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Guide to the Dale Lowell Morgan papers, 1877-1971
BANC MSS 71/161 c  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Note
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Dale Lowell Morgan Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1877-1971
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 71/161 c
    Creator: Morgan, Dale Lowell, 1914-1971
    Extent: Number of microfilm reels: 80 (16mm, positives) Originals: 76 boxes, 27 cartons, 1 roll Linear feet: 65.45
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Languages Represented: English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open. Use microfilm for research. Originals used only by permission of the Head of the Public Services of The Bancroft Library. A copy of the microfilm is available for use at The Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Dale Lowell Morgan papers, BANC MSS 71/161 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collections

    • Title: Norman M. Littell Papers,
      Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 71/233 c
    • Title: Papers relating to Healing v. Jones (Hopi-Navajo Land Claims Case),
      Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 71/294 p

    Material Cataloged Separately

    • Photographs have been transferred to Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.
    • Microfilm collected by Morgan has been transferred to the Microforms Division of The Bancroft Library.
    • Maps have been transferred to the Map Collection of The Bancroft Library.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Dale L. Morgan Papers were donated to The Bancroft Library on March 30, 1971.


    The processing and filming of this collection has been a cooperative project of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley and The Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, with additional funding provided by the George S. and Delores Dori Eccles Foundation, and private donors: Mrs. John Cahill, Mrs. Jerry Cole, Mrs. Harold Cookson, Mrs. St. George Holden, and Mr. George Smith.


    Index is available on hard copy finding aid only.

    Biographical Note

    1914 - Dale Lowell Morgan born in Salt Lake City on December 14, first child of James Lowell and Emily May Holmes Morgan.
    1920 - James Lowell Morgan died at age 25, leaving three sons and one daughter.
    1929 - Dale Morgan contracted meningitis, which left him totally deaf, and cost him a year of school.
    1933 - Graduated from West High School in Salt Lake City.
    1937 - Graduated from the University of Utah, with a B.A. degree in art.
    1937-1938 Studied commercial art and tried without success to find a public relations or advertising position in Salt Lake City and San Francisco.
    1938 - Employed as a researcher and writer for the Utah Historical Records Survey, a Works Progress Administration-sponsored program, in Ogden, and then in Salt Lake City. He also worked part-time for the Utah Writers Project.
    1940 - Named state supervisor of the UHRS. Wrote sections of, and edited, Utah: A Guide to the State (1941).
    1940-1941 Won both Salt Lake City and Utah state chess championships.
    1942 - Moved to Washington, D. C., to work as an information specialist, Department of Information, Office of Price Administration, and to pursue historical research at the National Archives and the Library of Congress.
    1943 - The Humboldt, Highroad of the West, Morgan's first major book, published by Farrar and Rinehart.
    1945 - Started a series of book reviews of Western history and fiction, for the Saturday Review of Literature .
    1947 - Publication of Morgan's most important completed work on Mormon history, Great Salt Lake, by Bobbs-Merrill Company.
    1948 - Awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, which gave him financial support to travel extensively in the eastern, midwestern, and western United States, doing research for a planned three-volume history of the Mormons.
    1948-1953 Continued to work on Mormon history, and wrote freelance articles, first in Salt Lake City, and then in Washington, D. C. He was unsuccessful in his search for federal employment as an historian.
    1953 - Hired by Dr. George P. Hammond, director of The Bancroft Library, as a researcher for Norman Littell, attorney for the Navajo Tribe's land claim case; the work continued for nearly a decade.
    1954 - Invited by Dr. Hammond to join The Bancroft Library staff, to prepare a guide to it's manuscript collections. He remained at The Bancroft Library for the rest of his career.
    1960 - Elected a Fellow of the Utah State Historical Society.
    1961 - Honored by the California Historical Society with the Henry Raup Wagner Memorial Award, for The Overland Diary of James A. Pritchard (1959) and California As I Saw It (1960).
    1962 - Given the California Historical Society's Fellowship Award.
    1963 - Publication of A Guide to the Manuscript Collections of The Bancroft Library, Volume 1, edited by Morgan and Hammond.
    1964 - Recognized by the University of Utah with its Distinguished Alumnus Award.
    1969 - Dale Morgan's mother, Emily May Holmes Morgan, died in Salt Lake City.
    1969 - Received an Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History, "for outstanding scholarship in the field of Western Americana, and for the authorship of dozens of books and articles of exceptional quality."
    1970 - Awarded a second Guggenheim Fellowship, for research on the North American fur trade.
    1971 - Dale L. Morgan died of cancer, March 30, in Accokeek, Maryland, at the home of his long-time friend, Louise North.

    Scope and Content

    The Dale L. Morgan Papers are extraordinarily rich in source materials for historians of the Trans-Mississippi West during the 19th century. Major topics include the Mormon Church and related sects, mountain men, mapping and exploration of the Rocky Mountain and western United States, fur trade, overland migration, and the California Gold Rush.
    Morgan was a member of The Bancroft Library staff, working as an editor, writer, and researcher, from 1954 until his untimely death in 1971. The papers were then deposited in The Library, and remained there, in an unprocessed and highly disorganized state, until April 1988. The processed collection now measures 65.45 linear feet, housed in 76 boxes and 27 cartons. Duplicate and non-record items were discarded. Printed materials have been separated and transferred to the Acquisitions Division of The Bancroft Library for cataloging. Photographs and maps have been transferred to the Pictorial and Map Collections, respectively. Microfilm collected by Morgan has been transferred to the Microforms Division.
    Resulting in part from his handicap, Dale Morgan had a love of and gift for the written word. The first series, Conversations, ca. 1941-1970, demonstrates his difficulty in communicating face to face with friends, scholars, and library personnel. Correspondence provided a wonderful outlet. The sheer number and length of the letters he wrote and received are astounding. These form the core of the collection and are divided into four series: Outgoing Correspondence, 1937-1971 (Series 2); Incoming Correspondence, 1924-1971 (Series 3); Letters Routed to Dale L. Morgan for Information, 1935-1970 (Series 4); and Family Correspondence, 1903-1970 (Series 5).
    One thousand, four hundred and fifty people, more than three quarters of the writers, wrote fewer than 10 letters, but 16 correspondents each wrote more than 100 letters, accounting for 35% of the total incoming volume. One correspondent alone is responsible for 7.5% of the incoming volume. Incoming correspondence has the largest volume at 48% of the whole, outgoing constitutes 39%, and family correspondence 7%. The remaining 6% are letters which are neither written by, nor written to, Morgan. Including the letters written to his family, Morgan's own correspondence is approximately 43% of the total amount.
    Although Morgan thought of his letters as personal and professional in content, they fall into three categories: history and historical research; his personal historical activities; and his "other personal" activities. He was an exhaustive and meticulous researcher. Many of his history/historical research letters functioned as his interior monologue and the incoming responses furthered the discussion. In fact, because of his deafness, much of the historical process is now documented in detail; had he been able to hear and speak, much of this detail certainly may have been lost.
    Morgan claimed he did not keep copies of personal letters. This seems to mean, however, that he did not keep copies of letters concerning his "other personal" activities, rather than his personal historical activities. But this was not always the case. He was haphazard at making and keeping copies, particularly when he was moving and traveling to do research, prior to 1954,. After settling at The Bancroft Library, his opportunity to make and keep copies improved, if not his inclination to do so. John Phillip Walker in his Dale Morgan On Early Mormonism (Salt Lake City : Signature, 1986) published 26 original Morgan letters which are not in this collection.
    Twenty-three people who corresponded with Morgan, sometimes in very significant amounts or over extended periods of time, such as Charles D. Wood and Ray Kooyman, are not seen among the outgoing letters at all. Others, such as Dwight L. Jones, Madeline Reeder McQuown, Tasia Melvin, Darel McConkey, and Louise North, are represented in the outgoing series with only a few letters.
    It could be said that those persons reflect another facet of Morgan's personality. Their shared interests were often in the fields of art, chess, and photography, as well as history. But, as his historical activities continually increased, diminishing the attention he could devote to other interests, including writing letters, one by one correspondents fell by the wayside. Those that remained must surely have had some interactions with him, either in person or writing.
    Although Morgan detailed his busy, crowded schedule, his innumerable historical activities, and his assiduous historical analyses to nearly everyone, he rarely disclosed his feelings, objectives, or expectations, and then only to a select few, mostly friends of many years. Among these are Dwight L. Jones, Darel McConkey, Juanita Brooks, Fawn McKay Brodie, Fred A. Rosenstock, George Peter Hammond, Lucie Howe, Daniel Walker Howe, and J. S. Holliday.
    Generally speaking, letters written during his early Bancroft years (ca. 1955-63), reveal less about him as a person than those written earlier (ca. 1939-54) or later (ca. 1964-71). Correspondence during that time is largely concerned with history, and historical research and activities. By the mid-1960s, his reputation established and his employment secure, Morgan began to open up to more recently acquired friends. These include Frances and Ernst Stadler, Eleanor T. Harris, Floyd Risvold, Helen Weber Kennedy, and Helen Wheat. Not only did he begin to "speak" more personally, but by design or accident, he made and kept copies of these personal letters.
    Without question, however, the most personally revealing letters were written to his mother, Emily May Holmes Morgan, who carefully preserved them. Throughout his life, he wrote to her quite frankly. He explains his adjustment to the loss of his hearing and the self-confidence gained, from independently supporting himself and from the public recognition of his writing ability. He recounts the small details of everyday life, describing his friends, experiences, his reactions, and feelings, as well as his job and historical activities. During the establishment of his reputation at Bancroft, in the Hopi-Navajo research years, and the appearance of numerous publications of his own, only his mother received full and detailed accounts of all facets of his life.
    One other correspondent requires mention. Madeline Reeder McQuown, in terms of quantity, is his most prolific correspondent. Their relationship was complicated, stormy, and perplexing. History was among their shared interests. As McQuown proposed to write a comprehensive biography of Brigham Young, Dale freely and often gave her his notes and research materials. Despite, or perhaps because of, "their very special friendship," there are only 24 letters to McQuown in this collection. In content, many of Dale's letters are concerned with historical topics, but a few give some slight insight into the nature of their relationship, which lasted 35 years. The guide to the Papers of Madeline R. McQuown at the University of Utah, lists approximately 70 Morgan to McQuown letters and several folders of incomplete and/or shredded letters. McQuown's letters to Morgan, for the most part, are personal.
    Morgan corresponded for more than 25 years with virtually all of the established scholars in Western history. He was quick to give encouragement to many who were starting out in the field. Although he never lived in Utah again after 1953, he always considered himself a Utahan, and news from his family and friends there remained of the greatest importance to him throughout his life.
    Series 6, Personal and Family Papers, 1877-1971, is brief. History was Morgan's avocation as well as his profession, and the preparation of articles, books, and reviews soon supplanted chess, photography, painting, and drawing in his affections. He rarely attended historical conferences. Despite his prolific and critically acclaimed writing career, he received comparatively few awards. Unfortunately, he did not live to enjoy the extensive research trip he had planned in conjunction with his second Guggenheim Fellowship, awarded him in 1970. Series 7, Utah Historical Records Survey, 1920-1945, sheds light on Morgan's early activities as a researcher, writer, and an editor. For someone with little formal training in history, the chance to work with colleagues including Maurice L. Howe (whose correspondence has been retained as an integral part of this series), Darel McConkey, and Juanita Brooks proved to be a valuable apprenticeship. Morgan eventually directed the UHRS from 1940 to 1942. The ambitious program of transcribing historical documents in private hands and interviewing living pioneers, along with Morgan's skillful editing and considerable organizational abilities, helped to make Utah: A Guide to the State (1941) one of the best and most frequently reprinted of the WPA state guides.
    Morgan's long and fruitful career is well documented in Series 8, Dale L. Morgan's Writings, 1932-1970. The earliest works, dating from his college years, are poems and short stories, most of which were never published. He was a frequent contributor of journal articles and book reviews throughout his entire lifetime. A meticulous scholar and writer, Morgan continually made notes and transcribed documents and newspapers at every repository he visited. He usually was preparing more than one manuscript for publication at any one time and frequently stretched deadlines, rousing the ire of his publishers. In this series are reflected all the stages in the making of a book, from the publishing contract to the final typewritten draft. The incomplete draft of his Mormon history, five chapters exploring the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith, is also included. Other works left in a preliminary state are works about Joseph Burke, John C. Fremont, Vincent A. Hoover, and William B. Lorton.
    Series 9, Research Materials, 1920-1968, contains an abundance of information gathered at libraries, archives and historical societies all over the country. There is a bibliographic card file of Mormon history sources, notes, transcripts of documents, portions of the Journal History of the Church, and 19th century newspapers. The Journal History transcripts contain news items and excerpts from diaries and correspondence, all of which are primary source material for the history of the Mormon Church since its founding. Other major transcript topics are the fur trade and the westward migration.
    The tenth and final series, Clippings, ca. 1922-1970, is arranged by topic, such as historic sites and the Mormon Church. Most are from Utah newspapers. One particularly interesting section is a collection of interviews with Utah pioneers, which appeared as a daily feature in the Ogden Standard-Examiner from the 1920's through the 1940's.
    Related collections held by the Manuscripts Division include the papers of Norman Littell, attorney for the Navajo Tribe's land claims case. Dale Morgan and George P. Hammond served as researchers for Littell. Their papers concerning the trial were separated from the Dale L. Morgan Papers and may be found in the collection entitled: Papers Relating to Healing vs. Jones (Hopi-Navajo Land Claims Case). The Special Collections Department of the University of Utah Libraries, in Salt Lake City, has a smaller Dale L. Morgan collection. This consists of correspondence and material gathered for a Mormon bibliography, co-edited by Morgan and Chad J. Flake, which was published by the University of Utah Press in 1978. That repository also houses numerous Morgan letters in other manuscript collections, including the papers of Charles Kelly, Madeline Reeder McQuown, Arlington Russell Mortensen, Todd Berens, Fawn McKay Brodie, Juanita Brooks, Floyd E. Risvold, Wallace Earle Stegner, Fred A. Rosenstock, and early letters to cousin, T. Gerald (Jerry) Bleak.
    The Utah State Historical Society Library, located in Salt Lake City, also contains Morgan papers. These include correspondence, drafts of scholarly articles and book reviews, inventories of Works Progress Administration files, transcripts of newspaper articles, and transcripts of items from the Journal History.