,000 uncatalogued maps, which probably came from Morgan. 80 Board Minutes, April 9, 1955, May 19 and August 14, 1956. 81 Of course t h e accession of Scott Matheson to the governorship in 1977 m a r k e d a r e t u r n to gubernatorial occupation of the mansion, a utilization that continues to this writing.


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the mansion had its disadvantages. "I r e m e m b e r J o h n J a m e s was not all that enthusiastic about it," Dorothy Mortensen notes, "because it had to be converted to library use." She added: It was a pretty daunting scene to look at, all these rooms and bedrooms and how to convert that into library space and research space and storage space. But when Russ was enthusiastic about something there was no telling him he couldn't do it. . . . Everyone . . . had to go to work and make it happen. So one of the first things they did was take the bowling alley out of the basement so they could put archival material in there. 82

In subsequent years, long-suffering librarians like Martha R. Stewart developed a stamina that other jobs in their profession would not have required, hefting books and manuscript boxes u p those long flights of stairs. Not until the Society moved into its present quarters in the renovated Denver 8c Rio G r a n d e D e p o t would the stacks b e located on the same floor as the reading room, with elevator access to the basem e n t overflow area. T h e m a n s i o n ' s less t h a n ideal configuration n o t w i t h s t a n d i n g , most staff m e m b e r s adapted readily, losing their discomfort in their d e l i g h t as they happily w e l c o m e d t h e rapidly i n c r e a s i n g flow of patrons to their elegant new quarters, the first appropriate facility the Society h a d known. It is worth lingering over the mansion years, for although the Society in later decades developed m u c h larger collections, a b r o a d e r s p e c t r u m of p r o g r a m s , a n d a b e t t e r t r a i n e d staff, employees and patrons have come to look back u p o n that period, and n o t without good reason, as a sort of golden age. Although the Quarterly continued to improve as the Society's most visible activity, most visitors to the mansion came to use t h e rapidly expanding library, and their research there produced a steady stream of books a n d articles, some of which have achieved classic status. P r e s i d i n g over the library was J o h n W . J a m e s , Jr., who, d u r i n g his twenty-year tenure, would leave the stamp of his unique personality on t h e Society a n d its h o l d i n g s . B o r n in 1917 in Salt Lake City, h e attended East High School and majored in history at the University of U t a h . H a n d s o m e a n d o u t g o i n g — i n d e e d , c h a r i s m a t i c — h e was a p r o m i n e n t figure in the social life of those two institutions. But his outward c h a r m , as his long-time friend H e l e n Z. P a p a n i k o l a s has observed, masked his intellect, his scholarly depth, and the "stoic view 82

Dorothy Mortensen interview, p. 10.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


of life that came to be associated with him later" as advancing rheumatoid arthritis made his last years an agony.83 After graduating from the university, James migrated for a time to New York City in search of an interesting career, income n o t being 83 Biographical data h e r e come from J o h n J a m e s , Jr., interview with Eric Redd; H e l e n Z. Papanikolas, "In Memoriam: J o h n W. James, Jr., 1917-1981," Utah Historical Quarterly 49 (Fall 1981): 391-92; and the author's own memories of J o h n James during the last two years of his life.


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the most important thing. He realized years later that while in New York he had been living, unknowingly, right across the street from the auction house that was selling off the Auerbach collection—an ironic coincidence for the future librarian of the Utah State Historical Society. Eventually he returned to Salt Lake City. While talking with one of the librarians at the U., he learned of an opening at the Society and applied for it. He found that Mortensen wanted to balance the gender composition of the staff, for he was the only male, but that he also wanted a "thoroughly trained" person to take charge of the embryonic library. James, who had no library training or experience, promised to undertake six months' training at the U. library if hired, and Mortensen agreed to the proposal. "I felt I was very lucky to get the job, "James reminisced thirty years later. "I stayed with it for twenty years and thoroughly enjoyed it." An indefatigable reader and bibliophile, James set a sagacious course toward building the collections that had previously grown slowly, as we have seen, in anticipation of receiving the Auerbach collection. H e persuaded Mortensen to let him begin cataloguing the books in the Dewey Decimal System, which all other Utah libraries were using at the time, and to improvise a similar system for the photographs. In October 1957 Margaret D. Shepherd (later Lester), who had worked at the Salt Lake City Public Library, was hired to help catalogue both books and photographs, but she soon shifted completely to photographs and brought the cataloguing system there to its ultimate maturity.84 As the collection of published materials grew, so did the manuscript collection. Although the great expansion of the manuscript collection occurred during the administration of Everett L. Cooley (1961-69), James could report during the Society's first year in the mansion that it possessed 350 manuscripts, including such Mormon pioneer collections as the diaries of Hosea Stout and J o h n Bennion and the letterbooks of William Clayton, in addition to correspondence of Colorado River explorer Frederick S. Dellenbaugh and photostatic copies of the papers of mountain man Jedediah S. Smith.85 At about that time, James made the archivally u n o r t h o d o x but nevertheless practical decision to dismantle the WPA collection, removing the hun84 With adequate crossreferencing, the decimal system has continued to function reasonably well for single photographs but has become increasingly cumbersome for books, especially in local history collections where most volumes fall in the narrow spectrum from 917 to 971, necessitating lengthy decimal differentiations for individual volumes. 85 Board Minutes, January 11, 1958.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


d r e d s of p i o n e e r diaries a n d reminiscences collected by the Historical Records Survey and cataloguing them as individual manuscripts for greater accessibility. T h e result of this collecting a n d cataloguing by an e x p a n d e d a n d professionally competent staff was an increasingly tempting collection that lured both scholars a n d buffs to explore its d e p t h s a n d Margaret D. Shepherd (later Lester), the Society's first photo archivist, in her office on the second byways. The mansion's elegant floor of the Kearns mansion. but intimate a n d comfortable e n v i r o n m e n t m a d e it a social as well as an intellectual center for Utah and western historians, who found it a place where they loved to linger as well as work. Staff and patrons from that era remember the daily coffee breaks that became a famous institution at the Society. Everyone present on a particular day would be invited to go down to the kitchen and gather a r o u n d the large, blue linoleum-topped table and compare notes over a c u p of coffee. Scholarly Utah history was yet in its infancy, and as researchers broke virgin g r o u n d in the Society's collections they found a ready audience and plenty of proffered help in interpreting their discoveries around the kitchen table. As Everett Cooley reminisced, The coffee break was not just a time when you were away from your work and wasting time, it was where things were discussed—problems, programs—but more than that we'd go down in the kitchen of the Historical Society mansion and around a cup of coffee with particular people who were working there, oh, we had some great sessions. We should have taped those. . . . In fact, I know of a couple of employees who said that while they went on and got their degrees u p here [at the University of Utah], perhaps their best education in history was obtained around the coffee table at the Historical Society e n g a g i n g in some of these exchanges. 86

Although the Society long ago left behind the kitchen table a n d the coffee pot, the tradition of conviviality has never died. Late in life, while the Society was in its transitional quarters in the Crane Building on Second South during renovation of the Rio Grande Depot, J o h n Everett Cooley interview with Eric Redd, p. 20.

Utah Historical Quarterly


James painfully climbed the steps one morning a week to help catalog manuscripts and b r o u g h t some of the old tradition to the midmorning break, his deformed fingers grasping a bottle of Coca Cola and his dark eyes shining as he confided an entertaining bit of historical gossip. Although the quiet hum of computers has replaced the cacophonous clack of typewriters, the Society library has always been a noisy place to work—for better or for worse!— as researchers shed the decorous silence maintained at other institutions and happily debate their findings with infrequently met colleagues. Perhaps no patron made more of a contribution to shaping the Society during the mansion years than Juanita Brooks. More than just a patron, she was also an employee and a board m e m b e r who j o i n e d with Dale Morgan a n d Russ Mortensen to make the Society a Top: Margery W. Ward, associate editor center of rigorous and objective o / U t a h Historical Quarterly in the scholarship. There was little in her 1960s, left, and reference librarian Delia L. Dye at the famous Kearns outward appearance to suggest the mansion kitchen table. Below: Live-in d e p t h of her intellect a n d her caretakers Alex and Tillie Buchmiller, courage. "She looks like the meekthe latter of whom often brewed the coffee est kind of m e m b e r of the [LDS scholars chatted over. Ladies] Relief Society," Dale Morgan reported to Fawn Brodie, and Mortensen added that "She's the most unsophisticated person every minute of her life. She's just a country girl."87 Indeed, much in her background seemed to predestine her for the life of a housewife. She was born in Bunkerville, Nevada, on the Mormon frontier, poorly educated, early married, and quickly widowed. There were few reasons 57

Walker, Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism, p. 47; Mortensen interview with Levi Peterson, p. 12.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


to suspect that she would become a foremost Utah and M o r m o n historian. But she became entranced by the history of her people, particularly by t h e h u s h e d r u m o r s of t h e tragic M o u n t a i n Meadows Massacre of 1857, the long shadow of which loomed over southwestern Utah generations later. In time Brooks became a teacher, e a r n e d a master's d e g r e e in English from Columbia University, married a widower with a family of his own, and set out, as an avocation during the desperate days of the depression, to collect the historical records of her region. Arising early to get some writing d o n e before having to get her husband a n d children off for the day, Brooks maintained a grueling schedule. Aware that h e r literary career was highly unconventional for h e r time a n d place, she kept an ironing board set up so she could instantly shift to a less suspicious task if unexpected visitors appeared. But the cat was out of the bag with the appearance of The Mountain Meadows Massacre in 1950, a book that scandalized southern Utah by its i m p e r t i n e n t subject a n d frank admission of M o r m o n guilt while establishing Brooks as a first-rank researcher a n d interpreter of western history. O t h e r scholarly successes followed—edited versions of the diaries of J o h n D. Lee, Hosea Stout, and Thomas D. Brown, and a biography of Lee. Her later years p r o d u c e d a lesser g r o u p of biographies (including h e r own) and family histories. 88 Brooks's most significant enterprise d u r i n g h e r affiliation with the Society was editing the Hosea Stout diaries, a lengthy and expensive collaboration between the Society a n d the University of U t a h Press that almost failed from lack of funds b u t in the e n d provided access to one of the most important documents in M o r m o n history. Stout, an early convert to M o r m o n i s m , was associated with t h e church's rougher side as bodyguard to Joseph Smith, as chief of police of Nauvoo, Illinois, and as a m e m b e r of the Danite band. But h e also moved in the highest circles of the church and was privy to m u c h of its i n n e r workings. W h e n the Society acquired the tiny volumes of Stout's diary in 1957 from a granddaughter, it was immediately apparent that here was a historical source of p a r a m o u n t importance. T h e Society hired Brooks to annotate the diary for publication which eventually was undertaken by the University of Utah Press after Mortensen became its director. Apparently no one fully realized the richness of the diary and the extent to which appropriate annotation would have 88 Levi S. Peterson, Juanita Brooks: Mormon Woman Historian (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1988). Bibliographic data on Brooks's publications begin on p. 479.


Utah Historical Quarterly

Juanita Brooks and David E. Miller were named Fellows of the Historical Society in 1962, and A. R. Mortensen, right, won recognition as an Honorary Life Member.

to go, for at the end of two years the project was still incomplete. By then Everett Cooley had taken over as director of the Society, and he was able to raise donations from Stout family members a n d others to see the project through to completion. It stands today one of the great m o n u m e n t s of M o r m o n and Utah scholarship, perhaps the greatest Mormon diary in the history of the n o r t h e r n part of the state, as J o h n D. Lee's (also edited by Brooks) is for the southern part. 89 A n o t h e r of the Society's regulars during the mansion years was Charles Kelly. A transplanted midwesterner whose father h a d b e e n an Elmer Gantry-type preacher, Kelly's hostility to religion spilled over into an irascible skepticism about h u m a n nature in general. T h e combative Kelly n e e d e d enemies as foils for his barbed pessimism, and he found a plentiful supply of them in Mormon country. After moving to Utah following World War I, he divided his time between his h o m e on Salt Lake City's Avenues and Wayne County, where he became the first superintendent of Capitol Reef National Monument. 9 0 A printer by profession, Kelly made history his hobby. N o doubt aggravated by the pious M o r m o n version of U t a h history t h a t was 89 Ibid., p p . 311-13; Everett L. Cooley, introduction to Juanita Brooks, ed., On the Mormon Frontier: The Dairy of Hosea Stout, 2 vols. (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1965), 1: vii-viii. 90 Biographical data on Kelly come largely from an unpublished autobiography a n d diary in the Kelly Papers at the Utah State Historical Society. See also Mortensen, "In M e m o r i a m : Charles Kelly, 1889-1971," a n d Gary Topping, "Charles Kelly's Glen Canyon Ventures and Adventures," Utah Historical Quarterly 55 (1987): 120-36.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


prevalent in his day, he set out to show that the state had a rich nonM o r m o n heritage as well, b o t h before and after 1847. T h r o u g h a voluminous and often heated correspondence with Dale Morgan a n d Roderic Korns, Kelly and his colleagues blazed the first trails through Utah's role in the fur trade, the California immigration, and the exploration of the Colorado River. O n his own, Kelly investigated the careers of Butch Cassidy and other infamous outlaws. Not content with library research, he cranked up his Model A Ford a n d followed the D o n n e r party across the salt flats, j u m p e d into a boat and retraced Major J o h n Wesley Powell's trips through Glen Canyon, and tracked the Hole-in-the-Wall gang to their hideouts in eastern Utah. Beginning with Salt Desert Trails in 1930, his self-published study of the Donner party, a torrent of books a n d articles p o u r e d from his p e n . No ivory tower scholar, Kelly also found popular outlets for his vivid prose in periodicals like Arizona Highways a n d Desert Magazine. Top: Charles Kelly on the 1932 Perhaps his most original work was expedition to Glen Canyon. Below: his 1936 biography of the mountain Charles and Harriette Kelly on one of m a n Caleb Greenwood. 9 1 Green- their weekly visits to the Kearns mansion in their later years. wood's career was interesting n o t only because of his dramatic achievements as a trapper, explorer, and guide, but also because he was already in his sixties when he first crossed the Mississippi, an age when most people of his time were retired. As a historical study, Kelly's book is remarkable for its creative method of writing a biography of a Old Greenwood (Salt Lake City: Western Printing Company, 1936).


Utah Historical Quarterly

m a n w h o was illiterate a n d thus left n o original sources. Kelly's m e t h o d can be stated concisely in the biblical m e t a p h o r (which he would have hated) that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike: if a party of t r a p p e r s of which G r e e n w o o d was a m e m b e r g o t into a pitched battle with Indians or was trapped in a snowy m o u n t a i n pass, one can assume that Greenwood fought or suffered with the rest. In a d d i t i o n , his c o m p a n i o n s who were literate sometimes r e c o r d e d Greenwood's participation in their ventures. Kelly's contributions to the Historical Society were i m m e n s e . Beginning with his editorial participation in volumes 1 5 - 1 7 of the Quarterly, which published all the journals available at that time of the two Powell explorations of the Colorado River, Kelly went o n to contribute Quarterly articles of his own a n d to help shape West from Fort Bridger, volume 19 (1951). Late in life he donated the bulk of his papers to the Society, a n d in 1960 the Society m a d e him an H o n o r a r y Life Member. His visits to the mansion on Tuesdays with his wife Harriette during his twilight years were always memorable events, a n d many a coffee break was enlivened by his caustic wit and irreverent anecdotes. In a heartfelt memorial tribute, Mortensen observed that "all who truly love and are uplifted by the vast open spaces of the Great Basin, the high plateaus of the Colorado, and the mountains in between, forever owe a debt to Kelly for the written legacy he has left behind. "92 Finally, one of history's unsung heroes, Stanley S. Ivins, did most of his painstaking research on Mormon polygamy at the mansion and d o n a t e d his vast collection of notes o n that a n d o t h e r aspects of M o r m o n fundamentalism to the Society. Although the Ivins n a m e itself is of course well known in Utah, primarily t h r o u g h Stanley's father, Anthony W. Ivins, an apostle of the Mormon church a n d leader of the post-Manifesto polygamist colonies in Mexico, Stanley's contribution to Utah history is m u c h less well known, mainly because he published little of his voluminous research. Instead, he is r e m e m b e r e d as a great research mentor at the mansion, one who quietly and generously shared his encyclopedic knowledge of M o r m o n history and bibliography with any who s o u g h t h i m out. 93 Like his colleagues J u a n i t a Brooks and Dale Morgan, Ivins was a "citizen historian," as Charles S. Peterson calls t h e m . A l t h o u g h schooled in a n i m a l husbandry as a young man, Ivins found himself in comfortable e n o u g h 98

Mortensen, "In Memoriam: Charles Kelly, 1889-1971," p. 200. Biographical data on Ivins comes from "Tribute to Stanley S. Ivins," Utah Historical Quarterly 35 (1967): 308-9; and Ann Hinckley's biographical introduction to her "Register of the Stanley Snow Ivins Collection" in the Society library. 93

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


financial circumstances that he never had to earn a living. Instead, the life-long bachelor was able to divide his time between supervising his family's investments and single-mindedly researching Mormon history. Ivins's active participation in the Mormon church seems to have ended with the death of his father in 1934. Thereafter he was able to study the Mormon culture in which he had been raised pretty much as his friend Dale Morgan was able to do: as an e x p e r i e n c e d a n d knowledgeable, but objective, bystander. His urge to u n d e r s t a n d polygamy was the initial spur to his research and always commanded his primary attention, but his interest broadened to other aspects of Utah and Mormon history, and he published articles on the Utah Constitution, the Deseret Alphabet, a n d the history of education. As age caught up with him, Ivins b e c a m e a less constant presence at the Society than he had been in the 1940s a n d 1950s, but his ever-accumulating knowledge turned his weekly visits each Thursday d u r i n g the 1960s into major events. Everett Cooley recalled, John James loading microfilm for Stanley W. Scarcely a week went by when Ivins, one of the most frequent research visitors Stanley did not "hold court" for to the Kearns mansion, 1958. the n u m e r o u s students working on Utah subjects for books, dissertations, theses, or merely to satisfy a curiosity or problem of Utah history. Whatever the status of the knowledge seeker, he found a helpful mentor in . . . Ivins. He was extremely generous with his time and his accu-mulated knowledge—dispensing both with no thought that he was being mined by others who stood to benefit from his years of collecting information.

Even the nearly omniscient J o h n James kept a running list of baffling reference questions for resolution during those weekly calls.94 O n e of Mortensen's most visible achievements was to give the Utah Historical Quarterly a facelift and to support it with a vigorous promotional campaign. While the Society was still housed in the State Capitol, he became aware of a dearth of informational literature on "Tribute to Stanley S. Ivins," p. 308; Hinckley, "Register," pp. 11-12.


Utah Historical Quarterly

Utah. A blind man who ran a small stand selling postcards and other odds and ends outside the Capitol cafeteria complained to Mortensen that tourists were constantly asking for souvenir publications on Utah, but he had nothing to offer them. In fact, the only literature they were able to find was Mormon promotional material available at Temple Square. Mortensen conceived the idea of large printings of special issues of the Quarterly with just that market in mind. As we have noted, there had always b e e n a certain m a r k e t for both individual issues and bound volumes of the Quarterly outside the Society's membership, but the publication's rather drab black and white format and typography and the specialized focus of many of its articles naturally limited its popular appeal. It was Mortensen's goal to turn the Quarterly, at least in its special issues, into a popular magazine with mass market appeal. To accomplish that, he first engaged a professional design artist to m o d e r n i z e the typography a n d format to increase its attractiveness and make it easier to read. T h e n he commissioned some of the best historical writers available—including T Edgar Lyon, Dale Morgan, David E. Miller, Everett Cooley, Jack Goodman, and Mortensen himself—to contribute a group of articles on the general theme of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. T h e articles were engagingly written and focused on subjects of perennial tourist interest—the Great Salt Lake, the evolution of Salt Lake City, a n d Temple Square. 95 Color was obviously necessary to generate popular appeal, b u t it was too expensive for the regular Quarterly budget, so Mortensen raised private donations for color pages. Finally, a distribution system was necessary beyond the Society's office a n d the notions stand at the Capitol. Magazine distributors around the city were willing to handle the special issues, but they had had no experience with publications of p e r m a n e n t value; they were accustomed to ripping off the covers of unsold copies for refunds each month and replacing them with current issues, so Mortensen had to make sure they left the Quarterly issues on the stands until they had sold. And sell they did. "Next to the Bible and the Book of Mormon," Mortensen recalled, the Valley of the Great Salt Lake issue "had the biggest sale of any publication ever published in Utah." Mortensen's boast was scarcely an exaggeration, for the publication eventually sold over 100,000 copies. 95 The Valley of the Great Salt Lake issue was 27 (summer 1958). Information on production of this issue is from the A. R. Mortensen interview with Levi Peterson, p. 6; and the Dorothy Mortensen interview with the author, pp. 18-21.


One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society

Emboldened by its success, Mortensen began p r o d u c i n g additional special issues aimed at a popular audience. In 1961, to commemorate the centennial HISTORICAL QUARTERLY of the Cotton Mission in southwestern Utah, he commissioned October, 1961 authors like Juanita Brooks and A. Karl Larson to p r o d u c e an issue called U t a h ' s Dixie: T h e Cotton Mission.96 For that extraordinarily scenic p a r t of the state, a great deal of color seemed appropriate. Mortensen secured subsidies for the color from the mayor of St. George and the centennial committee in return for which he provided a detachable color supplement in the issue that they could use as a Russ Mortensen gave Utah Historical special handout for visitors. Quarterly a facelift and promoted special Not all special issues were issues. successful. A very large printing during the administration of Charles S. Peterson commemorating the 1969 centennial of the driving of the Golden Spike was poorly merchandised, even though it was declared the official publication of the Golden Spike Commission, and languished for years in storage. After the Mortensen years few additional attempts were made to m o u n t the immense marketing programs of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake and Cotton Mission issues. Nevertheless, the Mortensen marketing legacy remained alive, as special commemorative issues often featuring color covers, at least, continued to appear, and for many years every issue of the Quarterly was organized around a theme. 97 T h e study and writing of Utah history broadened and matured greatly during the Mortensen years. Although the Society was a significant focal point for that flowering—from the popularity of the Kearns mansion, its increasingly professionalized staff, and its b u r g e o n i n g library, manuscript, and archival collection—the University of Utah IN THIS ISSUE


29 (July 1961); Dorothy Mortensen interview, p. 20. Miriam B. Murphy interview with the author, November 21, 1996. Some themes, she admitted, were a bit far-fetched, and director Max Evans urged their discontinuance except in special cases. 97


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also made important contributions. During the presidency of A. Ray O l p i n (1946-64) the university b e g a n developing into a g e n u i n e research institution with an adequate library and a faculty of researchoriented Ph.D.s who attracted energetic and ambitious graduate students. Western specialists in the history d e p a r t m e n t i n c l u d e d C. Gregory Crampton, David E. Miller, Brigham D. Madsen, a n d others, all committed to producing factually accurate and objectively interpreted Utah history. To take advantage of this rapidly increasing interest in Utah history, Mortensen decided to resurrect the Society's yearly meetings. O n October 17, 1952, the annual dinner meetings were resumed in the form of a gathering at the Lion House. Although it was not the "First A n n u a l M e e t i n g " as advertised, it did m a r k a fresh start, a n d the a n n u a l m e e t i n g tradition has c o n t i n u e d u n b r o k e n since that date. T h e featured speaker, UC Berkeley agricultural historian J o h n D. Hicks, spoke on "The American Tradition of Democracy." Although the meeting was poorly attended, with about fifty people present, it was d e e m e d enough of a success that the tradition continued. 9 8 Following the Society's arrival at the Kearns mansion, the board began a bimonthly lecture series in conjunction with the board meeting. T h e lectures continued for a n u m b e r of years. Meanwhile, the a n n u a l meetings were e x p a n d e d to two-day affairs d u r i n g Everett Cooley's directorship (1961-69). Beginning on a Friday, the meeting culminated in a Saturday evening banquet with a speaker. Cooley generated enthusiasm for an extended meeting by breaking it u p into specialized sessions that i n c l u d e d fields like folklore a n d eventually archaeology and historic preservation. The expanded a n n u a l meetings also provided a public forum for presenting awards for outstanding c o n t r i b u t i o n s to Utah history. A few of the awards g e n e r a t e d controversy; the Society received considerable criticism in 1967 when it conferred the Fellow Award—its highest scholarly h o n o r — u p o n Fawn McKay Brodie for her much-debated biography ofJoseph Smith. Other observers felt that the Society was demonstrating its independence from the influence of the LDS church and praised the award as a step in the Society's emerging professionalism. D u r i n g the early years of the e x t e n d e d a n n u a l m e e t i n g , J o h n James r e m e m b e r e d , "At times we've been worried that we wouldn't have a crowd. Sometimes at the last minute the girls would get all the 98

Board Minutes, October 17, 1952; Everett Cooley, interview with the author, December 10, 1996.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Fawn M. Brodie accepts Fellow Award at 1967 annual meeting as Everett L. Cooley, director, and J. Grant Iverson, board president, look on.

phones going all day long calling people to plead with them to come and things like that." While the expanded annual meeting may have been a little premature, interest in Utah history soon caught up with it, and the annual meeting tradition has thrived.99 T H E BEGINNING OF STATE ARCHIVES

Another major program begun under Mortensen and expanded under Cooley was the State Archives. Responsibility for official state records was clearly given to the Society in the legislation that made it a state institution in 1917: "It is hereby made custodian of all records, documents, relics and other material of historical value, which are now or hereafter may be in charge of any State, County, or other official. . . ."10° Nevertheless, the Society had done little to assume that responsibility before Mortensen became director. During the late 1930s the WPA Historical Records Survey had prepared inventories of most county archives, a necessary first step toward appraising and caring for those records deemed worthy of preservation. Following u p on that in 1946, the Society sent letters to county recorders informing them not to destroy records and offering them assistance in inventorying and preserving them, but one has to wonder what kind of help, in those underfunded and understaffed days, the Society was actually in a position to provide. In fact the only action that occurred was that Board Minutes, May 19, 1956; January 11, 1958; J o h n James interview, p. 39. State of Utah, Biennial Report of the State Historical Society of Utah, 1917-1918, p. 15.



Utah Historical Quarterly

Cedar City historian William R. Palmer was e q u i p p e d with a primitive microfilm camera a n d sent a r o u n d the state to film whatever county records h e could identify as worth saving. His filming t e c h n i q u e was i n a d e q u a t e , however, a n d m u c h of the film was illegible. 101 Shortly after Mortensen assumed office, he began to receive pressure from the secretary of state to begin some kind of archival prog r a m . In 1953 h e w r o t e to e a c h of t h e c o u n t y r e c o r d s officers, informing t h e m of their responsibility to preserve the records u n d e r their care, a n d a n n o u n c e d that h e would address their a n n u a l convention t h e following J a n u a r y a n d make professional archival services available to them. In o n e of his g e n u i n e triumphs as director, h e convinced t h e parsimonious J. Bracken Lee to provide a deficit appropriation to hire a professional archivist, arguing successfully that a p r o p e r records m a n a g e m e n t and archives program would actually save money by eliminating storage of nonessential records. T h e following summer, Everett L. Cooley was hired as the first state archivist. 102 Cooley was b o r n in West J o r d a n and educated at the University of Utah where he received bachelor's and master's degrees in history. After a M o r m o n mission to Germany and Canada and three years in the navy, he e a r n e d a Ph.D. in history at the University of California, Berkeley. Cooley h a d b e e n a r u n n e r - u p w h e n M o r t e n s e n was h i r e d by t h e Historical Society, and it was at about that time that the two began a lifelong friendship. "Mortensen a n d I got along famously," h e recalled. "Oh, I suppose there were o n e or two things we had disagreements on, but on t h e whole, we worked very well together, and he s u p p o r t e d m e o n e h u n d r e d p e r c e n t o n t h e archives p r o g r a m s . . . ."103 W h e n Mortensen resigned in 1961 to assume the directorship of the University of U t a h Press, Cooley r e p l a c e d h i m at t h e h e l m of t h e Society a n d r e m a i n e d t h e r e until 1969. A b o r n salesman a n d d i p l o m a t , b u t a n c h o r e d by impeccable scholarly standards and visionary leadership, Cooley b e c a m e a legendary figure in the fields of archives a n d manuscripts a n d rare books. Not only did he create the Utah State Archives, b u t h e also began the Society's first aggressive m a n u s c r i p t collecting program. In later years as director of Special Collections in the Marriott Library at t h e University of U t a h , h e s p e n t t h e g e n e r o u s M a r r i o t t 101 102

Board Minutes, August 27, 1946; Everett Cooley interview with the author. Board Minutes, March 28 and October 23, 1953; J u n e 5, 1954; Everett Cooley interview with the

author. 103

Everett Cooley interview with Eric Redd, p p . 1-2.

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endowment efficiently and built one of the finest rare book and manuscript collections in the West. As state archivist, Cooley had his work cut out for him. A survey of state and local records seemed the necessary first step. Although the WPA had surveyed the county archives, it had left no indication of the condition of the records nor of the circumstances u n d e r which they were being stored, both factors that could easily have c h a n g e d over twenty years anyway. What he found was very discouraging and alarming. State records in the Capitol had been thrown into available closets and rooms, sometimes without even being boxed; o n e governor's papers were loose sheets of paper scattered over the floor of a basement room. County records were being destroyed randomly without authorization. Pigeons were roosting on some records in the Salt Lake City and County Building. 104 Worse yet, as long as the Society was confined to cramped quarters in the State Capitol there was little Cooley could do to accession state records, for there was simply n o place to put them; Cooley himself was forced to work in the Capitol rotunda while the legislature was in session. O n e county official from central Utah brought a truckload of records to the Capitol to turn over to the archives, but, after examining the available facilities, he simply drove back h o m e w i t h o u t unloading the truck. In time things got better. Cooley worked out records disposition schedules and authorized county records officers to manage their own archives, i n c l u d i n g regular disposal of n o n c u r r e n t r e c o r d s u p o n authorization from the State Records Committee (the attorney general, state auditor, and director of the Society). Limited space became available in the basement of the Capitol for records storage (although it had been used by the wildlife department for storage of animal pelts and was almost unbearably smelly). A budget was provided to begin a microfilming program. When the Society moved into the mansion, space in the basement there supplemented the space in the Capitol, and a regular program of accessioning records was possible. State Archives ceased to be a part of the Historical Society's program in 1968 as a result of recommendations made by the so-called Little Hoover Commission of 1965. Historically, the movement to reorganize state governments had its roots in the Progressive Era as muckraking journalists convinced reformers to clean u p g o v e r n m e n t a l 104 T h e discussion that follows on the founding of the State Archives comes from the Dorothy Mortensen and Everett Cooley interviews with the author.


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c o r r u p t i o n , a n d as g o v e r n m e n t s became dramatically m o r e complex when they u n d e r t o o k social welfare p r o g r a m s . Conservatives, skeptical of such e x p a n d e d g o v e r n m e n t programs, naturally led the way in reorganizing and trimming g o v e r n m e n t in the interests of economy and efficiency, a n d Utah g o v e r n m e n t reorg a n i z a t i o n was first a t t e m p t e d by Governor Charles R. Mabey in 1921. S u b s e q u e n t r e o r g a n i z a t i o n s were Everett L. Cooley, the first state archivist, a c c o m p l i s h e d in 1933, 1935, a n d in his office in the Capitol. 1941. 105 It was u n d e r t h e D e m o c r a t Calvin L. Rampton, however, that the most massive reorganization of Utah g o v e r n m e n t took place. Senate Bill 20, passed by the legislature on March 25, 1965, created a Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government, chaired by J o s e p h Rosenblatt a n d unofficially known as the Little Hoover Commission. T h e commission retained a private consulting firm from Chicago—Boos, Allen a n d Hamilton—which had performed similar investigations in Alaska and elsewhere. Addressing leaders of the Utah State Public Employees Association, Rosenblatt painted a chilling picture of a state governm e n t that h a d become unmanageably bloated, a bureaucracy with n o less t h a n 156 separate agencies within which t h e g o v e r n o r h a d to make appointments to over 526 positions. "Through this process [of m u l t i p l i c a t i o n of new state a g e n c i e s ] , " Rosenblatt asserted, "little empires are built, special interests are served a n d all at t h e public's general expense—and the example is given which encourages other special interests to d e m a n d still other separate agencies that they can call their own."106 Cooley, director of the Society by that time, r e m e m b e r s receiving only the most perfunctory examination from the Little Hoover investigators a n d believes that their minds were already made u p regarding the Society. Failing perhaps to u n d e r s t a n d that it was in fact a state agency, t h e y h a d d e c i d e d to divorce t h e archives from w h a t they 105 Utah Foundation, Background and Philosophy of the Reorganization Movement in Utah and the United States (Salt Lake City: Utah Foundation, 1966). 10<i J o s e p h Rosenblatt, Speech to Leadership Conference of Utah State Public Employees Association, September 25, 1965, mimeograph copy, Utah State Historical Society Library, Salt Lake City

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


a s s u m e d was a private o r g a n i z a t i o n a n d to place it with t h e D e p a r t m e n t of General Services. T h e Society itself, which h a d to this p o i n t b e e n a n i n d e p e n d e n t agency ( a n d t h u s p r e s u m a b l y o n e of Rosenblatt's "little empires") was placed within the D e p a r t m e n t of Development Services a n d given responsibility for administration of historic sites b u t provided with n o additional funding. In an u n d a t e d response to the commission's r e c o m m e n d a t i o n s , Cooley bowed to the inevitable reorganization b u t requested certain modifications. Arguing that the Society was having e n o u g h t r o u b l e maintaining t h e Kearns mansion within its present b u d g e t a n d that assuming responsibility for other historic sites would simply be impossible, he won permission to allow the Daughters of Utah Pioneers to continue administering such sites with money provided as part of the Society's appropriation. Less successfully, he protested that the Society would be a n administrative o r p h a n in t h e D e p a r t m e n t of Development Services with such economically o r i e n t e d agencies as Tourism a n d Publicity, t h e Fair B o a r d , t h e Aviation B o a r d , a n d Industrial Development. Instead, he r e c o m m e n d e d establishment of a D e p a r t m e n t of Cultural Affairs to include the Historical Society, the Institute of Fine Arts, the State Library, and the Law Library. 107 Well intentioned though it was, it would be difficult to regard the work of the Little Hoover Commission as anything but disastrous from the Historical Society's perspective. In the short r u n , as Cooley caustically observed, the Society's expenses went u p : "One u n e x p e c t e d increase [in expenses] came from a change in telephone service, as a result of the Little Hoover Commission r e c o m m e n d a t i o n . T h u s , the Society p h o n e bill j u m p e d from $96.00 per m o n t h to $152.00. T h e Society c a n ' t s t a n d any m o r e of this H o o v e r Commission improvem e n t . " In t h e l o n g r u n , c h r o n i c financial struggle was t h e result. Removal of the archives m e a n t that the Society h a d lost the o n e easily demonstrable a n d financially justifiable service to state government. Henceforward, directors would face the unenviable prospect of seeking funding from thrifty and practical-minded legislators who f o u n d it all too easy to choose between new prisons and highways or maintaining a m u s e u m of historical artifacts a n d a collection of rare books a n d manuscripts, especially when the latter enterprises were often seen as duplicating programs of the DUP and the LDS church. It was perhaps at that point that a sort of heroic fatalism b e g a n to 107

Undated r e p o r t in Society archives; Cooley to Gunn McKay, March 10, 1966, in Society archives.


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Left: Jane (Helena B.) Stites, reference librarian, 1958, clipping newspaper articles for the Society's extensive clipping files. Right: Ohleen Leatherwood, 1960, carefully using a steam iron to flatten documents.

set in as an ethos at the Historical Society. "We are the Deseret Industries of the manuscripts business," photograph curator Carolyn Stevens-Jones laughed in 1979, and the phrase caught on. Long used to making do with second-hand discarded document boxes from State Archives and hand-me-down shelving from State Surplus, staff members well knew that hard work and creative rationing of resources would have to make up for perennially inadequate funding. With it all, that sense of backing a worthy but perpetually lost cause, of bravely raising the tattered sails of a sinking ship, bred a proprietary pride, a courageous commitment in the Society staff that transcended the status of mere employee. The Mortensen years ended in two episodes that drew into focus the inherent tension between the ancient elitism of the Society and its emerging professionalism. The catalyst of that tension in both cases was Nicholas G. Morgan, Sr. He had rendered invaluable service in engineering the acquisition of the Kearns mansion, but he expected the Society in return to become something of a m o n u m e n t to him. The professionalization of the Society during the Mortensen years did not come without some pain. Although Juanita Brooks had been able to convince the board that the Society needed an academically trained historian at the helm, not all board members understood the direction the new captain would navigate. That it would lead to rough waters for some of the older hands was almost inevitable. As often happens, this crisis began with an apparently trivial incident.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society



As late as the 1950s, in the midst of the grassy strip that runs down the middle of Sixth East in Salt Lake City, just south of the Third South intersection, stood the stump of an old juniper tree ("cedar" in Utah parlance). At one point a legend had begun to grow about the tree— that it had been the only substantial tree on the valley floor at the time of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in 1847. As such, it had served as a landmark, and presumably a b e n c h m a r k as well, to measure the settlers' progress toward civilization as their tree-lined streets began to emerge. With the passage of time, the tree achieved a symbolic significance as a link between the modern and pioneer worlds. To preserve and commemorate that significance of the tree, on July 24, 1933, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers erected a peristyle—several columns supporting a decorative roof—around the tree, and installed an interpretive plaque. The text of the plaque was a classic of filiopietistic sentiment: The street to the north was originally Emigration Road—the only approach from the east. Over this road the pioneers of 1847 and subsequent years entered the valley of the Great Salt Sea. They found growing near this site a lone cedar and paused beneath its shade. Songs were sung and prayers of gratitude offered by those early pilgrims. Later the cedar tree became a meeting place for the loggers going to the canyons. Children played beneath its branhces [sic]. Lovers made it a trysting place. Because of its friendly influence on the lives of these early men and women we dedicate this site to their memory.

T h e glaring typographical e r r o r cast eternally in b r o n z e is of course the least of the plaque's deficiencies to a historian, for the whole text has about it a strong scent of the improbable. As Mortensen later had occasion to point out, it is botanically unreasonable, in view of the stands of box elder and cottonwood trees along modern stream banks, that only one lone juniper would have existed there in 1847. Why would loggers, in particular, have used the place for their rendezvous—to sight in their saws to avoid missing their ultimate quarry in the canyons? And if the tree had indeed been a conspicuous landmark visible all over the valley, it would seem a poor hideaway for trysting lovers. Nevertheless, the legend, enshrined in peristyle and bronze (the title of the plaque was "The Cedar Tree Shrine"), b e c a m e enthroned in pioneer mythology. Sometime before 10:45 P.M. on the night of Sunday, September 21, 1958, vandals sawed off the tree, unwittingly touching off a controversy between the mythmakers and the historians, between the


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Daughters of Utah Pioneers and Russ Mortensen, and almost costing the latter his j o b . Before filing his story for Monday a f t e r n o o n ' s edition, a Deseret News reporter naturally sought comments from the city's two most visible custodians of local history, Kate B. Carter of the DUP, a n d Mortensen of the Utah State Historical Society. Carter's reaction was predictable: "The Utah Daughters have fought hard for the preservation of these old relics. Then vandals come along and tear down our good work. It's very discouraging." 108 Mortensen's reaction could not have been more different. As he later recalled, he had not yet learned of the act when the reporter telep h o n e d . His initial comment was that he "hated to see vandalism at any time." T h e n the reporter took a daring tack: He changed his tone and said, kind of secretly, "Dr. Mortensen, d o you believe that was the only tree growing in the valley of the Great Salt Lake when the Mormon pioneers came?" It was such a preposterous question that I burst out laughing, and said, "Hell no, do you?" Conk! went the phone.

As it came out in the paper, the acerbic Mortensen had had even more to say t h a n that. T h e tree was "a historical fraud," he h a d said and added, "I'm not shedding any tears over its loss. . . . It's only an old dead stump with little historical value." The reporter had his story, and Mortensen had a job-threatening crisis.109 T h e News fanned the flames in an editorial later in t h e week. Quoting the prayer of Mormon Apostle George F. Richards at the dedication of the plaque, which he had said somehow symbolized the willingness of the pioneers "to suffer, even to die, for the accomplishment of holy purposes," the editor added that the tree "represented kindness, shelter, hospitality—all given freely and withheld from none, redm e n or white." It was, surely, a heavy b u r d e n to h a n g u p o n the branches of a solitary juniper, but it served the editor's p u r p o s e of denigrating "some historians" who "scoff at the legend, calling the story a hoax, and [now quoting Mortensen directly, in case his readers had mistaken his target] the tree only an old dead stump with n o historical significance."110 Things grew ugly the next day as George R. Hill, a relative of LDS President David O. McKay, took up the cudgels in a letter to the edi108 Deseret News, September 22, 1958. The News considered this a major story, running it on the front page with photographs. 109 Ibid.; A. Russell Mortensen, interview with Levi Peterson, September 9, 1985, p . 26; Dorothy Mortensen, interview with the author, October 9, 1996. 110 Deseret News, September 25, 1958.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


tor. "I am alarmed," Hill warned, "over what might be happening to o t h e r p i o n e e r relics at the U t a h State Historical Society in the custodianship of a man with so little 'feel' for t h e historic value a n d preservation of our pioneer relics that h e could label the old cedar tree which the vandals cut down as a 'historical fraud'. . . . " Mortensen's statement that he was shedding no tears over the tree seemed to Hill to imply the condoning of vandalism. H e c o n t i n u e d in a darker vein: "Well might the DUP look into t h e m a t t e r of p r o p e r p r e s e r v a t i o n of historical relics Some of the key players in the Lone Cedar a n d d o c u m e n t s in the Historical Tree controversy: Nicholas G. Morgan, Society archives, lest some of these Juanita Brooks, Leland H. Creer, and Russ from a 1959 photograph of the be also given the same snap judg- Mortensen, Society's Board of Trustees. ment of 'historical frauds' and 'of little historical value,' a n d be destroyed without anybody knowing about it."111 It was n o t Hill, however, whom Mortensen had primarily to worry about, but Kate Carter, president of the DUP, and h e r influence on public o p i n i o n a n d ultimately u p o n the Board of C o n t r o l of t h e Historical Society to whom Mortensen had to answer. The formidable Carter, as he well knew, was not a woman with whom to trifle. In the words of Charles S. Peterson, she "governed the 300,000 m e m b e r s of the DUP with a firmness that would have d o n e Brigham Young proud." 112 She was, as Mortensen later recalled, "the most powerful woman in Utah, and she was going to have my hide." Clearly, it was time to seek an accommodation, and he got on the p h o n e . "Kate," he said, "what d o you mean about that being 'a sacred thing'? You know good and well that every one of the creeks . . . flowing out of the . . . Wasatch Mountains, . . . every one of them by the very nature of things were [sic] lined with cottonwoods a n d box elders. And there was a 111

Ibid., September 26, 1958. The quotation is from a deleted portion of Peterson's "Speaking for the Past," which he has generously made available to the author. 112


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whole section of the county that was all cottonwood. W h a t do you mean, it was the only tree?" H e r response was baffling. "She said there's a plaque on that thing that says it and the man who said it was George F. Richards, an apostle of the Lord. And if an apostle of the Lord says it's so, it's so." "Kate," Mortensen said, "you've abdicated any brains you ever had." "We didn't talk anymore for a quite awhile," he recalled. 113 They both talked to the Deseret News, though. "I think a m o n u m e n t to the only tree in the valley is a phony," Mortensen declared, while Carter as stubbornly stuck to her guns: the tree "could be seen clearly from the m o u t h of Emigration Canyon, and was a meeting place for the first pioneers." 114 The irascible pair had reached an impasse. A m u c h m o r e serious c o n s e q u e n c e for Mortensen, as h e h a d feared, was Carter's influence over others, including even the Board of Control of the Historical Society. Exactly one week after the vandalism incident, Leland H. Creer, president of the board, a n d vicep r e s i d e n t Nicholas Morgan issued a public s t a t e m e n t c e n s u r i n g Mortensen. "The wanton destruction of the 'Lone Cedar T r e e ' . . . should be deplored and held in contempt by all thinking people who have any sentimental regard for our worthy pioneers," the statement said in part. "We also deeply regret the unfortunate comments made by our director which appear to have been interpreted as condoning this regretable [sic] deed."115 The board met the following week, October 4, and the purpose of the meeting was clear to Mortensen: "They were going to throw me to the wolves. . . . they were going to fire me." A clash between Creer and Morgan on one side and Mortensen on the other was probably inevitable. Creer, professor of western history and long-time head of the history d e p a r t m e n t at the University of Utah, h a d written The Founding of an Empire: The Exploration and Colonization of Utah, 1776-1856, in 1947.116 Although the book had a certain importance as a pioneering synthesis of early Utah history, it fell significantly short of the scholarly standards that M o r t e n s e n was trying to p r o m o t e 113

A. R. Mortensen interview, pp. 27-28. Ibid., September 23, 1958. It should be noted that Carter did not quite have even the DUP entirely on her side in this matter. One DUP member called Mortensen to inform him that her understanding of the tree was that it originally had been a signpost "located a half block south on the Mormon road into the city directing immigrants in the right direction. It was moved to 6th East and dedicated as a symbol of the relative scarcity of timber in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. A. R. Mortensen interview, p. 30. 115 Salt Lake Tribune, September 28, 1958, 116 Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1947. 114

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through the Society. "Creer was never an iconoclast," a former student observed in an immense understatement. 117 In fact, The Founding of an Empire was just about the most celebratory account of Mormon history one could imagine. Furthermore, its narrative was clogged with large blocks of uninterpreted quotations from the sources and factual inaccuracies like his well-known geographic gaffe in having the Jordan River emptying into Utah Lake instead of draining it.118 Creer in fact became a center of opposition to the emerging professionalism in Utah history. When the Society proposed to undertake publication of the Hosea Kate B. Carter, who wielded enormous influence as president of Stout autobiography and journals, the DUP, later set the Lone Cedar Creer registered his opposition, stating Tree controversy aside and praised in a board meeting that they "are not a Russ Mortensen as a historian. significant contribution to history and, therefore, are not worthy of this much attention." When friends of Dale Morgan sought to get the U. to grant him an honorary degree, Creer, as head of the history department, vetoed the project, calling Morgan a mere "dilettante."119 Mortensen, who was not only willing but eager to challenge unfounded Mormon pieties, was not going to find much of a friend in Leland Creer. Nicholas Morgan, for his part, was not only a protector of Mormon pieties but an opportunist, as Mortensen called him, as well, who was attempting to make the Society his monument. Clearly, if the director of the Society were to become known as an impious renegade, it would tarnish the Morgan image. With Creer as his ally, Morgan was quite willing to capitulate to public pressure and to crucify the director, as Mortensen put it, on the lone cedar tree. It was perhaps the most heated board meeting in the history of the Society, because Mortensen had his dedicated backers. "It was so sensitive," Mortensen reminisced, "that I decided that the way to sur1,7

Philip C. Sturges, "In Memoriam: Leland H. Creer," Utah Historical Quarterly 36 (1968): 196. Creer, The Founding of an Empire, p. 26, note 12. 119 Board Minutes, October 25, 1961. T h e "dilettante" story came to the a u t h o r in conversations with J o h n James a n d Everett Cooley. 118


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vive this thing was to keep my big mouth shut, so I never said anything. Never opened my mouth at any one time." The minutes disagree. "Dr. Mortensen stated his position in the 'cedar tree' episode," the secretary noted, "in support of which he quoted at some length from the newspaper files of the library, going back as early as 1919." It was evidently at that point that Mortensen began to hold his peace and to let his backers, Juanita Brooks and William McCrea, make his case. They served him well. "As it turned out, I didn't have to [say anything]," M o r t e n s e n c o n t i n u e d , "because when J u a n i t a would r u n out of b r e a t h , William McCrea, who was the general m a n a g e r of Amalgamated Sugar Company in Ogden, would take [it] on. When he would r u n out of breath, Juanita would take it back. She said, 'What kind of a board was it that wouldn't support the person they hired?' The upshot of it was, they decided maybe they were a little premature. I survived." T h e minutes concur: "After considerable discussion [something of an understatement, it would seem], Mr. [George F ] Egan made the motion that the Director's report be accepted. Motion seconded and passed unanimously." Everett Cooley, who was present at the meeting, remembers that Morgan and Creer were considerably "chastened" by the tongue lashings handed out by Brooks and McCrea and evidently thought it best simply to recede into the unanimity of the board vote rather than register a meaningless protest. 120 Mortensen was understandably stung that Creer and Morgan had indicted him in public but exonerated him only in private, behind the closed doors of the board meeting. Although his career would later take on m u c h larger dimensions, as chief historian for the National Park Service and president of the American Association for State and Local History, that was all in the future; at present, he was a Utah historian. "Any claim to fame I h a d started in Salt Lake City," he observed. So having been "run up the yardarm in the church newspaper [so that] everybody in Salt Lake—Jew[s], Gentiles, Mormons, and everybody—knew that I was a godless character" was a serious professional stigma. According to Cooley, the thanklessness of having to deal with administrators who opposed his professional standards began to discourage Mortensen, and he started looking for another position. 121 180 A. R. Mortensen interview, p. 27; Board Minutes, October 4, 1958; Everett Cooley, interview with the author. 121 Everett Cooley, interview with the author. To the end, though, Mortensen had his supporters among the general public as well as on the Board of Control of the Historical Society. One, an employee of the State Road Commission, called Mortensen to ask to be considered an accessory after the fact in the tree cutting. He said he had carried an axe in the trunk of his car for twenty years intending someday to do the deed himself but never mustered the courage. A. R. Mortensen interview, p. 27.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


In the end, of all his accusers, only Kate Carter made appropriate amends, and even that occurred only obliquely and after a period of mellowed emotions. Sometime after 1961, when Mortensen had left the Society to become director of the University of Utah Press, Carter invited him to her office for a cup of coffee (an Icelander by ancestry, coffee was deeply rooted in her culture, and she took her c h u r c h ' s prohibition of it with a grain of salt). "Although she could not apologize for 'skinning me alive,'" Mortensen recalled, she could invite him to address the annual meeting of the DUP at the Hotel Utah during the April conference of the Mormon church. It took a good deal to fluster the skeptical Mortensen, but Carter was equal to it. Her introduction of him was "the most effusive introduction you ever heard in your life," and when he concluded, she informed the audience that "you've heard from somebody who knows more about Utah history than anybody on earth." "What do you think that was?" Mortensen's wife asked him after the banquet. "It was an apology before God and all the world." A decade later, the hard-boiled Mortensen's memory of her comments "still makes me blush," he said. "We were close friends forever after," he a d d e d , a n d when called u p o n to write h e r obituary, Mortensen could refer to her as "a great and noble lady."122 It would be tempting to point to the cedar tree controversy as a watershed event in the Society's history, for a professional historian remained at the helm, never again was objective history frontally challenged within the Society, and professionalization of the organization continued rapidly. While all that is true, it would be a mistake to claim that Mortensen's yeasty insistence upon historical fact had leavened the loaf of the general public's understanding of history. In 1960 the Central Company of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers erected a second plaque at the site of the cedar tree. "Although willows grew along the banks of the streams," it proclaims, "a Lone Cedar Tree near this spot became U t a h ' s first famous landmark. S o m e o n e in a m o m e n t of thoughtlessness cut it down, leaving only the stump which is a part of this monument. 'In the glory of my prime I was the pioneer's friend.'" And even in the enlightened year of 1991, students of the M. Lynn 122 A. R. Mortensen, "In Memoriam: Kate B. Carter, 1892-1976," Utah Historical Quarterly 44 (1976): 395-96. On the other hand, as Mortensen later observed, Carter had less than altruistic reasons as well for seeking an accommodation with him. "The state-appropriated budget for the DUP was included in the Historical Society budget because it was inappropriate for the legislature to fund a private agency. It was in the best interests of the DUP for Kate to be on good terms with me." A. R. Mortensen interview, pp. 29, 31. Although cooperation between the Society and the DUP was of course a good idea, Everett Cooley is certain that the DUP budget came through the secretary of state, not the Historical Society.


Utah Historical Quarterly

Bennion School planted a young Rocky M o u n t a i n j u n i p e r a few feet to the n o r t h of t h e L o n e Cedar Tree m o n u m e n t , commemorating its felled predecessor. Fact may be stranger t h a n fiction, b u t fiction seems m o r e enduring. T h e o t h e r crisis involving Morgan b e g a n on J a n u a r y 17, Business manager Iris Scott, left, and 1959, when he a n n o u n c e d a secretary Dorothy Summerhays (later plan that he promised would be Mortensen) in the Society's accounting office the financial salvation of the (former family dining room) at the Kearns mansion. Society. During his days as a mining speculator he h a d accumulated almost 10,000 acres of oil leases on state lands in southeastern Utah. These leases, he a n n o u n c e d , he was giving to the Historical Society as the basis of a Morgan Endowment Fund that the Society was to use to purchase and equip an archives building, for fellowships for research a n d publication, for acquisition of historic sites, a n d other purposes consistent with the mission of the Society. At the same time the Society library, to which he had donated his books, periodicals, maps, and photographs, was to be named the J o h n Morgan Memorial Library, after his pioneer father.123 The donation appeared to be a godsend, a potentially lucrative and perpetual supplement to state appropriations t h a t would allow the Society to u n d e r t a k e all kinds of worthwhile projects that the pragmatic state legislature might be reluctant to fund. Naming the library after the great benefactor's father seemed a small enough price to pay. For his part, Morgan claimed a handsome tax deduction for a charitable donation. The luster began to tarnish somewhat, though, in the fall, when Mortensen's financial report included an expenditure of $1,600 to maintain the leases while only $500 had been collected in drilling fees. The h o p e of the leaseholders, in this case the Historical Society, of course was that oil would be discovered on their property a n d they would share the profits with the oil company. So far that had n o t happened, and in the meantime the Society was having to delve into its already meager funding to make its lease payments. 124 123 Board Minutes, J a n u a r y 17, 1959. Morgan's filial altruism eventually failed, a n d the bronze plaques (not installed) in the library today say "Nicholas G. Morgan Library." 124 Board Minutes, November 13, 1959.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


This intrusion of financial reality precipitated a division within the board, some agreeing with Mortensen that while the expenses were unanticipated and unwelcome, the opportunities were worth the risks, others supporting board president Joel E. Ricks, who questioned both the ethics and the legality of diverting state funds to oil speculation. The debate continued for several years, with Morgan the eternal booster perpetually forecasting the great bonanza just around the corner. Board member J. Grant Iverson, himself a lawyer, recognized the legal implications of the matter and induced the board to apply to the attorney general for an opinion, but the opinion turned out to be ambiguous and the debate continued.125 The longer the big bonanza lingered in the future, the more skepticism grew on the board. Morgan redoubled his optimism. "Mr. Morgan . . . said that one of the leases owned by the Society is now being drilled by a major company," the minutes report. "If that should come in, the future would be bright." But the board wavered, ceasing payments on expiring leases while continuing to hope for profitable activity on the others. Morgan shifted from optimism to bluster ("Everything the Board does not want, Brigham Young University would be happy to take.") and in fact picked up one of the expiring leases and donated it to BYU.126 A crisis developed in 1962 when the state presented the Society with an opportunity to agree to a unitization of its oil leases with other properties in the area. This meant that profits from any oil discovery would be shared among all leaseholders. Unitization would diminish the potential profits to the leaseholder of any particular property, but it offered the potential for holders of unprofitable leases to earn at least something. Morgan recommended that the Society accept unitization, and the agreement was signed.127 At that point Morgan asked for return to him of the Society's remaining leases. Unitization had changed the stakes; what had once been unprofitable leases, the burden of which Morgan had shifted to the Society, now had the potential of profit, and Morgan's altruism had reached its limit. Iverson, who by this time had seen through the scheme, convinced the board to retain the remaining leases, pointing out that they could hardly return them to Morgan anyway since he had received a large tax deduction for them. Thus rebuffed, Morgan 125

Ibid, January 30, 1960; May 7, 1960. Ibid., January 30, 1960; April 15 and October 20, 1961. 127 Ibid., May 12, 1962. 126


Utah Historical Quarterly

haughtily r e s i g n e d from the b o a r d . In a letter of r e s i g n a t i o n , h e r e m i n d e d the Society of his generosity in a self-righteous contrast of himself to H e r b e r t S. Auerbach: Unlike Mr. Auerbach, a former President of the Historical Society, who was a collector of rare books on Utah's history, which he left to his family, and which were sold for large sums of money, I presented my library of rare books and one of the largest and most complete libraries on Utah history in the State to the Historical Society. I estimated its value at over $30,000.

In addition, he pointed out, he had donated over one thousand photographs, his grand piano, and funds for various luncheons a n d banquets. 128 T h e Morgan resignation was a big e n o u g h scandal that Cooley, director at the time, and Iverson, chairman of the board, were asked by Governor George D. Clyde for an explanation. When given the history of the oil leases, Clyde agreed that the Society had followed the only possible course of action. In time, Morgan's ire diminished. O n e p e r c e n t of royalties on o n e of the Texaco leases was in fact given to M o r g a n , a n d h e b e g a n paying i n f r e q u e n t visits to t h e m a n s i o n . Although the Society refused to help in his abortive attempt to create a historical museum at Pioneer Square, and Morgan in t u r n withheld his support from the Society's attempt to save the Wasatch Tabernacle in H e b e r City from destruction, Cooley granted an exception to the Society's policy on use of the mansion and allowed Morgan to celebrate his eightieth birthday there. By 1965 Morgan "seemed to have forgotten his pique with the Society," Cooley observed. 129 As n o t e d above, Mortensen's problems with Creer a n d Morgan took their toll on him. Besides, h e was c o m i n g to feel t h a t h e h a d m a d e his contribution to the Society a n d was beginning to look for new challenges a n d opportunities. "One day," Dorothy M o r t e n s e n remembers, "he [Mortensen] was going up to the U. . . . a n d I remember Marge Ward looking out the window and he was plowdng on, walking fast. . . . Marge said, 'He just needs [new] fields to conquer. He's getting b o r e d . ' " In conversations with university p r e s i d e n t A. Ray Olpin, Mortensen h a d expressed some caustic criticisms of the university press. "If you're going to have a university press," he h a d said, "it shouldn't be just a printing plant, to print programs and brochures. 128 The letter, dated J u n e 8, 1962, is included in the Board Minutes. This account also draws u p o n Everett Cooley, interview with the author. 129 Everett Cooley diaries, J u n e 13, July 28, a n d August 2, 1962; March 6, O c t o b e r 26, a n d November 7, 1964; October 23, 1965.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


It should be a press." Perhaps to his surprise, Olpin called his bluff: "[If] you know that much about it, why don't you do it"?130 It was a j o b offer Mortensen could not refuse. He left the Society in the summer of 1961, r e c o m m e n d i n g Everett Cooley as his replacement. Cooley had resigned as state archivist to teach the 1960-61 school year at Utah State University, b u t when offered M o r t e n s e n ' s j o b , he accepted. 131 T H E INNOVATIVE COOLEY YEARS

Although, as we have seen, the Cooley years (1961-69) were marred by the Little Hoover Commission's reorganization of state government, separating State Archives from the Society and placing the Society in a department with few similar agencies, it was otherwise a period of continued maturation as the creative and energetic Cooley consolidated a n d built u p o n Mortensen's achievements. O n e conspicuous a c c o m p l i s h m e n t was a major redesign of Utah Historical Quarterly. Cooley had observed that some of the most successful state historical societies, like those of Wisconsin and Missouri, were attracting members through publication of colorful, large-format magazines with popular appeal. While the Quarterly in no way compromised its scholarly standards, changing from the 6-by-9 format to the present 7 1/4 by 10 3 / 8 " with ever more frequent use of color covers brought the magazine u p to modern standards. Closely tied to the Society's public image was the initiation of a Statehood Day celebration. Cooley was disappointed that the state had never capitalized on the symbolic i m p o r t a n c e of the J a n u a r y 4 anniversary and thought the Society could use the occasion to advance the general interest in history. In a meeting on November 2, 1962, with board members Glen Snarr and Jack Goodman, Cooley planned the first such celebration for January 4, 1963, with speeches at the State Capitol followed by a reception at the mansion. They further reco m m e n d e d "that in the future an annual Statehood Day lecture be held in the evening and make it an event of some importance." 132 T h e tradition caught on, and in subsequent years Statehood Day, often rotated to locations outside Salt Lake City, became a historical cele130 D o r o t h y Mortensen interview with the author, pp. 30-31. Margery Ward was a Society staff member who became Everett Cooley's primary assistant on the Quarterly during his directorship and later served with him in a similar capacity at the Marriott Library Special Collections. 131 Board Minutes, April 20, 1960; June 21, 1961. 132 Cooley diaries, November 2, 1962.

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bration second in importance only to the Society's annual meeting and proved an effective way of instilling pride and historical awareness throughout the state. When Cooley had resigned as state archivist, he engineered the hiring of microfilm expert T. Harold Jacobsen as his successor. Upon his return to the Society, he determined to improve the archives even further by drafting a new public records law in the interest of strengthening the records management program and centralizing state records administration under the leadership of the archives. The law was passed on February 6, 1963. Another tradition, the historical trek, got off to a hilarious and hazardous start d u r i n g the Cooley years. T h e appearance in 1959 of University of Utah history professor David E. Miller's Hole-in-the-Rock: An Epic in the Colonization of the Great American West133 generated an immense interest in that legendary exploit in Mormon p i o n e e r i n g . T h e eighty wagonloads of settlers who journeyed in the winter of 1879-80 from Escalante to Bluff across some of the most formidable terrain in the West left a legacy of resourcefulness and endurance rarely Grant Williams, left, and Pearl F. Jacobson, officers of the Sevier Valley Chapter of the Historical equaled in history, a n d Society, with guest speaker Arnold R. Miller's t h o r o u g h research Standing, 1965. Note new, larger format o/Utah and vivid prose brought their Historical Quarterly initiated by Everett Cooley. In 1969 Jacobson became one of thefirstmembers venture into colorful relief. W h e n he gave a lecture on of the Advisory Board of Editors o/UHQ. the subject at the Historical Society, a perhaps naive suggestion that Miller lead a Society-sponsored field trip from Escalante to the Hole-in-the-Rock (a steep declivity in the west wall of Glen Canyon through which the pioneer road reached a crossing of the Colorado River) drew an enthusiastic

Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1959.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Statehood Day festivities in the Capitol rotunda in 1966 included a large band. Music is a staple at the state's birthday celebration.

response. By the scheduled departure date of May 17, 1963, almost 250 people had signed up.134 Under the best of circumstances, it was a large undertaking with perilous potential. As it happened, almost everything went wrong. When Cooley arrived at the bus station in Salt Lake City at 6:30, he found most of the passengers ready but none of the buses. The first hour was wasted trying to locate three trekkers from Brigham City only to learn that they had driven on to Bryce Canyon. When the buses arrived, a state senator got onto the wrong bus and refused to move. One woman got locked in a restroom at the station and could only be released by tearing the door down with a sledge hammer and crowbar. At the lunch stop in Richfield, it became apparent that n o one had bothered to make reservations at the restaurant. Finally arriving at Bryce Canyon Lodge, opened specially for their evening accommodations, the trekkers began to have some good luck for a change. Registration went well, and the prearranged evening meal was excellent. T h e n things went sour again. A m i c r o p h o n e brought in for Miller's lecture would not work, so one of the Society's employees led some group singing until it could be fixed. Miller's speech was too long, and the second half of the program had to be canceled. Cooley got little sleep, having been awakened in the middle of the night to dissuade a trekker from making improper advances to one of the Society's female staffers. This narrative of the Society's first trek is based on Cooley's diary, May 17, 1963.


Utah Historical Quarterly

T h e n e x t day began at 5:15 with reveille s o u n d e d by a bus air h o r n . Breakfast was served in two shifts, and the first shift set off for Escalante a n d Dance Hall Rock where they were to be transferred to locally provided trucks for the last and roughest part of the journey. T h e vehicles t u r n e d out to be manure-encrusted, stock trucks, and o n e of the trekkers became ill. At the Hole-in-the-Rock a b o u t forty people m a d e the arduous descent to the river, including o n e heavy elderly woman who ignored advice, suffered sunstroke, and h a d to be carried back to the top. When the first buses returned to Dance Hall Rock where the caterers provided a real chuckwagon meal, the hungry trekkers ate most of the food, leaving little more than celery and carrot sticks for the last group to arrive. O n e second shifter choked on a carrot which had to be removed (in those pre-Heimlich maneuver days) by a nurse and doctor who were fortunately in the group. The greatest disaster was yet to come. Upon their return to Bryce at 10 P.M., the party discovered that, in the confusion of rescuing the sunstroke victim at the Hole-in-the-Rock, they h a d left o n e of the trekkers behind! It was too late to do any searching until morning, but Cooley (after at least two telephone calls to determine which county held jurisdiction in the area) arranged a sheriff's rescue party for the m o r n i n g . Luckily, the elderly absentee was found, wandering down the road in the wrong direction, little the worse for the wear. The return trip contained little excitement beyond a blowout on one of the buses and a delay in Panguitch while a filling station attendant could be extricated from Sunday church services to refill the diesel tanks. Amazingly, not only did the Society suffer no serious publicity setbacks as a result of the trip, but members turned out to be enthusiastic about t h e experience. U p o n his r e t u r n to the office on May 20, Cooley's diary records that h e was "on the t e l e p h o n e all m o r n i n g thanking people who participated on the Trek. Reaction from trekkers very favorable." The minutes at the end of the quarter noted that "the Society did get considerable attention drawn to the trek because of this episode [of the abandoned party m e m b e r ] . However, as a result of the generally favorable publicity many people have inquired when and where the next trek will take place as they want to go along." T h e chairman of the Publicity Committee added, tentatively, that the quarter had b e e n "a very active one; o n e in which the Society has m a d e new friends, and it is h o p e d no enemies." 135 Though Cooley led only 135

Cooley diary, May 20, 1963; Board Minutes, September 17, 1963.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Group of trekkers at the top of Hole-in-the-Rock, May 1963.

one more trek, a much safer venture retracing the Donner party route of 1846 from Fort Bridger to This Is the Place Monument, stopping to install, in cooperation with the National Forest director, a p l a q u e christening Kletting Peak in the Uinta Mountains in honor of conservationist-architect Richard K. A. Kletting, the trek became a frequent part of the Society's programs. Historic preservation, which began during the Cooley years, was one of the revolutions of that transforming decade, the 1960s. Most of the revolutionary developments of the 1960s can be seen as a revolt against the materialistic values of the generation that came of age during the Great Depression and World War II. For that g e n e r a t i o n , which had triumphed over the greatest economic catastrophe and the most demonic dictators in modern history, the possibilities of progress seemed unlimited and were defined mostly in materialistic terms, as science and technology brought America to its highest prosperity a n d position of power. They had d a m m e d the Columbia and Colorado


Utah Historical Quarterly

rivers, rolled up their sleeves and created immense defense industries that ended the depression and made America the "arsenal of democracy," a n d finished the greatest war in history with two s t u n n i n g demonstrations of scientific superiority, the atomic bombs d r o p p e d onJapan. The hollowness of that materialism became apparent during the 1960s, however, as the civil rights and women's movements pointed o u t that progress a n d democracy did n o t e x t e n d to millions of Americans and as weapons of mass destruction devastated helpless peasant villages in Vietnam. The earlier generation's faith in science and technology was thrown back in its face as electronics powered a music of rebellion and scientific research p r o d u c e d mind-bending drugs like LSD. T h e historic preservation m o v e m e n t was a m u c h m o r e sober rebellion t h a n the ones occurring a m o n g the drugged-out hippies and draft-card-burning war resistors, but it was equally inexorable and more p e r m a n e n t . Alarmed by the cultural insensitivity of fast-buck developers who could bulldoze a unique and elegant Victorian mansion and replace it with a sterile glass and steel skyscraper, a fast food franchise, or a parking lot, preservationists began arguing that we were sacrificing priceless parts of our past in the interests of a rootless and standardized future. "Should we tear down the White House or the Statue of Liberty just because they are old?" asked baseball fan Philip J. Lowry in a passionate and eloquent plea for preservation of Tiger Stadium in Detroit. "Should the Tigers be allowed to tear down Tiger Stadium just because it is old? T h e Tigers' answer is yes. T h e Tigers' answer is wrong. Not everything in this world needs to be modernized, refurbished, renovated, u p d a t e d , a n d t h e n b u l l d o z e d to make way for progress." Roger Angell picked up the theme, calling attention to the historical and emotional affiliations that attach to any venerable structure: "A thousand small relationships, patterns, histories, attachments, pleasures, and moments are what we draw from this game, and that is why we truly worry about it. . . . Not everyone feels this way of course, but who among us feels n o n e of this?"136 It was a powerful argument but a difficult one that pitched history, aesthetics, and other subtle points against b r u t e utilitarianism, a n d preservationists were to lose as many battles as they won in their struggle to expand the American conscience. 13fi

Philip J. Lowry, Green Cathedrals (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 41-42.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


As elsewhere, it took a series of architectural catastrophes to galvanize the historic preservation movement in Utah. 137 During the early 1960s the ethos of progress led to the destruction of several architectural treasures in Salt Lake City, including the Weir/Cosgriff mansion at 523 East South Temple and the Dooly Building, designed by Louis Sullivan, at Second South and West Temple. O t h e r historic structures faced the wrecking ball: the Washington County C o u r t h o u s e in St. George; the masterful joinery of the Edwin Thatcher Wolverton mill in the H e n r y Mountains, and the Wasatch Stake Tabernacle in H e b e r City. A l t h o u g h p r e s e r v a t i o n efforts were m o u n t e d in all t h r e e instances, it was the confrontation between the Utah State Historical Society and local officials of the M o r m o n church in H e b e r City over the Wasatch Tabernacle that led to the creation of the Utah Heritage Foundation a n d the organized preservation movement in the state. W h e n church officials a n n o u n c e d plans to raze the old tabernacle and to replace it with a more m o d e r n structure, they turned a deaf ear to preservationists' pleas to leave the old building alone a n d to build its m o d e r n replacement elsewhere. T h e preservationists t u r n e d naturally to the Historical Society for help. Although preservation of historic sites was specifically e n u m e r a t e d a m o n g the Society's responsibilities in its 1917 legislation, the Society had never had funds or staff to do m u c h about that responsibility. In 1964 the director a n d b o a r d of the Society decided to begin its preservation program by saving the Wasatch Tabernacle. T h e effort immediately ran into daunting obstacles. In the first place, the Society had n o funds for the effort a n d was prohibited by Governor Calvin L. R a m p t o n from lobbying the state legislature to get such funding. Also, the LDS stake president in H e b e r City was a powerful political figure who threatened to use his position politically against the Society if it persisted in its preservation effort. Although its status as a state agency was an advantage in some ways, it stymied the Society in this case. T h e result was creation of the Utah Heritage Foundation, a privately funded preservation organization sponsored by, b u t separate from, the Historical Society. At a planning meeting at the Society on January 17, 1966, the Heritage Foundation was mapped out by Cooley, David Bigler, Garn Hatch—who was leading the Wasatch Tabernacle fight—and several architects a n d p r o m i n e n t citizens. In a stroke of 137 This a c c o u n t of the beginnings of the preservation movement a n d the creation of the U t a h Heritage F o u n d a t i o n are based u p o n Everett L. Cooley, "Origins of the Utah Heritage F o u n d a t i o n , " Heritage: The Utah Heritage Foundation Newsletter 30 (January/February 1996): 1-5; and Everett L. Cooley interview with the author.


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political genius, Cooley convinced First Lady Lucybeth R a m p t o n to b e c o m e t h e foundation's h o n o r a r y chairperson. Not wanting to be seen as an o p p o n e n t of historic preservation, the LDS c h u r c h itself allowed the foundation to use the historic Assembly Hall on Temple Square for its organizational meeting on April 12, 1966. Mrs. Rampton gave a stirring appeal for preservation of Utah sites, the organization's Articles of I n c o r p o r a t i o n were approved, a Board of Directors was formed from some of the most p r o m i n e n t leaders in the community, a n d advisory committees c r e a t e d in several areas of specialty. T h e result provided n o t only sufficient political pressure to preserve the Wasatch Tabernacle but also an enduring organization that has been a powerful force in Utah cultural life. T h e Heritage Foundation went right to work. Realizing that any effective preservation program had to begin with a survey of the sites worth preserving, it applied to the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) of the National Park Service for a team to survey U t a h sites. HABS provided a g r a n t of $5,000, m a t c h e d by private funds in the state, a n d a survey of seventeen i m p o r t a n t Utah buildings was conducted. T h e survey was e x t e n d e d d u r i n g a second year a n d supplem e n t e d by a Historic A m e r i c a n E n g i n e e r i n g R e c o r d Survey t h a t included such sites as the Lucin Cutoff and the Olmstead power plant in lower Provo Canyon. T h e J u n i o r L e a g u e of Salt Lake City was enlisted to survey the historic Avenues District of the city. Although the Heritage Foundation, and indeed the preservation m o v e m e n t as a whole, has h a d its failures—most discouragingly the Coalville Stake Tabernacle, which was torn down in 1971—it has been an i m p o r t a n t force in p r o m o t i n g historical consciousness. O n e of its best achievements has been an increasingly cooperative stance by the LDS church, the single greatest possessor of historic structures in the state. T h e Cooley years at t h e Society, t h e n , were a t i m e of g r e a t progress in several areas and of increasing influence a n d respect for the organization. They were also frustrating for the talented, creative, and ambitious director, who often found his plans stymied by political limitations or parsimonious funding. W h e n h e was a p p r o a c h e d with an offer to develop the Special Collections p r o g r a m at t h e new Marriott Library at the University of Utah, he quickly accepted it. "The salary was m u c h better, the facilities were new, and the resources considerably better than we had to work with at the Society;" h e recalled, "I just felt it was time to move on." T h e million dollar subsidy given the library by J. Willard Marriott obviously o p e n e d u p possibilities

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Wasatch Stake Tabernacle in Heber City was a hard-won victory for determined preservationists in the 1960s.

never dreamed of at the Historical Society: Cooley's first big rare book purchase, for example, was a single volume costing six thousand dollars—three times the annual book budget at the Society.138 HISTORIC PRESERVATION BRINGS FEDERAL FUNDING

T h e brief administration of Charles S. Peterson (1969-71) was nevertheless an important period in the history of the Society, as programs begun by Mortensen and Cooley were extended and enriched, and new developments emerged. For one thing, historic preservation began to benefit from ever-increasing federal grants u n d e r t h e National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. In October 1969, for example, a Utah Historic and Cultural Sites Review Board was created to approve nominations to both the National and State Registers of Historic Places. The preservation program was financed by a handsome state appropriation of $12,500 and a federal grant of $6,500, and the ambitious Melvin T. Smith, who had been hired as preservation officer in 1969, announced an application for the following year for $25,000 in federal funds for a historic sites survey and an additional $250,000 for preservation of such sites.139 This was generous funding i3s E v e r e t j Cooley interview with Eric Redd, p. 9; Cooley interview with the author. 139 Utah State Historical Society Newsletter, vol. 19, nos. 4 and 5, and vol. 20, no. 1. Hereafter cited as Newsletter. T h e state historic register was created by executive o r d e r of Gov. Calvin L. R a m p t o n on September 19, 1969.


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indeed and contrasted happily with the lean budgets of the years following the Little Hoover Commission. The staff expanded significantly during the Peterson years, beginning with the Smith hiring and the establishment of a historic preservation section at the Society. That was followed by the addition of Glen M. Leonard, a 1970 Ph.D. from the University of Utah, who was hired initially u n d e r a g r a n t from the National E n d o w m e n t for the Humanities to study and strengthen local history p r o g r a m s in the state. Upon conclusion of that project, Leonard became the first managing editor of the Utah Historical Quarterly u n d e r the director and assumed responsibility for the publications p r o g r a m . Allan Kent Powell, a graduate student at the University, was hired as a lowly mail clerk but worked as well on a grant-funded history of the Methodist church in Utah. He also joined Peterson and David Atkinson (another U. g r a d u a t e student) to work with BYU graduate s t u d e n t J o h n Yurtinus on a study of the route of the Mormon Battalion from Fort Leavenworth to Santa Fe. Eventually Powell worked with the local chapters program and historic preservation. Helene Crane and Helen Mathison j o i n e d the office staff, and in November 1970 Martha R. Stewart, formerly a librarian with the Salt Lake Public Library, became reference librarian at the Society.140 O n e of the best of Peterson's hirees was Miriam B. Murphy, a multi-talented writer, poet, artist, and journalist who had graduated in English from the University of Utah where she had served as editor of the Daily Utah Chronicle. She sought her fortune in advertising in San Francisco and New York City but eventually returned home. Peterson hired her in September 1970 to edit O. N. Malmquist's history of the Salt Lake Tribune, which the Society published with a subsidy from the newspaper. 141 Murphy's talents as an editor and writer became apparent during that project, and Peterson found money to add h e r to the staff permanently. Although never head of the publications program, she has been an indispensable force behind it, creating Beehive History, an annual historical magazine for school children, and bewitching everything that has appeared in the Quarterly and the Society's other publications with her literary magic during her long tenure. Although Cooley's superb diplomatic skills had enabled him to work effectively with people from all backgrounds, it was Peterson's 140

Allan Kent Powell, interview with the author, October 15, 1996, pp. 2-4; Newsletter, vol. 21, no. 2. O. N. Malmquist, The First 100 Years: A History of the Salt Lake Tribune, 1871-1971 (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1971. Newsletter, vol. 21, no. 2. Miriam B. Murphy interview with the author, November 21, 1996; Charles Peterson interview. 141

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society



Charles S. Peterson, left, took to the field in 1971 to identify the route of the Mormon Battalion. He is shown here with John F. Yurtinus in the Animas Valley of southwestern New Mexico.

great talent for working with common, especially rural, people, that significantly democratized the Society's programs during his tenure. Peterson h a d grown u p in r u r a l Snowflake, Arizona, o n e of t h e M o r m o n colonies along the Little Colorado River. After e a r n i n g a degree in animal husbandry, he shifted to history and taught at the College of Eastern Utah while completing his graduate work. At the Society, he exhibited great skill in bringing Utah history to the common people. H e accomplished this in two ways. First, he extended the local chapters program begun by Cooley so that interested people in the Utah hinterlands could have their own historical organizations affiliated with and supported by the central Society in Salt Lake City. Second, he also worked to include simple buildings associated with common people in the National and State Historic Registers. He was aided in both of these by preservation officer Melvin T. Smith and Kent Powell, both of whom came from rural or workingclass backgrounds similar to his own. Powell, especially, the son of an eastern Utah coal m i n e r who h a d studied u n d e r P e t e r s o n at t h e College of Eastern Utah, proved adept at winning the trust a n d cooperation of c o m m o n people. Although he would eventually complete his Ph.D. at the University of Utah and compile a record of research and publication that places him in the front rank of Utah historians, he could also "roll a corn cob around with his toe while talking with an old farmer," as Peterson vividly put it.

Utah Historical Quarterly


O n e of the defining m o m e n t s in Utah historic preservation came when Powell presented a carefully prepared nomination of the Martin Millerich Hall in Spring Glen to the Historic Sites Committee. Although a physically unimpressive structure, the hall had played a dramatic role in Carbon County labor history. Built by striking Yugoslavian miners in 1922, it had also been the headquarters of the National Miners U n i o n d u r i n g the B. Murphy and publications coordinator 1933 strike. "That was just Miriam Stanford J. Layton launching Beehive History full of all kinds of good his- in 1975. tory for m e , " Powell reminisced, b u t the committee initially thought otherwise. When "I presented that to the review committee and flashed the picture of this ugly building on the screen," he continued, one of the members who was accustomed to entertaining nominations of sites like the Kearns and McCune mansions burst out, "That's t h e ugliest building I've ever seen." T h e n o m i n a t i o n was turned down. Eventually, though, through the efforts of committee members like J. Eldon Dorman of Price, the vision of the committee broadened somewhat and the nomination was accepted. 142 In 1971 Utah State University offered Peterson a faculty position that included directorship of the Man and His Bread Museum and eventual editorship of the Western Historical Quarterly. Like Cooley, Peterson saw professional advantages in academia that the Historical Society would never be able to equal. Time has vindicated his decision, for the USU position gave him the research support that enabled him to become one of the most highly respected western historians. Peterson was succeeded by Melvin T Smith who, like Peterson, had rural origins that affected his personal style and even in the thrust of some of his programs. Smith was born to a family of Mormon pioneers in the Big Horn Basin of northern Wyoming. A boyhood spent Powell interview, pp. 10-11.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society





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MTERIOR 6RAKT OF f 1 0 7 . 2 0 , ,,| «ESTORAT10N) • .? V _ P IN THE NATIONAL. REGISTER OF HIS1 | , , . | Mi" • M . II HI J



Stonemason Phillip Condra, left, with Allan Kent Powell during the Kearns mansion restoration project of the 1970s.

coping with the harsh imperatives of that environment left its impress on the man. Beneath his rugged good looks and lean physique were an equally t o u g h intellect a n d an u n c o m p r o m i s i n g integrity—his greatest assets and also the seeds of his downfall in the compromising world of academic politics and government bureaucracy. Smith b e c a m e infatuated with history as a young m a n a n d majored in that field at the University of Wyoming. During his doctoral p r o g r a m at Brigham Young University, h e worked with t h e famous western historian LeRoy R. Hafen and produced a massive dissertation on t h e history of the Colorado River below t h e G r a n d Canyon—perhaps the single most impressive piece of research on river history ever accomplished. While completing his doctoral work, Smith taught at Dixie College where he soon found himself unable to support the administration of President Ferron Lossee and welcomed the chance to take over the Historical Society's fledgling preservation program. 143 T h e Smith years (1971-86) saw u n p r e c e d e n t e d growth in t h e Society, with a greatly e x p a n d e d staff a n d new programs. For o n e thing, the presence of Jesse D.Jennings on the Historic Sites Review Committee ensured that the state's preservation program included prehistoric sites as well as historic buildings. That, and increasing concern over vandalism of prehistoric sites, led to the creation of an Antiquities Section at the Society u n d e r the direction of David B. Personal information on Smith comes from his interview with the author, October 19, 1996.


Utah Historical Quarterly

Madsen, who was acquiring a national r e p u t a t i o n as an e x p e r t on Great Basin prehistory. The section later included a paleontology program under James H. Madsen, Jr., and occasionally undertook historic archaeology in conjunction with the Preservation Section. 144 T h e increasing federal funds available for historic preservation caused t h a t section to grow faster t h a n any o t h e r p r o g r a m at t h e Society. Architects a n d architectural historians like Allen Roberts, Larry J o n e s , Karl Haglund, T h o m a s Carter, a n d Charles S h e p h e r d capitalized o n the lead taken by Kent Powell in creating historic districts, both in Salt Lake City and in rural communities, that included a strong emphasis o n folk a r c h i t e c t u r e . Researchers like J o h n McCormick, Roger Roper, and Philip Notarianni helped establish the historical c o n t e x t for sites n o m i n a t e d . Finally, administrators like Wilson Martin and Barbara Murphy established procedures by which owners of historic sites could qualify for tax breaks and o t h e r assistance in preserving and restoring their properties. Through all of this, the Society as a whole benefitted; the library acquired funds for published and u n p u b l i s h e d sources for preservation research, a n d the Publications Section received funds to hire staff members to edit and publish t h e research accomplished by b o t h the P r e s e r v a t i o n a n d Antiquities sections. O n e of the healthiest developments during the Smith years was publication in 1976 of The Peoples of Utah, edited by board m e m b e r and ethnic historian Helen Z. Papanikolas. 145 Capitalizing on the suddenly enhanced general interest in American history during the bicentennial of the American Revolution, the Society applied successfully for federal funds to publish a book celebrating the racial and ethnic diversity of Utah. Not only did The Peoples of Utah eloquently refute the ubiquitous cliche of U t a h ' s ethnic a n d religious h o m o g e n e i t y , it established the Society as the leading promoter in the state of research on racial and ethnic minorities, a theme that is never far from the surface in all its publications and collections. 146 O n e of the major emphases of the preservation program was the adaptive reuse of historic buildings, the principle that the architectural integrity of old buildings could be maintained while employing 144 Some of these projects included excavation of the Social Hall in downtown Salt Lake City, the Isaac Chase Mill in Liberty Park, and the Donner-Reed wagons on the Salt Flats. 146 Helen Z. Papanikolas, ed., The Peoples of Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1976). 146 The Miriam B. Murphy interview emphasizes this point and lists some of the publications and programs that have exhibited the state's diversity.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Malcolm MacDonald, president of the National Pony Express Association, prepares mochila for Society director and Pony Express reenactmenl rider Melvin T. Smith, center, as Governor Scott M. Matheson looks on. Salt Lake Tribune photograph.

them for m o d e r n purposes and that, generally, such historic structures did not need to be destroyed and replaced. Since 1957 the Society h a d of course practiced what it preached, in adapting the historic Kearns residence for use as its headquarters. T h e organization's c o m m i t m e n t to that principle was tested more strongly near the e n d of the 1970s when it left t h e mansion and moved twice, each time wrestling with the problems of adapting other historic structures to its needs. T h e Society's tenure in the Kearns mansion was always tenuous, for the state h a d acquired it for use as the governor's residence. W h e n Governor Lee complained of its inadequacies as a h o m e , the legislature gave the Society permission to move in at the e n d of his t e r m , assuming that succeeding governors would also not want to live there. George D. Clyde a n d Calvin L. Rampton lived in the executive residence built on Fairfax Road, but when Scott M. Matheson was elected in 1976 he d e e m e d the mansion a more appropriate governor's residence and asked the state to find new quarters for the Society. A l t h o u g h o t h e r sites were discussed, the preference from t h e beginning of b o t h the Society a n d the State Building Board was the a b a n d o n e d Denver & Rio G r a n d e Railroad Depot at 300 South 455 West in Salt Lake City.147 The state was able to purchase the building for a token fee, b u t renovating and r e m o d e l i n g it for occupancy by the Society was a lengthy and expensive proposition, for the building h a d long been unoccupied except by transients, and it was almost unbelievably filthy and r u n down. Initial estimates by the architect and contractors projected a fairly optimistic completion date; nevertheless, it was 147 Newsletter, vol. 27, no. 6 (1977), indicates that the Board of State History had also passed a resolution favoring the depot.

Utah Historical Quarterly


clear that the Society was going to have to find interim quarters, and in fact the renovation project took about three years. Despite a cheerful report in the Newsletter in 1978 that "staff and patrons alike" were finding the Society's temporary quarters in the C r a n e Building at 307 West 200 South "a highly efficient and attractive one for conducting historical business," Wilson G. Martin, left, and Karl T. Haglund many staff m e m b e r s in fact found the "Crane Mansion," as it examine plans of historic buildings. was sarcastically called, almost useless for "historical business." 148 T h e Society o c c u p i e d the entire first floor and most of the basement, fitting into both spaces about as well as a size ten foot in a size seven shoe. T h e first floor h a d to h o l d all the office space except for some of the library staff, plus the library r e a d i n g r o o m . T h e leaky a n d unheated basement contained most of the library stacks, desks Larry Jones, left, and John S. H. Smith, for an average of a b o u t eight document a log cabin in Sanpete County. library staff m e m b e r s , a n d the Deseret News photograph by W. Claudell laboratory and storage area for Johnson. the Antiquities Section. B o u n d volumes of newspapers and some unprocessed maps and manuscript collections were kept in a cavernous space u n d e r the Second South sidewalk, where cracks in the concrete and in the glass skylight admitted rain a n d urine, against which Visquene tarps did valiant battle. Most of the museum artifacts and the more valuable manuscripts and books were placed at Mollerup Storage or in the mountain vault in Big Cottonwood Canyon. Still, thievery was a major problem. T h e building's elevator gave almost unrestricted access to the basement, and the 148

Newsletter, vol. 28, no. 2.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Society suffered some tragic losses during that time. T h e r e were, nevertheless, some very positive developments during the Crane years. For one thing, President Jimmy Carter's Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) of 1977, a sort of WPA program of federal grants to organizations that would agree to provide j o b training, enabled the Society to add n u m e r o u s staff members. Most Philip E Notarianni, right, answers television did not find places on the state reporter's questions at a 1979 historic payroll at the e n d of their train- preservation public hearing. ing, b u t some did. T h e library alone, which employed some six CETA staff members, was able permanently to retain map librarian Susan Whetstone, who later took over the photograph collection, and for lesser periods Timothy Nevills and William C. Seifrit.149 And the Society acquired its first c o m p u t e r s at the C r a n e Building. Although the incredibly rapid rate of development of computer technology would soon render the Society's Wang word processing system almost laughably obsolete, it revolutionized the efficiency of most of the Society's programs. The Wang offered basic word processing functions through a central file server and printer accessed by remote work station terminals. Files could be saved either on the file server or on twelve-inch floppy disks of r a t h e r limited capacity. Among its disadvantages was that it was generally incompatible with other DOS systems. Despite advances in Wang technology during the early 1980s, the Society remained largely cut off from the rest of the electronic world with this inadequate computer system. T H E MOVE TO THE D & RG DEPOT

Renovation of the depot continued during 1980 while the Society moved in; indeed, renovation has never really ended. Some of the Society's expenses have been subsidized by renting space to the Rio Grande Cafe, a popular lunch and d i n n e r spot featuring Mexican Ibid.


Utah Historical Quarterly

The Peoples of Utah, highly successful as a book, became the basis of a television series on KUTV hosted by Lucy Valerio, seated at front of set. Inset: Helen Z. Papanikolas, editor o/The Peoples of Utah, and hong-time Historical Society board member, received the Fellow Award from Milton C. Abrams, board president, at the 1975 annual meeting.

cuisine on the first floor in the north end of the building. Much more revenue—all of it earmarked for maintenance and renovation of the building—has come from renting a corresponding space in the south e n d of the building to AMTRAK for a depot. Although vigorously resisted by Melvin Smith (with the support of Governor Matheson, who m a i n t a i n e d that the building was n o longer a d e p o t a n d that using the space for one would seriously encroach on the Society) Governor N o r m a n H. Bangerter t h o u g h t otherwise a n d allowed AMTRAK to move in. Whatever the merits of the debate, the money has certainly been welcome and has been efficiently administered by staff architect Don Hartley to repaint the interior, install ultravioletblocking windows to brighten the museum space while protecting the artifacts, and similar projects. All sections of the Society benefitted from the move to the majestic, historic, and spacious depot, but perhaps the greatest beneficia-

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Library area of the "Crane Mansion, " as some staff dubbed the commercial building at 300 West and 200 South that housed the Society before the Denver & Rio Grande Depot was remodeled.

ries were the Museum Section and the bookstore. As we have seen, the preservation and exhibition of historical artifacts were part of the original p u r p o s e of the Society. We have also observed, t h o u g h , that throughout most of its history that was probably its greatest failure because of lack of space and inadequate budgets for construction of secure and appropriate display facilities. Things improved dramatically with the move to the Kearns mansion, for the magnificent building was itself a museum, and the Society displayed paintings and other works within it. The nature of the building and its interior decor precluded certain types of exhibits, and limited storage space restricted museum acquisitions. T h e move to the Crane Building was certainly no boost to the museum, but in anticipation of the vast exhibit and storage space offered by the depot, J o h n M. Bourne was hired to plan an expanded museum program and to recruit a staff. In spite of serious conservation and security concerns that had to be overcome, the museum has thrived in the depot. Under the directorship of Bourne and later of Philip F. Notarianni, the museum has featured a succession of popular and effective exhibits, both traveling exhibits and those designed and constructed by staff members. Education has been the primary goal of the museum, and one of its best programs has been the training and employment of docents initiated by Wreatha A. Witte for interpretation of the exhibits to school children and other groups.


Utah Historical Quarterly Don Hartley holds ladder while Max J. Evans attaches banner to bollard in front of the depot. U.S. SenatorJake Gam presents commemorative coin to Max J. Evans for the Society's collections. Craig Fuller tells group of students about historic locomotive #223, since moved to Ogden 's Union Station.

Sale of historical publications began as soon as the Utah Historical Quarterly was founded, and over the years visitors to the Capitol could purchase b o u n d volumes of the Quarterly, copies of Alter's Early Utah Journalism, and special publications like the Valley of the Great Salt Lake n u m b e r of the Quarterly. In the Kearns mansion and the Crane Building the Society maintained small book stands by the reception desk. With the move to the depot the first really adequate bookstore space became available. Operated at first as part of the Publications Section, the bookstore eventually became an independent operation run by the resourceful Debbie Dahl and carrying not only Society publications but also a wide variety of local, state, and western historical material as well as a generous selection of gift and souvenir items.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Unlike Historical Society staff members, who are hired t h r o u g h and protected by the state personnel system, the director—like all state agency heads—serves at the pleasure of the governor. Although the circumstance is rife with the obvious perils that an i n c o m p e t e n t director could be appointed for political reasons or a competent one similarly fired, in practice the system has generally functioned effectively. All of the directors to date have been extraordinarily capable people who have often worked effectively with a governor of the other party. Only once has politics intruded into the Society deeply e n o u g h to cost a director his job. In 1985, undercut by his dogged resistance to AMTRAK and by his outspoken Democratic dissatisfaction with the budget-cutting conservatism of the Bangerter administration, Melvin T. Smith was forced out of office. His r e p u t a t i o n for integrity a n d effectiveness was vindicated in his b e i n g almost immediately appointed director of the Idaho State Historical Society, but his firing was an ugly example of politics over professionalism. Smith was replaced in 1986 by Max J. Evans, a nationally known archivist and computer expert whose administration would transform the Society as profoundly as that of any previous director. A U t a h native with d e e p family roots in Lehi, w h e r e he grew u p , Evans majored in history at Utah State University and the University of Utah a n d t h e n r e t u r n e d to Logan to e a r n his master's degree u n d e r S. George Ellsworth. During his graduate work he served as the first editorial assistant on the new Western Historical Quarterly. T h a t e x p e r i e n c e , added to an enjoyable period as a bookmobile driver for the Utah State Library, opened his eyes to the possibilities of a n o n t e a c h i n g career, something history graduates were increasingly having to consider anyway in the face of an oversupply of historians that was emerging at the time.150 A turning point for Evans came in 1971 when h e j o i n e d the staff of the Long-time bookstore volunteer LDS Church Historian's Office, as it was Russell R. Neilan. then known. In 1970 Apostle Howard W. H u n t e r was placed in charge of the Historical Department with a IS0 The discussion of the Evans years that follows is largely based on an interview with Max J. Evans, January 10, 1997.


Utah Historical Quarterly

Surrounded by a special circus exhibit in the grand lobby of the D&RG depot, Society members gathered for the annual awards banquet on August 17, 1985.

mandate to convert the church archives from a mere records repository to a working research facility. With the hiring in 1972 of Leonard J. Arrington as church historian a refreshing breeze of openness and professionalism blew into Mormon history, inaugurating what one participant has called "Ten Years in Camelot." 151 Evans got his first substantial computer experience at the LDS Historical Department, but he extended it dramatically when h e went off after a few years to work at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, o n e of the nation's showcase historical organizations. There he gained experience with Spindex, a pioneering electronic cataloguing system for archives and manuscripts. His greatest contribution came as a developer of the MARC format that has b e c o m e the standard cataloguing mechanism in the field. 151 Davis Bitton, "Ten Years in Camelot: A Personal Memoir," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 16 (1983): 9-33. See also Bitton and Leonard Arrington, Mormons and Their Historians (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1988), pp. 135-41.

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Evans also became inspired by Wisconsin's integrated system of managing archives, manuscripts, and libraries in which local records repositories, t h e state archives, the university system, a n d the Historical Society all cooperate more or less harmoniously. It was a harmony sadly lacking in Utah, where most manuscript collecting, in particular, was done in high competition among several fiefdoms with little regard for reason or for the convenience of the researcher. The Evans administration got off to an unexpectedly slow start because of the simultaneous retirement of state archivist T Harold Jacobsen, whom Evans, because of his reputation in the archives field, was asked to replace temporarily while a new archivist was selected. In what turned out to be one of his rare failures, Evans, at the request of the Bangerter administration, argued for a reunification of the State Archives and the Historical Society, which would thus achieve a rationalization of state records administration inspired, to be sure, by the Wisconsin m o d e l b u t also well within the pre-Little H o o v e r Commission tradition in Utah. In the e n d it proved to be an overly ambitious dream that was burst by internal archives opposition a n d unimaginative legislators who did not see the plan's advantages. With the hiring of Jeffrey O.Johnson as state archivist, Evans was free to direct his attention solely to the Society. Perhaps the most consistent theme of his administration has been to inspire the staff with a common vision of the Society's function. In pursuit of that goal, he effected a sweeping administrative reorganization. C o n c e r n e d that each of the Society's sections—Library, Museum, Preservation, Publications, and Antiquities—was performing overlapping functions with its own purposes in mind, Evans hired two mid-level managers to try to integrate functions wherever possible. Wilson G. Martin, who had a d m i n i s t e r e d the preservation p r o g r a m d u r i n g m u c h of t h e Smith period, was placed over preservation and antiquities, while Patricia Smith-Mansfield was hired from State Archives to integrate the other sections, except for publications. Another integrative enterprise has been accomplished by modernizing the Society's computer systems, an immense task that o n e may say without exaggeration has revolutionized the way staff members work together and do their individual jobs. As soon as possible Evans scrapped the o u t m o d e d Wang system in favor of fully IBMcompatible desktop computers linked by a central file server. From a Society that had only a few Wang terminals, Evans soon achieved his goal of a PC o n every desk. The system has made it possible for the

Utah Historical Quarterly


publications staff to accomplish more of the publication process in house and has e n a b l e d o t h e r staff m e m b e r s to share c o m m o n files easily and to comm u n i c a t e electronically. T h e library b e g a n cataloguing b o t h books a n d m a n u s c r i p t s online, when Evans created an electronic guide to archives and manuscripts in Utah, in which most of the major repositories in the state have contributed to an online records dataLibrary volunteer Lois Lotl helps base. The Society now has a home page process the large Eugene Jelesnik on the Internet, to which Evans hopes collection donated to the Society in 1996. to add dramatically in the near future. Technology has its perils, of course, in the hands of immature technocrats for whom creation of ever more complicated a n d powerful p r o g r a m s can b e c o m e a sterile e n d in itself. As H e n r y David T h o r e a u (who never d r e a m e d of a c o m p u t e r ) observed, technology can become nothing more than an "improved means to an unimproved end." In spite of the infectiousness of his boyish love for computers, t h o u g h , Evans has h a n d l e d that risk Martha R. Stewart, reference well at the Society's helm. In a recent librarian in the 1970s and early Newsletter editorial he made some inspir- 80s, receives an outstanding public employee citation from Governor ing connections between the contem- Scott M. Matheson. porary Society and the organization as it existed u n d e r J. Cecil Alter. After musing with admiration that Alter and his associates, "each successful in other professions, [could] p r o d u c e so m u c h history using such primitive tools," he reminded us that the basic h u m a n conditions and problems that history attempts to illuminate remain the same: "Both the problems and advantages of contemporary life have their roots, not in a high-tech, fast-paced, and increasingly urban environment, b u t in the n a t u r e of the h u m a n race." 152 Technology can be an improved means, not perhaps to an improved end but to the peren52

Newsletter, vol. 46, no. 6 (1996).

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


Pamjoyner explains exhibit to school children. Do cents lead thousands of visitors through the museum each year.

nial purpose of history: to delineate the process that has made us what we are. As we have seen, the Wisconsin m o d e l of integrated r e c o r d s administration is apparently only applicable to Utah conditions in limited ways, but Evans has worked hard to encourage local participation in the creation and administration of Utah history. In this, of course, he is building on a strong tradition of local chapters begun during the Mortensen and Cooley years. For one thing, he has advocated, with only limited success to date, a system of local records repositories administered by professionals or volunteers with the Society's support. Also, d u r i n g t h e state's c e n t e n n i a l celebration, h e initiated an immense collaborative rewriting of Utah history that involves b o t h professionals a n d knowledgeable local amateurs. B e g i n n i n g with Thomas G. Alexander's well-received Utah: The Right Place (1995), a general history of the state by one of Utah's premier scholars, t h e series is planned to include a more detailed multivolume history by other leading authorities. 1 5 3 Finally, u n d e r the leadership of Craig Fuller and Kent Powell the Society has organized the writing of a series of new county histories authored by people chosen by the counties themselves. About a third of the twenty-nine volumes have already appeared at this writing. When completed, it will be the first system153 Thomas G. Alexander, Utah: The Right Place: The Official Centennial History (Salt Lake City: Gibbs Smith Publisher, 1995).


Utah Historical Quarterly Architectural historian Debbie Randall and historian Roger Roper document the Grouse Creek rodeo grounds, July 1985, as part of a cooperative project with the American Folklife Center and the Utah Arts Council.

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atic county history publishing project since the Daughters of Utah Pioneers series in 1947. As the Society faces its second century, and shortly a new millennium, there seems to be a consensus among administrators, employees, a n d p a t r o n s that it is fulfilling m u c h of its function in Utah cultural life very well. Utah Historical Quarterly and the Society's other publications consistently earn impeccable marks from readers and stand in the very top rank of such publications around the country. The emphasis in the Society's collections and publications on Utah's ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity is surely well founded and has led to a significant reinterpretation of Utah history. Computerization has enabled fewer people to do more work more easily than in the old typewriter days and has o p e n e d the Society's collections a n d programs, through electronic communication, to the world. The evolving image of the Preservation and Antiquities sections as sources of assistance for those who need to meet federal and state regulations and develop resources rather than as enforcers of those regulations has helped those programs to thrive. The depot itself, the Society's headquarters, projects an image of history as something dignified yet appealing a n d accessible. The competent and dedicated staff is the best bargain in state government in efficient use of tax dollars. And yet there also seems to be a consensus that the Society could be doing more. Most of those shortcomings appear to be related to the Society's inconspicuous public image. Memberships, for example,

One Hundred Years at the Utah State Historical Society


for many years have stagnated at around three thousand, a disconcertingly tiny figure in a state with a population of over two million, especially considering that many memberships are held by nonUtahns. One staff member has recently suggested a blitzkrieg of advertising, including even billboards. At the very least, one could hope for another Russ Mortensen, who was not above selling special issues of the Quarterly on supermarket magazine racks through distributors. A heartening step toward increasing public awareness of the Society was taken by Max Evans, who played the lead role in a theatrical reenactment of the announcement of Utah statehood on Main Street during the Statehood Day centennial celebration. It was an encouraging echo of Marguerite Sinclair's serenades of the state legislature a n d of Everett Cooley's radio and television broadcasts promoting Utah history in the 1960s. One h u n d r e d years is a long time, and the Society has experienced the most profound changes imaginable during that period. As we face the future, we can be certain that change will not cease, and an awareness of our history ought to help us build upon the best of our traditions. With that awareness in mind as we work, perhaps we can even sense by our side the quiet presence of Juanita Brooks or John James, the turbulent energy ofJ. Cecil Alter or Dale Morgan, the warm smile of Marguerite Sinclair, or, on a bad day, the bristling indignance of Russ Mortensen's mustache or the disapproving scowl of Charles Kelly.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Being a professional historian means being part of a community that offers both criticism and support. That criticism and support guarantees the scholarly depth and integrity of what we write, and this essay has benefited greatly from colleagues who have helped me deepen my research and hone my interpretations. To my peril, I have ignored some of their counsel, and I accept ultimate responsibility for what I have written. Priority of place among my supporters goes to Max J. Evans, director of the Utah State Historical Society, who invited me to write this essay and devoted a couple of hours of his time to an unfortunately unrecorded interview on his life and career. He also read the manuscript carefully and thoughtfully and offered some valuable criticisms. The Society's publications staff, particularly Stan Layton and Miriam Murphy, recommended me as author and supported me closely through preparation of the manuscript. Both of those close friends and colleagues over many years


Utah Historical Quarterly

shared their reminiscences (though I r e c o r d e d only Miriam's) a n d suggestions for sources and interpretations. Although I m e t A. Russell Mortensen on a couple of occasions, I did n o t have the chance to interview him before his passing, b u t I enjoyed the o p p o r t u n i t y to record the reminiscences of his widow, Dorothy Mortensen, who generously cooperated with my project. I also profited greatly from Levi Peterson's interview with the M o r t e n s e n s w h i c h , t h o u g h it focused o n t h e i r r e c o l l e c t i o n s of J u a n i t a Brooks, included m u c h of value on their involvement with the Society. O t h e r interviewees included former directors Charles S. Peterson, w h o also shared with m e some unpublished parts of his chapter on regionalism a n d local history in the Oxford History of the American West, a n d my own boss and close friend for many years, Melvin T. Smith, who has my eternal gratitude for giving m e my start in the historical profession. Allan Kent Powell, who has the record of longevity a m o n g c u r r e n t employees of the Society, a n d who has m a d e some of its most impressive contributions to Utah history, submitted to a very useful interview and read the draft manuscript. During my research I received invaluable help from two of the best oral history transcribers I have ever worked with: f o r m e r Society staff m e m b e r A d r i e n n e Call a n d my c o l l e a g u e at Salt Lake C o m m u n i t y College, M a r i a n n a A. H o p k i n s . Thanks to b o t h of t h e m for speedy a n d accurate transcriptions. I owe especial thanks to two great records repositories where I did most of my d o c u m e n t a r y research. T h e Utah State Archives, whose reading r o o m is administ e r e d by Ray Matthews a n d supervised by my c o l l e a g u e of years g o n e by at t h e Society, Steven Wood, provided access to the records of the Society. T h e Society's own library, w h i c h I have n o t yet l e a r n e d to call t h e U t a h H i s t o r y I n f o r m a t i o n Center, c o o p e r a t e d fully in my research in Utah Historical Quarterly a n d o t h e r literat u r e . I s h o u l d like to t h a n k especially Alan B a r n e t t a n d my old c o m r a d e L i n d a Thatcher. My greatest source of both support and criticism, however, was my friend a n d colleague of m o r e t h a n twenty years, Dr. Everett L. Cooley, now retired from the Marriott Library at the University of Utah. If there is such a thing as omniscience, its n a m e is Everett Cooley. With his long career as state archivist and later director of the Society, h e qualifies m o r e than any living person as a true F o u n d i n g Father. His s u p p o r t of this project included a two-hour interview, access to his invaluable private diaries d u r i n g his directorship, a n d close criticism of the draft m a n u s c r i p t , which saved m e from many errors and significantly d e e p e n e d my u n d e r s t a n d i n g of the Society's history. GARY TOPPING

Matters of Conscience: Conversations with Sterling M. McMurrin on Philosophy, Education, and Religion. By STERLING M. MCMURRIN and L. JACKSON NEWELL. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996. xxxii + 389 pp. $28.95.) It is perhaps fitting that Sterling M. McMurrin, a life-long and contributing m e m b e r of the M o r m o n c h u r c h , passed away o n April 6, 1996, exactly 166 years from the day that the Church of J e s u s Christ of Latter-day Saints was o r g a n i z e d . T h e religion of M o r m o n i s m p e r m e a t e d his life, gave him the spiritual sustenance to achieve a remarkable career, a n d provided an intellectual i n s t r u m e n t for the expression of his e x c e p t i o n a l talents as a philosopher, historian, a n d educator. Loyal to his c h u r c h b u t critical of what he observed as its failings, he had such a disarming quality that everyone from high church officials to college undergraduates was won over by the cogency of his sincerity a n d rationality. To tell the story of McMurrin's life, close friend and able scholar L. Jackson Newell spent eight years recording fiftytwo sessions of two hours each in interviews. As a professor of h i g h e r e d u c a t i o n a n d c u r r e n t l y p r e s i d e n t of D e e p Springs College in California, Newell is u n i q u e l y qualified as a teacher a n d a u t h o r in the philosophy and history of higher education to present the life of this extraordinary individual. Sterling Moss McMurrin was born in Woods Cross, Utah, in 1914, spent his early years in O g d e n , a n d moved with his family to Los Angeles when he was fourteen. H e g r a d u a t e d from Manual Arts H i g h School a n d c o m p l e t e d his first year of college work at the

University of California at Los Angeles before e n r o l l i n g at the University of Utah in 1933 because of asthma attacks suffered in the southern California climate. He completed a bachelor's degree in history a n d political science in 1936 and a master's in philosophy in 1937. A major influence in his life was his m a t e r n a l grandfather, William Moss, t h e g e n e r a l m a n a g e r of t h e D e s e r e t L a n d a n d Livestock Company, o n e of t h e largest r a n c h i n g o p e r a t i o n s in U t a h . At the age of n i n e , h e b e g a n working on the r a n c h a n d c o n t i n u e d e a c h s u m m e r u n t i l his late t e e n s . As the interviews show, it would be a mistake to underestimate the impact this r o u g h e x p e r i e n c e h a d o n his l a t e r career as a highly sophisticated philosop h e r , d i s t i n g u i s h e d teacher, e d u c a tional administrator, a n d t h e U.S. c o m m i s s i o n e r of e d u c a t i o n in t h e K e n n e d y a d m i n i s t r a t i o n . His n a t u r a l g o o d j u d g m e n t was t e m p e r e d a n d e n l a r g e d by his contacts as a r a n c h h a n d . It is u n d e r s t a n d a b l e why everyone from university presidents to high g o v e r n m e n t officials a n d M o r m o n c h u r c h leaders t u r n e d to h i m for advice. McMurrin's formal connection with the LDS faith started u p o n completion of his M.A. degree when he taught for seven years in the c h u r c h ' s s e m i n a r y and institute system. In his second year, h e m a r r i e d Natalie Barbara C o t t e r e l , w h o m h e h a d m e t while they w e r e

304 undergraduates. With summers spent in graduate work at the University of S o u t h e r n California, he finally completed a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1946 and taught t h e r e for two years before joining the faculty at the University of Utah in 1948, again moving chiefly for health reasons. Although a p a r t from any formal relationship with the Mormon church, he continued his keen interest in his faith and in 1965 saw the publication of his book, The Theological Foundations of the Mormon Religion, the p r e e m i n e n t treatise on M o r m o n philosophy. His active criticism of LDS doctrine a n d practices led to excommunication proceedings against him in 1954 that e n d e d when David O. McKay, church president at the time, announced that he would be t h e first witness in his defense at any church trial. McMurrin maintained his church membership to the e n d of his life, was p r o u d of his M o r m o n heritage, could a n n o u n c e "that a fair n u m b e r of its fundamental teachings are sheer nonsense," yet could also insist that "I am critical of

Utah Historical Quarterly the church, but I'm for it, n o t against it." In his questioning, Newell skillfully reveals the depth of McMurrin's thinking as a philosopher and emphasizes the highly retentive memory he could draw on to recite exact conversations held as long as fifty years before. His intellectual capacity was far above the n o r m and brought him to prominence as national a n d international leaders sought his counsel. When he entered a r o o m , attention was immediately focused on him. Sterling M. McMurrin was an extrao r d i n a r y h u m a n being, full of g o o d humor, with an innate sense of humanity toward others, and a joy of living that he conveyed to all who h a d the g o o d fortune to know h i m . Anyone who reads this book will c o m e away from it with spirit lifted in having had the opportunity to share in the life of an exceptional man.

Brigham D. Madsen University of Utah

Re-imagining the Modern American West: A Century of Fiction, History, and Art. By RICHARD W. ETULAIN. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1996. xxvii + 241 pp. Cloth, $45.00; paper, $17.95.) Because every g e n e r a t i o n must rewrite the epic of its past (and cultural history is no exception), the historical record of the American West has been subject to extensive reinterpretation in recent decades, and the bibliography of revisionist books and articles grows steadily longer. Much of it is predictable in its method, but occasionally there are refreshingly new approaches. In his new b o o k Richard W. Etulain sets out "to provide what no other weste r n historian has yet attempted: an overview of the cultural and intellectual history of the twentieth-century West" (p. xv).

Etulain divides his book into three parts: "The West as Frontier," "The West as Region," a n d "The West as Postregion." Each section is f u r t h e r divided into three chapters, o n e dealing with fiction, a second with historiography, and a third with art. In "The West as Frontier," for e x a m p l e , Etulain's chapter on "Frontier Novels" discusses Owen Wister, Mary Hallock Foote, Jack London, Frank Norris, and Zane Grey; a m o n g the historians, he deals with Frederick J a c k s o n T u r n e r and Frederick Logan Paxson; and from the artists he is c o n c e r n e d primarily with Frederic R e m i n g t o n , Charles

Book Reviews and Notices Russell, a n d the Taos artists such as Ernest Blumenschein. In "The West as Region" he treats Willa Cather, H. L. Davis, and J o h n Steinbeck among the novelists; Walter Prescott Webb, Bernard DeVoto, a n d James C. Malin a m o n g the historians; and T h o m a s Hart Benton, Grant Wood, and J o h n Steuart Curry a m o n g the artists. In "The West as Postregion" he considers novelists Joan Didion, Wallace Stegner, Walter Van Tilburg Clark, A. B. Guthrie, Jr., Marilynne Robinson, Barbara Kingsolver, M. Scott Momaday, Leslie M a r m o n Silko, J a m e s Welch, Louise Erdrich, Amy Tan, and a host of others. Among the postregional historians he discusses H e n r y Nash Smith, Earl Pomeroy, Stegner, Robert Wooster, and Patricia Nelson Limerick. And for the artists he selects Georgia O'Keefe, Clifford Still, David Park, Mel Ramos, Ed Ruscha, J u d i t h Baca, a n d Robert Smithson. The author's readings of the novelists and historians are of the same quality as his interpretations of the painters: reasonable and lucid, refreshingly clear of the solemn and pedantic cant of the critical theoreticians. As he says on his

305 last page, "Even though societal pressures and academic trends often stress single-subject interpretations such as race, gender, and place, students of western culture must embrace a much broader view if they are to understand the full significance of the fragmented unity of the contemporary West. Only when these notable subjects are viewed as spokes intersecting at the h u b of western experience will one discover the large and lasting significance of modern western culture" (p. 212). Etulain's book is a lively and engaging study of the amazing cultural diversity of the West, a heritage in art, literature, and historiography m a d e possible by the region's complex geography, ethnicity, and history. Re-imagining the Modern American West is an important resource for helping us to see more clearly how we got where we are and to dispel even more effectively the myths that others believe a b o u t us—and that we ourselves sometimes believe.

Robert C. Steensma University of Utah

Remaking the Agrarian Dream: New Deal Rural Resettlement in the Mountain West. By BRIAN Q. CANNON. (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996. x + 195 p p . $40.00.) Sometimes g o o d things really do come in small packages. Brian Q. Cannon's m o n o g r a p h examining the New Deal's program to resettle farmers from submarginal land to presumably more economically viable farms (typically on irrigation projects in the Mountain West) runs to only 155 pages of text b u t encompasses a wealth of useful information and a significant corrective for traditional interpretations of this experiment. The study focuses on the residents of a dozen Resettlement Administra-

tion (later Farm Security Administration) projects in six western states: Arizona, Colorado, I d a h o , M o n t a n a , New Mexico, and Utah. This was hardly one of the New Deal's larger programs, a n d yet it retains a special interest because of the philosophical assumptions that guided it and the insights it provides into the needs of poor farmers. While laying out the facts and relevant statistics, Cannon, with the aid of a n u m b e r of interviews with participants, vividly develops the h u m a n side of the story.

306 Typically, t h e relocation process began with optimism on all sides. T h e relocatees, coming from a background of extreme deprivation, wanted badly to believe the new settlements would yield the good life. Federal administrators wanted j u s t as badly to believe their p r o g r a m would p r o d u c e happy and productive citizens. But the opportunities for disillusionment were great—and mistakes were m a d e . T h e r u s h to get t h e p r o g r a m u n d e r w a y (and occasional political influence) led to selection of p o o r land a n d o t h e r miscalculations. Farm families raised in the tradition of the i n d e p e n d e n t yeoman farmer resented close supervision of their work a n d spending habits by insensitive or condescending bureaucrats, and government officials excused failures by blaming the relocatees for laziness and mismanagement. It would have been easy to turn this into a diatribe on the foolishness of trying to use g o v e r n m e n t as the solution to any h u m a n problem. But C a n n o n does n o t do that. In a nicely balanced analysis, he rejects the view of other scholars that it was unreasonable to e x p e c t success from a "group of ignorant sharecroppers" and produces persuasive evidence that "out-

Utah Historical Quarterly migration" from the projects was n o t markedly h i g h e r t h a n a m o n g o t h e r groups d u r i n g the Great Depression. Moreover, in a sophisticated treatment of life in the settlements, he finds real b o n d s of c o m m u n i t y a n d c a r i n g . If hardly anyone got rich, the program at least m a d e it possible for m a n y families, with much hard work, to maintain their dignity a n d look back o n the experience years later with satisfaction. Adverse criticism is hard to come by. This is largely history "from the bottom u p " with a strong quantitative base. Political historians might wish for more information about the opposition the Resettlement Administration stirred in Congress or the i n t e r f e r e n c e or support of state officials—but that would be a different book. Nor does C a n n o n confront the basic conceptual problem with the Roosevelt farm policies, i.e., an unwillingness to admit that the primary agricultural surplus was farmers. Nevertheless, this superb work of scholarship is "must" reading for any student of the New Deal's agricultural assistance programs.

F. Alan Coombs University of Utah

Army Wives on the American Frontier: Living by the Bugles. By ANNE (Boulder: J o h n s o n Books, 1996. xiv + 210 pp. Paper, $16.95.) In 1892 Frederick Jackson T u r n e r pored over the pages of the 1890 census. W h a t i n t r i g u e d him was the fact that the vast body of land known as the American frontier h a d b e e n settled. Virtually, c o n t i n u e d expansion west had come to a close. There simply was no more frontier. This "revelation" that the frontier had closed sparked an idea that would guide a generation of historians—that t h e frontier h a d given a peculiar shape to the American character (albeit a peculiarly masculine one).


Within the last two decades younger generations of scholars—particularly feminist scholars—have begun to question the impact of the frontier on gender. If the frontier did h e l p form a national character defined by democracy and individualism, it certainly had more to do with the shaping of a masculine identity than a female o n e . Frontier women, as G l e n d a Riley has argued in her work The Female Frontier (1988), displayed fairly consistent patterns of domesticity that t r a n s c e n d e d

Book Reviews and Notices geographic locations. In other words, the "female frontier" did n o t significantly alter women's roles because of their dependence on a Victorian construction of gender. Social controls and g e n d e r views kept m e n in the workplace and women in the home. In contrast, A n n e B r u n e r Eales in h e r work Army Wives on the Frontier: Living by the Bugles demonstrates how women's roles a n d self-perceptions were significantly altered by the frontier experience. Relying on fifty diaries of army officers' wives living during the nineteenth century, Eales reconstructs lives that were s h a p e d by Victorian standards, pervasive institutional norms, and an ongoing dialogue with the unknown. Contrary to other frontier women, army wives took on the personas of their husbands when the soldiers were on patrol or away on extended campaigns. Following a strict class regimen, officers' wives were segregated from enlisted men's wives and were awarded social rank according to the husband's place in the army hierarchy. Their d e p e n d e n c e on servants and laundresses freed them to express themselves in a way that focused less on domesticity and m o r e on individual pursuits. Consequently, the new environment "overwhelmed eastern n o r m s " as women were now being judged not on "performance" of social ritual but r a t h e r on how well they adapted to "a rough and hazard-filled m a n ' s world" (p. 8 ) . Unlike Glenda Riley who finds that economic opportunity and occupational heterogeneity existed only for the m e n , Eales finds that western culture valued and promoted women's equality both economically and politically. Perhaps the most interesting chapter is the one titled "A Drink of Dirty

307 Water." It analyzes women's reactions to eastern society u p o n their r e t u r n from the frontier. Unlike many women who went west, an army wife usually returned east with her husband due to his reassignment. Many were disgusted with the increased commerce and pollution. Some felt out of place because eastern women had such white skin (compared to their dark tans). Eastern women and children also looked u p o n the r e t u r n i n g women as oddities because few could relate to the dangers a n d uncivilized n a t u r e of the West. Moreover, army wives found themselves more tolerant of various races and ethnic backgrounds and less t o l e r a n t of traditional gender roles. Libbie Custer, perhaps the most famous of the army wives, observed that women in h e r hometown were "so fagged with domestic cares, kitchen drudgery, leading a monotonous life" that she concluded, "No Civil life for me except as a visitor" (p. 169). Generally, the book is well written and topically well organized. Eales's failure to examine the j o u r n a l s a n d memoirs of enlisted men's wives, however, makes her findings i n c o m p l e t e . Nevertheless, this work shows how a combination of military and frontier life forever affected these women's gender views. Indeed, women embarking on such a life would give the army camp song "The Girl I Left B e h i n d Me" a different connotation from that of the soldiers or the rest of society for that matter. They would never be like the girl left b e h i n d ; they would be transformed into the "New Woman" of the early twentieth century.

Mark R. Grandstaff Brigham Young University

Book Notices Wanted Dead or Alive: The American West in Popular Culture. Edited by RICHARD AQUILA. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996. xi + 313 p p . $29.95.) The typical 1950s baby boomer who shared Saturday m o r n i n g s with the respectable likes of Roy Rogers, Sky King, and the Lone Ranger and Tonto had a television line-up that would answer any n e e d to reinvent the self. T h e mythic West was, geographically, where most youngsters wanted to be and, ideologically, what they wanted to be. What the pixels did not say about the d e v e l o p m e n t and m e a n i n g of an evolving relationship with the American dream is explained in Wanted Dead or Alive: The American West in Popular Culture, a collection of tightly scripted and authoritative essays by specialists in their fields—popular fiction, wild west shows, films, television, music, painting, and advertising—who chart the birth and growth of the "pop culture West." However defined—place, process, hope, construct—the West is a product of its own time whose changing images reflect who a n d what we want to be. With each g e n e r a t i o n using "this shared myth for its own purpose, to define itself a n d the problems of the nation," it is little wonder that the public appetite for "pop culture West" is

insatiable. As long as nostalgia pushes the n e e d for historical accuracy into the back seat, mass m a r k e t e r s will a c c o m m o d a t e the n e e d to see ourselves in print, in song, and on screen. In Wanted Dead or Alive, Richard Aquila and his authors share an understanding of the past with those who continue to live it.

Stephen A. Douglas By ROBERT W. JOHANNSEN. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997. xiv + 993 p p . Paper, $24.95.) Douglas, as a U:.S. representative and senator from Illinois in the 1840s a n d 50s, knew the M o r m o n s d u r i n g their Nauvoo years. As a u t h o r of the c o n c e p t of p o p u l a r sovereignty and architect of the Compromise of 1850, he had much to do with the creation of Utah Territory. These matters will be of special interest to r e a d e r s of Utah Historical Quarterly, but the entire study is worthy of a serious r e a d i n g by anyone who seeks to understand mid-nineteenth-century U.S. history. Originally published by Oxford University Press in 1973, this excellent biography of the Little Giant is now available in a paperback edition from the University of Illinois Press.

U T A H STATE H I S T O R I C A L S O C I E T Y D e p a r t m e n t of Community and Economic Development Division of State History

B O A R D O F STATE H I S T O R Y L. Goss, Salt Lake City, 1999 Chair CAROL CORNWALL MADSEN, Salt Lake City, 2001 Vice-Chair MAX J. EVANS, Salt Lake City Secretary MARILYN CONOVER BARKER, Salt Lake City, 1999 MICHAEL W. HOMER, Salt Lake City, 2001 LORI HUNSAKER, Brigham City, 2001 KIM A. HYATT, Bountiful, 2001 J O E L C. JANETSKI, Provo, 2001 CHRISTIE SMITH NEEDHAM, Logan, 2001 RICHARD W. SADLER, O g d e n , 1999 PENNY SAMPINOS, Price, 1999 PAUL D. WILLIAMS, Salt Lake City, 1999 PETER


T h e Utah State Historical Society was organized in 1897 by public-spirited Utahns to collect, preserve, a n d publish Utah and related history. Today, u n d e r state sponsorship, the Society fulfills its obligations by publishing the Utah Historical Quarterly and other historical materials; collecting historic Utah artifacts; locating, documenting, a n d preserving historic and prehistoric buildings and sites; and maintaining a specialized research library. Donations and gifts to the Society's programs, museum, or its library are encouraged, for only through such means can it live u p to its responsibility of preserving the record of Utah's past. This publication has b e e n funded with the assistance of a matching grant-in-aid from the D e p a r t m e n t of ttie Interior, National Park Service, u n d e r provisions of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as a m e n d e d . This program receives financial assistance for identification a n d preservation of historic properties under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. T h e U.S. D e p a r t m e n t of the Interior prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, or handicap in its federally assisted programs. If you believe you have b e e n discriminated against in any program, activity, or facility as described above, or if you desire further information, please write to: Office of Equal Opportunity, U.S. D e p a r t m e n t of the Interior, Washington, D.C. 20240.