Dale Morgan on Early MormonismDale Morgan on Early Mormonism
Correspondence and a New History
John Phillip Walker, editor with a biographical introduction by John Phillip Walker and a preface by William Mulder

on the cover:
Yet despite the passage of more than twenty years, these chapters and appendices remain today as fresh and as thought-provoking as ever. Morgan’s naturalistic approach to the formative years of the Mormon church may be challenging to some readers, but it represents what was and still is the cutting edge in the study of Mormon origins. Together with the inclusion of fifty of his letters to contemporaries such as Juanita Brooks, Fawn Brodie, Bernard DeVoto, Madeline McQuown, Stanley Ivins, and others, Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism provides a glimpse into the skill, talent, and artistry of one of America’s premier historians.

For Dale Lowell Morgan (1914-71), author of such classics of American historiography as The Humboldt: Highroad of the West, Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West, and The West of William H. Ashley, Mormonism occupied and fascinated him as no other subject could. Until his untimely death in 1971, he labored for close to thirty years on what would have been a definitive history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Unfortunately, of a projected three volumes, only the first seven chapeters and two appendices were completed.

“I do not see things in black and white; rather, I am sensitive to the shades of gray. I am not one of those who think that Joseph Smith must be accounted either the blackest villain or the purest-hearted saint who ever lived, depending on whether Mormonism was or was not an ‘imposture.’ I don’t think he was either. I think he was a man subjected to a singular environmental pressure, and that his behavior must be interpreted as the effect of this pressure upon distinctive psycho-physiological components of his character. It seems to me a fundamental weakness of most Mormon thinking, in any broad sense, that it tends to exhibit this either-or attitude, which really reflects a viewpoint of theoretical ethics, not of personal and social psychology.” —26 April 1943

“Mormonism proceeded out of American life, from millennialism to the evangelical communisms, with religious, political, social, and economic ideas indiscriminately sucked into the vortex to be digested or spewed out, with the central energies and structure of the church always different because of what it experienced or took to itself. I don’t say that Mormonism was at best an aberration of the principal energies involved; I do say that it is an interesting vehicle for some of the social energies of its time, and that something can be learned about the nature of American society from a critical scrutiny of the Mormon phenomenon.” —2 January 1946

“Dale Morgan was one of the most productive and influential historians of the American West during the 1950s and 1960s … His studies stand today as models of historical endavor.”

—Everett L. Cooley, director, Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah

“No one ever asked advice or direction of Dale Morgan without receiving it. He consistently encouraged writers and furnished both factual materials and expert criticism … His achievements in the field of historical research were phenomenal.”

—Juanita Brooks, author of The Mountain Meadows Massacre and Quicksand and Cactus

John Phillip Walker lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he is vice-president of marketing for Magic Chemical Company. He also owns a management consulting business.

William Mulder is Professor of English at the University of Utah. His publications include Homeward to Zion: The Mormon Migration from Scandinavia and Among the Mormons: Historic Accounts by Contemporary Observers.

Cover picture: “Self-portrait,” by Dale L. Morgan, courtesy of Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah.
Book and cover design by Diane Valantine.

title page:
Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism
Correspondence and a New History
John Phillip Walker, editor
with a biographical introduction by John Phillip Walker
and a preface by William Mulder
Signature Books
Salt Lake City, Utah

Dale Morganfrontispiece Dale Lowell Morgan, 1914-1971,

My viewpoint about Mormon history is that of the sociologist, the psychologist, the political, economic, and social historian. I do not expect that the average Mormon will accept in its entirety the evaluation of Mormon history that I shall make, but I do expect that he will acknowledge my integrity within what he regards as the limitations of my understanding, or point of view. On such a basis we can get along very equably, and we may find that my interpretation of Mormon history will not, after all, do such violence to Mormon ideas of that history.

—Morgan to S. A. Burgess, April 26, 1943

copyright page:
Copyright 1986 Signature Books
All Rights Reserved
Printed in the United States of America
LC 86-60251
ISBN 0-941214-36-2

design by Diane Valantine
frontispiece photo courtesy Utah State Historical Society

Editor’s Acknowledgements [see below]
Preface [see below]
Biographical Introduction [see below]

The History
01 -—The Calling of a Prophet
02 – —A Stone in a Hat
03 – —Portrait of a Prophet as a Young Man
04 – The Golden Bible
05 – —A Sealed Book
06 – —Intimations of a Church
07 – The Book of Mormon
Appendix A
Appendix B

The Letters
1942: To S. A. Burgess and Juanita Brooks
1943: To Fawn Brodie, Juanita Brooks, and S. A. Burgess
1944: To Fawn Brodie, Juanita Brooks, and Madeline McQuown
1945: To Fawn Brodie, Juanita Brooks, and Bernard DeVoto
1946: To Fawn Brodie, Juanita Brooks, and Bernard DeVoto
1947: To Fawn Brodie and Madeline McQuown
1948: To Joseph Anderson, Fawn Brodie, S. A. Burgess, Francis W. Kirkham, and John Selby
1949-50: To Fawn Brodie, Stanley Ivins, Elizabeth Lauchnor, and Marguerite Sinclair
1951-53: To Fawn Brodie, Stanley Ivins, and Madeline McQuown
1955-70: To Fawn Brodie, Stanley Ivins, Madeline McQuown, and Wesley P. Walters
The Published Writings of Dale Lowell Morgan


by William Mulder

[p.vii]In bringing the present volume to press some obligations are so large as to require a personal expression of appreciation.

I am indebted to three institutions which house Dale L. Morgan papers. The University of Utah Marriott Library, Special Collections division, was under the direction of Everett L. Cooley when Della Dye first drew my attention to the “marvelous” letters of Dale to Madeline McQuown. Gregory Thompson, who succeeded Dr. Cooley, and Nancy Young have continued the policy of making these materials more widely available.

The Utah State Historical Society Library responded to my every request. I am particularly grateful to Gary Topping, Martha Stewart, and Jean Anne McMurrin for their help.

Employees of the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley generously allowed access to the materials from their splendid collection even though it meant for them several trips between Berkeley and Richmond, California, where their Morgan papers are stored.

Dale’s brother and literary executor, Jim Morgan, graciously allowed access and granted publication rights to all of the materials that were requested.

Both Trudy McMurrin and Sterling M. McMurrin steered the project towards George D. Smith, president of Signature Books, where his staff labored to make the published book one of which Dale would have approved. Thanks particularly to Gary James Bergera, Ronald Priddis, Diane Valantine, Ian G. Barber, Mary Brockert, and Susan Staker for their careful preparation of the documents.

I also wish to thank several individuals who assisted with comments and suggestions. I acknowledge the gracious help of LaMar Petersen, H. Michael Marquardt, Wesley P. Walters, Everett L. Cooley, C. G. Walker, and Beverly Walker.

I owe much to Kent L. Walgren. It was he who asked me once, when I was going on about Dale’s letters, “Did you realize that part of his unfinished manuscript is in the Madeline McQuown Collection?” Kent’s question set this undertaking in motion. Since then he has urged the project along and improved it by his thoughtful readings and suggestions.

[p.viii] Without the continuous support of Renae P. Walker none of my efforts would have been possible.

John Phillip Walker
January 1986

Editor’s Acknowledgements

The publication of a selection of Dale L. Morgan’s correspondence and chapters from his unfinished history of Mormonism is a happy event. Dale has put every researcher and writer on both the Mormons and the Far West since him in his debt because of his wide-ranging industry and his fabled generosity. The industry and generosity went together, with Dale modestly disclaiming that whatever grist he was grinding for others also fed his own mill. “Any problem existing for anybody, in Mormon research,” he wrote to fledgling Mormon historian Juanita Brooks in April 1942, “was a problem also for me…. In answering their limited needs, I answer larger needs of my own…. All these individual things are parts of an infinitely complex organism that I am trying to see whole.”

I am myself a beneficiary of Dale’s generosity with his materials and the example of his method in trying to see whole. On a tip from Dale to the publisher Alfred A. Knopf that A. Russell Mortensen and I were putting together a collection of observers’ accounts about the Mormons, Mr. Knopf, passing through Salt Lake City in the early 1950s with his wife Blanche, called us from the airport. He kindly invited us to lunch and, after chit-chat that curiously never mentioned our project, put the prospectus for our book in his pocket as he left and said we would hear from him soon. Within days we did, in words now historic to our ears: “I am inclined,” he wrote, “to take a flyer on your book.” Several years and many vicissitudes later Among the Mormons appeared (in 1958), with, as one of its inclusions, an essay by Dale on the contemporary scene. The essay in fact forms his unsurpassed introduction to Utah: A Guide to the State (1941) that opens with that memorable line, “The Mormon habitat has always been a vortex of legend and lie.” Other notable inclusions in Among the Mormons came from the newspapers Dale had ransacked for Mormon items at the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library and in every state on the way west during a cross-country trek in his old Hudson in 1947-48, an epic copying spree on an equally old typewriter, a labor of Hercules that provided scholars with a major resource, an indispensable “tool book” long before the Xerox revolution.

[p.2] It was hard to be one up on Dale in terms of historical finds, and it gave Russ Mortensen and me no end of pleasure to discover that the letters of Utah governor Alfred Cumming’s wife Elizabeth, which on a tip from Kay R. Canning I had tracked down in the Manuscripts Division of Duke University Library, were new to Dale. “Could I get a print of your Cumming microfilm?” he asked Russ. “That is a mighty fetchin’ lady, and I want to know her better.” The request came as a footnote in a letter of 7 April 1958, in which he endorsed Among the Mormons with a warm comment that “the whole thing was brought off with a sense of style” but with a warning that he had been asked to review it for John Caughey’s Pacific Historical Review. “So,” wrote Dale, “I will have to check up on what you have deleted, as well as what you have put into it. Let us hope the book will stand up under this investigation!”

Dale was a professional and would not allow friendship to compromise criticism. His review did, in fact, find some shortcomings in our anthology: he found the early section, “Genesis,” “a bit overloaded with excerpts by Mormons themselves—perhaps,” he charitably observed, “because articulate outsiders were not always conveniently at hand during the successive crises in New York, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois.” And he also found that we had “often leaned upon reminiscences rather than the exactly contemporary record” we would doubtless have preferred. At the same time he found that the selections gave “the general reader a living sense of earliest Mormon history.” In the section entitled “Chronicles and Judges,” dealing with the first decades after the Mormons arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, Dale found the gravest weakness our selection of an address by Juanita Brooks recounting the Mountain Meadows Massacre. “Her remarks are indeed moving,” he wrote, “but within the framework of this book, the editors might better have printed one of the accounts written by the investigators of 1858-1860—or even portions of John D. Lee’s ‘Confession.'”

In his correspondence Dale was the “patron saint” many historians found him to be. And he was the explorer. Dale’s letters are explorations, the intellectual equivalent of the travels of his mountain men, filled with his forays into libraries and the field, alive with information and agendas, acute observations, creative speculations, and restless searchings as he maps the historical and literary landscape of the Mormons and the West. What he writes of Jedediah Smith and the opening of the West may be metaphorically applied to Dale’s opening of Mormon and western historiography. Dale prefaces his Jedediah: “He entered the West when it was still largely an unknown land; when he left the mountains, the whole country had been printed on the living maps of his trappers’ minds. Scarcely a stream, a valley, a pass or a mountain range but had been named and become known for good or ill. A new kind of American, the mountain man, had come into existence during those eight years, and Jedediah Smith and his associates had had the shaping of him.” Substitute Dale Morgan for Jedediah Smith in this description, scholars [p.3] for mountain men, and Mormon and western historiography for the actual topography and we have a suggestive figure, by no means far-fetched, of the magnitude of Dale’s achievement.

Archivists David Atkinson and Gary Topping, who prepared a description of the scope and content of the Dale Lowell Morgan Collection at the Utah State Historical Society, remark on Dale’s “tenacious devotion to accuracy in even the minutest detail as well as his curiously limited conception of the nature of the historical process. History, to Dale Morgan,” they write, “meant primarily geographical movement. Larger social forces and the role of personality did not entirely escape him, but he was always at his best when meticulously reconstructing the route followed by a mountain man or emigrant party. On occasion Morgan let his passion for minutiae trap him into applying emphasis to relatively minor points.” And they cite the time Dale wrote to Marguerite Sinclair at the Utah Historical Society, suggesting she do “history a service and ask Charles Kelly to write a piece for this year’s Quarterly demonstrating that Escalante actually crossed at Padre Creek, not at the Crossing of the Fathers.” Dale may have suffered the faults of his virtues, but “meticulous reconstruction” and “passion for minutiae” have proved to be salutary correctives in Mormon and western history, so often the preserve of the well-meaning but undisciplined amateur.

Dale’s insistence on factual accuracy and verbal precision served his larger naturalistic aim of seeing the whole, the total environment—physical, social, cultural, intellectual—of a time and a place. His environmental method, his dogged pursuit of “the background of the background of the background,” got him into trouble with literary critic and western historian Bernard DeVoto, whose review of Fawn M. Brodie’s biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History (in the New York Herald Tribune, 16 December 1945), provoked Dale to write DeVoto a sharply critical letter. DeVoto, in fact, called it a “blast,” and his angry reply of 28 December 1945 fills eight pages in Wallace Stegner’s edition of The Letters of Bernard DeVoto (Doubleday, 1975). Stegner’s commentary only whets the appetite: “The irritation evident in DeVoto’s reply,” he writes, “though some of it had been simmering for a good while, reflected partly the heat of argument and partly the profound differences in personality and historical method between the two.” DeVoto did not think Dale understood metaphor (Stegner suggests Dale may have been “somewhat baffled by DeVoto’s difficult and allusive style”) and objected to Dale’s listing “mistakes” in DeVoto’s review that “weren’t mistakes. I could not,” insisted DeVoto, “imagine anyone’s understanding them as mistakes. I had never experienced the kind of mind that could think of them as mistakes. There was no way my mind and yours could meet over them.” DeVoto confessed to “flow[ing] naturally into psychiatric judgments,” to being “warped and writhen and tied in a double lover’s knot in that direction.” He called himself a “spoiled psychiatrist” and hazarded the guess that Morgan was a “spoiled sociologist.” “At least it [p.4] appears to me,” he wrote, “that when you have found an environmental explanation of something, you are content, you feel that you have settled matters, and depart about some new and proper business, whistling in the carefree consciousness of a job well done.” DeVoto told Morgan that “there are a very great many things in [Joseph] Smith and in Mormonism [about] which I cannot accept your explanation as explaining…. It seems to me,” he wrote, “that your vast factual knowledge of Mormonism, your enormous store of data, rests on and is implemented by conceptions that have only a verbal meaning…. You deal with pure verbalisms as if they were realities as solid as bricks. What seems to me to weigh a pound seems to you to strike C-sharp and there is no way of bringing us to discuss things in the same terms.” DeVoto warned Morgan to look to his own preconceptions and to be a little more careful of his own statements of fact.

But most particularly this, when you think of Smith as a “product and exemplar of his times,” take care that you sufficiently realize that those times did not, anywhere outside his church, center on him. In short, if you are going to deal with him on the basis of what seems to you a historical theory but is, if I diagnose it aright, a sociological theory which accepts only a static psychology—then make sure, make a damned sight surer than it appears to me you now do, that you avoid the cardinal fallacy of practically everyone who writes about Mormonism…. That fallacy consists in overstating the importance and the typicalness of Mormonism in the United States of its time. It was not typical of American life at that time and it was, even in sum total, of exceedingly minute importance in or to American life. It is at best a minor thing in America as a whole, and at best an aberration of the principal energies involved in it. Something of the state of mind of the true believer seems to linger on in everyone who writes about Mormonism.

DeVoto’s parting sally was that he would “not acknowledge” that Dale’s ideas about American life at large in the first half of the nineteenth century were any more authoritative than his or rested on any more intimate or more detailed knowledge.

Stegner assures us that “squabbling was not their characteristic relationship. Both before and after this altercation, DeVoto drew on Morgan’s encyclopedic knowledge of the West and the fur trade, and valued him both for his learning and for his generosity with it. We all did.” DeVoto once confided to Garrett Mattingly, another eminent historian, “I can’t ever be a historian for I hate detail and can’t spare the time for original research. I’m a journalist, my boy,…a mere literary gent who can be a nice press agent for history.” Both DeVoto and Morgan, however, took Francis Parkman as a master of narrative history to heart, and Parkman knew, as Van Wyck Brooks writes of him, that “no good writer has ever liked drudgery, nor has [p.5] any good writer ever permitted anyone else to do his drudgery for him.” Dale Morgan was a good writer and did his own drudgery.

A comparison with Parkman may illuminate Dale’s own career. Both were heroic historians, heroic in a double sense: they were heroic in overcoming crippling handicaps—Parkman’s nearly total loss of sight and Dale’s complete loss of hearing; and they were heroic in their grand designs—Parkman’s the prolonged conflict involving England, France, and Spain for the mastery of the New World in the context of events in the Old; Dale’s the exploration and settlement of the West and the rise and movement of the Mormons in the context of national events. Both turned their handicaps to advantage, Parkman’s near blindness intensifying his pictorial imagination, Dale’s deafness freeing him from distractions and compensated by his artist’s eye for shape and color. They were both strenuous men in a way Teddy Roosevelt would have admired, dedicated and driven like Jesuits as they buried themselves for months in libraries and archives or followed a trail for the exhilaration of standing on the sites where history was made. And both were pioneers: Parkman, taking his cue from Irving, made the writing of American history significant at a time when reputations, like Prescott’s and Motley’s, rested in an established interest in European history; Dale made the local and regional history of the trans-Mississippi West significant, tracing the tributaries that fed the mainstream of national history: the Humboldt, the Great Salt Lake, Jedediah Smith, William H. Ashley, Catholic fathers, Mormon settlers, Forty-Niners, and Overlanders—all parts that would eventually make the whole greater than the sum of these parts—names without the ring perhaps of Bunker Hill and Bull Run, the Alamo and Little Big Horn, but magnified and luminous in Dale’s artful narratives and vivid descriptions.

Dale, so often the hack in order to earn a living (Dale was poor where Parkman was affluent), never wrote like one. He had style and a sense of humor. Afflicted as he was, unable to hear the tones of his own voice, much less another’s, he spoke in a high-pitched monotone, words pouring out in answer to questions and fragments put to him on scraps of paper. I remember using up a pad of note cards in conversation with him once on a park bench in Washington, D.C., when he sat by the hour like a patient academic Bernard Baruch sharing his wisdom. Dale once described Washington, by the way, as “a historian’s paradise” and the National Archives as “enough to make one weep with joy.” Dale was quick in repartee, the wit, often satirical, flashing in conversation as it did in his letters. In one letter to Russ Mortensen, dated 19 July 1951 and preserved at the Utah State Historical Society, he responded with a question and a quip to the news that the society might be moving to the Kearns Mansion. “How fireproof is the place?” he wanted to know. “And how sure could the Society be that its collection would be safe? A burned-up governor is easily replaced, but not so a library.”

[p.6] The photograph of Dale that accompanies Everett Cooley’s admiring and affectionate memorial tribute in the Utah Historical Quarterly (Winter 1971) looks at once severe and serene, even benign, the face of a man who has taken his own measure in success as well as adversity and knows his worth. Had Alvin Gittins painted Dale’s portrait, as I wish he had, he would have caught the unflinching look in Dale’s eyes, the granitic purpose in repose in the square angles of his face, the hint of an enigmatic smile at the corners of the mouth, the strength of the stubby fingers closed around one of his books. In the photograph the hands do, in fact, rest with deliberate weight on an up-ended copy, spine forward, of The West of William H. Ashley. The iconography is fitting and completes the image of Dale Lowell Morgan as patron saint of Mormon and western historians. “Dale Morgan,” writes Dr. Cooley, “was a man of many ideas and more projects for himself and others to do than could be undertaken in a half dozen lifetimes…. Dale compressed more projects into his too short life than many of us would do were we given a dozen lives.”

Thomas Jefferson wanted only three of his achievements memorialized on his tombstone: his authorship of the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, his drafting of the Declaration of Independence, and his founding of the University of Virginia. Dale Morgan would be glad to be remembered, I think, for the three major contributions John Phillip Walker identifies in the following biographical essay: his tireless collecting of original source materials, his grandly conceived and superbly written histories, and his seminal correspondence. For today his epitaph might read, in the manner of the elegies on headstones in the graveyards of colonial New England:

Though dead, he lives
In works heroic,
Memorials of
A spirit stoic.

Biographical Introduction

by John Phillip Walker

[p.7]Dale Lowell Morgan (1914-1971) stands in the front rank of historians of the American West. To this day, his books, Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West, The West of William H. Ashley, The Humboldt: Highroad of the West, and The Great Salt Lake remain classics in their field. They earned Dale the reputation of a painstaking and skilled historian of the American Frontier. Yet the fur laden trappers and trail blazers, which provided the grist for his seminal studies, were not Dale’s first historical interest. The figure who first caught, and then held his curiosity throughout the better part of his life, was Joseph Smith, the nineteenth-century founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who, not unlike his explorer contemporaries, charted a new path to heaven for his followers.

Sadly, however, the story of Dale Morgan and Mormon history is not a happy one, but one of a brilliant scholar and his unfinished masterpiece—a mere fragment of the work he had envisioned. Nor was this the only tragedy in Dale’s short life. His father, James Lowell, died when Dale was only five, leaving his mother, Emily Holmes, a family of four small children to raise. When Dale was thirteen he contracted meningitis, which left him permanently deaf and cost him a year of school. Through the help of skilled tutors and his mother, he learned to cope with his handicap. But oral communication proved difficult, and normal speech was soon substituted by passing notes.

Perhaps to compensate, Dale immersed himself in the printed word. Only rarely did he discuss the difficulties his deafness caused for him as a historian. “While history is still alive and walking around, it presents some problems, as you can realize,” he wrote. “This is the one area where my inability to hear is a genuine handicap, because I cannot easily enable people to talk informally or even off the record, for my private information. The act of writing becomes an inhibition, if you see what I mean.” Later he would struggle with eye problems, fearing that he would not be able to either read a manuscript or hear it read to him. But even this prospect did not cloud his literary future. Witness to his stamina and [p.8] courage, Dale decided that, if both blind and deaf, he would simply abandon history and dictate novels to support himself financially.

Born in Salt Lake City on 18 December 1914, Dale graduated from the University of Utah in 1937 with a bachelor’s degree in commercial art. Jobs were scarce under the best of circumstances, and Dale’s handicap made job-hunting even more difficult. He was denied a series of openings with advertising agencies because of his difficulties. Finally in 1938, at the age of twenty-three, he was hired by the Historical Records Survey of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to develop a bibliography of Utah from 1847 to statehood—thus launching his career as a professional historian. He began as a clerk for the project but was soon editor and finally supervisor for the Utah Writers’ Project.

Dale’s first published works as a historian stemmed from his job at the Utah Writers’ Project. His first monograph was a book-length essay on “The State of Deseret,” appearing in the Utah Historical Quarterly in 1941. This study was preceded by several historical sketches of Utah counties in the Inventory of the County Archives of Utah, published between 1939 and 1941. Also in 1941, Dale published a small work, A History of Ogden (Utah), and edited and wrote sections of Utah: A Guide to the State, since recognized as one of the best guides in the WPA series. The following year he published his final WPA project, Provo, Pioneer Mormon City.

Dale continued to write about Mormon subjects throughout his career. Most notably, he reviewed virtually every major book on the Mormons, Utah, and the West for the Saturday Review of Literature from 1945 to 1957. He wrote a chapter on Mormon novels, entitled “Mormon Storytellers,” for Ray B. West’s 1946 Rocky Mountain Reader. Three years later West invited Dale to contribute the chapter on Salt Lake City for his book Rocky Mountain Cities. In 1959 Dale published in the Utah Historical Quarterly “The Changing Face of Salt Lake City,” which traced the capital’s physical alterations over the years.

Dale’s most important published work on Mormonism was his 1947 The Great Salt Lake. Published in a Bobbs-Merrill series on American lakes, The Great Salt Lake contains Dale’s rich version of Mormon history along the shores of Utah’s largest body of water. His carefully written chapters about the Mormon trek to Utah and the establishment of “the foundations of the Kingdom of God” in Deseret display a panoramic knowledge of Mormon development.

These published works, however, represent only a small part of what Dale contributed to Mormon historiography. He also labored to make basic research materials and bibliographies available to other scholars interested in the Mormon movement. He encountered firsthand the dearth of reference materials for Mormon historians while working for the WPA during the late 1930s. “The resources of the wide world of scholarship were essentially unavailable to the Utah student of 1940,” he wrote. Again and again, he found it basically:

[p.9] impossible to write definitively on any topic relating to Utah and the Mormons….If one knew that relevant titles existed, or once had existed, in the outside world, blind search after them was the only real expedient. As for tapping distant repositories by microfilm, if you did succeed in locating an item and could have it filmed,…there was [not] a viewer within a thousand miles of Salt Lake City other than that in the LDS Genealogical Society; and photostating entire books (or pamphlets, even) very quickly ran into real money.

While working for the Utah Writers’ Project, Dale began to remedy the lack of source materials by compiling primary reference “tool books” for Mormon historians. The documents he subsequently collected often appeared in the published works of other writers. His generosity is evident, for example, in the following 1941 letter to Juanita Brooks, who, at the time, was researching her book on the Mountain Meadows massacre.

I am sending you herewith something that will be far more interesting to you than anything I could write as a letter…. About 11 this morning I wandered around the LDS church Historian’s Office to see if by any chance they had the History of the Santa Clara Mission, [Jacob] Hamblin says he handed in; there was nothing in the History of [the] St. George Stake;…I then asked Alvin Smith if he knew of such a history in manuscript. He couldn’t recall anything of the sort and was doubtful that they would have it if it wasn’t in the Journal History or Stake History. I then asked if they had any of Hamblin’s Journals. He looked up the index and found that they were supposed to have a mutilated journal by Hamblin. Most obligingly, he looked through a couple of steel cupboards and gave it to me.

Naturally I was highly delighted. I sat down at a typewriter there in the office, I borrowed some paper…and without so much as five minutes’ intermission, hammered the typewriter for six hours…. I got up with the complete copy of the journal that I send you. Please take every care of this, because there is no carbon copy.

In 1942 Dale left Salt Lake City for Washington, D.C., to work for the federal government. He took with him the idea of developing a comprehensive bibliography of the churches of Mormonism, and he soon discovered that the nation’s capital was rich in research materials about Mormonism. In his spare hours, he copied in minute detail the card catalogs of the libraries he visited, including the Library of Congress and the New York City Public Library. Five years later, in 1947, he embarked on a nationwide trip to the major libraries and sites of Mormon history, adding to his bibliography at each stop. He published his finished bibliography on the “lesser Mormon churches” in three issues of the Western Humanities [p.10] Review between 1949 and 1953. But his comprehensive bibliography of the Mormon church from 1830 to 1849 was not published in his lifetime. He did, however, send a preliminary copy to the Utah State Historical Society, which was typed in quadruplicate so that the listing could be accessed by author, title, chronological date, or imprint date. He was also the moving force behind the first National Union Catalogue of works about Mormonism, which others expanded from its 700 entries to the much larger A Mormon Bibliography eventually published under the direction of Chad Flake in 1978.

While in Washington, D.C., Dale also began reading and making transcriptions from the newspaper collections in the Library of Congress. By the end of the summer of 1947, he could claim that he had read virtually every newspaper in the Library of Congress published before 1849 in Ohio, Vermont, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa. During his year-long research pilgrimage across the United States in 1947-48, he read and typed entries from newspapers in every area where the Mormon church had been located. Copying methods are so much better today that it is easy to forget that Dale’s transcriptions from the seventy-five volumes of the Niles Weekly Register, for example, had to be pounded out by hand on a standard typewriter. These priceless transcriptions were kept in a file titled “The Mormons and the Far West.” In 1949 Dale sold carbon copies of the set to the Henry B. Huntington Library, Yale University, and the Utah State Historical Society. This rich newspaper collection, sadly ignored by most researchers today, provides access to many of the earliest accounts of events in Mormon history.

In August 1947, Dale wrote to Fawn Brodie, author of the controversial biography of Joseph Smith, No Man Knows My History, about his newspaper transcriptions:

All this has been arduous in the extreme, but it had to be done some day by somebody….Maybe future researchers, instead of going over the same ground again, can take up where I have left off and scan other areas of the newspaper press—and thus, by a collective effort over a long period of time, history may come to have the benefit of the vast amount of materials scattered in newspapers which, from the sheer labor involved, has remained unmined down to the present time. I think that newspapers represent probably the greatest source of untouched material yet awaiting researchers in Mormon history, so this particular job is my contribution to research in general, apart from the necessities of my particular work-in-progress.

Dale also transcribed many sections from the LDS Journal History, a multi-volume daily history of Mormonism, to which he had access in the LDS Church Historian’s Office between 1940 and 1942. Although access to this mammoth compilation is no longer as restricted as it once was, as late as 1971 Dale wrote that his [p.11] collection of excerpts, which he kept in a set of binders, was “irreplaceable.” He was convinced that ranking church leaders would never allow anyone to copy from the Journal History as he had in the early 1940s.

Dale called these newspaper transcriptions, bibliographies, and collections of unpublished source material his “tool books.” “It is sad to think how anyone who works in the field of Mormonism must do everything for himself,” he once lamented about this phase of his work. “The tools of the trade are simply nil. You must first fashion the tools, and only then can you set about your proper labors. Well, before I get through with the Saints [i.e., Mormons] this will be changed in some degree.” By the end of a decade of such collecting and organizing, he was convinced that there was “hardly a phase of Trans-Mississippi history for that period that I could not rewrite.” And though Dale always shared his research with others, his remarkable exertions were, as he indicates, primarily for one purpose: his own history of the Mormon church.

Soon after beginning work for the WPA, Dale decided to write a major history, in three volumes, of the rise and development of Mormonism. In 1942 he explained to Juanita Brooks, herself a promising Mormon historian:

For the last several years I have been soaking up everything about the Mormons I could find. Nothing was without significance. Any problem existing for anybody, in Mormon research, was a problem also for me. Those people (and I encountered a diverse group) with whom I came in contact supply me with provocative viewpoints on this major interest of my life. In answering their limited needs, I answer larger ones of my own … all these individual things are parts of an infinitely complex organism that I am trying to see whole. I didn’t begin this research with that end in view, but things have developed that I believe I am now capable of writing that definitive history of the Mormons and this state that has been so badly needed. I am not yet ready to write it; but I believe that I am fortunate enough to have the equipment, I have an emotional understanding of Mormonism, I also have an intellectual detachment essential to the critical appraisal of it. My work of the Historical Records Survey and the Writers Project during the last four years, has been, in effect, a fellowship in the history of this state; I have a pretty good educational background, and I have sunk enough time in research to have a pretty extensive command of resources. So you see what these things add up to.

His decision to leave the WPA and move to Washington, D.C., was dictated, in large measure, by his drive to continue his research. His evenings and weekends could be spent in the various book, manuscript, newspaper, and map collections of the Library of Congress [p.12] and in the “staggering and largely unplumbed manuscript collections” of the National Archives.

In January 1945 Dale applied for a post-service fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation. He believed he needed two years to complete his history of the Mormons: one year of field research and at least one year of writing. He received a $2,000 stipend in the spring of that year, with a possible $2,000 renewal for an extra year. He spent the rest of 1945, all of 1946, and most of 1947 finishing his exhaustive newspaper search in the Library of Congress.

In the fall of 1947, Dale quit his job, activated the Guggenheim grant, and set out in a 1943 Hudson for a crosscountry study of Mormonism. His first stop was New York City where he spent six weeks in the New York Public Library and the New York Historical Society, working principally in the newspaper files. While in New York he almost bankrupted himself microfilming early Mormon publications such as The Return, The Elder’s Journal, The Gospel Herald, The Prophet, The Messenger and Advocate, and The Evening and the Morning Star.

During the rest of 1947 Dale made his way through the New England states where Mormonism was born. From New York he struck out for Vermont where he retraced the meanderings of Joseph Smith’s family. First he went to Woodstock, then Windsor, where, nearly 136 years before, Solomon Mack, Joseph’s maternal grandfather, had published a pamphlet entitled Narrative of Solomon Mack. Dale next went down to the old Smith farm at South Royalton in search of something more than manuscripts. “Biography,” he had once written to a friend, “demands a certain feeling, a sense of the texture of life.” That evening, as on so many others, he recorded his impressions.

The air was winey and fresh, wholly delicious, the very smell of October in the hills. The rolling adjacent land seems still to be farmed after a fashion. I noticed that the soil was rocky still. I climbed over a barbed wire fence north of the place and climbed the higher of the hills looming above it until checked by a more formidable barbed wire fence I didn’t think it worthwhile to climb, as I had altitude enough for the picture I wanted. I noticed that in this field above the old farm was a good deal of cutover land, with small stumps to give me an idea of some of the problems this land may have afforded when the original stand of timber was cleared off by the Smiths. Scenically the place was lovely even at this season, when the greys and russets and duns of November reign in the hills, for the hills still were carpeted by a brave fresh green of grass.

From Windsor he drove five miles to Tunbridge, where the Smiths had also lived for a time, and then on to Sharon, Norwich, Whitingham, and the old Brigham Young farm. From Vermont he went to Massachusetts, spending several days in the libraries of Boston.

[p.13] All through the winter of 1947 Dale followed the paths that Mormonism had wandered from New York through Pennsylvania and Ohio. He spent Thanksgiving that year near Alton, New York, where Joseph Smith had married Emma Hale in 1827. Then he went to Colesville, site of an 1830 trial of Joseph, and on to Harmony to see where the couple had buried their first child. Late in November, he visited Palmyra, where the Book of Mormon was first published in 1830. Kirtland, Ohio, and the first Mormon temple followed; there Dale spent several days in the extensive newspaper collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society. He moved on from Cleveland to the Detroit Public Library where he worked in the Burton Historical Collection. Then on to Chicago where he discovered affidavits concerning Joseph’s life, collected but not published by A. B. Deming in his expose Naked Truths About Mormonism, and also the stockbook of the church’s ill-fated attempt at banking, the Kirtland Anti-banking Safety Society.

After a few days Dale moved on to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, from where he made research forays to the many schismatic churches of Mormonism in the vicinity. He spent several days at the headquarters of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Independence, Missouri, and received permission from RLDS church president Israel Smith to examine anything in their library, including photostats of their manuscript copy of the Book of Mormon. After spending a day with the manuscript, with the help of RLDS library research assistant S. A. Burgess, Dale concluded that the RLDS manuscript was the second, or printer’s copy, of the Book of Mormon. Dale also examined the Hiram Page seer-stone. Burgess “gave a demonstration of how it was used, holding it up to his eyes and peering through it. But Burgess said he could not make it work.” Neither could Dale. He also examined such curiosities as the Reformed Egyptian “caractors” reportedly transcribed from the Book of Mormon and was allowed to read the Book of John Whitmer, an early official history of Mormonism, and also the original printer’s copy of the Book of Commandments, an early compilation of Mormon scripture.

He finished his visits to the other churches in the Independence area by the end of January and then visited other sites in Missouri, Columbia, St. Louis, and St. Joseph. From there he visited Nauvoo, Illinois. Finally he turned west, tracing the Mormon Battalion route to California. There he worked in the Huntington Library, the Stanford University Library, and the Bancroft Library at Berkeley.

He reached his mother’s home in Salt Lake City in March 1948, prepared to spend the next year to eighteen months writing the first volume of his history of the Mormons. But he arrived to find a letter from the Guggenheim Foundation notifying him that the second year fellowship, which he needed to support his writing, had been denied. He was out of funds and out of a job, having resigned his federal government position in order to work full-time on his [p.14] Mormon history. Now, he felt, he would have to start again, not “from scratch, but some distance back of scratch.”

Still reeling from this disappointment, Dale soon received yet another setback. He had written to LDS church president George Albert Smith requesting cooperation from the Church Historian’s Office in Utah similar to that he had been granted by the RLDS church in Independence. He received a letter dated 14 April 1948 from Joseph Anderson, secretary to the Utah church’s governing First Presidency:

An experience running over several years has persuaded us of the unwisdom of giving access to our manuscript records to people writing books, because that same experience has shown that people writing such books are rarely qualified to appraise accurately what they read, and too frequently, whether conscious or unconsciously, they misrepresent what they find. Such manuscripts will therefore not be available for general inspection or use.

The Historian’s Office, Anderson concluded, was not a research library “but a private library, maintained and operated for the benefit of the Church.” The Utah church would allow Dale access to some printed materials in its library but not to manuscripts, which included first and rare editions of books. This was the first time a library or a church had refused Dale access to Mormon materials, and early the following year the first counselor to President Smith, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., further urged the Guggenheim Foundation not to renew its funding of Dale’s research. Still, Dale followed up on the offer to let him look at the non-rare, non-first edition books in the church’s collections, hoping to add titles to his bibliography. He was surprised to find only 190 out of the 700 titles already on his list in the Church Historian’s Office, a smaller number than he had found in the New York Public Library, the Harvard Library, or the Coe Collection at Yale University.

By mid-1948 finding work had become Dale’s most pressing priority. He wrote to John Selby, his editor at Rinehart and Company, in July and requested an advance on the first volume of the Mormon history, promising the first draft of the book by April 1949. This resulted in a signed contract and an advance of $750 within the next few weeks. But even as he wrote Dale was accepting projects that stole time away from his Mormon history—so as to raise “the water table of my financial well,” as he put it. On 6 September 1949 he wrote to his friend Dean Brimhall:

In the last month my decision has definitely crystallized to return to Washington [D.C.], permanently insofar as I am able to establish myself. The year and a half I have spent in Utah has graphically demonstrated to me that it is wholly unrealistic of me to try to maintain myself here. Both economically and culturally it is impossible—if not impossible, unwise and impracticable. Apart from the cultural [p.15] handicaps under which one must work here, the basic tools of research [are] not even at hand, [and] the economic disability [is] serious. What it amounts to is that I should either have to give up the writing of the histories for which I have prepared myself through so many years, or be content to live forever at a worse than substandard subsistence level.

Dale left Utah that winter. As he later wrote, “For better or worse, I am an expatriate now.” He had no job waiting in Washington, D.C., so in addition to working on his Mormon history he was also accepting whatever work came his way, mainly writing book review articles for the Saturday Review of Literature and cataloging manuscript collections for the Eberstadt Company, a rare book dealer in New York City. By March 1950 he wrote to Fawn Brodie that he had completed about 125 pages of his Mormon history, plus a 19-page appendix on Joseph Smith’s 1826 “glass looking” trial in Bainbridge, New York. He sent this portion of the manuscript to the Utah State Historical Society to be typed.

Unfortunately, a January 1952 letter from Dale’s publisher, Stanley Rinehart, stopped work on the Mormon history altogether. Dale had been working on the project for at least seventeen years, four years under contract with them, Rinehart wrote, and they had received only three chapters. Not only was the project two and a half years past the projected completion date, Rinehart continued acidly, but the “volume of correspondence [about the book] far outweighs this amount of manuscript.” Consequently, Rinehart advised, they were no longer committed to publication of Dale’s Mormon history.

Stunned by the tone of the letter, Dale left his apartment that morning and went to the Library of Congress where he remained through the day. In the evening he wrote to his friend D. L. Chambers, president of Bobbs-Merrill Publishing Company. Chambers, who had been “extraordinarily kind and courteous through all our relations,” had previously expressed interest in Dale’s Mormon book. Dale asked Chambers for an immediate advance of $750 in order to purchase his old obligation from Farrar and Rinehart. The advance would be for a biography of Jedediah Smith. In effect, the Mormon history was traded for the biography. Later that month Dale confessed to long-time confidant Madeline McQuown, “I have many times regretted that I committed myself on this book when as it proved the circumstances of my life were such that I was not able to make good on the commitment; and as I have not been willing to throw a text together to satisfy a merely legal obligation, I have been in a creel situation.”

For the rest of Dale’s life he would refer periodically to the Mormon history he would one day finish. He never did. In all he wrote some seven chapters and two appendices. But when one realizes that Dale’s chapters were all written before 1952, his remarkable insight into Joseph Smith and the beginnings of Mormonism becomes apparent.

[p.16] Dale’s contribution to history is not limited to his unfinished manuscript; all of his writings embody his sense of history. He once wrote that his point of view as a historian was primarily “that of the taxonomist—to describe what has happened rather than to criticize the happening.” In 1948 Dale was considering an invitation to speak to the Salt Lake City Lion’s Club. “I may finally agree to give out with something,” he explained to Fawn Brodie.

If so, it will be a discussion of “New Ways of Thinking about Mormon History,” and will present the case for the primarily sociological viewpoint on Mormon history, getting away from the old right-and-wrongness of things and emphasizing the how of things, also dwelling upon the organic wholeness of the Mormon story, in which nothing that happens anywhere is the history of the major church, social and political; Mormon colonization considered in its larger aspects, and not merely as an exclusive possession of B[righam]. Young’s followers.

He realized that such an approach would not be popular among some of the faithful. “I don’t think this [his Mormon history] will make me any more popular in my native state,” he wrote, “for it comes to conclusions which not only parallel Fawn Brodie’s in many places, but documents them even more precisely. Luckily the Destroying Angels are now dead and gone, and I can cope with the Annoying Angels.” But then, he would add to close friends, Joseph Smith himself would have probably had a difficult time in the contemporary church. “I am afraid that a reincarnation of Joseph would get called upon the carpet about the third week after his baptism,” he quipped, “and very likely he wouldn’t last out his first six months in the Church.”

Dale was as concerned with the style as with the substance of his histories. “While it is being written with what literary grace I can summon to the task,” he explained, “my main objective is to have a reader say not ‘What a brilliant writer this fellow Morgan is’ but ‘So that’s the truth of the matter.'” He wrote at length to Juanita Brooks in 1945, counseling her about what revisions he would recommend in the language of her own book.

But don’t let the prose stand as pedestrian merely because you wrote it that way in a hurry to get your ideas down. The point is, strike a balance between a prose which is a medium for the conveyance of ideas (a valuable kind of prose, by the way), and a prose which has an intrinsic interest of its own, for its fresh and attractive way of saying things. Every writer has to face this individual problem of saying what he wants to say in the simplest possible way, and of availing himself of the rich resources of the English language in such a way as to extend the popular comprehension and appreciation of that language. Simplicity, carried to an extreme, steadily flattens vocabulary into a [p.17] barrenness of narrow compass; language over-ornate becomes polysyllabic exhibitionism. No writer can tell another how he is to solve this problem. It is a matter of temperament, equipment, and taste. But it does help to be aware of the nature of the problem confronting one.

The seven chapters Dale more or less completed of his Mormon history reveal both the artist and the scholar in full command of his material.

Dale’s correspondence must be included with his “tool books” and his unfinished history as significant contributions to Mormon historiography. “No one ever asked advice or direction from him without receiving it,” wrote his colleague and friend Juanita Brooks. “He has consistently encouraged writers and furnished both factual materials and expert criticism. The whole field of historical research has been greatly enriched and stimulated by this man.”

Dale was at his best writing long, lively letters, full of anecdotes, observations, and speculations mixed with a rich smattering of his latest finds in the recipient’s field of interest. These letters constitute an intellectual history of Mormonism during the period and display the many controversies and problems which Dale encountered in researching Mormon history. His own frustration in finding materials made him a sympathetic friend and generous colleague to other researchers working on Mormon topics. For years he supplied a steady stream of material for Madeline McQuown’s still unpublished biography of Brigham Young. When Juanita Brooks once asked why he would spend precious hours on someone else’s work, he responded, “You need not be puzzled at the interest I take in what you are doing…. It’s the kind of thing I’d do in your place, and I get a personal pleasure out of what you’re doing, so in a sense when I can lay hold of something you can use and can make it available to you, it has the value and interest of a personal experience.”

He was also a prodder and promotor. In February 1944, he wrote to Madeline McQuown about Brooks:

I want to tell you about Juanita Brooks and a new book of which I am what you might call the spiritual father. Some weeks back I got to thinking about Juanita, her valiant and rather extraordinary life, her remarkable knowledge of the history and folkways of the Southern Mormon Frontier, and so on. Accordingly I wrote her that she was commanded to write a book, in some degree autobiographical, but with a large basis of social history, a kind of passionately personal book about that life she knows so well. I outlined in general what the book would be, and told her that her whole life had literally been a preparation to write it. Well, the idea struck fire in her mind, and she now sends me thirty or forty pages she has dashed off….The material is absolutely wonderful! She tells some of the most marvelous stories you ever heard; but more than that, the tone of all she [p.18] writes is warm, human, witty and wise, and as I have just written her, it is full of sunlight.

The material to which Dale was referring grew into Brooks’s Quicksand and Cactus. Unfortunately, the book was not published until some thirty-eight years after this letter was written, a decade after Dale’s death. He also maintained an active collaboration on each of Brooks’s major works, including The Mountain Meadows Massacre, John D. Lee, and The Diary of Hosea Stout.

As a silent partner, Dale could be a helpful, if sometimes nitpicking, critic. Fawn Brodie sent him drafts of her work-in-progress, No Man Knows My History, which he returned with detailed comments and suggestions. He recommended that she expand her section on Nauvoo, Illinois, to give the book more coherence and also suggested she “make a final evaluation of [Joseph] Smith’s character” and his magnetic hold on his followers. “He gave them,” Dale wrote, “something they never got from anyone else; he left an indelible impression upon their minds, and they gave him a love they had never given anyone else.” He also cautioned her to evaluate carefully every area in the book that might lead to criticism—thus anticipating the intensive examination which followed its publication in 1945. “You occupy a somewhat singular position in this historiography of the Mormons,” he wrote to her,

in pioneering a certain viewpoint on Joseph and the Church. You are fortunate in one respect, in that anyone who uses the same material must come to much the same conclusions as yours, and you will have the distinction of having got there first. But the cost of this pioneering is that there are bound to be errors of commission and omission in what you say, and you are now much more a target than anyone who comes after you will be—particularly as those to follow will have the benefit of the discussions you have set on foot, and may be able to avoid some of the pitfalls you are bound to have fallen into. So you’ll just have to take the good with the bad!

Dale and Fawn Brodie shared research materials, a similar naturalistic outlook toward Mormon history, and a protective sympathy for each other’s works throughout their careers. Their mutual admiration once led to a rare heated exchange between Dale and the pugnacious author of Harper’s magazine’s “Easy Chair” column, Bernard DeVoto.

In December 1945, Utah-born literary critic DeVoto reviewed Brodie’s No Man Knows My History in the New York Herald Tribune and referred to his own theory that Joseph Smith was a paranoid. “Stirred from [his] lethargy,” Dale fired off a seven-page, single-spaced, closely-argued letter accusing DeVoto of misrepresenting Brodie’s book and letting his preconceptions about Joseph Smith influence his judgment. DeVoto’s reply, as quoted by William [p.19] Mulder in the Preface, was filled with personal invective. DeVoto then wrote to Brodie:

In common with God knows how many others I have frequently wished that I didn’t write books. Today I could almost bring myself to wish that you didn’t, for this morning I took a half a day off to write Dale Morgan about yours, and the afternoon’s mail has now impelled me to take the other half day off and write you about it, and the last day I could afford to take off was back around the turn of the century.

DeVoto’s response inspired another seven-page riposte from Dale, this time less provocative and signed cordially. Still Dale concluded, “I think it would be close to impossible to write a book-length study of Joseph Smith which would seriously maintain the paranoid thesis and show forth his life as exemplifying it.”

Dale’s view that the founder of Mormonism did not act out of paranoid delusions appears most fully developed in the seven surviving chapters of his Mormon history which he once outlined in a letter to Madeline McQuown:

How [did] Joseph Smith happen to start a church[?] I definitely subscribe to the one-thing-led-to-another theory. He had been a peepstone seer, but was forced beyond that by the bad reaction of his old moneydigging associates to his tale of the golden plates, and also by the religious note upon which his plea to Martin Harris for help was predicated. In writing an attenuation of the Bible, his ideas were further pent up in religious channels, and the revelation that was wrong from him by the dilemma of the loss of the first part of the B[ook] of M[ormon] manuscript took him over the borderline…. The first intimation that there was going to be a church occurs in [the] B[ook of]. C[ommandments]. [Chapter] IV, the revelation of March, 1829, and the idea recurs thereafter, but you will see that in most of the revelations down to April 6, 1830, the true faith is equated with the acceptance of Joseph, his gift, and his book.

More often than not, Dale’s letters reveal wit and a sense of humor. “I have an interesting new theory on Joseph the Prophet I would like your opinion on,” he wrote to Mormon researcher Stanley Ivins in 1955.

I have entertained this theory for a long while, but what has led me to formulate it in so many words is a little research job a friend did for me in Archives. He looked up the Joseph Smith family in Ontario, N.Y., in 1820, Farmington township, and located them all right. The age groups all checked except that the children were shy two males. One of these would have been Joseph Smith, the other I forget at the moment, but I have a theory about him too. In short, my [p.20] theory is that there never was any such person as Joseph Smith, Junior; he was simply an optical illusion, perhaps discovered originally in a peepstone. Although this is a radical new theory, consider how well it fits the facts. It explains how such an improbable person never existed anyhow, and most triumphantly of all, it accounts for the fact that all of Joseph’s reputed plural wives never bore him any children. You might object that this would not explain Joseph Smith III, etc., but I ask you, and this is unanswerable, Emma was human, wasn’t she? As for the other little man who wasn’t there in the census, no doubt this was William. I never quite believed in William either.

Perhaps if the theory caught on, he closed, they could start a new Mormon church—”Perhaps we could call it the Reformed or Swearing-off Mormon Church.”

Dale’s correspondence also documents his involvement with the Utah State Historical Society. During one period, he sent detailed letters from his Washington, D.C., apartment suggesting publishing schedules for a year at a time—what articles would be in which issues, who would write them, what they would contain, and where the material could be found. He even recommended that writers be required to follow the University of Chicago’s Manual of Style.

Following Washington, D.C., Dale returned briefly to Salt Lake City. In 1954, he joined the staff of the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, as an editor and author. By the 1960s, Dale, the professional historian who had forged his way without conventional institutional degrees and support, began at last to receive the recognition he rightly deserved. In 1960 he was made a Fellow of the Utah State Historical Society. The California Historical Society next presented him with their Henry R. Wagner Memorial Award in 1961 and its Fellowship Award in 1962. He received the University of Utah Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1964 and the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History in 1965. Finally in 1970, twenty years after the renewal of his first grant had been denied, he received a second Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, this time to write a single-volume history of the fur trade in North America which he hoped to tackle the following year.

He was scarcely able to begin, however. He died of cancer in Maryland on 30 March 1971 at the age of fifty-six, leaving behind a clutch of major unfinished works. His papers, spanning some thirty-five years of research and study, filled a hundred crates and were deposited with his employer, the Bancroft Library. A priceless legacy of one of the West’s “most productive and influential historians during the 1950s and 1960s,” to borrow a phrase from Everett Cooley, director of Special Collections at the University of Utah Library, the contents have unfortunately remained unprocessed and are unavailable to most researchers.

[p.21] Prior to Dale’s death, Fawn Brodie wrote to a friend on hearing of his serious illness, “He has some great books inside him, and I simply can’t bear to think of their not being written. No one but he can do what ought to be done on Mormon history.” Following his untimely passing, Juanita Brooks could only echo, “I have long since ceased trying to figure out the WHY’s of the Universe. I can only accept these tragedies with what grace I can muster. The cause of Utah history suffers greatly from his loss.” “It’s a great loss,” added western novelist Wallace Stegner; “he was so fine a scholar that almost one’s first thought is of the unwritten book—and not only the Mormon one but the fur trade one. And that’s heartless, really, because he was also so fine and decent and generous and long-suffering a man that one should think first of the person we’ve lost, and not the books.”