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Jedediah Rogers UHQ Blog, Utah Historical Society

Fall 2021 Utah Historical Quarterly

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In This Issue

At this writing, in mid-2021, the United States and the world have witnessed a disturbing rise in acts of hatred against Jews, as well as denial of the Holocaust. The Anti-Defamation League recorded 2,024 instances of anti-Semitic vandalism, harassment, and assault in America in 2020.[1] In Salt Lake City this May, shamefully, a swastika was engraved on a synagogue. Anti-Semitism has deep roots, but one can also find those who fought against the persecution of Jews. An example of such advocacy comes in the career of Senator Elbert Thomas, who represented Utah from 1933 to 1951. For moral and religious reasons, Thomas used his position to champion the cause of European Jews and actively work for their rescue during the years of the Nazi ascendency. In so doing, he collaborated with Jewish groups across the political spectrum, a fact that later damaged the senator’s career. Yet Thomas’s words and actions stand as an example of the support people can lend to each other, as W. Raymond Palmer establishes in this issue of Utah Historical Quarterly.  

Our second article examines the growth and regulation of penny stock fraud in twentieth-century Utah. The state has a reputation for shady financial deals, arising especially from “affinity fraud,” but Rod Decker argues that this isn’t the whole story. Rather, Salt Lake City’s mining market and the uranium boom of the 1950s created an infrastructure that eased the way, beginning in the late 1960s, for investment shops that peddled in cheap stocks and made the most of loopholes. Part of the appeal for a few was a louche, downtown lifestyle full of parties and quick deals. Finally, in the 1980s, state and federal regulators began to squelch the penny stock trade. Today, investment fraud of course remains a problem, facilitated as it is by the Internet. This article provides important details in understanding the nuances of fraud in Utah.

The concluding pieces in this issue consider the Utah War—that long-simmering affair of the 1850s and beyond—from a number of angles. First, Kenneth Alford and William MacKinnon relate how an encrypted letter sent from Brigham Young to Thomas Kane in July 1858 was finally decoded in December 2020. It is a story of provenance, cryptography, and the digital tools that allowed an international group of thinkers to untangle the code. Second, MacKinnon carries the action into 1859 with an analysis of the tactics used by various actors in the conflict, including Young, Kane, and George Q. Cannon. Behind the scenes and before an audience, Kane shrewdly defended Alfred Cumming’s public image in order to keep someone at least friendly to the Latter-day Saints in office as Utah’s territorial governor. Together, the two articles also provide perspective on Elizabeth Kane, who originally deciphered communications sent to her husband and who had strong opinions about the political machinations of her day. Finally, Kayla Reid utilizes an entirely different methodology—zooarchaeology—to reconstruct part of the physical world of the Utah War. Reid examines the animal bones excavated from Camp Floyd, the installation that housed soldiers sent to Utah, to understand the nutritional well-being of the army.

[1] “Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2020,” ADL, accessed June 22, 2021,