From the Archives

Women’s History Month at the JI: Thoughts on Elizabeth Kane (Smith)

By March 26, 2013

By Alex D. Smith


“To be burned unread if I die, unless Tom cares to read it. No one else. Mind! I will haunt any one who does!

E. D. K.”


I have waited with eager anticipation for Elizabeth Dennistoun Kane to fulfill this threat inscribed on the first page her 1860 diary. Elizabeth, if you are listening, at your convenience.

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Women and the Manifesto: Painting with Broad Strokes

By March 11, 2013

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From the (Historiographical) Archives: Mormon Historians “are still too much merely Sunday Christians”

By February 18, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 13.11.20After the battles over New Mormon History in the 1980s and early 90s, Mormon historians (and I mean historians who are Mormon, not just historians who study Mormons) have been hesitant to discuss the relationship between faith and history. Or so I argue in a paper I’m presenting this weekend at the Conference on Faith & Knowledge (schedule here). In preparation for my paper, I’ve revisited a number of classic historigraphical texts from decades ago, and have been surprised by two things: 1) the amount of attention this thorny issue was given by earlier scholars in the field, and 2) the lack of engagement to a similar degree by today’s generation. There are, I think, several reasons for this, which I attempt to outline in the paper. But in this post I merely want to present a couple quotations from Richard Bushman’s classic essay “Faithful History” (pdf here), published almost five decades ago, and invite discussion.

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From the Archives: Peach Cobbler, For Men by Men: Or, When Reed Smoot Makes Dessert

By January 23, 2013

A friend of mine excitedly posted a link the other day on facebook with the accompanying note that “Warren G. Harding’s recipe for waffles is freely available on Google books.” The link took me to a 1922 cookbook entitled The Stag Cook Book, Written for Men By Men (or, alternately, as the cover to the right shows, with the slightly different subtitle A Man’s Cook Book for Men). Dedicated to “That Great Host of Bachelors and Benedicts Alike, who at one time or another tried to ‘cook something’; and who, in the attempt, have weakened under a fire of feminine raillery and sarcasm, only to spoil what, under more favorable circumstances, would have  proved a chef-dœvre,” it reminded me of Tona’s fascinating and fun post from last week on “etiquette and advice manual[s] updating 19th and early 20th century counsel for the 21st century man.” Here, I realized, was a very real example (if one in which the author/editor’s tongue was planted firmly in his cheek) of the sort of literature tries to update for the 21st century.* And it didn’t disappoint. In addition to Warren G. Harding’s waffle recipe (in which we learn that “President Harding is a staunch upholder of the gravy school and likes his in the form of creamed chipped beef”—none of that sissy honey or maple syrup for the ringleader of the Ohio Gang), we’re also given access to Charlie Chaplin’s steak and kidney pie speciality and Houdini’s scalloped mushrooms and deviled eggs.  So what does any of this have to do with Mormon history, you ask? Well, among the other contributors to the volume was Mormon senator Reed Smoot, who provided his peach cobbler recipe. Without further ado, here it is in all of its sugary goodness:

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From the Archives: Mormon Women and Pants, circa 1856

By December 13, 2012

I’ve watched with interest the ongoing debates this week over the proposed “Wear Pants to Church Day” spearheaded by a group of Mormon feminists. I’ve little desire to wade into the treacherous waters that conversation has become, but thanks to our resident Strangite expert Robin Jensen, I now know that the history of Mormon women and the controversial wearing of pants extends back much earlier than the late 20th century.

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I Found it in the Archives: Archival Code Breakers

By October 29, 2012

I have to admit, as completely unpalatable as I find Nicolas Cage (despite his influential corner of internet memes), every once in a while I wish that archival research was a little less sitting and reading a little more jumping to action and making remarkable and miraculous connections—preferably in some deep lost underground tunnel holding documents no one has seen for a couple hundred years or more. (Dr. Jones, Jr. is clearly more acceptable than Cage, were it not for that crystal skull and his inability to get tenure, but I don’t really need to get in a row with cannibalistic natives.) Despite this desire for excitement, most archival finds and brief moments of epiphany occur only after a lot of work amidst the mundane.

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Found in the Archives: James Covel in Canada, circa 1818?

By October 22, 2012

In March of this year, the newly rebranded BYU Studies Quarterly published an article I wrote entitled “Mormonism in the Methodist Marketplace: James Covel and the Historical Background of Doctrine and Covenants 39–40.” The article, which began as a short and poorly-written blog post here at JI a few years earlier, represented the culmination of a year in the archives pouring through manuscript sources and rolls and rolls of microfilmed newspapers and church records from three different Methodist churches (assisted by the indefatigable staff at the United Methodist Archives and History Center in Madison, New Jersey), piecing together the life and preaching career of a man I initially knew next to nothing about. It also represented the culmination—or so I thought at the time—of my research on connections between Methodism and early Mormonism. I’d moved on to what I imagined at the time as an entirely unrelated project: my dissertation, which examines the growth and development of Methodism in North America and the Caribbean from 1760 to 1815.

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Found in the Archives: Heidi Harris, “Too coincidental to be merely coincidental”

By October 21, 2012

We’re delighted to feature this contribution from JI’s good friend and former blogger Heidi Harris as part of our “I Found it in the Archives” series.

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Finding history in the archives

By October 2, 2012

From my experience, historians don’t consciously believe archives are a neutral space in the historical research process, but there is not nearly enough literature on the filtering process that occurs within an archives.[1] I’m not speaking of the difficulties inherent in historic documents. All historians are taught to focus a critical eye on a source, look at why it’s created, and to weigh its biases. But I think historians are ill-trained in analyzing the archival influence of various collections. Scholars need to think about and engage with the fact that historical documents are processed by archivists with their own prejudices, (changing) professional standards, and varying historical knowledge. What have historians missed due to not understanding processing and preservation practices? This opens up a tremendous array of questions scholars can glean in their own research. Below is but a small example of this kind of thinking. It’s in no way earth-shattering, but I think uncovers some illustrative evidence historians should remember.

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I Found it in the Archives

By October 1, 2012

Archival research and the resulting discovered sources often provide the critical foundation for scholarly articles and books. There is something wonderful about stepping into the archives and having the past delivered to your table in Holinger boxes and non-acidic folders; not to mention that you often discover answers to questions you had not thought to ask.

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From the Archives: Wilford Woodruff Correcting Church History “Mistakes” (Huntington Journal)

By September 20, 2012

By friend of the JI Joseph Stuart

Whilst transcribing portions of the Oliver Huntington journals for a paper to be presented at the Utah State Historical Society, I stumbled upon this gem in Oliver’s stake conference notes. The conference’s visiting authority was apostle and Church Historian Wilford Woodruff, who made considerable efforts to address certain rumors/falsehoods circulating about LDS Church History in his address.

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1829 Mormon Discovery Brought to you by…Guest Erin Jennings

By August 21, 2012

The following post comes from intrepid researcher by Erin Jennings. Erin (BS, Cameron University; MSE, Arkansas State University) is an independent historian and current board member of the John Whitmer Historical Association. Among her areas of focus, Erin has extensively researched Jesse Gause, Charles Anthon, and the Whitmer family. She has published, “The Consequential Counselor: Restoring the Root(s) of Jesse Gause,” in the Journal of Mormon History, and “The Whitmer Family Beliefs and Their Church of Christ,” in the book Scattering of the Saints: Schism Within Mormonism, edited by Newell G. Bringhurst and John C. Hamer. The Juvenile Instructor thanks Erin for kindly sharing an important document she recently found:

A relentless eight-year search has finally come to an end for me. Thanks to an ever-growing trove of digital tools, I’ve finally located an elusive Oliver Cowdery letter that in February 1830 Cornelius Blatchly claimed was reproduced in a New York newspaper in 1829.

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Climbing Up the Child’s Ladder: Catechism for Little Saints

By August 4, 2012

I stumbled on this little gem while looking for something else in the Internet Archive’s collection of Mormon publications [1] and was both charmed and intrigued by it. The pamphlet is a 16-page tract, titled “The Latter-day Saints’ Catechism: Or, Child’s Ladder,” by Elder David Moffat. Subtitle: “Being a Series of Questions Adapted for the Use of the Children of Latter-day Saints.”

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From the Archives: “Wait Till the Clouds Roll by Zion”

By July 31, 2012

One fascinating document that has been submitted to the Saints of Alberta Project (SAP) is this page of lyrics for a folk hymn composed by “H. Garner” on April 17, 1884, titled “Wait till the clouds roll by Zion”:

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From the Archives: “Who May Bear the Priesthood?”

By July 21, 2012

I came across an intriguing article not long ago, published in a 1927 issue of the Cumorah Monthly Bulletin. The Bulletin was the official publication of the South African Mission from 1927-1970.[1] I suppose you know what’s coming next based on the title of this post, so I might as well get right to it.


This is a subject of frequent inquiry in the South African Mission, where so many good people are unable to declare, with certainty, a genealogy pure from the Hamite or Canaanitish blood.[2]

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From the Archives: Hannah Tapfield King’s Introduction to Polygamy

By April 2, 2012

[If Elder Holland was correct in his General Conference talk from saturday that we are never too far along the path of sin to repent and return to God’s fold, then I hope I can make amends for not participating in March’s Women’s History Month by reproducing a revealing document written by one of my female idols.]

Hannah Tapfield King (1807-1886) was a fascinating woman. Born in Cambridge, England, to Peter Tapfield, a land steward and second son of the 5th Duke of Leeds, and Mary Lawson, daughter of one of the most respected families of Yorkshire, she was married at a young age to Thomas Owen King–an arrangement between the King and Tapfield families that set Hannah for a life of wealth and comfort. While living in Cambridge shortly after her fortieth birthday, she was introduced to the Mormon message and went through a long, complicated, and intense investigation period. (Probably worth its own post.) Finally, on April 17th, 1851, she was “buried in the liquid grave and raised up out of it in the likeness of the burial and resurrection of our Saviour.” Her baptism brought a lot of trouble: it was in the midst of a debate concerning Mormonism in the Cambridge area, and Hannah, before a highly respected member of the community, received much condemnation from her peers. Even worse, her parents strongly disapproved of her decision, and were almost apoplectic when she announced she would be immigrating to Utah. Fortunately, her husband, though he never joined the LDS church, was supportive and even agreed to move with her to the American west two years later.

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From the Archives: A Bickertonite Missionary Among the Lakotas

By July 18, 2011

Last week my wife and I spent five days conducting field research for my dissertation in the National Archives, Central Plains Region branch in Kansas City, Missouri. Although I’m not writing on a Mormon topic, we flagged anything that might have a Mormon connection in the Bureau of Indian Affairs files we were examining. On Friday, my wife Hope turned to me with an excited look on her face, and handed me this piece of paper:

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From the Archives: “American Independence Declared Over Again”

By July 4, 2011

John Adams imagined that America would always celebrate July 1776 as the beginning point of American freedom, but he was off a few days. “The Second Day of July 1776,” he wrote, “will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty.” If Adams was mistaken on the exact date, he was prescient concerning the celebrations. “It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” Witnessing the pompous proceedings that surround Independence day—especially here in Utah County—reminds me that Adams was certainly at least half-right.

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Young ladies, absent missionaries, and the peep stones that bind them (1850s Utah Territory)

By March 2, 2011

It seems to be a common assumption that the use of folk magic objects like peep stones and divining rods had pretty well died out by the time the Saints arrived in the Great Basin. At least, we don’t talk much about them being used after that. When we speak of seer stones in a Mormon context Joseph Smith’s early treasure digging days, Book of Mormon translation, and Hiram Page are typically the topic of discussion. Such instruments were used for finding treasure, translating ancient texts, for revelation, and, in a few cases, for locating lost objects.

A while ago I came across a few references to the use of a “peep stone” that surprised me for several reasons. The date was later than I would have expected: 1856. And the peeper was younger than I expected: about 14 or 15. And the object of peeping was rather unusual.

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From the Archives: Wynetta Martin’s autobiography, Black Mormon Tells Her Story

By February 17, 2011

In the late 1960s, a black woman named Wynetta Martin joined the church in California, finding in Mormonism a loving God with whom she could identify. Martin moved to Utah at a time when the church was seeking to diversify its public face in response to boycotts of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and BYU. It was therefore a combination of her own tenacity as an individual (she drove all night from Los Angeles to make her audition) and the church’s need to adapt to changing circumstances that allowed Martin to become the first African American member of the Tabernacle Choir and the first black instructor at BYU (she taught classes on “Black Culture” in the Nursing department).

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