Cephalopods 3 of 4: Octopus Maps

By July 7, 2013

Seeing as how it?s ?Mormonism and Politics? month at JI, let?s talk about spineless carnivores with sucker-covered tentacles. One of the most common forms of octopus propaganda was a labeled octopus on a map representing an ?imperial? power of some sort—a nation or company or, in the Mormon case, a church/theocracy—that controlled various geographic areas politically or economically. Michelle Farran at Vulgar Army provides several examples (see image below).

JI FM Cephalopods4 OctopusMap composite 20130617a

Mormon political hegemony was a major theme in anti-Mormon discourse in the decades around 1900. Heebie-jeebies were given, hands were clutched to bosoms, and smelling salts were deployed on account of Mormonism?s actual and alleged political influence. [1] As early as 1861 writers spoke of Mormonism?s ?tentacles? reaching out geographically [2] and various authors—of fiction and (ostensible) non-fiction—referred to something like ?that great Mormon octopus stretching out its tentacles from State to State and enfolding in an almost undetachable grip that which it seizes.? [3] The graphic instantiation of this idea, the Mormon ?devil-fish map? (see image below) and its kin, played a significant role in anti-Mormon efforts from 1898 into the 1910s. [4]

MormonOctopus WomansAmericanBaptistHomeMissSoc InsideCover

In 1898, the Woman?s American Baptist Home Mission Society (WABHMS) published an eight-page pamphlet entitled The Mormon Octopus. The inside front cover featured the map above, with the explanation on the following page, in bold:

Mormonism is an ecclesiastical and since statehood, a political Despotism. Like a huge octopus, the Mormon hierarchy is fastening its tentacles throughout the Rocky Mountain States, and is sapping the very life-blood of American freedom. [5]

I do not know which came first, but in 1898 the League for Social Service?s ?Series D: Anti-Mormon? pamphlets also featured ?devil-fish maps.? Pamphlets D-1 through D-6 had the exact same map as the WABHMS on their covers (see images below). [6] There is some evidence that one JB Upham was the original artist. [7]

LFSS composite 20130629b 650px

Pamphlet D-7, Reasons Why Brigham H. Roberts should be Expelled from the U. S. Congress, had a modified map showing a tentacle reaching for the national government at Washington DC (see image below). [8]

LFSS SeriesD07 ReasonsWhyBHRobertsShouldBeExpelled cover crop Although D-7 was not printed after Roberts?s expulsion, at least one of the other pamphlets was still in print as late as 1921 (I don?t know if it had the same cover). [9] The map itself was reproduced both exactly and with the Washington modification and ?sent out in great quantities? (see images below, 1904, 1905). [10] In 1899 a home-missionary expected that her readers

?have doubtless seen the octapus-picture where it appears in the heart of our great West, its big black body lying flat, disgustingly spread over the whole extent of Utah, while its long fierce tentacles are reaching out, and clutching Idaho?; Wyoming?; Colorado?; New Mexico?; and Nevada?.? [11]

The maps were used in, for examples, a home-missionary meeting (1899), a display booth (1904), and at the National Congress of Mothers (1905). [12] In 1920 the Woman?s Home Missions was still urging its readers, as part of a study meeting, to ??on a map of the United States draw the Mormon octopus, with the legend, ?Shall it throttle US??? [13]

MoOctoMap composite LAH1904Jan04v31n97p2 and BHMM1905Janv27n1p14

It wasn?t just the US. A Canadian group published a book in 1909 including a map showing the Mormon octopus reaching out to the Mormon colonies in Alberta and (presumably) the national government in Ontario (see image below). [14]

WoodsworthJS OctopusOfMormonism StrangersWithinOurGates p78 650pxThe text of the pamphlet, ?The Octopus? was also influential. In 1902 Sherman H Doyle reworded and expanded the opening paragraph:

?Like a huge octopus, the Mormon hierarchy is fastening its tentacles throughout the Rocky Mountain States, and is sapping from its devotees the very life-blood of American freedom. By means of a systematic colonization and the rapid increase of population through plural wives the Mormon Church already holds the balance of political power in seven or eight Rocky Mountain states and territories. For many years Mormonism has been quietly but rapidly acquiring vast tracts of the best land all through these states on which to settle Mormon emigrants who practically become helpless vassals of the Church. Already Mormon emigration is pouring beyond into Montana, Washington, and California. The Mormon leaders boast that they will not only hold the balance of political power in these states, but will dictate their own terms to the national Government.? [15]

Doyle?s formulation was cited at the onset of a widely-discussed 1903 speech on the ?Octopus of Mormonism? by one Charles L Thompson (see next week?s post).

The octopus maps and the pamphlets drew the ire of some pro-Mormon polemicists. One VS Peet, a non-Mormon businessman, railed at length against the image and those who used it in a 1,400-word editorial in 1908 entitled ?The Utah Devil Fish.? Peet describes several instances of the use of the octopus map image, including speeches, pamphlets, and lantern slides. He particularly objected to the image?s use by the Salt Lake Ministerial Association, on account of its damage to Utah business interests. [16] Peet brought up the image multiple times from 1905 to 1911. [17]

Ben E Rich, president of the Southern States Mission did not mention the map itself, but objected to the idea that the ?Mormon octapus? was controlling states. [18] A few years later an article in a Mormon mission newspaper (by a non-Mormon, not-necessarily-favorable) attested to the reach and reception of the octopus map:

?I saw recently a cartoon of a horrible octopus with its body and fiendish goggle eyes resting in Salt Lake City with its treacherous succer-like tenticles reaching out over half a dozen neighboring states. This sir, was meant to say to the people of this nation that polygamous ?Mormonism? is surely, but slowly, engulfing us.? [19]

WP Monson, writing for Mormon Liahona: The Elders? Journal in 1916, complained about the image of the ?inky-black demon? on a map, asserted that it was used ?throughout the religious and secular press,? and linked it to an increase in anti-Mormon sentiment. [20]


[1] Polemicists expressed concern about the influence both of Mormon ideas and culture (usually framed as the moral degradation caused by polygamy) and of formal Mormon institutions (usually framed as priesthood control). Snark about purple rhetoric aside, pro- and anti-Mormon polemicists struggled with questions of identity, collectivism, and conformism within a federal, republican democracy, many of which questions are still salient today. Present-day conversations in the US around immigration; the power of unions, corporations, and PACs; the separation of church and state; and freedom of religious belief and practice all show at least some parallels with arguments about Mormon political and cultural power from the 1880s to 1910s.

[2] ??where the Mormons have stretched forth their longest tentacle at San Bernadino, near Los Angeles.? No author listed, ?The Mormons, and the Country They Dwell In,? extract / retelling from Jules Remy, Voyage au Pays des Mormons: Relation, Géographie, Histoire Naturelle, Histoire, Théologie, M?urs et Coutumes, 2 vols, (Paris: E Dentu, 1860) in William Harrison Ainsworth, ed, The New Monthly Magazine 121:483 (1861 Mar, London): 273 (253-273).

[3] M. Katharine Jones Bennett, ?An Augmented Constituency,? Home Mission Monthly 21:10 (1907 Aug): 240 (240-241).

Fiction: ?The poor old dethroned wife hid her whitened face in her deserted room, for the one son of these early days, now a fiery apostle of Brigham, was far away pushing the  feelers of the Mormon octopus on toward Arizona and  Mexico.? Richard H Savage, Miss Devereux of the Mariquita: A Story of Bonanza Days in Nevada (London: George Routledge, 1895), 51.

Non-fiction: ?The great moral octopus which clutches Utah and surrounding territories is reaching out its suckered arms to every State in the Union; and nothing can so effectively cut off those arms as full and elaborate information up to date and circulated [9] among the masses.? George A Lofton, in introduction (dated 1900 Jul 26, Nashville, TN) to Edgar E Folk, The Mormon Monster: or, The Story of Mormonism (Chicago: Fleming H Revell Co, 1900), 8-9. ?Who can study of the great Mormon octopus, which is surely, steadily and swiftly stretching out its many arms and gathering in state after state right here in this civilized nation of the nineteenth century, with its blasphemy, its sensuality, its degraded homes and womanhood, without determining to sacrifice something that missionaries may be sent to counteract the evil teachings of these self-styled Latter Day Saints.? AB Cornish, ?How Shall We Increase,? Custer County Republican, Broken Bow, NE, 1899 Nov 16, p 5. ?But shame on us and on the nation, during the past year the entire political control of that great territory [Idaho] has gone into the hands of the Mormon priesthood. This huge octopus, with its far-reaching tentacles, is encircling our fair territories, and drawing all their public interests into its voracious mandibles, and there sucking their life?s blood—hideous, horrid creature that it is!? Author identified as ?One of our missionaries in Utah,? ?Mormonism,? in ?Home Missions,? The Presbyterian Monthly Record 32:9 (Philadelphia: 1881 Sep): 294 (294-5). ?In this country the system has practical possession of Utah, and it is throwing its tentacles like a giant octopus out over Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon. In these surrounding States and territories the balance of power is gravitating towards its control. Its missionaries are found zealously at work in nearly all the other States, and they have active missions in a number of our cities.? No author listed, ?Mormonism,? Presbyterian Banner 89:4 (Pittsburg, PA, 1902 July 10 Thu): 5. ?It is a matter—as was so eloquently stated by Mr. Standrod—that goes to the very foundation of that which we are seeking to regulate, the right of the people to exercise the right of suffrage, only on condition that they shall exercise it in such a manner as shall be comfortable to the principles of republican government [982] and not in obedience to the behests of a theocracy such as exists in the territory of Idaho, and which like the devil-fish, is spreading its arms abroad to clutch and twine around and trouble and destroy the surrounding territories and states.? WH Claggett, as quoted in Proceedings and Debates of the Constitutional Convention of Idaho, 1889, vol 1, IW Hart, ed, (Caldwell, ID: Caxton Printers, 1912), 982. ?Its tentacles have reached out even to Washington; it controlled three years ago sufficiently to secure Statehood over the protest of our ablest statesmen and of the Christian sentiment of both the Territory and the Nation. The States and Territories which it controls as above have eleven members in Congress to-day, and this fact may have a very important bearing upon the seating of Roberts. The ?priesthood? can turn the vote of any Mormon district whichever way it chooses, by arts unknown to the mass of the voters themselves if necessary, always preserving a seeming balance of freedom.? Correspondent ?N.? ?The Cleveland Roberts Petition,? in ?Correspondence,? The Outlook 61 no 8 (1899 Feb 25): 473 (472-4).

[4] The phrase ?Devil Fish Map? probably comes from VS Peet, discussed in slightly more detail below. No author listed, credited to Utah Independent, edited by VS Peet (Salt Lake City, 1911), reprinted as ?Methodist and Mormon Persecution in England,? The Latter-day Saints? Millennial Star 73:24 (1911 Jun 15): 371 (369-372).

[5] No author listed, The Mormon Octopus, pamphlet, 8 pages (Boston, Woman?s American Baptist Home Mission Society, 1898).

[6] The cover images were taken from microfiche at the Harold B Lee Library, BYU, from images provided by the Wisconsin Historical Society. I am not certain that all the pamphlets were printed in 1898. The pamphlets were published by the League for Social Service (New York) and are listed below as they were advertised on the inside back cover of Social Service: A Monthly Review of Social and Industrial Betterment 5:1 (1902 Jan), under the heading ?Series D: Anti-Mormon.?

As of April 1902 (advertisement on the inside front cover, Social Service 5:4 [1902 Apr]), the League had added two translations: D-3 in Swedish (D-3A, ?Historisk Skiss öfver Mormonismen?) and D-6 in German (D-6A, ?Zehn Gruende Weshalb Christen Keine Gemeinschaft mit der Mormonenkirche Haben Koennen?). Note that D-2 is listed as ?Present Attitude of Mormonism? while the image shown below has the title as ?Present Aspects of Mormonism.? I do not know why there is a discrepancy (but Flake and Draper in A Mormon Bibliography, 1830?1930, 2nd ed (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center at BYU, 2004), have an entry for ?Aspects? but not ?Attitude.?

[7] ?For the black and white drawings on other pages in this issue, illustrating Mormonism and its political balance, with the accompanying words we are indebted to Mr. J. B. Upham, of Boston who has closely followed the developments in Utah. Referring to the illustration of the octopus—for which also we were indebted to him—showing one of the tentacles reaching to Washington, he says: ?Very few of our American people realize the grip of the Mormon hierarchy is exerting upon the government [p 51] at Washington. I fear that unless something very positive is done at this time, the power of the Mormon Church, through its machinery, will grow and extend until it will be almost impossible for a patriotic citizenship to cope with it. It is apparent that the Mormon Church has broken its part of the contract when statehood was given.? These are words of wise warning. Easy-going Americanism will not thwart sleepless and determined Mormonism.? No author listed, ?Note and Comment,? The Baptist Home Mission Monthly 27:2 (1905 Feb): 50-51. The octopus image mentioned is in No author listed, ?Mysteries, Mockeries, and Mummeries of Mormonism,? The Baptist Home Mission Monthly 27:1 (1905 Jan): 14-15 (14-19), and is shown below. VS Peet also mentions Upham (though other of Peet?s details are suspect). VS Peet, ?The Utah Devil Fish,? Truth 7:20 (Salt Lake City, 1908 Jan 25): 1-2.

[8] No author listed, Reasons Why Brigham H. Roberts should be Expelled from the U. S. Congress, Series D: Anti-Mormon, No. 7, pamphlet, 16 pages (New York: League for Social Service, 1898). In the upper left-hand corner it says ?First Edition ? 150,000,? which, presumably, indicates the number of copies printed.

[9] According to A Mormon Bibliography, 1830?1930, 2nd edition, Chad J Flake and Larry W Draper (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center at BYU, 2004), the last issue dates were: D-1: 1910; D-2: 1899; D-3: 1900; D-4: 1914; D-5: 1898; D-6: 1921(?). I am not entirely confident in the dating of the pamphlets, nor have I verified that later issues kept the same covers.

[10] Example of exact reproduction (image viewable in link): ?Regarding it as an ?octopus? in society and in politics, an illustration has been made, which we print herewith, (by courtesy of the American Baptist Home Missionary Society), showing those portions of the West in which the Mormon power is strongest. The centre, of course, is at Salt Lake City; Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico are largely under control; and Oregon, California, and Colorado are to some extent influenced.? Howard M Jenkins, Lydia H Hall, and Rachel W Hillborn, eds, ?The Revival of Polygamy,? Friends? Intelligencer 61 (no 46, 1899 Nov 18): 872.

Image on left: ?Copies of this picture are being sent out in great quantities by the Women?s Home missions. The Mormon octopus, from its nest in Utah, is spreading its tentacles over the Pacific coast states. With one tentacle, larger and longer than the rest, the octopus has reached out and grasped the District of Columbia.? No author listed, ?Mormon Octopus as Pictured by the American Woman?s Home Missions,? Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, CA, 31:97, 1904 Jan 04 Mon morning, p 2.

MormonMonarchyMap BaptistHomeMissionMonthly v27n1p15 1905JanImage on right: No author listed, ?Mysteries, Mockeries, and Mummeries of Mormonism,? The Baptist Home Mission Monthly 27:1 (1905 Jan): 14-15 (14-19). The caption reads: ?The Mormon Devil-Fish Stretching Its Tentacles Across Country to Washington.? Lest there be any confusion on the meaning, the following page has a much larger map showing areas of supposed Mormon control as shaded. Its caption reads: ?In the black section Mormonism either dominates absolutely in church and states, as in Utah, or holds the balance of power politically, as in Idaho.? In a later number of the magazine the illustrator is identified as JB Upham. No author listed, ?Note and Comment,? The Baptist Home Mission Monthly 27:2 (1905 Feb): 50-51.

[11]  ?We are to discover that this little Utah business has an ominous political side. You have doubtless seen the octapus-picture where it appears in the heart of our great West, its big black body lying flat, disgustingly spread over the whole extent of Utah, while its long fierce tentacles are reaching out, and clutching Idaho?; Wyoming?; Colorado?; New Mexico?; and Nevada?. [¶] ?That Octapus [sic] is Mormonism; and those seven States, and Territories soon to be States, contain 717,885 square miles of our American heritage; with already a population of 1,063,586, and capable of maintaining thirty millions, at least. [¶] ?And although Mormonism has not at this time full control there, it has largely the control, and is in the process of gaining all. ??  [¶] ?? There you have it; the Octapus, the Hierarchy whose ambition is and has long been the control of the Government.? Rachel Irwin, ?Mormonism,? Home Mission Monthly 13 no 12 (1899 Oct): 269 (266-9).

[12] ?Polygamy, bigamy, Mormonism and Brigham H. Roberts were separately and compactly denounced by the Women?s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Maryland at a mass-meeting held yesterday morning in Wesley Hall. [¶] The gathering was quite a large one, and was presided over by Mrs. John Neff, of the local board of the society. On the front window, facing the hall, was a large map of the United States, showing an octopus on the State of Utah, with its limbs outstretched over the surrounding States.? No author listed, ?Object to Roberts; Methodist Women Protest against the Polygamist; Claim He Is Not a Citizen,? Morning Herald, Baltimore, MD, 1899 Jan 12, p 7. ?The Mormon booth was best of all for information and created much interest. Across one end of the room was draped the flag and under its folds was a black flag with the word ?Treason? in red letters on it, and pinned to it was Brigham Young?s picture. The one in charge had in her hand Dr. Wishard?s leaflet, ?Mormon Rule Over the State,? and was kept busy answering questions provoked by this display. On another wall hung a large United States map, and pinned to it was an octopus with its arms extending to the various headquarters of the Mormon church in this country, and then beyond to all countries of Europe and Australia. The locations of these headquarters was taken from a Mormon leaflet, ?Information for Tourists.??? No author listed (?one of our wide-awake, up-to-date Iowa secretaries?), ?Unique and Successful,? Home Mission Monthly 18:11 (1904 Sep): 272 (272-273). ??Who is to be married?? ?Why, my sister; didn?t you know?? ?Why, no. Whom is she to marry?? ?Why, she is going to marry my husband.? Do you know what that means? It meant that the wife was so dwarfed, her sense of womanliness so destroyed, that she would see her own sister become the mistress of her husband; and that was last year—not forty years ago, and that thing is going on over the West just as I showed you on that map, where the devil-fish has gone.? Margaret Dye Ellis, ?In Defense of Home and Country,? Report of the National Congress of Mothers: Held in the City of Washington, D. C., March 10-17, 1905 (No publication city given: National Congress of Mothers, 1905), 117 (115-119).

[13] No author listed, ?The Study Course,? Woman?s Home Missions 37 no 1 (Cincinnati: 1920 Jan): 21.

[14] No illustrator listed (illustrations credited [p 6] to the Young People?s Forward Movement Department), ?The Octopus of Mormonism,? illustration in James Shaver Woodworth, Strangers within Our Gates: or, Coming Canadians, The Young People?s Forward Movement Department, Textbook 5, (Toronto: The Missionary Society of the Methodist Church, Canada, 1909), facing p 78. [p 77] ?While we welcome most of our American cousins, there are some who are coming from across the line who are far from desirable. One class is so numerous as to require special treatment—the Mormons.? [p 79; after quoting Josiah Strong on Mormon control of the American West]: ?During the past ten years this octopus of Mormonism has stretched a long arm across the border, and now the large Mormon colony [p 80] (about 15,000) is almost strong enough to hold the balance of power in Southern Alberta.? On p 83 he cites the League for Social Justice pamphlets (discussed below). The discussion of Mormonism runs from 77-86. For comment, see Frances Swyripa, Storied Landscapes: Ethno-religious Identity and the Canadian Prairies (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2010), 152.

[15] The quotation marks are in the original, without explanation that I noticed. Sherman H Doyle, Presbyterian Home Missions: An Account of the Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1902), 154. Doyle devotes a whole chapter to Mormonism: Chapter 5, ?The Mormons,? 139-165.

[16] VS Peet, ?The Utah Devil Fish,? Truth 7:20 (Salt Lake City, 1908 Jan 25): 1-2. Since Peet went on at such length and detail, I have reproduced the entire piece below, if for no other reason than to save someone else from having to type it. I have not verified any of Peet?s claims (and he is clearly wrong on the origin of the image since the Baptist pamphlet cited at the beginning of this post predates his 1902 by four years). ?The Utah Devil Fish. [¶] The devil fish, the octopus, the Utah black blot on the map of the United States, the badge or emblem of the Salt Lake Ministerial Association, that the Rev. Elmer I. Goshen referred to at the banquet of the Commercial club (where a reporter of the Tribune in reviewing Mr. Goshen?s statements had classified Mr. Goshen along with the members of the Ministerial Association) will be my theme this week. [¶] In December, 1905, the preachers of Salt Lake City were requested by the Manufacturers? Association to preach sermons boosting Utah. On that occasion the Rev. Mr. Goshen referred to the ?black blot devil fish? in scathing and denunciatory terms; he referred to it as one of the diabolical advertisements that injured Utah. With the exception of the Rev. Peter Simpkins, all the other preachers of Salt Lake, instead of boosting, knocked as hard as they could. One referred to Salt Lake as a withering, blistering hell; another called it a modern Sodom; and another said no other city could be found where more flagrant crime was committed both night and day. Knowing that the Rev. Mr. Goshen would speak well of Salt Lake, the Tribune did not send a reporter to hear him, but it did report all the others. The Deseret News reported Mr. Goshen?s and recently quoted what he said about the Utah black blot that was being circulated to injure Utah. [¶] Mr. Goshen has always been a friend to Utah, that is why the Tribune misquotes him and the Ministerial Association hates him. There is hardly a preacher in Salt Lake but what will knock Mr. Goshen as hard if not harder than he will Joseph F. Smith. They are very jealous of Mr. Goshen because he probably has a larger congregation than all the others put together. When he first came to Utah he saw the true situation. The Herald and Presbyter, in 1903, the great Presbyterian paper Brother Wishard writes for, devoted three columns commencing on the first page, telling what a ?Sad Case? the Rev. Elmer Goshen of Salt Lake was. If the Inter-Mountain Republican had read the back numbers of ?Truth,? it would have descovered [sic] that the Ministerial Association of Salt Lake gave birth to the hideous Utah devil fish in 1902, and it was not until the Tribune found that it could not coerce the Mormon church into politics before it adopted the devil fish emblem. [¶] In 1902, Sherman H. Doyle, D. D. Ph. D., stated in the ?Presbyterian Home Missions:? ?Like a huge octopus, the Mormon hierachy [sic] is fastening its tentacles throughout the Rocky Mountain States, and is sapping from its devotees the very life blood of American freedom.? From [p2] the above Ppham [sic; Upham] & Co., Boston, conceived the idea of making Utah a devil fish blot on the map of the United States. [¶] In the Presbyterian assembly in Los Angeles in 1903, Rev. Charles Thompson, secretary of the Presbyterian home mission board, referred to it as follows: ?Have you read Victor Hugo?s ?Toilers of the Sea?? Then you remember that awful portrayal of the man in the sea who encountered an octopus. Listen to it again: Its folds strangle, its contact paralyzes, it is disease embodied in monstrosity, it is not to be torn away, it adheres closely to its prey. How? By a vacuum. The octopus on the chase hides. It contracts—condenses itself, reduces itself to the simplest possible expression. It confounds itself with the shadow. It looks like a ripple of the waves. It resembles everything except something living. The octopus is a hypocrite. When one pays no heed to it, suddenly it opens a glutenous [sic] mass possessed of a will. What more frightful! Glue filled with hatred! The octopus is vulnerable only in the head. There is a certain moment in which to seize it. It is the instant when it thrusts foreward [sic] its head. He who misses at that juncture is lost. Awful description, but it describes Mormonism. It too, strangles whatever it enfolds. Beware of the octopus,? etc., etc. [¶] Rev. Dr. Paden, the Rev. S. E. Wishard, Rev. Mr. Martin and other Presbyterian preachers of Utah heard the above speech and cheered to the echo. The illustrated lecture which the Presbyterian board of home missions sends out with sixty-nine lantern slides to injure Utah, in exhibiting her as a ?red star? on the American flag says that the Utah red star stands for ?cunning, deceit, treachery, fraud and crime.? Following this in the lecture it shows the Utah devil fish map, with its long snakey tentacles, grasping the adjoining states and territories and one running across the map grasping Washington. This last tentacle was first called B. H. Roberts, but now they call it Reed Smoot. The description of the devil fish is as follows: ?That formidable monster of the deep, the octopus, holding and crushing all in its grasp, well represents the monster Mormonism, in the heart of the country, spreading out in all directions, winding one tentacle around Washington with a death grip. To wrest any of this territory or capture any forces from these clutches will mean a mighty struggle. Shall it be with the clashing of arms and the shedding of blood? The Mormon church is determined to perpetuate polygamy,? etc., etc. [¶] In 1903, the Salt Lake Ministerial Association established the ?Gentile bureau of information,? in which bureau they adopted the Utah devil fish map as their emblem or motto. They advertised and sent out nine scurrilous and misleading anti-Utah booklets, all of which had the Utah devil fish map on the outside cover. The Utah devil fish had been circulated by the Salt Lake ministerial association for nearly three years before Tom Kearns, Fred Dubois and the Salt Lake Tribune adopted it. It was strongly in evidence when Dubois stated on the floor of the United States Senate, on February 5, 1903: ?I live among those (the Mormon) people and as far as I know, in Idaho, there has not been a polygamous marriage celebrated since the manifesto issued, and I have yet to find a man in Idaho or anywhere else who will say that a polygamous marriage has been celebrated anywhere since the issuance of the manifest,? etc. The ministerial association was flaunting the Utah devil fish map as its emblem when Tom Kearns invited President Joseph F. Smith as one of his honored guests at a banquet given in his new palace on Brigham Street. The Utah devil fish was being nursed and groomed by the ministerial association when Tom Kearns called at President Joseph F. Smith?s office and begged and plead with President Smith to get into politics and help elect him, (Kearns), to a second term in the United States Senate. Dr. Paden and Dr. Wishard were riding the Utah devil fish to their anti-Utah interviews in the eastern papers, when Tom Kearns gave a banquet to President Joseph F. Smith and other prominent Mormons in the Raleigh Hotel, Washington, D. C., just after President Smith had sworn that he (Mr. Smith) was living in polygamous relations. It was at this banquet that Kearns again begged Mr. Smith to get into politics and help him (Kearns) to a second term in the Senate, Kearns offering President Smith as a bait to turn over the Salt Lake Tribune and the Telegram in boosting Utah and the Mormons. President Smith refused point blank to go into politics for Kearns or any one else. It was then and not till then that Kearns, the Tribune and the Telegram fully adopted the Ministerial Utah devil fish map. Ever since the above, Kearns and his papers have been scurrilous ulcers, sapping and befouling Utah, her people, and her institutions. [¶] When Rev. Delos Edwin Fink, representing the Presbyterian board of home missions, threw the Utah devil fish map on the screen at Gloucester, New Jersey, one evening in March, 1907, he said he would put four words on the map of Utah to indicate the people of that state and those words were ?treason,? ?despotism,? ?anarchy,? and ?crime.? Wake was authorized by the Salt Lake ministerial association to distribute the Utah devil fish maps; he could probably give a better history of it than I have done, as he was on the ?inside.? I wish he would write a letter to Truth and explain how much good the devil fish map has done Utah and the ministerial association. [¶] Yours very truly, [¶] V. S. Peet [¶] Baltimore, Md., January 17, 1908.?

[17] ?Persons who hate sinners, hate themselves, and everybody else. If you want to convert a ?Mormon,? you must first love him and then show him a better religion than he has. You cannot cleanse a man by throwing mud at him or by publishing to the world his defects. Why do you, when you come to Utah, dethrone love and hoist the banner of hatred. Look at all the writings, speeches, and Devil Fish pamphlets you are issuing each year! Hatred, slander, ridicule, injury, and falsehood are on the cover, in the type matter and between the lines of nearly all of them.? VS Peet, ?The Old Story of Misrepresentation,? extracts of a letter published in Truth (Salt Lake City), as printed in The Latter-day Saints? Millennial Star 67:37 (1905 Sep 14 Thu): 589 (587-589). ?In next week?s Truth I will have something to say about the ?Utah devil fish? that worried the Tribune because Rev. Dr. Goshen condemned it.? VS Peet (Washington DC, 1908 Jan 09), ?Counteracting Slander,? Liahona: The Elders? Journal 6:20 (Independence, MO, 1908 Oct 31): 468 (466-468). ?Dr. Short belongs to an association that has sent out thousands of scurrilous and misleading anti-Utah tracts, all of which had the devil fish map on the outside cover.? VS Peet, letter to the Deseret News, as reprinted in No author listed, ?Enemies of the ?Mormons?,? Liahona: The Elders? Journal 6:16 (Independence, MO, 1908 Oct 03): 392 (391-392). [Describing anti-Methodist tracts from the 1740s and 1750s]: ?Many of these books and pamphlets correspond with the Anti-Mormon tracts and pamphlets that are being distributed now by the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions, ?Mormonism Exposed. The Life of a Mormon Girl. Mormonism in the Public Schools. Mission Day Schools among the Mormons? and the Devil Fish Map pamphlets are parallel to the pamphlets issued in England by the preachers of that day? (371).? No author listed, credited to Utah Independent, edited by VS Peet (Salt Lake City, 1911), reprinted as ?Methodist and Mormon Persecution in England,? The Latter-day Saints? Millennial Star 73:24 (1911 Jun 15): 371 (369-372).

[18] ?We are informed by our enemies, and they preach it to the people, that the very existence of our government and free institutions is threatened by this Mormon octapus, and often has it been pointed out, by preachers and politicians, that we already control four or five states, almost a sufficient number of senators to give us a balance of power in the United States senate.? Ben E Rich, ?President Rich Replies to Dr. Brougher?s Second Attack,? open letter to Whitcomb Brougher (Chattanooga, TN, 1900 Jan 04), Latter Day Saints Southern Star 2:10 (Chattanooga, TN, 1900 Feb 03 Sat): 78 (77-79).

[19] Continuing: ?This cartoon was no doubt drawn through or by the instigation of the Protestant ministry, and the W. C. T. U. who have so vehemently petitioned the United States Senate to unseat Mr. Smoot.? CM Hauser, ?The Views of an Ex-Confederate,? Elders? Journal 1:8 (Atlanta, 1904 Mar): 97 (96-98).

[20] ?For the past ten years, from several scores of pulpits throughout the East and the Middle West, the cry has gone forth that the ?Mormon? Church is a ?political menace? with policies inimical to the principles of American government and American life. Appeals have been made for the American people to rise and crush this illeged [sic] ?Mohammedan Kingdom? which, it is claimed, seeks by treasonable means to stifle American institutions and to overthrow the government of the United States. [¶] ?The press has given liberal help to the pulpiteers who persist in spreading this extraordinary charge. From its initial appearance in the Cosmopolitan Magazine, a picture of an inky-black demon has been utilized throughout the religious and secular press to characterize the so-called ?Mormon Conspiracy? against American ideals. The picture of this black, monstrous octopus was shown with the head resting on Salt Lake City, headquarters of the ?Mormon Kingdom,? and with tentacles reaching out to the capitals of all the Western States. [¶] ?After these lurid stories were once put into print, the number of anti-Mormon propagandists multiplied with unheard-of rapidity. Individuals whose personal hatred had been festering for years saw, as they thought, an opportunity to vent their spleen against the leaders of the ?Mormon? Church. ?? WP Monson, ?Character of Anti-Mormon Propaganda; Letters in Answer from Governors of Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and New Mexico,? Liahona: The Elders? Journal 13:42 (Independence, MO, 1916 Apr 11): 658-660, copy at Harold B Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. I am loving this series, so fascinating, what a window into vicious Gilded & Progressive era politics. I hope these posts become an article, although one of the things that’s so nice about them is that they work perfectly in the environment of the web; something might be lost in print format. What great images, though!

    Comment by Tona H — July 7, 2013 @ 5:51 am

  2. Edje, you put the rest of us to shame.

    That is all.

    Comment by Ben P — July 7, 2013 @ 8:03 am

  3. Your opening line is perfect. So is everything that comes after.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 7, 2013 @ 9:29 am

  4. Once again a great addition to a great series.

    Here’s a bit about V. S. Peet. Volney Sam Peet was born October 5, 1856 in Pennsylvania and died October 23, 1932 in California. Volney and his wife Frances Tabor had two children including a son who died in a mining accident in the Virgin Islands in 1918.

    Peet was a witness at the Smoot hearings, and the author of a little book called “Polygamy from a Non-Mormon Viewpoint.”

    Volney’s ashes were buried with his wife Frances at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Salt Lake City after Frances died in 1936, so although they were originally from Pennsylvania and lived many years in California, they must have considered Utah their real home.

    Comment by Amy T — July 7, 2013 @ 10:55 am

  5. A couple more notes. Although Peer signed Baltimore to his letter, he seems to have lived in Salt Lake City for fifteen or twenty years around the early 1900s.

    Also, his wife and daughter seem to have joined the church shortly before Frances’s death.

    Comment by Amy T — July 7, 2013 @ 12:06 pm

  6. Thanks, very much, Tona, Ben, Ardis, and Amy for the kind words. And thanks, Amy, for chasing down the info on Peet.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — July 7, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

  7. Phenomenal. I love how you traced the progression of the octopus map.

    Comment by Nate R. — July 7, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

  8. Fantastic, Edje. I remember attending a Los Angeles temple lighting ceremony in the late 1980s, where mayor Tom Bradley spoke of us “Mormons, reaching out your tentacles” throughout his lovely city.

    Comment by DCL — July 8, 2013 @ 12:14 pm

  9. This is FASCINATING!

    And I have to say I am always jealous of your footnotes.

    Comment by Natalie R — July 8, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

  10. Thanks, Nate, DCL, and Natalie.

    DCL: thanks for the recollection.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — July 8, 2013 @ 10:54 pm

  11. Edje, I’m finally getting caught up on recent posts–fascinating, fun, and insightful, as usual.

    Question: how do you go about approaching a subject like this? Where do you begin your research? What digital tools help you track down the mentions/images? I’m consistently amazed at your ability to put things like this together.

    Comment by Christopher — July 9, 2013 @ 9:39 pm

  12. Thanks, very much, Christopher.

    The short answer is: GoogleBooks and Archive.org plus multiple query combinations.

    I’m going to hold off on the long answer and deal with it in a (not-yet-scheduled) post about the potential blind-spots of digital research.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — July 11, 2013 @ 12:41 am

  13. Awesome. I look forward to that post!

    Comment by Christopher — July 11, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

  14. […] octopus metaphor persists to the present but the cultural milieu has changed. [1] For example, last week I wrote about the image at right. My sense is that most 2013 observers would describe it as […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Cephalopods 4 of 4: The Nineteenth-Century Octopus — July 14, 2013 @ 12:01 am


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