Thursday, April 21, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #5: Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah, 4 Volumes, Part 2

Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

Note: this is the second of a two-part blog on Orson F. Whitney’s seminal History of Utah. I originally wrote part one’s material around 2007, before I did the research for my biography of Whitney. That publication, “Orson F. Whitney: Bishop, Poet, Apostle,” issued in 2014, contains a chapter, reproduced below as this blog part, about the creation of History of Utah with further detail than is given in the first blog part. There is some repetition of materials from the Abraham H. Cannon diary in both parts, but this second part has material about the project from Orson F. Whitney’s own diary. It also has a few excerpts from the journal of George Q. Cannon, which has been and still is unavailable to most researchers. [Editor's note: the Church just put the first installment of the journals online a week ago.] Writing and publishing the history was a complex, lengthy, involved, and difficult venture, reading both blog parts will give the fullest explanation of this work that exists.

Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah, 4 Volumes:

            By the latter half of May, 1890, President Lorenzo Snow’s promise to Whitney that “means” (money) would flow to him as he had need of it was fulfilled when he learned that he had been chosen as author for a new literary project of expansive scope: “Today at a meeting in the Gardo House, I was appointed to write a History of Utah. The publisher is one Dr. Williams, formerly with Bancroft, who puts up the money and will be the proprietor of the work—he to employ me as the author of the same. Pres. Woodruff, Joseph F. Smith, F[rankling]. D. Richards, George Reynolds, Prof. Maeser, Dr. Talmage, Dr. Williams, and myself were present. Dr. W[illiams] proposes to pay me $200 a month while I am working on it, plus 25% of the net proceeds from sales. The History is to be written from a Mormon standpoint and has the full sanction and approval of the Authorities of the Church. I begin work next month.”[1]

            This taxing and time-consuming endeavor would become Ort’s most voluminous work, and would rank with his Life of Heber C. Kimball in importance. A few days later, he noted: “[I] wrote my prospectus of the proposed History of Utah, and a few lines of Chap. I.”[2] Then:

            Had interviews with Dr. Williams. He says Judge Goodwin of the Tribune, who is getting out the Gentile History of Utah told him Ort W[hitney] was the only man the Mormons had that could write the history of Utah from their standpoint, and that he was a very able writer. Williams went east this evening and is to be back in a week or two to begin canvassing. Zina and the children went to Provo today for the summer. I am at home all alone with my work.

            Am [illegible] forward the “Pioneer Women” so as to be ready to begin on the [Utah] history June 1st if possible. Judge Goodwin also told Dr. W[illiams] that he needed no contracts with the Mormons, for they would keep their word. Said he: “Your work will be a big success, with Whitney as author and the Church authorities at your back to help sell it. I shall do all I can to help you but when the book comes out I’m going to “roast it.” All right, Goodwin! So it’s not a roasted chestnut. We can stand it. We take our roasting here. You may get yours hereafter.[3]

            Then worries about Dr. Williams financial stability and some of his employees arose:

            There being some delay in the History Project, owing to the derogatory reports concerning Dr. John W. Williams, the publisher, [illegible] which now think advisable the appointment of a committee of seven by the Presidency, to investigate, etc., and said committee having rendered its report. I stopped today at the Gardo House to ascertain definitely whether I want to go on with my work or not.

            Pres. George Q. Cannon was present this time. He said: “I am thoroughly in favor of the work and thoroughly in favor of Orson as the writer of it.” “Your style, said he, is admirable for the purpose but you should be concise.” I told him I should aim at it. Finally he made the motion, which carried, that if the Committee were satisfied with Dr. Williams, and would make suitable preliminary arrangements, that the work be promoted without delay—thank the Lord! Williams will give a bond for $50,000, and the work will at once begin.[4]

            Conciseness in writing was never Ort’s strength and because President Cannon knew it he counseled him to adjust his style early on. The month Whitney turned thirty-five he began his work on the history of Utah in earnest. He signed a contract with Dr. Williams’ publishing company on July 12, with Elder Heber J. Grant and Francis Armstrong as his sureties (legal financial guarantors that Ort would do the work he was being paid to do). An announcement about the project and its author appeared in the Deseret News[5], and other local newspapers[6], and Ort was given a desk near the relevant historical materials: “Spent my first day in my new office in the west room of [the] President’s Office—between the Beehive and the Lion House, where I am permitted by the Presidency to [sit?]  and write for the present. Wrote a description of Salt Lake Valley as it doubtless appeared to the Pioneers July 24, 1847. A few thoughts jotted down for my History.”[7] He was given free railway passes, helping him travel with less financial burden as he collected historical data.[8]

            The mammoth project would occupy Whitney on and off for fourteen years to come, and would be viewed as a seminal historical endeavor. It was to consist of at first three, and then later four, very large volumes—three reviewing the history of Utah in narrative form, and a fourth to contain brief biographies of the most prominent Latter-day Saints and other prominent citizens of Utah. Sets were priced by contract at $30 each, or $10 per book, with the final volume to be given as a free reward to subscribers who bought the other volumes. Ort originally determined not to accept any payment from individuals for their life sketches included in the biographical volume, but his noble intentions became impractical and he was forced to accept remuneration.[9]

            To assist with sales of the very expensive sets, promotional endorsements from leading authorities were distributed, including those of the First Presidency. They wrote:

            No want has been more keenly felt for a number of years past than a thoroughly trustworthy history of Utah and the surrounding regions. Regrets have been frequent that no such work exists. The man and the opportunity have now appeared. Orson F. Whitney has undertaken the work. We know of few men so capable of worthily performing the task. His ability as a writer, his long experience, being a native of Utah, his deep acquaintance with the subject, his sterling integrity, all combine to fit him most eminently for the undertaking. He occupies the unique position of being the son of one of the pioneers of 1847, who helped lay the foundation of Salt Lake City, and the grandson of another distinguished member of that heroic band, and the history of Utah is the familiar theme of childhood, youth and manhood. Dr. John O. Williams, a gentleman of wide experience, will publish the history here in Utah. We heartily commend the project, and hope the author and the publisher will meet with that support and encouragement from our citizens and the general public which we feel assured their labors and the results thereof will abundantly deserve.[10]

            Some of the apostles and the Presiding Bishopric also wrote commendations of the proposed volumes. Whitney was obliged to have the work completed in two years, and was to be paid on the 15th of each month. The publishing contract provided for a first edition of 2,000 sets.[11] Even so, as Whitney moved forward with the research and writing, numerous complications and delays arose, with financial troubles looming largest. He wrote: “The inner history of this period would tell for author and publishers a tale of protracted toil, with many interruptions and suspensions, and a final triumph over obstacles and discouragements innumerable. . . . The undertaking was gigantic. To carry it to success required years of hard labor on the part of the author, as well as the business heads of the concern; fighting against adverse conditions which were at times almost overwhelming;”[12]

            Early 1891 found Whitney hard at work on the history: “I have done little of interest for the past several months but work hard upon the History of Utah. Have written 12 chapters, concerning the Church narrative from the birth of the Prophet to his martyrdom.”[13] Several weeks later he again wrote: “Am too busy with my History to desire much speaking.”[14]

            By June, reports of misrepresentation by the canvassers (door to door salesmen) employed by the publisher, had reached the ears of some of the apostles, who worried. Elder Abraham H. Cannon, the son of President George Q. Cannon, an Apostle himself, and the general manager of his father’s publishing company, became involved. Elder Cannon wrote: “Bro. [Heber J.] Grant and I went to the Gardo House . . . and in the course of the conversation the Whitney History of Utah and Dr. Williams management of its issuance were discussed. The brethren felt fearful, from reports that reach them, that there is a chance for a big swindle of the Saints in this affair, and, at any rate, the [First] Presidency do not approve of the way their names are used to secure subscriptions to the book. Bishop Whitney was sent for, and asked in relation to the work. He seems to have confidence in the integrity of John Williams, but feels desirous that a committee should give the matter attention, and so arrange the affair that we all feel secure. I was appointed a member of such committee.”[15] The committee met the next day:

            At 4 p.m. I was at a meeting of the committee on publication of Whitney’s History of Utah.  The members present were, John R. Winder, Chairman, F. S. Richards, O. F. Whitney, George Reynolds, C. W. Penrose and myself.  We considered the charges made against Williams and his agents which come from various parts of the Territory, and Bishop Whitney said that whenever complaints had reached Dr. Williams they had been investigated and corrected. He had made personal visits to settle some feelings which had been created by an agent in Sanpete County.

            To allay our suspicions concerning the honesty of Dr. Williams a number of letters were read testifying to his good character, and the bond of $25,000 which he has furnished as security for the faithful performance of his labor has been fully verified.

            It was finally resolved to have Bishop Whitney get an extension of time on his bond for the completion of his part of writing the history. The history was to be completed within two years from its commencement, or about one year from today, the bond for which is $5,000, but the author has only done about one half of the first volume up to the present.  An extension of time was, however, proffered him.  This done we decided to invite the publisher, Dr. Williams to be present at a meeting and hear the charges made against him, after which we will request him to increase his bond to $50,000 as he originally agreed to do.

            My fears concerning this matter are very much calmed by the conversation of today.[16]

            It seems the sales agents had long been using the names of members of the First Presidency to sell the books in a manner beyond that originally envisioned, and they resented it. Worse than that, it was learned that certain people were representing themselves as salesmen working for Dr. Williams publishing company that did not work for him, and were taking subscribers money for themselves, or selling other history books as Whitney’s. This problem caused a warning circular to be sent to stake presidents and bishops. It read:

            Beware of Frauds

            Information has reached the undersigned that certain parties are traveling through the Territory taking orders for a history of Utah, and that in many instances the people are led to believe that they are purchasing the history that is now being written by Bishop Orson F. Whitney.

            To guard the public against imposition, we will state that all authorized agents for Whitney’s History of Utah will be the bearers of autograph letters to that effect from the author, and that as they enter the various fields proposed to be canvassed for subscriptions, their names will appear in the papers as the accredited representatives of the publisher and promoters of this work. Be careful whom you do business with. Let it be distinctly understood that Whitney’s History of Utah is not yet published, and that any book now being offered to the public purporting to be such a work, is a fraud. Whitney’s History of Utah is the only history now being endorsed by the First Presidency and the Apostles of the Church. The accompanying letter just received from the First Presidency speaks for itself. Salt Lake City, Nov. 14, 1890.
            The referenced letter from the First Presidency noted that Whitney was “engaged in preparing the History of Utah,” and that they, the stake presidents and bishops, had “probably received the Author’s prospectus with accompanying testimonials from ourselves and other citizens.” They continued: “We wish it understood that we are heartily in sympathy with the project, and that it has our entire support. The author of the proposed work is a native of Utah, one in whom we have great confidence as an able writer and a conscientious historian. We believe his history which is to be published in three large volumes, will be complete and reliable, and should be in the possession of every family; and can recommend it to the general public who desire to know the truth about our territory and its people. We trust that the Latter-day Saints will give it their support and encouragement. Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith, First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

            With the letter was a note from Whitney that read: “It is the purpose to issue the first volume of our history, which was begun in May, 1890, in about six months. It will be printed on super-calendared paper and handsomely bound, with gold gilt edges, profusely illustrated with steel engravings, type matter running from 700 to 800 pages. Very respectfully, Orson F. Whitney, Author.”[17] In his autobiography, Orson explained further: “My duties were purely literary. At no time did I have anything to do with the business management; yet my name was used, without my consent, as if I had been the very head and front of the enterprise. Certain agents employed by Dr. Williams were reprimanded by him and discharged for this and other irregularities.”[18] By this time, Dr. Williams had also heard negative comment about his handling of the business, and he decided that he wanted out. Elder Abraham H. Cannon recorded the meetings and deliberations:

            I . . . then had a conversation at my room with Bishop O. F. Whitney concerning the History of Utah.  He says that Dr. Williams has become so annoyed at the numerous reports which have been circulated concerning his trustworthiness, and his character has been so maligned, that he is determined to get out of the business if Bishop Whitney can find someone who will be congenial to him to buy his interest, which is 45% of the whole enterprise; 5% is owned by F. S. Richards, who is the attorney, 25% by O. F. Whitney, who receives $200 per month as an advance on his share for writing the work, and 25% by Mr. Webster, who is the secretary.  The Bishop thinks there is big money in the enterprise for anyone who will buy it. He thinks the Dr. will take $10,000 for his share of a business which he feels is worth $30,000.  Orson is very anxious for George Q. Cannon and Sons’ Co. to take the business, and thus reassure the doubting people of the certainty of the issuance of the work. We together laid the matter before Father and then before the First Presidency.  After considerable talk on the subject, on suggestion of Pres. Joseph F. Smith it was decided that O. F. Whitney and F. S. Richards make another effort to get Dr. Williams to continue in the business, but if he refuses to do so, then I had better investigate the matter, and if the results warrant it, buy out his share.[19]

            Three days later:

            At 9 a.m. I met O. F. Whitney and Dr. Williams and had some conversation about the History of Utah.  The latter is very desirous that we purchase his interest and thus reassure the people of Utah that it will be issued, though he expresses a desire to continue with the thing and work to make it a gigantic success.  I presented the matter to the First Presidency who told me to investigate the affair, and if everything was satisfactory to engage in it.  Two of Dr. Williams’ agents, Waterman and Clark, called to see me in the afternoon, as they had heard rumors of the pending sale, telling me of claims which they hold against the concern for canvassing services.  The former spoke as though Mr. Williams is a rogue, but he was very desirous that I should not tell the latter of his visit to me.  Mr. Clark said Mr. Webster had always treated him in the best possible manner. Their claims are really not due until the first volume is issued and delivered.  Father’s principal objection to the enterprise is the length of time required by Bishop Whitney to complete the manuscript—5 years from the time it was commenced.[20]

            The next day:

            At 11 a.m. Frank [Cannon] and I met with Dr. Williams, Mr. Webster and O. F. Whitney. We spent several hours in looking over the accounts of the Utah Historical Society [the name of the business] and inquiring into the details of the publishing arrangements. The proposition finally made was that the Dr. remain with the business and receive 33-1/3% commission on all orders for books and pictures, and that he sell us 70% of the business with his already accrued commissions for $15,896.  The actual orders taken for the book amount now to over 2,500 at $30 per set.  Available notes would be turned over to us in this deal to the amount of seven or eight thousand dollars.  As pictured by Williams and Webster there is big money for us in this undertaking, but it also means a considerable outlay before returns are had. We presented the matter to the First Presidency and they decided to consider it for a day or two.[21]

            Three days later:

            I . . . wrote a letter to Dr. John O. Williams making him a proposition in regard to the purchase of his interest in the History of Utah. I submitted the letter to Father and Joseph F. Smith before sending it and they approved it. The offer is that we give him $12,000 for all his right, title and interest in the work to date. He is then to receive 33-1/3% commission on all book and picture orders. The amount is to be paid as follows: $6,000 cash down; $3,000 when the first copy of the first volume is issued, and the remaining $3,000 when 2,000 copies of the first volume are issued. In the afternoon he came in the office and accepted our offer with these changes, that he be engaged as canvasser for at least three years, and that a certain date be fixed for the payments of the two latter notes, at such a time as we think the conditions of our proposition are fulfilled.  We agreed to these modifications.[22]

            Five days later:

            About five hours of today I was engaged in my room with Dr. Williams and Mr. Webster checking up the History of Utah business. I found that about 2,700 bona fide contracts for the work have been obtained. Notes for about $7,500 are on hand. There are time commissions due agents when the books are delivered to the amount of about $7,000. Judging from what appears on the books the business is in a very good condition. We agreed to meet F. S. Richards tomorrow to prepare the legal papers necessary to the transfer.[23]

            The next day Elder Cannon attended the meeting: “At 11 a.m. I met Dr. J. O. Williams and Mr. Webster at F. S. Richards’ office where we talked over with the latter the terms of our agreement in regard to the publishing of Whitney’s History of Utah, and instructed him to prepare the necessary papers for the transfer.”[24] Two days later:

            F. S. Richards, Frank Cannon and I had a conversation with him [President George Q. Cannon] in relation to the Utah History, and read him the papers in relation thereto. He approved of them with two or three slight changes. At 2:30 p.m. F. S. Richards, O. F. Whitney, Dr. Williams, Mr. Webster, Frank and myself met in the office of the first named and consulted about the agreements for the transfer of the Utah History business. We had considerable talk about their receiving their full commissions out of the first collections on the books, and finally compromised by their agreeing to accept ¾ of their commission out of collections on the first volume, and the other ¼ when the second volume is delivered and paid for. We adjourned till Monday to finish the business, as we could not do it today owing to the changes to be made in the papers.[25]

            Two days later, the business transfer took place, with George Q. Cannon and Sons taking ownership: “I was engaged in the office till 10 a.m. at which time Frank and I met Dr. Williams and the others of Saturday’s meeting and made final arrangements for the payment of the money ($6,000) and notes ($6,000) this afternoon and the transfer of the business to us.  This was done at 4 p.m. when all the papers, etc., were completed and properly signed, and with the very best of feelings we started out on our new venture.”[26] Whitney’s diary condensed the meetings of June to their conclusion: “The 29th of this month George Q. Cannon and Sons assumed the management of the History Business, buying out Dr. Williams and Mr. Webster—who owned 70 percent of it—and the latter returning the contract to canvas for the works.”[27]

            Some three months later, as Ort worked furiously on the history, he noted: “Today the first type was set and the first galley of proof sent me of the History of Utah. It is being published by George Q. Cannon and Sons in Salt Lake City. Only 19 Chapters are completed.”[28]

            In December, a question of history arose that Whitney wanted help with. Elder Cannon recorded: “In the afternoon I attended my Quorum meeting at which were present all the First Presidency, Franklin D. Richards and myself; George Gibbs, clerk. . . . Bishop Orson F. Whitney was present to obtain information concerning the object in settling this Territory when the Pioneers came here, as he desires to make a statement concerning it in the History of Utah.  He had prepared something in which he affirms that the Mormons came here to found a new state for the United States. This is incorrect, as it was the expectation when the people arrived here to establish an independent state, and it was only when this western tract of land was ceded to the United States by Mexico in the treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo (February 1848) that the Mormons began to seek for admission into the Union as a State, and saw therein their success and destiny.”[29]

            By the next Spring, Orson Whitney finally reached a major milestone: “About the time I finished the first volume of my History of Utah, a banquet in honor of the event was given me at the Templeton Hotel by my friend H[eber] M. Wells and C. S. Burton, et. al. The first copy of the History arrived from St. Louis, where a few are being bound, on the 21st of April, 1892. Twenty more came a few days later.”[30]

            That July he found cause to celebrate: “On the 1st of July this year I completed my 37th year. Am in excellent health, weigh 182 lbs and am about half-way through vol. II of my history of Utah, much of which is already printable.”[31] He finished volume two nearly a year after finishing volume one: “Completed the second volume of the History of Utah. This volume was begun last February.”[32]

            Whitney worked hard, but the financial ceiling was about to fall in on the project. When the business first began things looked promising, largely because no one knew that by 1893 a severe financial panic would hit the nation and Utah, lasting for several years at its worst. This meant that George Q. Cannon and Sons, the publishers, no longer had the financial viability needed to pay the publishing costs, including payments to the author. Whitney recorded: “Had an interview with the First Presidency about the History of Utah. Messrs Cannon and Sons being unable to proceed with it for the time being owing to their inability to make collections, the Church authorities have consented to lend aid—that is to pay me for writing the mss [manuscript]. I am to complete Vol. III within a year from date and receive $2,700 for it. Andrew Jensen to assist me in collecting facts whenever necessary. This mss will belong to the Church from whom Cannon and Sons will afterwards purchase it if they are able. Cannon and Sons owe me $750 back salary from May 15 to Aug. 15, 1893.”[33] The main problem was that the depression was so bad that people who had signed a note to buy the set could no longer afford to—food and clothing suddenly becoming more important than expensive history books, as marvelous as they were. President George Q. Cannon himself explained the situation in greater detail:

            At the meeting this morning with Bishop Whitney and Elder A. H. Cannon, to take into consideration the question of continuing the preparation of the History of Utah, in manuscript, upon which Bishop Whitney has been engaged some years (the financial stringency rendering it impracticable for George Q. Cannon and Sons Company to continue the publication of the third volume; and Bishop Whitney having prepared the manuscript to the extent of between a third and half of this volume), the question arose, whether it is advisable to have him continue the work until the volume is completed or suspend the publication of the work where it is? The Presidency felt that as Bishop Whitney’s mind was full of this work, and he had his data in hand, that it would be better for him to continue until it was finished, and then, when the time shall come, for the publishers to continue the work, the manuscript will be on hand. There is a fourth volume also contemplated which is to be given gratuitously to subscribers by the publishers: this fourth volume is to contain biographical sketches and brief sketches of the history of the cities and counties of the Territory. The question was asked Bishop Whitney, what it would cost to do this work—that is, finish the third volume? He answered that the publishers have been paying him $200, a month, and his wife $50, and that he had been engaged on the part already written between seven and eight months. President Smith made the estimate that the part already written had cost $1,750. Bishop Whitney said he thought he could do the remainder for $3000, which would make the manuscript for the volume $4,750. The Bishop was asked if Brother Andrew Jenson could assist him in furnishing data, and save his time, as he claimed it would take him a year or thereabouts to complete the work. Bishop Whitney thought Bro. Jenson could be of assistance to him. President Smith then suggested that as Bro. Jenson’s time and assistance ought to be worth $300, to Bro. Whitney, he was asked whether that would be satisfactory—that is, the Bishop to receive $2,700 for the work, with the liberty, of course, to finish it as much earlier than the year, with the assistance of Bro. Jenson, as he pleased. He agreed to do this. A motion was made that $2,700 by given to him for finishing the remainder of the manuscript, carrying the history down to the end of the volume which he intimated would be at the issuance of the Manifesto. President Woodruff was quite pointed in remarking (which he did at least twice) that he [Whitney] must not expect cash for his work, as the Church was unable to pay cash now; that even the Apostles who drew their pay from the Church had to take it in tithing office pay. Bishop Whitney said, that which is due him now he ought to have in cash to meet his obligations, which were cash; but as this was a matter between himself and the publishers the Presidency had nothing to say about it.[34]

            Whitney had now passed his original contract time allotment of two years, by over a year, with only two and a half volumes finished. His perceived slowness in finishing the work was frustrating to those with a vested interest in his finishing as soon as possible, such as President and Elder Cannon, owners of the publishing company. Ort himself felt the pressure, literary as well as financial. Regarding his pay, he wrote: “Drew from James Jack, [Church financial] clerk, on above account $225; only $50 of it being in cash. The rest Tithing Orders and a little store pay.”[35] He finished the third volume a year later (August 1894), an agonizingly slow rate for all involved. And Whitney’s woes continued, he needing to approach the First Presidency to collect pay the publisher owed him. President Cannon explained:

            $750 appropriated favor of Brother Orson F. Whitney. Some time ago $2,700 was appropriated also in favor of Bro. Whitney as compensation for his services in producing the third volume of Whitney’s History of Utah. The firm of George Q. Cannon and Sons Company having made representations to the First Presidency through President Cannon of their inability to go on with the history in consequence of the financial loss of the enterprise. This $2,700 was appropriated to enable Bro. Whitney to complete the third volume of the history, it being understood by the Presidency that the manuscript of the third volume should become the property of the Church by reason of this appropriation. Bro. Whitney now represented that at the time this appropriation was made the publishing company owed him $750 which they had since failed to pay him and that he himself was in debt fully to this amount at that time and was obliged to settle with his creditors out of the $2,700 appropriation. He represented that the publishing company was still unable to pay him this amount and he asked that the Church be kind enough to assume it so that he might be enabled to continue his labors on the third volume. President Woodruff at first expressed himself averse to doing this but afterwards consented and it was agreed with Bro. Whitney that he draw it in provisions at the rate of $75 per month.[36]

            The Cannon’s frustration with Whitney’s work began to show, affecting as it did their publishing company that was barely surviving the lean years, struggling under heavy debt. Elder Abraham Cannon recorded: “We [Abraham and George Q.] had a talk with the Presidency about the History of Utah, and they gave Bishop Whitney notice that they were through with him so far as writing on it is concerned, now that he has finished the third volume.  I suggested that we hire a cheaper man, and a better worker to write the biographies for the fourth volume.  It was thought that this will be the best thing to do.”[37] But Elder Cannon’s idea to change authors did not pan out, and Whitney was used as planned for volume four.

            There are no further entries in Ort’s diary mentioning the project until mid-1897, leaving us to the conclusion that even though volume three had been written, the tough financial conditions prevented anything being done with it (except to revise and improve the manuscript) for just under three years. By July, 1897, the publisher’s financial position had evidently improved sufficiently that they could finally have the manuscript turned into a book. Orson wrote, “[I] ran down to Salt Lake [from Logan] to take the last chapter of mss (History of Utah Vol. III) to the printer.”[38] Some weeks later he recorded: “The final proofs of Vol. [3] of the History are read and all printed but the index which I am now getting ready. The book will be issued shortly.”[39] Volume three finally found life when it was issued in January of 1898. The Tribune did their usual hatchet job reviewing it: “I don’t know whether to attribute the Tribune assault [on Whitney for a published poem about Utah Volunteers] to Judge Goodwin, or to Col. Nelson. The latter hates me and all Mormons, and has never got over the dressing down I gave him in the History of Utah, Vol. III, which he so bitterly attacked when it was published. The ‘dressing down,’ however, was only a plain statement of what Dr. Clinton, a prisoner in Nelson’s custody, said in court about his treatment by that venomous Mormon-hater while U. S. Marshal. Still, it may have been Goodwin.”[40]

            While the publisher was turning his volume three manuscript into a printed book, to his relief,  Ort learned he was still on the job: “Today it was told me that final arrangements had been made for me to go to work on the 4th Volume of the History of Utah. Cannon and Sons will devote $1000 to it and the Church $400. The latter in scrip.”[41] “Tuesday, the 19th [I] began work on Vol. IV of the History of Utah. Jacob Pearts’ biography was the first one I prepared. Then came Joseph Perry’s.”[42] Finally Ort had found a source of income: “In Salt Lake again. Got another $100 from Cannon and Sons on acct.”[43] Also, “Have received from President’s Office $100 Church script on acct.”[44] Whitney had to coordinate with about three-hundred and fifty prominent Utahns, to obtain their biographical information that he would then write and edit. Those too busy, lazy, or slow to work with him had their life sketches left out.[45]

            The work progressed in starts and fits: “U. S. Senator Rawlins called on me today and made arrangements with me to prepare his biography for the History of Utah. Paid me next day $100 on acct. Gave ½ to E[lias]. U. S. Senator Frank J. Cannon has also arranged with me to prepare his biography offering me $100.”[46] Nine months later: “A few days ago I resumed work on Vol. 4 of my History of Utah—the biographical volume—suspended since last fall. I have completed Willard Richards’ biography; revised A. W. McCune’s and submitted it to him, and am now on Wm Budge.”[47] Further, “This is Monday and the beginning of another year [1900]. I find myself in good health, firm in the faith of the Gospel, the Bishop of the 18th ward and employed in the Church Historian’s Office. For the past three months I have been engaged upon the 4th volume of my History of Utah, the biographical volume. I have just completed a sketch of the life and character of Pres. Lorenzo Snow to be published in the New Year number of the Juvenile Instructor and afterwards in this History, and have been asked to prepare an address on the life and character of the late Pres. Franklin D. Richards, to be delivered before the State Historical Society and afterwards published in the History. Spent most of today in my office.”[48] The work continued, with some humorous exchanges with those whose opposition to the Church was ommitted: “Judge Goodwin, of the Tribune, sent me back the biographical sketch I had prepared for the History of Utah—his sketch, which I had submitted to him and which was rather complimentary to him, with this line upon the margin, “Bishop, is there any forgiveness for lying in your religion?” To which I answered by postal card: ‘Judge: Yes, there is, Come along, Bishop.’ ”

            Along with his own work, Whitney was asked to help President Cannon with the preparation of History of the Church: “I have just about completed my 4th volume of Utah History, and it is almost ready for the press. I am assisting (with John Q. Cannon) his father President George Q. Cannon, to prepare for publication the autobiography of the Prophet Joseph Smith. . . .”[49]

            A year and a half later, the publisher’s finances reached a point where they could proceed with printing: “Started today to get out Vol. 4 of the History of Utah—biographies—which the Cannon Sons are now preparing to publish. The mss [manuscript] has been ready for a year or two, waiting their action; all I need now to do is the part or the finishing touches and [illegible] issue it through the press. The Deseret News Office is to do the printing.”[50] Issuing the work became a time-consuming undertaking: “[51]Am very busy getting out my 4th Volume of Utah History—the first form is printed containing the biographies of Presidents Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards; and Orson Pratt and Wilford Woodruff are partly in type.” Contrary to his original hope, he needed to be paid by those who wanted their biographies in volume four.

            For his part, Whitney was aware of the impatience concerning completion of the history, but felt he could do no better, stating: “To complete it required several years, during which I had many other duties to perform, and responded, as usual, to numerous calls for extra service in various directions. I was in love with my task—which lightened it greatly—but still it was strenuous and exacting, as anyone must know who has ever brought out a work of that character and magnitude.”[52]

            Elder Abraham H. Cannon died in the summer of 1896, and management of the daily operations of George Q. Cannon and Sons passed to a relative, Brigham T. Cannon, who then oversaw the publication of the fourth biographical volume from 1902 to 1904. He also had to deal with the remaining unsold one-thousand sets, of the original printing of two-thousand three-volume sets, of the history. The financial panic of 1893 to 1895 had kept subscribers from being able to pay for their set.[53] Brigham Cannon then proposed that the Church buy them. In a letter to the First Presidency, which no longer included his father  (the deceased George Q. Cannon), he wrote:

December 11, 1902:

Dear Brethren:

            In accordance with a conversation had with President Anthon H. Lund, we beg to submit to you a proposition to sell 1000 complete sets of Whitney’s History of Utah in four volumes. About 1000 sets, possibly a few more, would be the entire residue of the only edition of this work ever published. Originally, the complete History was to be written in three volumes, and subscriptions were taken at $30 per set, or $10 per volume. As the work was proceeded with, however, it was found that a fourth volume would have to be issued to make the work complete, and bring it up to date. This fourth volume is now in press, and is to be given gratus [free] as a premium to all paid up subscribers. The materials and workmanship in these books are the best which can be obtained. As to the letter press and the steel plate work, nothing of a higher class can be obtained anywhere.

            Mr. H[orace]. G. Whitney [Orson’s brother], Manager of Deseret News, states to us that considerable inquiry about the History is made at that establishment and of its agents, and believes that many sets of the History could be sold by these agents, as a mere incident of their other work. We feel sure that in a comparatively short time, this History will be at a premium, not only here, but elsewhere in the United States, as the publication of the second edition will involve a very great outlay of money. In fact, at present, there is quite a steady demand for sets of History from various public libraries throughout the country.

            We offer you 1000 complete sets, or thereabouts, unbound, at $12.00 per set.

            We would like to have you give the matter consideration at your convenience, and let us know if you desire any further information on the subject.

            Yours respectfully, Brigham T. Cannon.[54]

            Despite Brigham Cannon’s best efforts, it took two more years for the final volume to be issued: “It [rights to the project] was purchased by the present proprietors at a time when the whole project was imperiled, and their purchase was virtually a rescue of the enterprise. They are now about to make good their pledge to the public by the issuance of this gift volume, even though it entails upon them a heavy financial sacrifice.”[55] The economic difficulties of the mid to late 1890s had been formidable, becoming the chief cause of delay. Yet Whitney was able to make use of the last unavoidable lull: “The major portion of this volume was written several years ago, and was ready for the printer, but financial disappointments, encountered by the management, prevented the publication, and Bishop Whitney, in the interval caused by the unavoidable delay, has re-written the whole book and brought it down to the present [1904], thus making it a more valuable work than it would otherwise have been.”[56]

            Evidently the change in management of George Q. Cannon and Sons had improved the relationship between author and publisher: “In conclusion the author desires to express his appreciation of the pleasant relations that have always existed between him and the publishers, and to give a word of due praise to Mr. Brigham T. Cannon, the present manager, through whose energetic labors, loyally backed by his company, the publication has been brought to a successful issue. Nothing further need be said, except that the author and the publishers are perfectly satisfied with the reception accorded their work.”[57]

            Whether the First Presidency agreed to some kind of arrangement with Brigham Cannon of George Q. Cannon and Sons is not clear. Evidently he and Horace G. Whitney again overestimated the sales potential in 1904 for Whitney’s History of Utah, because by 1908, the Deseret News bookstore put it on sale:

Whitney’s History of Utah at Half Price:

            The Deseret News takes pleasure in announcing that it has secured the sole rights to the History of Utah, by Orson F. Whitney, originally published by the George Q. Cannon & Sons Co. . . .

            In the three volumes are included 235 full page steel plates, mostly portraits of leading figures in the history of the State, originally obtained at a cost of many thousand dollars. The volumes each contain approximately 800 pages, a total of 2,351 pages in the three. The binding is quarto size, full morocco with gilt edges, no other style of binding being issued. . . .

            The News having obtained the unsold copies of the edition, will sell to first comers at half the original price, or $15.00 for the three volumes. . . .

            The low price at which this rare work is offered will undoubtedly exhaust the edition in a short time. The work will then be out of print, so that every book-lover should avail himself of this last chance. . . .[58]

            After the last sets were sold, it did indeed go out of print and after decades became an expensive collector’s item. Because Whitney wrote from the perspective of a strong believer and defender of the Faith—Mormonism—that served as the impetus to colonize and found Utah Territory, reviews of the history were mixed. Mormons thought it marvelous, and Mormon-haters hated it.[59] Such has been the fate of most positive histories of Utah written since.

[1] OFWJ, May 17, 1890.
[2] OFWJ, May 20, 1890.
[3] OFWJ, May 21, 1890.
[4] OFWJ, June 20, 1890.
[5] See “The History of Utah,” in Deseret Evening News, July 12, 1890.
[6] The “bitterly anti-Mormon” Salt Lake Tribune editorialized: “Of course it will be a history from the Mormon standpoint. It would not be otherwise very well, being written by Bishop Whitney. He is a sincere fanatic, and it would not be fair to expect that he would not color his writings, even as his mind is now colored, in favor of the faith he believes in and the people who are his personal associates and friends. He has better facilities for writing a history than any man not a member of the Mormon Church could have. He is a man of real ability. Perhaps he is better fitted to undertake a work of this kind than almost any other man in the Mormon Church” (OFWJ, ca. July 12 or 13, 1890).
[7] OFWJ, July 14, 1890.
[8] See OFWJ, July 22 & 23, 1890.
[9] The prospectus stated: “A prominent feature will be the biographies of notable men and women, with fine portraits accompanying. It is the almost universal custom, in a work of this character, to take pay from those whose histories are inserted. The author proposes to express his own views, and accept no perquisites; not a line of reading matter will be paid for—not a cent accepted for biographical notice. The characters chosen to illustrate the work will be placed in the order where they belong, irrespective of considerations which should have no weight in the preparation of a just and impartial record of men and events.” The prospectus is dated Salt Lake City, July 1st, 1890, and signed by Whitney.
[10] See promotional item in Orson F. Whitney Collection, Church History Library Archives.
[11] For a copy of the contract, see  Orson F. Whitney Collection, Church History Library Archives.
[12] “Preface,” History of Utah, Vol. 4.
[13] OFWJ, April 20, 1891.
[14] OFWJ, June 1, 1891.
[15] AHCJ, June 8, 1891. Elder Abraham H. Cannon’s participation in the project is documented herein as found in Horne, An Apostle’s Record: The Journals of Abraham H. Cannon, under dates given.
[16] AHCJ, June 9, 1891
[17] As quoted in a collection of documents related to Whitney’s History of Utah, found in Orson F. Whitney Collection, Church History Library Archives.
[18] TMH, 202.
[19] AHCJ, June 12, 1891
[20] AHCJ, June 15, 1891
[21] AHCJ, June 16, 1891.
[22] AHCJ, June 19, 1891.
[23] AHCJ, June 24, 1891.
[24] AHCJ, June 25, 1891.
[25] AHCJ, June 27, 1891.
[26] AHCJ, June 29, 1891.
[27] OFWJ, June, 1891, no exact date given.
[28] OFWJ, September 26, 1891.
[29] AHCJ, December 3, 1891.
[30] OFWJ, February 21, 1892.
[31] OFWJ, ca, July 1, 1892.
[32] OFWJ, January 31, 1893.
[33] OFWJ, August 25, 1893.
[34] George Q. Cannon diary, August 25, 1893; as found in Orson F. Whitney Collection, Church History Library Archives.
[35] OFWJ, August 28, 1893.
[36] George Q. Cannon diary, August 3, 1894; as found in Orson F. Whitney Collection, Church History Library Archives.
[37] AHCJ, October 19, 1894.
[38] OFWJ, July 9, 1897.
[39] OFWJ, September 27, 1897.
[40] OFWJ, August 21, 1899.
[41] OFWJ, October 12, 1897.
[42] OFWJ, October 19, 1897.
[43] OFWJ, November 13, 1897.
[44] OFWJ, November 15, 1897.
[45] In a note concluding volume four, Whitney wrote: “In explanation of the placing here of the biography of William Jex, whose steel plate portrait will be found on page 525 of this volume, it is but necessary to say that the materials for the sketch did not reach the historian in time for its insertion elsewhere. The reader will probably notice other portraits, scattered through the four volumes, for which there are no corresponding biographies. The reason for their non-appearance is that the persons interested have failed to supply the necessary data, though urgently and in most cases repeatedly requested to do so, in order that the work might be completed to the satisfaction of all concerned” (as found in “Notes,” last page of the book).
[46] OFWJ, November 18, 1898.
[47] OFWJ, August 30, 1899.
[48] OFWJ, January 1, 1900.
[49] OFWJ, January 1, New Year’s, 1901. This refers to the beginning of the work on volume one of History of the Church, which began under President Cannon’s direction but was largely compiled and completed by B. H. Roberts. For further information on this project, see Horne, Latter Leaves in the Life of Lorenzo Snow, 293, 386, 398, 406, 408, 410. See also Searle, Early Mormon Historiography: Writing the History of the Mormons, 1830-1858. Various volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers being published by the Church Historian’s Press of the LDS Church History Department also contain information about this project.
[50] OFWJ, July 14, 1902.
[51] OFWJ, September 19, 1902.
[52] TMH, 203.
[53] For example, Elder Rudger Clawson’s diary, speaking of a meeting of the Twelve, noted: “Apostle Clawson said he had made an investigation relative to the fourth volume of the History of Utah and found that the church is in no wise obligated to bear an[y] part of the expense of its publication; that the manuscript is now ready for the printer and bids are being sought by the Geo. Q. Cannon Co., who are prepared to meet the expense, with an idea of delivering the book at the next Oct. conference” (Rudger Clawson journal, June 12, 1902; as quoted in Rudger Clawson, A Ministry of Meetings: The Apostolic Diaries of Rudger Clawson, Stan Larson, ed., (Salt Lake City, 1993), under date given.
[54] As quoted in Orson F. Whitney Collection, Church History Library Archives.
[55] “Preface,” in History of Utah, Vol. 4.
[56] “Preface,” in History of Utah, Vol. 4.
[57] “Preface,” in History of Utah, Vol. 4.
[58] Deseret News, October 28, 1908; p. 10.This advertisement also mentioned that “several thousand sets” were sold in previous years. This is likely an incorrect figure, since all other sources point to but one edition of 2,000 copies having been manufactured.
[59] For an effort to review and compare and contrast Whitney’s History of Utah with that of a prominent anti-Mormon of his day, see Brigham D. Madsen’s “Foreword” in Robert N. Baskin, Reminiscences of Early Utah (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2006).

No comments:

Post a Comment