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 2018
Volume 86, Number 4
The essays in this issue build on, in the words of Steven Pincus and William Novak, political history’s “traditional emphasis on elections, political elites, administration, and the endless, routine competition for political power.” And, yet, each brings social and cultural insights to matters of power, authority, and public representation. This is beautifully illustrated in our lead article, an examination of how the temperament and insecurities of the nation’s chief executive shaped national and local history on the eve of the Civil War. Moving beyond simplistic characterizations, the essay connects the flawed ambitions of James Buchanan to Utah’s greatest political crisis. Buchanan’s dismissive treatment of Thomas Kane—after the latter, at personal sacrifice, helped to broker a peace between Brigham Young and the federal government—was representative of the president’s dealings with his other associates and even close personal friends. The brilliance of this piece is to offer insight not only into Buchanan’s role in the Utah conflict but into the personality of a man given to strained and broken relationships. We also have a portrait of Kane, with his ambition to outdo his older brother on the nation’s stage and to receive the recognition and financial remuneration to which he felt entitled.
Our next two articles detail separate elections—the reelection of Reed Smoot in 1914 and the Salt Lake County sheriff’s campaign of 1922—and the church-state tensions that animated them. In the first decades of the twentieth century, Utah was becoming integrated into the religious and cultural mainstream. This context makes these electoral episodes interesting: LDS religious leaders used the heft of their names, clout of their office, and moral language of their religion to back one candidate over another—even when the other nominees claimed membership in the same church—signaling to federal courts and lawmakers continued Mormon political and economic power. Both campaigns had longterm consequences. By 1914, Smoot was a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, positions that gave him—and his state—remarkable influence. After the 1922 sheriff’s campaign and lawsuit, high-ranking LDS leaders largely refrained from public endorsement of state, county, and municipal candidates. The sheriff’s contest is also significant in another sense: the language used in the election reflected the conservative reaction to progressive social mores being embraced by a growing urban population.
In our fourth piece we turn to the photography of Christine Armbruster. We see in these images the strains, challenges, and, of course, joys in small-town Utah—in short, snapshots of a way of life still common in the state but increasingly unfamiliar to urban Utahns. James Swensen introduces Armbruster’s photographs, putting them in the context of a larger project to document rural life that dates back to the Mormon village studies and particularly to the work of Dorothea Lange and Russell Lee.
Finally, crazy quilts: homemade objects, stitched by upper-class women in the late nineteenth century. These items, including one held by the Utah State Historical Society’s artifact collection, are often laden with common national and regional symbols but also contain imagery that detail the life and history of their creators. In the case of the quilt highlighted in this short essay, Emma Green Bull’s stitches harken to her roots in England, conversion to Mormonism, journey to Utah, and life as a pioneer in the territory.
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