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Huntington Digital Library

About this collection

The development of the Huntington’s Mormon collections began with the purchase of a first and second edition of the Book of Mormon, which were acquired with the E. Dwight Church and Augustin MacDonald collections in 1911 and 1916. This was followed by the additions of a variety of other printed texts related to Mormon history, which Huntington continued to purchase until his death in 1927. The assembly of these printed texts and foray into collecting Mormon manuscript material were furthered by Huntington librarian Leslie E. Bliss in the 1920s, culminating with the acquisition of the John D. Lee diaries in 1929. In 1934 the Huntington acquired the Jacob Smith Boreman Papers - which focus on the two trials of John D. Lee – and, under the Works Progress Administration in 1942, began collecting facsimile diaries and reminiscences by Mormon pioneers. These early acquisitions were extraordinarily enhanced beginning in 1944, when Huntington Library research associate Robert Glass Cleland helped secure a Rockefeller Foundation grant to fund the collecting of manuscripts related to southwestern American history. To further this goal, the library enlisted Mormon historian Juanita Brooks to comb the Great Basin area for potential acquisitions, resulting in the addition of a wide variety of original manuscripts and facsimile reproductions to the rapidly expanding Mormon collections. This collecting pace continued unabated through the 1950s and into the 1960s, and the majority of the Huntington’s Mormon manuscripts were acquired during this time. In addition to these individual items, the Library acquired several major collections, including the papers of Fred Lockley in 1959, the papers of Kimball Young in 1965, and the Lewis Crum Bidamon Papers in 1966. The work of Bliss, Cleland, Brooks, and their successors expanded the Library’s holdings from a modest assortment of texts and manuscripts to one of the most comprehensive Mormon history collections outside of Utah.

 

The Huntington’s Mormon holdings now constitute thousands of pieces encompassing every aspect of Mormon history, beginning with the founding of the Church and continuing through the exoduses from Nauvoo and Kirtland, the migration along pioneer trails to Zion, and the settlement of the inter-mountain west. Some of these manuscripts follow Mormon missionaries as far afield as Hawaii, Scandinavia, and China, while others stay closer to home, recording the spiritual lives of the Saints and the domestic trials and triumphs of the men and women of the Church. Highlights of early Church history records include Oliver Cowdery’s 1834-1838 letterbook, the autobiography of Wandle Mace, and the memoir of Reed Peck (1839), as well as a variety of original letters by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Among the dozens of diaries and memoirs covering the western migration are those of Henry William Bigler, Edwin Harley, and Edwin Smout. Conflict between Mormons and Gentiles is recorded in, among others, the transcripts of the John D. Lee trials included in the Jacob Boreman Papers, the papers of U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers John Williams Gunnison and Edward G. Beckwith, and a journal of Henry Ballard, which recalls his experiences in the Utah War. Women’s voices are heard through the diaries of Eliza Roxcy Snow, Mary Minerva Dart Judd, Lucy Mack Smith, and Lucy Hannah Flake; in autobiographies and memoirs by Sophronia Moore Martin, Mary Ann Stearns Winters, and Sarah Studevant Leavitt; in the poetry of Ellis Reynolds Shipp; in the letters of Maria Bidgood Jarman Ford Barnes, who fled an abusive, polygamous marriage; and from a multitude of other journals, reminiscences, and letters.

 

Other manuscripts trace the stories of Mormon immigrants from England (William Marsden, James Farmer, Benjamin Platt), Scotland (William Richardson), Denmark (John Nielsen), Sweden (Helena Rosbery), Switzerland (Jean Frederic Loba), and Canada (Jesse W. Crosby), while still others describe topics as diverse as interactions between Mormons and Native Americans (James Holt, Ruby Lamont, George Washington Bean), the running of United Order settlements (United Order of Oak City, United Order of Panguitch), and views on healing and medicine (Elias Hicks Blackburn, Priddy Meeks). The collections are rounded out by a variety of 20th century biographies, essays, and theses discussing and debating Mormon historical and theological topics.

 

For a thorough history of the Mormon manuscript collections at the Huntington, see “Studying the Saints: Mormon Sources at the Huntington Library” by Peter J. Blodgett, in Mormon Americana: A Guide to Sources and Collections in the United States (BYU Studies, 1995). Users interested in Mormon manuscript collections in general may also wish to consult the Guide to Mormon Autobiographies and Diaries by Davis Bitton (Brigham Young University Press, 1977). Potential users of the Huntington’s historical manuscript collections should also be aware of its 1978 publication, Guide to American Historical Manuscripts at the Huntington Library. Although many collections acquired since its date of issue are not listed in the volume, it does provide concise descriptions for many of the Huntington’s hundreds of collections within the broad field of American history. Further details about such collections may also be found in the Huntington’s online library catalog at http://catalog.huntington.org.

 
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