Utah Historical Quarterly is the official journal of Utah history, published on behalf of the Utah State Historical Society since 1928. UHQ’s mission, from its earliest issues to the present, is to publish articles on all aspects of Utah history and to present Utah in the larger context of the West. UHQ’s editorial style emphasizes scholarly credibility, accessible language, and variety. The quarterly is filled with articles, book reviews, and photographs, as well field notes about documents, artifacts, historiography, oral history, and public history. Online supplements—including documents, galleries, and interviews—accompany each issue.
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UHQ FALL 2019
Volume 87, Number 4
In 2016, Rick Grunder and Paul Cohen, collectors and scholars of rare documents, announced they had purchased a map, made of sheepskin, from the family of Jesse W. Fox, former surveyor general of Utah Territory. The document made a stir: here, reportedly, was the earliest plat of Salt Lake City—showing the grid layout, nine blocks east to west and fifteen blocks north to south, with varying blocks designated “Temple” or “Public”—only weeks after the arrival of Latter-day Saints in the Great Basin. Among the revelations, on the plat’s upper-left corner, is the name H. G. Sherwood, who had been tasked, along with Orson Pratt, to survey the new city. We lead out this issue with a roundtable discussion that arose out of the map’s unveiling and a host of questions that accompany it. Some of these deal with provenance and authenticity, while others are conceptual and historiographical. Because history is an ever-changing science—based on the surfacing of new evidence or the asking of new questions—good history questions, verifies, and debates. The essays here do just that, drawing on direct and circumstantial evidence to establish not only what the map is but what it means.
The lead piece—written by Grunder and Cohen, who have since sold the map to the Library of Congress—thoroughly sets the table, discussing what the map is, how it came into their possession, and why the evidence places this map as the founding document not only of Salt Lake City but, as they write, “the Mormon West.” The response essays, all by distinguished scholars, may be conceptualized as concentric circles. The first addresses issues most immediate to the map and the settlement of Salt Lake, directly engaging points made in the lead essay. The second steps back from the map to address what the document reveals about how early Mormons conceptualized their new homeland, characterizing the enterprise as both a spiritual and practical one. The final response essay takes the story national, suggesting influences from cities like Philadelphia and Chicago and contrasting Salt Lake City’s grid pattern with others that derived from standardized township and range surveys. The plat is certainly a prized artifact, a traceable connection to the past, but even more so when scrutinized and contextualized by this roundtable. It may even be that the hard historical work of evaluating this map helps us rethink the founding of Salt Lake City and Mormon settlement of the American West.
The next two essays in this issue introduce us to intellectual thought through two disciplines— history and philosophy—operating at the center of public discourse in the mid-twentieth century. At midcentury, the gulf between the history produced by academics and that consumed by the general public was narrower than it now is; historians often refer to American history produced then as consensus history because it emphasized common values and identities over class conflict and social divisions. The first piece takes a lens to Juanita Brooks, the giant of a historian most readers will be familiar with and even empathetic to, and asks the seemingly innocuous question: Why do we consider Brooks great? In her contemporaries’ words, heroic? The answer requires looking at not only what Brooks did, but even more the intellectual waters she swam in leading up to publication of her classic work, The Mountain Meadows Massacre. Here we are talking about the emergence of a new way of telling the history of Utah and Mormonism. At the forefront of this transformation was Brooks and her young mentor, Dale Morgan, who employed what Richard Saunders calls a documentary approach that valued evidence over theology or cultural solidarity. Brooks was part of a sea change that brought Utah history into professional and academic ranks and changed public understanding of the past. This article was originally delivered by the author as the Juanita Brooks Lecture at Dixie State University on March 28, 2019.
At midcentury, the Philosophy Department at the University of Utah was dominated by adherents of pragmatism, a school of thought that connected knowledge with practical application. For these faculty, philosophy was to be practiced beyond the walls of the academy to address the pressing issues of the day. The Great Issues Forum filled this role. Between 1952 and 1974, local faculty and invited guests addressed philosophical, ethical, religious, and political topics in a series of lectures and roundtable conversations. For philosophy faculty, the forum placed the department in a leadership role in university and community intellectual life. The forum—and philosophy’s broader influence—did not survive the increasing specialization of the discipline. The retreat from widespread public influence befell academic philosophy, just as it did history.