Volume 84, Number 3 (Summer 2016 Issue):
Published since 1928, the Utah Historical Quarterly is the state’s premier history journal and the source for reliable, engaging Utah history. 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 history.utah.gov/uhqextras.
WEB EXTRAS: See here
IN THIS ISSUE
People make sense of the world by representation. Words, maps, pictures, and symbols, of course, do not always capture the complexity and depth of the things they represent. Because they are incomplete, and also because they may be somewhat or wildly inaccurate, representations can distort our understanding. Consider, for instance, The Birth of a Nation, featured in this issue’s “Utah in Focus.” The white majority hailed this groundbreaking film, which was also blatantly racist and historically inaccurate, as a superb history lesson.
We tend to believe the representations that support what we already believe.
Our first article focuses on a certain type of representation, a Broadway play. Polygamy, coauthored by the talented Harvey O’Higgins and produced in 1914, treated its topic in a way that used and mirrored decades of representations. The play focused on the dark side of Mormon polygamy, but at its core it dramatized a larger theme: the perceived economic, political, and personal power of church leaders. “Mormons on Broadway, 1914 Style” tells the story of the play, how it came to be, how it represented the Mormon church and its members, what the critics thought, and how it touched the nerves of contemporaries.
Several decades earlier, attitudes toward Mormons had not yet solidified so firmly. The second article, “News from Salt Lake,” unfolds the multifaceted newspaper coverage of the Salt Lake Valley in the first years of Mormon settlement. News, rumor, and speculation all filtered back to the eastern states through various reports and retellings that Americans around the country absorbed about the Brigham Young–led Mormons who had left the United States for Upper California. Perhaps strikingly, the coverage reported more on the landscape of the Great Basin than on the peculiarity of a religious people that would come to define representations of the Mormons in the decades that followed.
Journalists have their own way of representing reality; scientists try for more accurate representations through data. During the 1920s through the 1940s, George Clyde innovated and developed systems to predict water availability for farmers. Clyde would become governor of Utah in 1957, but he started his career as an irrigation engineer. Working for the Utah Agricultural Experiment Station, he established a protocol for snow surveys that could help predict runoff each year; farmers could then plan for the planting season with valuable information. Our third article tells how Clyde and others started to scientifically understand Utah’s snowpack and runoff.
That snow-survey technology served a very down-to-earth purpose, but Utahns have long had their eyes fixed on more sophisticated technology to diversify the economy. In 1970, NASA began looking for a new “spaceport” for the space shuttle program. Utah jumped into the competition to win the facility. Our fourth article details the efforts of boosters to sell northern Utah as the right place to land the shuttle.
Finally, from yet another corner of the state and at an emotional intersection between present and past, we offer the remarks made at the dedication of a memorial to the innocent Paiute victims of the Circleville Massacre of 1866. On April 22, 2016, 150 years later, Paiutes and other Utah tribal Indians, Circleville citizens, LDS and state officials, and others came together to honor the lives of those who suffered death at the hands of their Mormon neighbors when hysteria and distrust overcame humanity and reason. In the decades since 1866, the incident has been represented in different ways. But for the most part, it has been forgotten.
By writing about it, talking about it, and erecting a monument, historians and citizens today are trying to represent the past in a way that will continue to unearth the complexity and depth of this tragic event. That is what good history does.
Mormons on Broadway, 1914 Style: Harvey O’Higgins’s “Polygamy”
By Kenneth L. Cannon II
News from Salt Lake, 1847-1849
By Andrew H. Hedges
George Dewey Clyde and the Harvest of Snow
By Robert E. Parson
Utah’s Spaceport: A Failed Dream
By Eric G. Swedin
Remembering the Circleville Massacre
Charles S. Peterson and Brian Q. Cannon, The Awkward State of Utah: Coming of Age in the Nation, 1896-1945. Reviewed by Nancy J. Taniguchi
Jason E. Pierce, Making the White Man’s West: Whiteness and the Creation of the American West. Reviewed by Christopher Herbert
Frederick H. Swanson, Where Roads Will Never Reach: Wilderness and Its Visionaries in the Northern Rockies. Reviewed by Jon England
Christina Robertson and Jennifer Westerman, eds., Working on Earth: Class and Environmental Justice. Reviewed by Cody Ferguson
Michael L. Tate, ed., with Will Bagley and Richard L. Rieck, The Great Medicine Road: Narratives of the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trail. Part 2: 1849. Reviewed by Lee Kreutzer
Reid L. Neilson and Matthew L. Grow, eds., From the Outside Looking In: Essays on Mormon History, Theology, and Culture
Rod Miller, The Lost Frontier: Momentous Moments in the Old West You May Have Missed