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UHQ Winter 2015 Web Supplements

UHQ Interviews: Utah Historiography

Robert Parson, “Neither Poet Nor Prophet: S. George Ellsworth and the History of Utah,” Utah Historical Quarterly 83 (Winter 2015): 6-19

Utah-HeritageAccompanying Robert Parson’s article on the historian S. George Ellsworth, we offer conversations with the noted historians and archivists Gary Topping and Robert Parson on the historiography of Utah, as well as selected accompanying documents, including letters from Ellsworth on the writing of Utah’s Heritage and a diary excerpt from Leonard Arrington on the founding of the Western Historical Quarterly.



Charcoal Kilns: A Photo Gallery

Douglas H. Page Jr., et al., “Charcoal and Its Role in Utah Mining History,” Utah Historical Quarterly 83 (Winter 2015): 20-37

The winter 2 Three Kilns Spring 015  UHQ introduces readers to the dozens of charcoal kilns, now abandoned, that dot the Utah landscape. These kilns are visible reminders of a once profitable and ubiquitous industry. They are also a remarkable visual display, revealing the kiln’s unique and varied designs and the often remarkable craftsmanship that went into their construction. We thank Doug Page, a retired forester, for providing the text and photos.


Gallery of Female Imagery in Advertisements

Kathryn L. MacKay, “The Chocolate Dippers’ Strike of 1910,” Utah Historical Quarterly 83 (Winter 2015): 38-51

chocolate boxes

With publication of MacKay’s article on chocolate dippers we present historical advertisements using women and their bodies to sell goods and projects. These images are housed at the collections of Utah State Historical Society.




Sounds of the Cathedral

Gary Topping, “Transformation of the Cathedral: An Interview with Gregory Glenn,” Utah Historical Quarterly 83 (Winter 2015): 59-69

Gary Topping, archivist of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, unearthed an LP of the Cathedral Madeline choir in 1960. We converted the songs to a digital format and make them available here.



Utah Preservation Plan to 2023

So why a Statewide Preservation Plan? As defined in the National Historic Preservation Act, each State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) “must carry out a historic preservation planning process that includes the development and implementation of a comprehensive statewide historic preservation plan providing guidance for effective decision making about historic property preservation throughout the State.”  Beyond the legal requirements, this Statewide Preservation Plan captures the current state of historic preservation efforts in Utah and uses that information to provide a road map looking forward to assist in planning and decision-making by all those who affect the resources.

As described in this plan, over the next eight years, UTSHPO will engage in four goals:

  1. Building Foundation of Knowledge – By increasing awareness and appreciation for Utah’s diverse heritage
  2. Practice Preservation Ethics – Understanding and use of accepted preservation standards and techniques
  3. Improve Collaboration – Strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones
  4. Increase Economic Infrastructure – Advance preservation as economic development

UTSHPO staff clearly articulated to all interested parties that this plan is to not only guide the efforts of this office, but to also build a road map for all Utahns towards a common set of goals.

Follow the links below to learn more through a 2-page executive summary, the full draft of the Strategic Plan, and an interactive survey to help us to incorporate your great ideas into Utah’s future! If you have questions, comments, edits, or ideas regarding this plan or the documents below please email Chris Merritt at or Kevin Fayles at



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Take the survey!!–Utah needs your ideas to address historic and archaeological goals for the next 8 years! Please Share!


Statewide Plan


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Please review the 2-page summary of the Utah Statewide Historic Preservation Strategic Plan




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Check out the full Utah Statewide Historic Preservation Draft Strategic Plan.









Utah Historical Quarterly Current Issue

Volume 83, Number 2 (Spring Issue):

Check out the Spring 2015 issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly to learn more about where Utah has been, and how we’ve come to where we are today. Join the Historical Society for your own copy .

Each issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly is accompanied with rich web supplements that introduce readers to sources, photos, interviews, and other engaging material. These “extras” are located at

WEB EXTRAS: See here 



“Zachary Taylor Is Dead and in Hell and I Am Glad of It!”: The Political Intrigues of Almon Babbitt
By Bruce W. Worthen

A Bear and a Bandit
By Steve Siporin

Desert Cold Warriors: Southeastern Utah’s Fight against Communism, 1951-1981
By A. Chase Chamberlain and Robert S. McPherson

The Green River Launch Complex: A Photo Essay


Thumbing through documents, looking at historic images and objects, or even glancing at vital statistics: these actions pique curiosity and prompt us to ask, What happened here? Who were these people? How does this information pertain to the current day? Shaping the scraps and facts of the past into narratives is the joyful, difficult work of archaeologists, folklorists, historians, and many others. How researchers arrive at their conclusions and what stories they decide to tell is a varied and often controversial endeavor. This issue of Utah Historical Quarterly presents four pieces that suggest the depth of experience that can be discovered by digging into the past.

Our anchor article introduces readers to political drama in mid-nineteenth-century Utah. The general outlines are well known: three years after Brigham Young led his people to the eastern edge of the Great Basin, Congress rejected appeals for a State of Deseret, instead creating Utah Territory. What is less known is the political maneuvering and self-interest of the Mormons’ lobbyist in Washington, Almon Babbitt. He had some friends in Congress, including Senator Stephen A. Douglas, but none of the sophistication or perceived noble spirit of John Milton Bernhisel—his rival, who Young ultimately selected over Babbitt as Utah Territory’s delegate to Congress. Babbitt’s partisanship and inside maneuverings hindered Mormon efforts for statehood and contributed to a growing rift between the federal government and the Mormons that would culminate in the Utah War of 1857 and, later, the showdown over plural marriage. This article uses letters, speeches, newspapers, and other sources to recreate the shadowy deals and positioning that ultimately put Utah on the political map.

The second article in this issue examines the many parallels between two incidents that, on the surface, have little resemblance to each other: the killing of Old Ephraim, the famed grizzly bear of Cache Valley, and the killing of Domenico Tiburzi, an Italian bandit. In the hands of a skilled folklorist, the stories of the bear and the bandit reflect unsettling yet celebrated cultural and ecological transformations in northern Utah and central Italy. Old Ephraim and Tiburzi died—and the stories they inspired, born—coinciding with the perceived end of wilderness in both locales. In popular folklore, both became celebrated figures representing “relief and regret” over irreversible changes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This essay blends history and folklore to contextualize and compare powerful stories, illustrating that a common experience and a common humanity can exist between even the most disparate of places.

From Cache Valley and Maremma, Italy, we move to an entirely different subject—how the Cold War played out in San Juan County—with an article that demonstrates how historical research can yield unexpected information. With its sparse population and desert landscape, San Juan County is, perhaps, not the first place one would associate with the U.S. government’s efforts to counter the Soviet Union. However, because of uranium mines and missile tests, the county’s residents had a disproportionately large role in the nation’s Cold War preparations. In addition to the outsized drama of the Cold War, this story has a hometown flavor: missiles fired during high school football games and flirtatious soldiers at the local café.

The spring issue concludes with a photographic essay that substantiates the cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words. Of course, a historian might say that pictures need analysis and information—words—to be more fully understood. In this case, we present a set of striking photographs of the now-decommissioned Green River Launch Complex, a site closely associated with the missile tests of our third article. In its current state, the remains of the launch complex might simply appear to be old stuff in the desert. Within the historical setting, however, the role of that stuff in Utah’s rich and complicated past becomes more clear.


Robert S. McPherson, Viewing the Ancestors: Perceptions of the Anaasází, Mokwi ˇc, and Hisatsinom. Reviewed by Farina King

Thayer Tolles and Thomas Brent Smith, The American West in Bronze, 1850-1925Reviewed by James R. Swensen

Ronald K. Wetherington and Frances Levine, eds., Battles and Massacres on the Southwestern Frontier. Reviewed by Brent M. Rogers

Howard M. Bahr, Saints Observed: Studies of Mormon Village Life, 1850-2005.

Howard M. Bahr, Four Classic Mormon Village Studies. Reviewed by Richard Francaviglia

Eric A. Eliason and Tom Mould, eds., Latter-day Lore: Mormon Folklore Studies. Reviewed by Deirdre M. Paulsen

Nathan N. Waite and Reid L. Neilson, eds., A Zion Canyon Reader. Reviewed by Betsy Gaines Quammen


Sue Jensen Weeks, How Desolate Our Home Bereft of Thee: James Tillman Sanford Allred and the Circleville Massacre

Philip R. VanderMeer, Burton Barr: Political Leadership and the Transformation of Arizona

Royce Allen and Gary Willden, Images of America: South Davis County

Robert M. Utley, ed., An Army Doctor on the Western Frontier: Journals and Letters of John Vance Lauderdale, 1864-1890

Lily Yuriko Nakai Havey, Gasa Gasa Girl Goes to Camp: A Nisei Youth behind a World War II Fence

David J. Howlett, Kirtland Temple: The Biography of a Shared Mormon Sacred Space

Daughters of Utah Pioneers, comp., Museum Memories, Vol. 6

UHQ Spring 2015 Web Supplements

1-WebSupAlmon Babbitt and Early Utah Politics: A Portfolio of Documents

Bruce Worthen, “‘Zachary Taylor Is Dead and in Hell and I Am Glad of It!': The Political Intrigues of Almon Babbitt,” Utah Historical Quarterly 83 (Spring 2015): 84-97.

Here we offer faithful reproductions of some of the primary documents Worthen used to construct his analysis of behind-the-scenes political wrangling of Almon Babbitt, the Mormon’s ambitious State of Deseret designee in Washington, D.C. leading to the creation of Utah Territory in 1850. These letters, minutes of meetings, and official documents that recreate the shadowy deals and positioning that ultimately put Utah on the political map. We also provide short biographies of important political individuals and political cartoons from the era.

 Folklore and History: An Interview with Steve Siporin2-6

Steve Siporin, “A Bear and a Bandit,” Utah Historical Quarterly 83 (Spring 2015): 98-114.

We spoke with Siporin, a professor of folklore at Utah State University, about the stories of Old Ephraim and Dominenci Tiburzi and the marriage between folklore and history. Siporin reminds us that humans are natural-born storytellers, and that “we are always, subconsciously perhaps, aiming towards a more meaningful and artistic story because it’s about communication about past experience. It’s not always about literal truth.” Click here for the audio and transcript of our conversation.

3-4Southeastern Utah Missile Launches

Robert McPherson, “Desert Cold Warriors: Southeastern Utah’s Fight against Communism, 1951–1981,” Utah Historical Quarterly 83 (Spring 2015): 116-31.

See the following links for resources on southeastern Utah missile launches during the Cold War: Robert McPherson’s interview with Rudy Alonzo, who was in the tracking station south of Blanding following the missiles fired from Green River; “The Athena That Got Away,” regarding the missile that landed in Mexico; and Jim Stiles’s “The Last Flight of Felon 22″ for information the crash of Felon 22 in 1961; and the White Sands Missile Range newspapers Wind and Sand (1950 to 1969) and Missile Ranger (1969 to 1990), online searchable archives, at

 Extended Photo Gallery of the Green River Launch Complex4-11_metal-slides

“The Green River Launch Complex: A Photo Essay,” Utah Historical Quarterly 83 (Winter 2015): 132-41.

We publish here additional historic and contemporary photos of the Green River Launch Complex. The contemporary photos are complements of Chris Merritt, Chris Hansen, and Cory Jensen.


Almon Babbitt and Early Utah Politics: A Portfolio of Documents

Transcribed and annotated by Bruce Worthen

deseretThis web supplement is divided into three parts. The first section contains transcripts of letters, minutes of meetings, and official documents from 1849 to 1852 regarding political matters in early Utah. In the second section are pictures and short biographies of some of the Dramatis Personæ in the political drama surrounding Brigham Young’s provocative statements about President Zachary Taylor. Finally, political cartoons from 1848 illustrate the background in which Almon Babbitt and John Bernhisel operated.



Statement of Robert Campbell, October 19, 1849

This statement shows how far Almon Babbitt was willing to go to make himself indispensable to the Mormons. Robert Campbell, who was a secretary working in Brigham Young’s office, travelled with Babbitt to Washington and heard him state that no legislation for the Mormons could pass the Congress without his consent and signature.

19 Oct. 1849

Statement of Robert Campbell

I Robert Campbell do most solemnly swear and affirm in the Presence of God and Angels that I heard A. W. Babbitt say that no memorial pertaining to this interest of this people, Alias Mormons could pass the Congress of the U. S. without his consent, for this reason that Stephan A. Douglas[,] Augustus C. Dodge and others had sworn or pledged their Sacred Honor to him that they would use all of their influence against any measure that should come before them in Congress pertaining to the people called “Latter day Saints[”] unless it should come up with his consent [and] advise them of the same in writing bearing his signature or approval. And further that President Young knew that he could not get along without him in relation to Governmental affairs hence his appointment to return to Washington City as our Representative.

Source: “Statement by Robert Campbell,” October 19, 1849, box 74, fd. 1, Brigham Young Office Files, CR 1234/1, LDS Church History Department, Salt Lake City, Utah.


John Bernhisel to Thomas Kane, January 17, 1850

In this letter, Bernhisel told Kane about Babbitt’s visit to President Zachary Taylor. According to Bernhisel, Babbitt was only interested in “drawing party lines” and “making political capital.” Taylor had avoided explosives issues like slavery during the campaign by saying he would leave domestic issues to Congress. His desire to suspend consideration of a government for the Great Basin in light of William Smith’s letter, which was deeply critical of Brigham Young and the Utah-based Mormons, would hand the Democrats a weapon to contradict Taylor’s “hands off” policy toward domestic issues. Apparently Babbitt is only concerned with doing a favor for the Democratic Party and not with how Taylor may wish to hurt the Mormons.

January 17, 1850

Dear Sir:

Business is progressing very slowly in Congress, and the probability is that our application will not be disposed of until July or August though there is scarcely a ray of hope of our being admitted as a State, the prospect of obtaining a territorial government is far from being discouraging; and an influential Senator ([Truman] Smith) has given me encouragement to hope that we may be authorized to elect our own officers.

When I had the pleasure of seeing you in Philadelphia you expressed a want of confidence in the wisdom, prudence and discretion of Babbitt to manage the business at hand. I will relate an instance. A report has been in circulation to a limited extent that the President had, among other things, remarked that he would veto any bill which may be passed for the benefit of the Mormons; and I have reason to believe that it is not without some foundation in truth. On Friday Babbitt called at my room, and stated that Mr. Fritz Warren was to present him to the President at 12 o’clock, that he designed to inquire of him whether he had used the language attributed to him, and that if he had, we might as well abandon our application for a government.  I enjoined him not to say a word to the President on the subject. On Saturday evening I happened to meet him again, when he informed me that he and Warren had spoken to the President in relation to the report. After a little reflection I was so deeply impressed with the impropriety of his course that I called at his room after he had retired, and entreated him to be silent on this subject, and again in the Capitol on Monday morning, and remarked that if he were not, he would entirely blast our prospects here, assuring him at the same time, that there would be no difficulty in that quarter.  That there will be no difficulty in that quarter I believe on what I regard as excellent authority. Babbitt spoke of drawing party lines, making political capital &c. He however promised to drop this matter, and has desired Warren to do so too. The latest intelligence from Deseret is quite cheering; the crops are abundant, coal and iron have been discovered, health of the people good &c. Senator Smith informed me the other evening, that he had just received a letter from his friend Gen. [John] Wilson who had spent some time in the valley, enroute for California, that he spoke in the most flattering terms of our people, that he had really used strong language.  He also observed that he had written to the President, enclosing Gen. Wilson’s letter, and when he returned it, he would publish it, with some remarks of his own.  I shall send you a copy.  Please to consider what I have said in relation to Babbitt, Warren and the President as confidential.

Col Thomas L. Kane                                       Truly & Respectfully Yours,

John M. Bernhisel

Source: John Bernhisel to Thomas Kane, January 17, 1850, box 16, fd. 4, series 3, Thomas L. Kane and Elizabeth W. Kane Collection, VMSS 792, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.


Almon Babbitt to Wilford Woodruff, January 16, 1850

The day after his confrontation with Bernhisel over meeting with the president, Babbitt wrote an angry letter to Wilford Woodruff, trying to reestablish himself as an indispensable representative to Congress for the Mormons. He claimed to have information that Taylor and his administration “are anything but friendly to our interests,” and to have powerful friends in Washington who can help, but provided no further details.

Washington Jan 16th, 1850

Dear Sir:

I occasionally see Dr. Bernhisel who informs me that he is in correspondence with you and he is desired to make your respects to me for so much of your good opinion. I am very thankful, but I must & will be plain with you & all my friends, I do think there has been a wanton neglect of communicating with me and to me from time to time.  It was expected that Mr. [Orson] Hyde would accompany me to Washington & that he through his influence would Raise money for O[liver]. Cowdery to accompany me also who I am sure I could have used to advantage here. Such was his instruction from the valley. But I must say instead of these [duties?] I have not so much as Received a letter from him or anyone having influence in the church. There may be a cause for all this which I will not be [illegible]. I have received letters from various individuals informing me of various Items of news from the valley yet have Received nothing from the leading men. All may be Right. But I cannot help my doubts, they are forced upon me. My situation here is anything but a disirable one. To meet such charges as strong William Smith & others are bringing to bear in the Sennate & House of Reps, & Elsewhere is any thing But pleasant. If during the contest that I have here with men in high places I could from time to time Receive the Condolence of friends, it would cause some of the burdens to Rest more easy. But what time does not unfold to me Eternity will so I will trust in him in whose cause I am Engaged.

Congress is yet unorganized. It therefore [is] almost unsafe to give an opinion what they will do in Relation to our Interest, yet I hazard nothing in saying that the Executive & his Cabinet are any thing but friendly to our Interests. I know this from a personal interview with the President & speak advisedly; I have very strong friends here who will stand by me untill our Interests are obtained.

I will not Enter into a detail as to what is transpiring for you no doubt get the changes in the papers & what is wanting the Dr. no doubt suplys [supplies]. But be assured wither I have the aid & comfort of my friends or not, nothing shall be wanting on my part to promote the general welfare of our common cause,

and be assured of my Esteem

and friendship

A. W. Babbitt




Source: Almon Babbitt to Wilford Woodruff, January 16, 1850, box 6, fd. 18, Wilford Woodruff Papers, MS 1352, CHL.


Almon Babbitt to Wilford Woodruff, January 26, 1850

Babbitt penned a more diplomatic letter ten days later suggesting that his outburst was a misunderstanding. Still worried about being replaced, he made several attempts to discredit Bernhisel. He also continued to disparage Zachary Taylor’s delay in creating a government for the Great Basin.

Washington Jan 26th 1850

Dear Sir

Yours of the 21[st] Inst. was duly Received & in Reply I think that some apology is due from me to you for the spirit of my last communication. The circumstances under which I wrote were these.  I am considered here an out side Mormon by the Members of Congress and cannot therefore say much as to the faith of the Mormon Church.  I only represent their political organization. When the attacks were made on our operations here by William Smith and others I felt then the want of the operations which was assigned to friend Hyde & yourself. About the time that I wrote you Old Zach [Taylor] delivered his special message to Congress in which he Recommended the depriving of any government to our people. I was out of Patience and felt like charging someone with neglect, you being the nearest of course was the first in my mind. Again Dr. Bernhisel frequently told me that he was Receiving letters from you & the day you wrote me he told me that he had just Received a Letter from Orson Hyde but at no time told me one word in his letters. I came to the conclusion that the Dr. was the confidential agent here & that I was only used for purposes to suit the occasion; there is no misunderstanding between the Dr. & myself yet he is a man so differently constituted from myself, keeps himself so secluded & is so secretive that he would create suspission [suspicion] in the mind of an angel. However the very day that I Received your letter friend [Joseph L.] Heywood arrived here & brought me a large number of communication[s] also from the north the south the east & the west the mail brought me communications untill I cried Enough. Friend Heywood will Remain with me untill Mr. [Edwin D.] Woolley arrives. He will then come on to Boston. Wooley is in Ohio at his Brothers.

Things in Congress also Look some what more favorable than they did when I last wrote you. The special message is not favorable. Bernhisel and I think his plans will be defeated. The [w]hole South, the Free Soil Whigs & the Democrats are opposed to his plans. Friend Heywood will be able to give you my plans & feelings in full when you see him.

You will please excuse my last hasty Letter to you & be assured of my high Esteem & friendship.

My Respect to your good Lady

and as ever I Remain your

obedient servant

A. W. Babbitt


Wilford Woodruff Esq.



Source: Almon Babbitt to Wilford Woodruff, January 26, 1850, box 6, fd. 18, Woodruff Papers.


John Bernhisel to Brigham Young, March 21, 1850

According to this extract from a fifty-page letter, Senator Truman Smith reportedly assured Bernhisel that Zachary Taylor would not interfere with the creation of a government for the Mormons but that the matter “is entirely in the breast of Congress.” Babbitt learned about this letter and its content and felt it threatened his position as the indispensable representative of the Mormons.


Washington City March 21, 1850

President Brigham Young,

Dear Brother

[Bernhisel provides a detailed report of his activities since leaving Salt Lake City. In the middle of this lengthy letter he gives an account of meeting with Zachary Taylor.]

On the 21st of December I was presented to the President by the Hon. Truman Smith of the United States Senate having previously sent in my letter of introduction from Ex-Governor Young of New York. The president is rough enough, though he does not appear to be very ready; he is an exceedingly plain man in the fullest sense of the term, in person and in intellect; but he enjoys what in my estimation is far better the reputation of being a man of strict honesty and sterling integrity. He is a mere military man, and appears to be entirely out of his element; he made a few inquiries relative to the Valley. Having stated to him the object of my visit to Washington, he said “that is entirely in the breast of Congress.” Since my first interview with him, he has been somewhat prejudice against us by the slanderous reports in circulation, but that there will be no difficulty in that quarter, I believe upon what I regard so excellent authority.

[Bernhisel continues with over thirty more pages of detail on his activities in Washington and then closes:]

With Sentiments of Great respect,

I am yours fraternally,

John M. Bernhisel

Source: John Bernhisel to Brigham Young, March 21, 1850, box 60, fd. 9, Brigham Young Office Files.


Almon Babbitt to Brigham Young, July 7, 1850

Almon Babbitt, clearly worried about Dr. Bernhisel’s rising influence, tried to demonstrate to Young that he had political influence and inside knowledge that Bernhisel lacked. Babbitt made the incendiary charge that Taylor had confided to him that he considered the Mormons to be a “pack of outlaws” and deserved the violent persecution they received in Illinois and Missouri. Nothing could have angered Brigham Young more. The fact that Zachary Taylor died two days after the date of this letter was a sign to Young of divine retribution.

House of Rep Washington D. C. July 7th, 1850

Dear Sir:

My last letter was sent by the hands of my old friend Snyder which you have no doubt received before this time by him. I send a file of the Congressional Globe and also this report which will give you an insight to matters & things in the center & soul of our republic. My friend Dr. Bernhisel I understand, sent you a letter of some 50 pages although he said nothing to me about it or any other matter. Yet I deduce from the fact of [the] length, that the communication sent by him privately must have been in detail. I will not at this time undertake any discussion for fear that we have not seen & perceived things alike. I will write this letter & send on a file of the Globe which will give you the official information up to this time.

From a close reading of these you will find that we are in glorious conversations & it is in my mind exceeding doubtful whether the 32 congress even meets; you will learn from the President’s messages that he is not our friend this I know for myself beyond a doubt he did say before 20 members of congress that he should veto any bill passed, state or territorial, for the Mormons. That they were a pack of outlaws & had been driven out of 2 states & were not fit for self-government. I went to him in person with Col Warren & charged those sayings upon him & he owned that he had so said & tried to reason with me on the absurdity of the Mormons trying for a government. . . .

Source: Almon Babbitt to Brigham Young, July 7, 1850, box 21, fd. 18, Brigham Young Office Files.


Thomas L. Kane to Brigham Young, September 24, 1850

Thomas Kane sent this confidential letter to Brigham Young about Babbitt’s conduct in Washington. Young followed Kane’s advice and chose Bernhisel instead of Babbitt as the delegate of the territory of Utah to Congress. Nonetheless, Young gave credence to Babbitt’s statements that Taylor opposed the Mormons and called them a “pack of outlaws” because the president had died unexpectedly.


Philadelphia, September 24, 1850.

My friends,

[After discussing some other matters of business, Kane says:]

I have just returned from Washington, when I was called immediately after my return from Newport, to use my influence with Mr. Fillmore in favor of the nominations for Utah. Dr. Bernhisel promised me to give you the details of this as well as your other affairs of the same kind, and I have only therefore to give weight to his statements by expressing my regret that your interests should have suffered by the improper conduct of Mr. A. W. Babbitt. It was incumbent upon me before this occurrence, to advise you against again returning Mr. Babbitt as your Delegate. Until Deseret is admitted into the Union, I would not be thought exacting as to the qualifications of her representative, but he should at least be of correct deportment, discreet, and of good report, that those who point to him and say “there goes a Mormon,” may find marked approval of his religion. The Delegate, as sort of an Ambassador, is commonly taken as the specimen man of his constituency; if he cannot do good, if he is either ashamed of his religion or a shame to it, he can do much harm. In politics too, if he cannot pursue a wise neutrality, (which at least during the present strange confusion of party lines I strongly counsel) he should in all events be a man whose instincts will teach him to be trusty supporter of his single party and nice in his choice of the associates that belong to it. Otherwise, he will have personal influence with neither party, and gain not strength but only dependency from the relations he cultivates. A particular reason for the detention of Mr. Babbitt you will find in the fact that his conduct has lost for him the confidence of both parties. The Democrats joined with the Whigs in the personal disrespect which was shown him in the House.

Source: Thomas L. Kane to Brigham Young, September 24, 1850, box 11, fd. 4, series 9, Leonard Arrington Collection, LJAHA COL 1, Special Collections and Archives, Merrill-Cazier Library, Utah State University.


Almon Babbitt to Brigham Young, December 16, 1852

Babbitt returned to Washington where he attempted to get a political appointment for himself. He made a clumsy attempt again to discredit Bernhisel and suggest himself as a replacement. His statement that it is better to have a Delegate “who is drunk half the time” but does something worthwhile when he is sober is particularly telling. Babbitt did not get Bernhisel’s job, but he later received an appointment to be Secretary of Utah Territory where he made life miserable for Brigham Young.

Philadelphia December 16, 1852

Dear Sir:

[After some preliminary news about the incoming administration of Franklin Pierce, Babbitt says:]

My position has been such during the presidential campaign that I may hold some small influence within the incoming administration. I would therefore desire to know if there is anything touching the Territory of Utah that I can serve you or the people in.

I had an interview with Douglas a few days since he expressed a wish to aide in any measure that would promote the interests of the citizens of the Territory of Utah. He also expresses astonishment that the present Delegate has laid no matter of interest before Congress touching Utah & said that although he was chairman of the committee on territories that the Delegate never called upon him to assist in any matter on things touching Utah. I will be at Washington during most of the winter & may be in your country during next season. The latter depends on circumstances.

I would however suggest that the selection of your next delegate to Congress be one that has nerve enough to present the positions & wishes of his constituency and rise in his place and defend the rights of the people who sent him. Even if he was drunk half the time let him do something when he is sober.

[Babbitt goes on for several more paragraphs in a similar fashion before closing.]

Source: Almon Babbitt to Brigham Young, December 16, 1852, box 22, fd. 12, Brigham Young Office Files.



Truman Smith


Truman Smith was effectively the national chair of the Whig Party in 1848. He had been involved in recruiting candidates for state and national offices and managed to get Zachary Taylor the nomination for president over the former Kentucky senator Henry Clay. Smith encouraged General Zachary Taylor to avoid most of the difficult questions of the day by insisting that Congress would handle domestic affairs during his presidency. The strategy worked, and Taylor won the election. He offered Smith any cabinet post he wanted, but he decided to become a senator instead. Smith had strong feelings about the Mormons and felt they had been unjustly treated. He thought highly of Bernhisel and praised him on the Senate floor. He also helped Bernhisel discredit William Smith. Most importantly, he assured Bernhisel that President Taylor would not stand in the way of plans for a government for the Great Basin—Almon Babbitt’s statements notwithstanding.


Stephan A. Douglas


Stephen A. Douglas was a Democrat and a powerful U.S. Senator from Illinois. His political career included being a judge in southern Illinois when the Mormons were headquartered in Nauvoo. He did many favors for Joseph Smith to earn the Mormon vote. In the process he came to know Almon Babbitt who represented Nauvoo in the Illinois legislature. He was instrumental in getting Babbitt appointed to the post of Secretary of Utah Territory. In June 1857, building to the lead up of the so-called Utah War, Douglas denounced the Mormons as traitors to the country and recommended the repeal of the territorial government of Utah.


Dr. John Milton Bernhisel


Bernhisel became a Mormon in New York City when he was about forty years old. He moved to Nauvoo in 1843, lived in the home of Joseph Smith, and became like a member of the family. Bernhisel was a personal advisor to Smith on political matters. He followed Brigham Young to the Great Basin in 1848. When Almon Babbitt proved to be an unreliable political representative, Young turned to Bernhisel, who served five terms as the congressional delegate for the Utah Territory. He was highly respected in the nation’s capitol and effective in bridging the differences between the Mormons and the federal government.


William Smith


William Smith was the youngest brother of Joseph Smith, Jr. He had frequent conflicts with Brigham Young after his brother’s death. After begin excommunicated by Young, Smith moved to Covington, Kentucky, where he started his own church. He sent a letter to Congress in December of 1849 accusing Young of treason. This alarmed Zachary Taylor and members of Congress. The combination of Bernhisel’s credibility and Smith’s erratic behavior helped to discredit Smith’s accusations. Smith’s influence came to an end when Isaac Sheen, one of his chief lieutenants, declared that Smith was not telling the truth about the Salt Lake Mormons and even suggested that he might be insane.


Perry Brocchus


Perry Brocchus was a lawyer and newspaper editor with influence in the Democratic Party. He earned a patronage position as an associate justice for the territory of Utah because of his party loyalty. He and the other officials were shocked at the hostility that the Mormons displayed toward them. They were not aware of the anger of Brigham Young and his followers felt against the federal government for refusing to intervene in the persecution the Mormons endured in Illinois and Missouri. Brocchus and three other officials left Utah and wrote a report about their experiences, including Brigham Young’s statements about Zachary Taylor. Brocchus resigned his position, but President Pierce appointed him to a similar position in New Mexico Territory where he served as a federal judge for fourteen years.


Political Cartoons

The John Donkey


The John Donkey was a satirical magazine that skewered self-important politicians who dressed the part of gentlemen but were, as the picture on the left would suggest, really jackasses. John Donkey was the mascot and chief correspondent of the publication who supposedly covered the Mexican-American War for the paper and later ran for president. John Donkey was particularly incisive about Zachary Taylor and his ability to run for the presidency on a campaign of standing for everything ability on a campaign of standing for everything and nothing at the same time.


The Ass between Two Bundles of Hay


This cartoon of March 18, 1848, shows the choice facing the Whig Party. Henry Clay was well known but had run for president before. Zachary Taylor was new to politics and his appeal was that he was a celebrated military hero whose positions on the issues of the day, including slavery, were unknown. This cartoon appeared before Taylor actually won the nomination.


The Modern Pandora


This cartoon entitled “The Modern Pandora” reflects the dilemma Zachary Taylor faced upon becoming the nominee of the Whig Party. He deftly avoided the most controversial issues including slavery with ambiguous statements and his declaration that domestic issues belonged to Congress. Once he became president, that position became more difficult to sustain.


The Whig Platform


This cartoon lampoons the Whigs who managed to avoid all the major issues of the day by being all things to all people. The Democrats were frustrated by their inability to pin any potentially unpopular position on Zachary Taylor who insisted that Congress and not the president decided the great domestic issues of the day such as slavery. Almon Babbitt mostly likely saw Taylor’s private request to Congressional leaders to suspend legislation for the Mormons as a way to show that the president was, in fact, engaged in domestic issues and to force him to talk about slavery and the Wilmot Proviso.


Folklore and History: A Conversation with Steve Siporin

Steve Siporin is Professor of Folklore at Utah State University. He is author of “A Bear and a Bandit,” an essay in the winter 2015 Utah Historical Quarterly comparing the story of the grizzly bear Old Ephraim in Cache Valley, Utah, with the tale of the famous Italian bandit Tiburzi in Maremma, Italy. In the following interview, UHQ editors sat down with Siporin to discuss his research on Old Ephraim and Tiburzi, the nature of folklore studies, and the marriage between folklore and history.

For rich digital resources on Cache Valley’s famous grizzly bear, see USU’s Old Ephraim Digital Collection:



UHQ: Good morning and welcome to the Utah History Podcast. Today we are speaking with Steve Siporin, a distinguished professor of folklore at Utah State University and the author of an article in the Utah Historical Quarterly about a bear and a bandit.

I’m Holly George. And I’m Jedediah Rogers. All right, we’ll ask our first question. Steve, could you briefly recount the stories of Domenico Tiburzi and Old Ephraim and describe some of the lore that’s grown up around these stories?

STEVE SIPORIN: Sure. Do you want the five-minute version or the two-minute version or the one-hour version, because, as you know, Old Ephraim has people performed in it and it can go on literally for an hour.

UHQ: I guess the two-minute version.

SS: Well of course, fortunately, the two stories have parallel structure, and it’s really quite simple. For Old Ephraim, the story is really the story of hunting him down and killing him, and of course there’s countless variations, but basically, Frank Clark, if the hunter is named, is herding sheep and he has been trying to trap Ephraim for many years, and this time Ephraim stumbles and gets caught in the trap. But that doesn’t really stop him. There’s an all night long kind of chase hunting, seeking him, and then at some time or after dawn Frank Clark kills him with his last bullet, which is often times the seventh. Old Ephraim is distracted momentarily by the barking of Frank Clark’s dog Jenny, turns his head, and Frank Clark gets the shot in a vulnerable spot, a kind of the Achilles heel, I suppose, only it’s his neck, and kills him.

And then he’s burned and the remains are buried—burned for three days, I think, in all the other versions—and boy scouts (this is about 1921, ’23, something like that) a few months later hike up Logan Canyon to retrieve the skull because the Smithsonian doesn’t believe there were any grizzlies left. So they retrieved the skull to ship it back, and sure enough, he’s not only, at least in the story, a grizzly but the biggest grizzly ever. And that’s that story.

Now, Domenico Tiburzi—not so well known here but well known in Italy; everyone would recognize his name there, I think, as the last great bandit versus in comparison the last great grizzly, also the story, the big immediate parallel is that it’s the story not of his life but of his death. And both of these have that same emphasis.

And in Domenico Tiburzi’s case, about 30 years earlier in the late 1890s, he’s an aging bandit who roams this area called the Maremma, which at that time was a really rugged, tough part of Italy—untamed, dangerous to live in because of the Malaria and full of swamps. Again, the story is of him, in a sense in this case more betrayed by the barking of a dog, but he’s staying with some peasant family on their farm that night but the circumstances of that are kind of contested whether he was welcomed there or he imposed himself there. He’s there with his lieutenant, Fioravanti. The dog barks and carabinieri, the patrol of carbinari, the Italian national police, were looking for him, hear the dog barking and come to the house. There’s a shootout. Tiburzi is killed and then the next day—the only photograph we have, which appears in the article, of course, is Tiburzi propped up against a pillar with his gun. He’s dead, propped up with bandoleers of bullets across his chest, the gun in hand, and if you look closely, you can see that he is dead.

And that’s his end, although we might get into it, how he actually died is open for discussion. He is supposedly, according to the story, buried in the cemetery, but there was an argument as to whether he should be buried in the cemetery because he was such an evil man. The priests didn’t want him buried in the cemetery. The townspeople did. So the story is they compromised partly in the cemetery, and partly out. The cemetery grew, and the location of the burial was lost in memory. But what is there today, which I just saw a month or two ago, is the pillar that he was propped up against for that photograph in 1896, and that marks his supposed burial spot in the cemetery and it’s got an inscription on it. And so, again, just as with Ephraim, his end is kind of mysterious as the burial spot is uncertain.

UHQ: What’s some of the lore around both of these characters?

SS: Well, I think really the stories themselves are the major expressions of lore. And in the case of Tiburzi, the stories really vary from him being a hero to being a villain. I mean, in some of the stories he’s a Robin Hood-type figure. But as I talked to people in Italy about him, they’ll often say he really wasn’t a very good guy. He was a very evil character. And some of the writing about him says that he was actually in league with the oppressive landowners in the area and exploited the people who tried to work there.

And I think the same goes for Old Ephraim. There are these funny . . . images of bears everywhere of Old Ephraim. But the outstanding folklore about them is the stories themselves. And they trump everything else and other things act to trigger the stories.

UHQ: That’s interesting. These two characters seem so disparate and such a world apart. How did you realize they had a lot in common?

SS: You know, it’s a really timely question because I was just going through my journals for quite a few years, because I’m doing some other research in Italy, and I was just reading through to try find all the things relevant to that other topic—this was just a few days ago—and popped out of me where I first wrote down this idea.

UHQ: Oh.

SS: And there it is—I mean it’s trivial in a way but it’s interesting in another because it kind of tells me how I got ideas. It just popped out fully formed. In one paragraph I have the whole idea of this comparison. And the circumstance was simply that—I think this is the important part—I had just arrived in Italy to do this other research and I had a couple of days in Rome that I was just kind of hanging out and—in other words, I think this is important for all researchers—I was freed up of my everyday routine and my everyday work and my mind was associating freely. And I had heard about Tiburzi a couple of years before that and, of course, I knew about Ephraim forever.

But it just kind of popped out. I wasn’t doing research on it. I wasn’t thinking about it that I knew of, maybe subliminally I was. And then I look at the entry and it’s just these two have a lot in common, you know, and wouldn’t this be an interesting kind of article. Although I also think at the time I didn’t know if anyone would take it seriously because it’s kind of an odd comparison.

UHQ: That’s a good lesson for researching.

SS: I think so. I think you need to break out of your routines and you need to ideally go somewhere else. And then you just kind of see things differently. I’ve always been interested in bears, that’s true, and obviously Italy and living in Utah. I think the picture of Tiburzi if you have it in mind or people see it in the article, he really does suggest a bear. He does look like a bear.

UHQ: He’s a big fellow.

SS: An interesting thing I learned recently when I was in Italy talking to people who know about Tiburzi is that he is often seen there was a cinghiale. Cinghiale is a wild boar, and the wild boar is common to this really rugged area. It’s what people like to hunt, people like to eat, and people like to avoid running into face to face. But he is that kind of scary, bristly, burly character—and they don’t have bears there so that would be the animal of choice to compare him to. But they do think of him or do think of him as animal like and wild.

UHQ: So, then, it’s amazing in your article, you outline 10 plot elements that are very parallel between the stories. Did you realize those as you began researching?

SS: Yeah. I think that the idea was, there’s a lot in common here. There’s a comparison and, I think, I mainly had in mind the physical nature of a bear and a man—a bearlike man and a manlike bear. That was the core idea, but when I sat down then it was more methodical.

UHQ: Yeah. 

SS: And [I] really compared, looked at the story. The first realization was, hey, these guys have long careers as marauders, as bandits, as outlaws. But the story only really deals with this last little bit of it, that in and of itself is really interesting folkloristically and humanistically. Right? All the rest of the story doesn’t really count. I mean, I won’t claim it’s quite at the level of the Iliad, but the Iliad is a story about a 10-year war but the action is in the last month of it or so. Right? I mean the other part is kind of just skipped over and it’s there. But that’s the important part. So from that core of similarity, then when I looked at it more methodically, well there was a lot of real, even to the detail of that dog.

UHQ: I like that tale a lot—the dog barking.

SS: That’s very interesting.

UHQ: Is it happenstance that there’s so much parallel between the two stories, or does the parallel reflect the nature of folklore itself? Do we see that these types of elements of the story in other folklore stories as well?

SS: Yes. I think so. Very specifically that’s what I was trying to describe earlier about the burial. There is a kind of famous although pretty old article called the “Hero of Tradition” by a British anthropologist/folklorist scholar in which he identifies I think something like 22 or 24, something like that, elements—maybe it’s even more than that—that are plot elements in narrative about classical heroes, classical and biblical and actually even Far Eastern mythic heroes that they all have some of these elements and some of them have more than others. None of them have all of them, I don’t think.

But they’re motifs—folklorists would say a motif—that appears in the life of a hero. So we have something like at least one of those in Tiburzi and Ephraim’s lives. There’s something about narratives that we learn that give us narrative expectations. So maybe you hear something, and over time you retell it. You may hear other people telling it. Maybe something happens when you’re not telling it in your mind and you borrow those other elements that should be in that story—

UHQ: Hmm.

SS: —because it’s about a hero. So it’s got to have the heroic elements. And without even being conscious of it, they become part of the narrative. And then as you retell it, you feel like you don’t think about it. They were always there. They were always part of this story.

I think that’s the deeper level at which folklore works. We grow up with the fairy tales, with different legends, with stories about heroes, and then we have life experiences and then people around us do and we reshape what happened historically anecdotally to conform to a pattern that somehow says this is the way it should be or says something true.

UHQ: Well, in a few minutes I actually want to go back to generally what folklore tells us. Just to go back briefly to the story of Old Ephraim, here in your article you outlined not only two quite disparate people and animals, be it a person and animal, but also places. Can you talk to us a little bit about what insights you’ve gained and about the parallels between Maremma and Cache Valley?

SS: Sure. Who would have ever thought that these two places had anything in common, right? And, in some ways, when I look at myself doing this I’m thinking, “well, you know, you love Italy and you love Cache Valley and you’ve lived in both places and you want to somehow bring them together.” So is this just my own psychological adventure? Maybe so, but there’s really something to it.

The similarities that I see and I talk about a little bit is that at the time of these stories, they were at the end and maybe they had just passed the end of their frontier era. So they were both frontiers pretty recently, and they passed out of that fairly recently. And although one is high altitude, five thousand feet, dry, alpine, and the other is at sea level, swampy, damp, humid, warm. It doesn’t snow there. What was in common was that they were both rugged places that if we go back 100, 150 years ago, not a lot of people were living in either place.

I have descriptions of the Maremma from even in the early 1900s, really a deserted place, a dangerous place. And that would maybe be the other thing is that wilderness used to always represent danger. Now we think of it as recreation, but that’s the change that happens in both places when they go from being a frontier to being part of civilization.

UHQ: So the stories reflect this change.

SS: I think so.

UHQ: Change of a place. And is it the case generally that folklore tells us something about or reveals insights about a place and the changes that occur at that place?

SS: That’s certainly one of the things, and a very big thing. I think more generally what folklore does is tell you what’s going on in a society or in a culture or in a group of people. The difference between say a folk narrative and an author’s written narrative in literature is that the author, the modern writer, the professional writer’s narrative tells you what that person is thinking or feeling and what their ideas are and their attitudes. We don’t know if it extends beyond that person.

But a folk narrative, because it’s repeated by many people and prized and kept alive, tells you what a whole group of people are thinking. So certainly in this circumstance, it tells you about change and often because one of our divisions of folklore is region—we talk about ethnic folklore, of gender folklore, religious folklore, but regional folklore is another very major thing. So it tells us about what people in a particular place think at a particular time, although it’s usually an extended period of time. At least that’s how I would think of it.

The other thing I would say in connection with that is that I think folklore has to withstand a much greater test of meaningfulness than say high literature, again for lack of a better term to make the distinction. I don’t think art literature, high literature, professional literature, I don’t know what to call it. I don’t think it’s better than folk literature but we don’t have a good terminology. But at any rate, the example I often give is if Shakespeare fell out of fashion and nobody read Shakespeare or reproduced Shakespeare plays for 200 years. We wouldn’t lose Shakespeare because it’s in the library. Right? It’s there. It’s in print and it could always come back.

But folk narrative doesn’t have that luxury. If for one-generation people stopped telling an oral tale, and there’s no record on it except maybe in the folklore archives now, but it can only be sustained as long as it’s meaningful. No one’s forcing you to tell the Old Ephraim story, right? You don’t have to study it in college. You don’t have to study it in high school. It’s not part of anybody’s Canon. It’s only remembered and told because it really really means something to people.

I know it’s one of your other questions. It’s one of the reasons why historians and literary people and everybody should pay attention, because these are things that passed the test, the harshest test of survivability relevance. People don’t have to tell these stories. They only do it because they mattered. So that means it’s a direct barometer for us to find out what’s important to people if we can interpret them correctly or fairly or just read what people are saying with them.

UHQ: What are some other insights historians can learn from folklorists and from folklore?

SS: That’s a wonderful question, and I should say, as I think back, some of the folklorists I’ve known have been historians. The major American folklorists at mid-twentieth century [were historians]. Richard Dorson . . . was a historian who studied folklore. I think probably I’ve already said what may be the most important thing is that you hear something that withstands the test of time, but also it’s the voice of many people instead of one. And, of course, we all know that for most of history, for most people, literacy and written records were not an option. So the written records that we typically study—and I know history has become a lot more sophisticated than just looking at written records—you’re oftentimes looking at the elite levels of culture rather than the folk levels of culture.

For instance, one of the things I’ve really been interested in recent years is the study of food ways. That’s really been explored by a lot of disciplines. But, of course, if you think of medieval times or early modern times, it’s easier to know the diet of the wealthy because they kept track [more] than the diet of the illiterate. I’m trying to find out now how you do find out what the great masses were really eating from the records that they did not keep.

UHQ: Hmm mm.

SS: I kind of wandered from the question.

UHQ: I could listen to you talk about food ways all day. I love it. I guess I’ll bring it back to Utah. Throughout your career working with students, and other things, have you seen similarities between Utah and other spots in the world?

SS: Absolutely, yes.

UHQ: Good. What are they?

SS: Absolutely, yes. I was thinking about a couple, maybe the other two best-known legends in Cache Valley.

UHQ: Yeah.

SS: Most turned in by students at least. One of them is about Saint Anne’s retreat. Saint Anne’s retreat, also called the nunnery, that’s the title given to it, was a group of cabins a little ways up Logan Canyon, maybe about five miles up the canyon, where from the factual record nuns from the diocese in Salt Lake—and I’m pretty sure it was just nuns—would go for kind of time away, meditation, a break from things, a retreat. So it was called Saint Anne’s retreat. But the local story was that nuns who were pregnant were sent there . . . to have their babies, and they killed them, drowned them in a pool there, some kind of pool, and that was the background story.

When I was first in Logan, the stories that were often turned in were about legend tripping. Legend tripping is when people, usually young people, go to the site of a supernatural occurrence that there’s a legend about and try to re-experience it. So the typical thing for kids growing up in Logan High School would be to go with other friends up there late at night and try to get scared by the nuns who would come out—in one version they have these frightening dogs that would attack them, and either the nuns, the ghosts of the nuns, the spirits of the nuns [would produce a] frightening experience, and then [the kids] would drive off when something happened.

Recently one of those things went awry—I think it’s been about 10 or 15 years now—on one of those legend tripping experiences, because there were guards set there. They had had sold Saint Anne’s Retreat to some foundation and in trying to prevent trespassing, the guards got control and rounded up all the kids and it really did scare them. So that story now has replaced the older story.

At any rate—I’m kind of getting off track—the point is that what could be seen as an anti-Catholic story exists everywhere in the world, not just up Logan Canyon. Where I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, we heard that story about the Catholic Church there. I taught in Portugal for a year and in Portugal, a Catholic country, Catholics told it about one particular location where on hill there was a monastery. On the facing hill there was a nunnery and the story was that there was a tunnel that went between them that was lined with the bones of aborted fetuses, and so that would be an anti-clerical rather than an anti-Catholic story. It’s just all over. And when I use this in class, students who have been in missions in Dominican Republic, places like that, they all heard them. And whenever, of course, you hear it for the first time you think that’s not really true then because it appears everywhere, right?

That’s a good example of something that kids growing up in Logan might hear and think of as a unique story to Logan Canyon, but it’s international legend and what we call migratory legend because it moves all over the place and then becomes a local legend attached to a certain place. So that’s one of many examples.

UHQ: So that’s interesting. I mean, so stories migrate. They might move from one location to the next but they also change over time. They’re not necessarily reflected in the documentary record, so they’re told as oral tradition, and then as they’re being told and I imagine they change. Talk to us about that process and how it changes—what we understand about the events that these stories describe as well as the people telling the events, the stories.

SS: Well, that’s a rich question. One of the things that occurs to me immediately, to go back to our story, is a reference to another last grizzly bear being killed in Colorado and another one in California. Some of the changes are kind of artistic changes to make the story more credible in the environment in which it’s told. So, it’s a man in Italy. It’s a bandit. It’s human. It’s an animal, a bear in the western United States. Maybe it’s another creature or another kind of person somewhere else to carry the same kind of story that’s really a story again about the passing of the frontier. So some of the changes—maybe that’s more a metaphor for the kind of changes—simply have to [be] artistic. They have to fit the environment that they’re in, because you’re trying to convince somebody, in a certain sense, that this is true. So it’s got to fit together in a way that makes sense where it’s told. So it’s another way in which place comes into the story and affects the story.

UHQ: Hmm mm.

SS: Could you ask me that question again because I feel like I just hit the tip of it?

UHQ: Well, before you talked about the marriage between folklore and history. Of course, historians like to look at patterns and change over time. I guess I was curious to know how the stories themselves often tend to change and evolve.

SS: Yeah.

UHQ: Uh, and I’ll leave it at that. I was going to ask something—

SS: Sure.

UHQ: —very much related. Uh, another point, a real interesting insight that you make in your article is that folklore is often shaped, or folklore shapes, the memory of the events and in this case the story of the bandit and the bear. And I suppose that that’s another way in which folklore and the stories themselves both evolve as well as folklore contributes to the evolving of how one remembers those particular events.

SS: Yes.

UHQ: I know this is a very much involved question but—

SS: No I think I—

UHQ: I appreciate your insight.

SS: I think I understand it. Let me think for a moment here. … Folklorists have always been concerned with patterns and, in fact, that’s the way this article started—spotting a similar pattern that was kind of unexpected and then going from there. But I think as I was saying earlier, we have these narratives or bits of narratives that give us expectations for the way a plot is going to play out. And so that influences the way we structure what we experience. I’ve seen it with immigration narratives, with all kinds of stories of triumph.

I was just thinking about it recently. This is a little bit a stretch to talk about it folkloristically, but I guess we don’t have to be real strict about the limits. You know about this controversy recently about the NBC news reporter Brian Williams. Looking at it from a folkloristic point of view, I have to really have compassion for him, and I don’t understand why the other members of the media are being so self righteous because it doesn’t seem to me that it’s an outright lie. It seems to me unlikely that someone would self-consciously tell a lie about their experience to ten million people and think they weren’t going to get caught.

I mean maybe that’s some kind of ultimate arrogance, but it seems much more likely to me that he has restructured his memory of his own experience in keeping with a better narrative, the way we all do. And it’s really what I’ve been talking about in many ways about stories. You know, something happened to me. Something happened to my father. Over the years, as I retell that story and get a better reaction by changing it a little bit without even consciously changing it and making it more dramatic—having the grenade launcher go through the helicopter I was in rather than the one behind or in front—I start to believe that story too.

From what I understand, one of the accusations is that he’s told this lie multiple times. Well, but did anybody ever call him on it if someone said, “hey, that couldn’t really have happened,” and he continued? That would be one thing, but no one has ever said that they said to him, “hey, that’s not true.” So if they listened to it and they said, “wow, that reinforced that it was a true story for him,” just like we all do. My father had a saying that I never understood until recently. It was, I don’t lie but I don’t always tell the truth. . . . I think if I take it in the context of this controversy and of folklore, it’s “I don’t necessarily lie but who remembers anything exactly as it happened?”

I think part of the reason we do that—and maybe this goes to the heart of the importance of folklore and storytelling in general—is we add meaning. We change the story. I mean, sure. We inflate our egos. He was in a more dangerous situation and he survived it, right? It makes him more important, but it also makes it more intense and it makes the story more meaningful. And I think that’s one of the things that guides ways in which we change stories. We are always subconsciously perhaps aiming towards a more meaningful and artistic story because it’s about communication about past experience. It’s not always about literal truth. For literal truth we do want—I mean that’s important. I’m not denying that. But in everyday existence, for humans for thousands of years we have to carry forward what’s really meaningful, and I think that’s what guides the way stories are changed.

UHQ: Well this is a quite different question. I wanted to know if you could talk to our readers and our listeners I guess about collecting folklore. I remember I took a folklore class from you, a fieldwork class a long time ago, and I remember you saying “you don’t ask people, just tell me a story.” You have to kind of prompt them or guide them or give a trigger. And I think that was your class and that you also said, the best stories come as you’re heading out the door.

SS: [Laughs] Yeah.

UHQ: And so do you have advice for our listeners about collecting folklore from their families or from their lives?

SS: Yeah, that’s a wonderful question, and you prompted me with it.

UHQ: Oh good.

SS: So it makes my job a little easier. I must say that you learned something that I learned from another Utah folklorist, William A. Wilson, Burt Wilson from BYU who wrote an article called “Folklore and History,” too.

UHQ: Yeah.

SS: But he always said in beginning folklore classes for one thing that you’re going to be tempted to collect some kind of exotic folklore from someone, from somewhere else and something exotic. And he said, no, you should really start with yourself and your family.

UHQ: Hmm.

SS: You can go on from there if you want. So one thing I really like about your question is you already make that assumption that people are going to be collecting from their families. And I think that’s very wise and very important.

UHQ: I got it after reading a Burt Wilson article.

SS: Oh [laughs].

UHQ: The truth comes out.

SS: No, that’s good. That’s very good. I’m sure he’d be happy to know that, but I’ve found that to be true.

UHQ: Collect from your own life.

SS: Some I guess is from my father, because you know what to ask. You know what you’re talking about. Sometimes there’s a little bit of difficulty in that, because it’s like, well, you already know this story. Why are you asking for it? And you can explain that, but mostly it’s really a plus especially when it comes to understanding what’s going on because you have all that background information to understand what’s going on.

But back to really your question. I would say one of the best things to do is to try to piggyback onto some kind of natural context in which stories are told or reminiscences come up. So, for instance, after Thanksgiving dinner people are still sitting around the table because they can’t move—or possibly even during the dinner, but that might kind of be imposing something that would be employed to do—you put the tape recorder out in the middle of the table and, of course, you never record without people’s permission. That’s a natural storytelling context, and so that would be a real good time to get stories.

And also, sometimes it’s a little bit difficult in transcribing but in having several people rather than just the one on one, they’d prompt each other or they say, “it didn’t really happen that way,” and then you get more than one version of the story, which of course is the lifeblood of folklore, or they add to something, or someone finally finds out the rest of the story.

UHQ: That’s great.

SS: Right. So I think you look for opportunities like that. Another technique that I’ve done, and that only my wife was just reminding me of this morning, she says, “you know, if you want to interview,” let’s say, a woman, “you go to her kitchen and work with her making bread.”

UHQ: That’s good advice.

SS: I don’t want to be sexist here, but women talk to each other. Well, men too, but a mother and her daughter working in the kitchen, whoever—that’s the place where stories are told while you’re working. While you’re doing it you’re conversing and stories come up. And because your hands are busy your mind can relax. You’re distracted. You don’t have the spotlight on you, and it’s the normal way of doing it.

So I think those are a couple of really good things.

UHQ: You can work in the garden with someone or—

SS: Absolutely, yes, or be out, you know. I remember once interviewing someone in Boise about the Basque Hotel about sheepherders who used to stay there and in the winters—and this was older and remembered it. And we just went to the site, which was kind of an abandoned building then. It ended up being turned into a museum, but we walked around with the tape recorder. It was a tape recorder in those days. And we walked around and the physical site triggered memories and stories and events that maybe sitting in an office it wouldn’t happen.

I’ll give you one more technique, because these techniques trigger other techniques. Oftentimes I remember interviewing older people about their stories, their growing up. And at some point—and this was always a good thing—they might pull out a family photo album. And you can consciously do that with your family. You can go through and then you have to on the recording identify what picture you’re looking at so that you can connect what’s on the tape with the image later but there’s stories. I know in my family that that’s the only time they’re told when you’re going through the photo album and you see somebody. It’s not because they’re forbidden stories or anything. It’s just that’s the—

UHQ: No, that’s when you remember them.

SS: That’s when you remember them after they look through the triggers.

UHQ: I remember when my dad grew up in East L.A. and driving through his old neighborhood with him and he told us these stories. I thought, “dad this is your life? Really?” It was fascinating. So, I guess, yeah, going to the place.

SS: Yeah, that’s a good idea, yeah go to the place and go around. And because our recording equipment is so mobile today it’s not a problem.

UHQ: Hmm.

SS: I mean when I started, the tape recorders were like this and they weighed a ton, so it was a little harder.

UHQ: Well, I mean, just listening to you talk it makes me realize that humans tell stories. That’s what we do.

SS: That’s so true.

UHQ: And I was wondering, do we still have a vibrant storytelling culture and a transmission of these stories from people to people, or has that changed in any way over the years?

SS: I think the answer is yes and yes. Sometimes we use the title instead of Homo sapiens, Homo narrans.

UHQ: Hmm.

SS: Human, the storyteller and that in someway seems to be, you know, one of our most distinguishing characteristics. There was this conference at Utah State a few years ago where they brought in a couple of super computers for the conference. And they had it all set up and brought in these scientists from all over, and they kind of didn’t know what to do. And I said, “well, let’s ask them if they think computers will ever replace human beings.” So they typed in that question and the computer buzzed in a word and out came a voice saying, “that reminds me of a story.” [laughter]

So I snuck in a little joke, meta folklore, folklore about folklore, right.

UHQ: Uh huh.

SS: But I think it says it well in that even in our electronic, digital age, we still specializes in digital folklore now and in fact we have courses at Utah State and we have a specialist who teaches digital folklore.

UHQ: Oh, how interesting.

SS: And so the Internet from their point of view—and I admit to being of another era and so not up to date on this topic—a lot of storytelling goes on in the Internet. I know that much. And so to me it’s somewhere between oral and written. I’m not sure exactly where it goes, but a lot of the stories that have always been told are being told again in email communication and websites and stuff like that.

So the answer is, yes, we keep telling and yes it changes. Maybe the technology changes. When I first started studying folklore we used to say that because of the pace of modern life, we’ve stopped telling the folktales orally. . . . Instead we tell a lot more jokes and a lot more legends because they are short and fit modern life. I don’t know if that’s exactly true or not. Certainly the fairy tales have an ongoing life in written form and in some cultures they’re still told orally. But the point is maybe in one era, one genre, one type of story gets emphasized more than another.

If you kept a story diary for a week and made some notation every point in the day in which you told some kind of a story, I think you’d find it’s constant.

UHQ: Interesting.

SS: When we teach the folk narrative course it will talk about those classic genres at the first part of the course, the folk tale, the legend, tall tales, maybe narrative jokes, even myth. But the last part of the course we concentrate on personal narrative, that is the stories of things that happen to you—that, as we were saying earlier, we recast in terms of other kinds of traditional narratives that you’ve heard before.

But all those stories that you collect is family folklore, you know.

UHQ: Hmm.

SS: All those things that—just when you go home when you recount your day. You cast it oftentimes in a narrative form sometimes more artistically than other times, and sometimes certain things become recurrent and you tell them again and again. And then they get shaped artistically and they do get into your family folklore. . . .

I mean the word history is the same root as story, right? At times when I’m translating from Italian I’m not sure when they say storia, is it story or history. In some sense those concepts are conflated in Italian and not so clear to know.

UHQ: Well fascinating. It’s really fascinating.

SS: Thanks.

UHQ: Thank you.  This was fun.

SS: My pleasure. You guys are very good and you warm me up and I hope someone listens to our stories.

UHQ: Thanks for joining us. Yeah. Thanks.

SS: My pleasure. Definitely my pleasure.



Green River Missile Launch Photo Gallery


Entry door for the radar and instrumentation building at the White Sands Missile Range, “Range Operations Directorate” (ROD), on a prominent and high ridge overlooking the test range.



Above-ground conduit boxes at launch site, connecting all launch pads to central blockhouse bunker.



Above-ground conduit boxes and junction domes at Athena launch site, with a blast bunker in background.



Heavy steel blast shields protecting cooling ducts associated with the launch pads, for use during launch tests.



Concrete vault comprising the gantry platform, used for conduit and venting during launch tests at the Athena launch site.



Pneumatic equipment control panel within mobile launch facility, TCEE, at the Athena Launch Site.



Cooling conduit within TCEE at Athena Launch Site.



Electrical-control box at a launch monitoring tower at Athena Launch Site facility.



Concrete pad at Cantonment (residential and administrative) location for White Sands Missile Range. The recreation area had tennis and basketball courts and a structure for other activities for the soldiers and families stationed there.



Union Carbide Uranium Mill operated between 1957 and 1961 and was leased to the U.S. Air Force in 1962 for use as the Athena rocket assembly area. It now sits abandoned.



Utah Archaeology and Historic Preservation Month celebrates Utah’s rich archaeological and historical resources with a month of lectures and hands-on learning. Statewide events include:

  • Open house at the South City Campus of Salt Lake Community College with educational activities for kids and adults
  • Annual poster contest
  • Lectures and paper presentations
  • Tours of archaeological and historical sites

Please note: Updates occur regularly, but may take up to 48 hours to appear. Please note: Jumps may land slightly below their marker. We are sorry for the inconvenience.

Do you have an event? Please email and fill out the Archaeology and Historic Preservation Event Form


 Where are you interested in attending events (by County)?







Salt Lake

San Juan











Gallery of Female Imagery in Advertisements

In Kathryn McKay’s “The Chocolate Dippers’ Strike of 1910,” published in the winter 2015 Utah Historical Quarterly, readers see candy boxes and store front windows depicting women and girls dressed in fashionable clothing—all in an attempt to sell chocolate manufactured by the J. G. McDonald Company. These advertisements reflect the emergence of a highly consumptive society and the homogenization of mass culture that sought to cater to female consumers—many of whom had recently entered the work force as wage laborers—and to use female images to sell clothes, appliances, and other products. The following is a sampling of photos at the Utah State Historical Society that represent women and gender in advertisements during the first half of the twentieth century.




Auerbach & Bro. originated with Samuel H. Auerbach, who shortly after arriving in Salt Lake City in 1859 set up “The People’s Store” on Main Street. Eventually, after several relocations, the company settled down in a building on State and Broadway.


Auerbach Bros., Sept. 25, 1908

Auerbach Bros. storefront window display, September 25, 1908




Arthur Frank established a clothing store at Midvale, one of a number of well-established Jewish stores and businesses in Utah in the early twentieth century.



Bonnie Lee Shoppe, located at 53 East and 300 South in Salt Lake City.



Utah Power & Light, established in 1912 as a subsidiary of a larger holding company in New York, consolidated a number of small companies to become the largest electric power provider in Utah. Utah Power & Light worked to interconnect all its companies into an integrated system. By the ?, when these advertisements appeared, electric power was widely available to homes and businesses along the Wasatch Front and elsewhere throughout the state. In advertisements often depicting domestic scenes and the time-saving use of household appliances, the company sought to “promote the sale of electricity,” in the words of the historian John S. McCormick. (“The Beginning of Modern Electric Power Service in Utah, 1912–22,” Utah Historical Quarterly 56 [Winter 1988]: 5–22.)


Utah Power & Light Company advertisement



An advertisement in the Utah Farmer journal, depicting two men and a “farmer’s wife” listening to a political candidate through the medium of radio. By 1925, when this ad appeared, women had finally won the vote.



Audio Recording: “Sounds of the Cathedral”


Gary Topping’s interview with Gregory Glenn, published in winter 2015 Utah Historical Quarterly, highlights the founding of the Madeleine Choir School. This school has offered academic and music instruction to children since 1996. Choristers from the school are also members of the Choir of the Cathedral of the Madeleine, which has produced good music for many years.

The Archives of the Catholic Church in Utah recently donated to the Utah Division of State History’s research library a copy of “Sounds of the Cathedral (featuring the Cathedral Choir),” a vinyl LP released in 1960 featuring religious songs of the Choir of the Cathedral. Thanks to the work of Doug Misner of the Utah Division of State History and Tony Castro of the Utah State Archives, we have a digital recording of the album for your enjoyment.