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Folklore in Utah

Folklore in Utah: A History and Guide to Resources

Edited by David Stanley
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 358
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  • Book Info
    Folklore in Utah
    Book Description:

    Over thirty scholars examine the development of folklore studies through the lens of over one hundred years of significant activity in a state that has provided grist for the mills of many prominent folklorists. In the past the Folklore Society of Utah has examined the work of such scholars in biographical and other essays published in its newsletters. This book incorporates those essays and goes well beyond them to include many other topices, offering a thorough history of folklore studies and a guide to resources for those pursuing research in Utah now and in the future. The essays survey the development and contributions of folklore studies in Utah from 1892 to 2004 but also represent developments in both academic and public-sector folklore throughout the United States. Following a thorough historical introduction, part I profiles the first folklorists working in the state, including Hector Lee, Thomas Cheney, Austin and Alta Fife, Wayland Hand, and Lester Hubbard. Part II looks at the careers of prominent Utah folklorists Jan Harold Brunvand, Barre Toelken, and William B. Wilson, as well as the works of the next, current generation of folklorists. Part III covers studies in major folklore genres, with essays on the study of material culture, vernacular architecture, and Mormon, ethnic, Native American, and Latino folklore. Part IV examines public folklore programs including organizations, conferences, and tourism. Back matter describes academic programs at Utah institutions of higher education, summarizes the holdings of the various folklore archives in the state, and provides a complete cross-indexed bibliography of articles, books, and recordings of Utah folklore.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-507-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[v])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vi]-[viii])
  3. Preface
    (pp. 1-5)
    David Stanley
  4. 1. Folklore Work in Utah—A Historical Survey
    (pp. 6-20)
    David Stanley

    The study and presentation of folklore in Utah—in printed form—dates back only to 1891, but the observation of folklore certainly predates that figure by centuries if not millennia. Long before written or pictographic records, diverse groups of Native peoples had lived in, moved through, migrated into, and traded in the area that was eventually delimited as Utah, undoubtedly taking keen interest in the ways of life, the material culture, the ceremonies, music, ideas, and narratives of other groups. The variety of food crops, pottery, woven cloth, seashells, and feathers from tropical birds found in archeological sites only hints...

  5. I. The First Folklorists

    • 2. Folklore and the Literary Generation of the 1930s
      (pp. 22-28)
      Edward A. Geary

      The decade of the 1930s marked the beginning of serious and continuing folklore study in Utah, a decade when Thomas Cheney, Austin Fife, Wayland Hand, and Hector Lee all began their careers. Several factors influenced this awakening of interest in Utah folk traditions. A growing number of people were gaining university educations and developing literary, historical, and sociological skills. Improved roads and more or less dependable automobiles were making remote communities more accessible. At the same time, the last of the pioneer generation were dying out, and with them the direct link of human memory to the period of first...

    • 3. Hector Lee
      (pp. 29-29)
      David Stanley

      Hector Lee was the only one of “The Three Nephites”—the others were Wayland Hand and Austin Fife—not born into the Mormon faith. As he explains in his 1985 reminiscence (reprinted below), he was born in Texas in 1908 but grew up in the remote Utah village of Hatton in Millard County, where he became interested in the folkways of his Mormon and Paiute Indian neighbors. After earning his Ph.D. in English at the University of New Mexico—with a dissertation on the Three Nephite legends—he returned to the University of Utah where his administrative skills soon became...

    • Folklore and a Utah Childhood
      (pp. 30-33)
      Hector Lee

      When I was eight years old my widowed mother moved us from East Texas to the little town of Hatton in Millard County, Utah, where she married a farmer who was a second-generation pioneer. Thus I entered an entirely new world in which I had to shed my flat Texas drawl and learn the idioms and vocabulary of the region. Because I was learning a new culture, I was more attentive to it and aware of it than were the native youngsters, who had grown up in it. What they took for granted, I found fresh and interesting.

      My stepfather’s...

    • 4. Wayland Hand—Utah Folklorist, International Scholar
      (pp. 34-40)
      Barre Toelken

      Wayland Debs Hand was born in Auckland, New Zealand, on March 19, 1907. His father, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in England, had been attracted to Mormonism because its communal model appealed to his strong Socialist convictions. Indeed, he chose his son’s middle name to honor Eugene V. Debs—railroader, unionist, and Socialist presidential candidate. The family had moved to New Zealand in hopes of improving the health of Hand’s mother and the family’s financial standing, but finances did not improve so the family moved again, this time to Calgary, Alberta, where they lived with Hand’s uncle.

      Eventually returning to...

    • 5. Austin and Alta Fife, Pioneer Folklorists
      (pp. 41-48)
      William A. Wilson

      Austin and Alta Fife devoted much of their lives to interpreting the Mormon and western culture that had produced them. Just as their parents and grandparents had helped pioneer the West, they broke new ground in American folklore scholarship—in the study of Mormon folklore, cowboy and western folksong, and material folk culture—and charted a course others were to follow.

      As Austin told me in an interview conducted at his home (31 May 1972), he was born in 1909 and attended public school in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and in Logan, Utah. He entered Utah State Agricultural College (now Utah...

    • 6. Lester Hubbard and the Folksongs of Utah
      (pp. 49-53)
      Hal Cannon

      On a summer’s day in 1947, Lester Hubbard climbed down from his car and approached a neatly fenced rose garden in the little town of Orderville in southern Utah. On the walk, dressed in a long, old-fashioned black dress, stood a tiny, elderly woman. Hubbard introduced himself. Mary E. Hoyt interrupted, “Oh, I know who you are. I’ve been expecting you.” “No,” replied Hubbard, “that’s not possible. No one knew we were coming.” “Yes,” she said distractedly, “please ask your wife to come in and we can get started.”

      Hubbard was at a loss. He always found it difficult to...

    • 7. Thomas Cheney and the Dilemmas of Mormon Folklore
      (pp. 54-59)
      George H. Schoemaker

      Among those who have collected, classified, and annotated the folksongs of Great Britain and North America, three names stand out. The first is Francis James Child, to whom we are indebted for his great collection of English and Scottish ballads. The second is Cecil J. Sharp, who came from England to the southern Appalachians to reveal to us the rich ballad heritage of the United States. The third is G. Malcolm Laws, Jr., whose collections of British and American broadside ballads further expanded our knowledge of the Anglophone folksong tradition.

      The influence of Child, Sharp, and Laws, and the ongoing...

    • 8. Olive Woolley Burt, Collector of Murder Ballads
      (pp. 60-66)
      Ann Reichman

      In May 1958, Olive Burt wrote to Harold W. Bentley accepting an invitation to serve on the Advisory Council of the newly formed Folklore Society of Utah. “I am flattered to be asked,” she wrote with her usual enthusiasm, “and will be proud to act. I am hoping for many good things to come from this group, and know it will serve a real purpose for the state.”

      The rest of the Advisory Council was a prestigious group of literary academics: Jack H. Adamson, Juanita Brooks, Lester Hubbard, and William Mulder. “We were a bunch of amateurs,” Mulder said in...

    • 9. Helen Papanikolas, Folklorist of Ethnicity
      (pp. 67-76)
      Yiorgos Anagnostou

      As an ethnohistorian and folklorist, Helen Zeese Papanikolas focused much of her professional energy on documenting the early twentieth-century immigrant and labor cultures of Utah, with a specific focus on the Greek case. For more than fifty years, she researched, wrote, and published scores of essays and books on Utah’s diverse ethnic groups, their histories and cultures. In An Amulet of Greek Earth: Generations of Immigrant Folk Culture (2002), she extended her research beyond Utah and chronicled the cultural history of Greek America.

      In the 1990s, Papanikolas also sustained her unremitting dedication to the writer’s trade by turning to fiction....

  6. II. The Second and Third Generations of Folklorists

    • 10. “On Being Human”: The Legacy of William A. Wilson
      (pp. 78-85)
      George H. Schoemaker

      An old photograph hanging on the wall of William Albert (Bert) Wilson’s home office depicts his father posing with a section gang on the railroad. It is obvious that he is the foreman of the crew, for he is wearing a dress shirt and tie while everyone else is wearing work shirts and coveralls. In an interview (1 May 2003), Wilson commented that the inclusion of his father among the railroad workers in the photograph attests to his father’s ability to work well with others of all incomes and backgrounds. Wilson said, “An uncle of mine said that [my father]...

    • 11. Barre Toelken, Folklorist of Culture and Performance
      (pp. 86-96)
      Matthew Irwin

      Barre Toelken, longtime director of the Utah State University folklore program (1985–2003), was born in 1935 to John and Sylvia Toelken in Enfield, in the Quabbin Valley of western Massachusetts. He grew up in a large extended family with strong traditions of singing, music, and material culture.

      But young Barre didn’t get to live out his youth in that place. The town in which he was born was slated for demolition. Massachusetts had exercised eminent domain and begun converting the Quabbin Valley into a reservoir for thirsty Bostonians. The impetus of “progress” won out over the rights of the...

    • 12. Jan Harold Brunvand and the Urban Legend
      (pp. 97-102)
      Jacqueline S. Thursby

      One of the most widely published folklorists of his generation, Jan Harold Brunvand taught for thirty years (1966–1996) at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. During his career, he gained international recognition for his work on urban legends. He also researched, taught, and published on other topics including regional lore, folklore in literature, and European folk studies. Elected a Fellow of the American Folklore Society in 1974, Brunvand served as editor of the Journal of American Folklore (1976–1980) and president of the American Folklore Society (1985). An active member of several regional, national, and international folklore...

    • 13. The Third Generation of Utah Folklorists
      (pp. 103-118)
      Michael Christensen

      From the snowcapped peaks of the Wasatch Mountains to the brilliant red rock of Zion National Park, from the glittering Salt Flats to the swift waters of the Colorado River, Utah’s diverse topography has been noted by writers and recreationists, explorers and environmentalists, tourists and locals. Utah is both bountiful and desolate, both oasis and desert. This varied landscape can be seen as both sacred and profane, although people do not always agree on which is which. Simply put, Utah’s landscape is diverse, and so, too, is Utah folklore scholarship. This diversity is especially evident among what might be called...

  7. III. Studies in Utah Folklore and Folklife

    • 14. Native American Folklore Studies
      (pp. 120-141)
      Kathryn L. MacKay

      Richard Komas was a young Pahvant Ute who grew up at Corn Creek near Fillmore in central Utah. In 1874 he enrolled as a student at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania; the next year he worked for John Wesley Powell at the newly created Bureau of American Ethnology in Washington, D.C. As Powell described the collaboration in his Anthropology of the Numa:“. . . at present I am engaged in writing mythological tales as they are related to me by a Ute Indian who is skilled in such lore. I take them down as he dictates them slowly, word for word,...

    • 15. Mormon Folklore Studies
      (pp. 142-152)
      Jill Terry Rudy

      The first folklore item I collected in my “Introduction to Folklore” class as an undergraduate in 1987 was the story of the Bountiful Witch. As I heard it, an old pioneer woman put the evil eye on a little boy in her Bountiful, Utah, neighborhood. The boy became sick and remained so until some women in his Mormon congregation met in a barn to reverse the spell by ripping apart a chicken and having the boy eat the heart and drink the blood. When the boy recovered, the women knew a witch had put a spell on him. My roommate...

    • J. Golden Kimball Narratives
      (pp. 153-155)
      Eric A. Eliason

      J. Golden Kimball (1853–1938), the son of much-married Mormon patriarch Heber C. Kimball, is the most significant folk hero in Utah Mormon history. Young Golden worked as a cowboy and mule-skinner and picked up the plain-speaking, cussing, and coffee-drinking habits associated with those trades. Later, as a student at Brigham Young University, he experienced a spiritual awakening and served first as a missionary, later as a mission president for the church. After Mormon leaders asked him to be a General Authority, he became the most popular public speaker in Mormon history—in large part because he maintained some of...

    • 16. Latino Folklore Studies
      (pp. 156-160)
      Sarah M. Rudd

      Today, even the untrained eye will easily find evidence that the traditions of Utah’s Latino communities thrive. Just the other day, while waiting for a Sandy City traffic light to turn, I watched two girls drive by me in a sporty car. Their beautifully braided hair adorned with flowers and their white gowns decorated with colorful ribbons revealed that they were on their way to a fiesta where they would dance in full regalia to the sounds of traditional Mexican music. These young women brought to mind the words of Margarita Mendiola, dance instructor for the Cache Valley group Citlali:...

    • 17. Ethnic Folklore Studies
      (pp. 161-170)
      Philip F. Notarianni

      The investigation of ethnic diversity in Utah history has produced a large number of varied and dynamic studies by historians and folklorists, all of them concerned with traditions, customs, and change in the interaction between the Utah environment and nationality and ethnic groups. In the 1940s, most folklore studies concentrated on Indian legends, tales told from the non-Indian perspective, and Mormon folklore. In the 1950s, some scholars—including Helen Z. Papanikolas and William Mulder—turned their attention to other ethnic groups; they sensed that folk traditions and customs were vital ingredients in the ethnic experience of Greeks and Scandinavians, respectively,...

    • 18. Material Culture Studies
      (pp. 171-177)
      Carol A. Edison

      For over fifty years, Utah folklorists have been collecting, studying, and writing about the physical aspects of traditional culture surrounding them. Like many areas of Utah folklore and scholarship, this subject area was first explored by pioneering folklorists Austin E. and Alta S. Fife (see chapter 5) in the middle of the twentieth century; in fact, the first article on material culture in Utah, a study of hay derricks, was written by Austin and his brother James in 1948. For Austin and Alta, this field of inquiry developed over the fifteen summers they spent during the 1940s and ’50s traveling...

    • 19. Studies in Utah Vernacular Architecture
      (pp. 178-184)
      Thomas Carter

      In a recording called A Sense of Place, novelist Wallace Stegner has spoken about the need for people to be placed, to be, that is, of a place. “You don’t know who you are,” Stegner warns, “until you know where you are.” And where you are is, quite simply, your environment, the land where you live. Part of this is natural and existed long before any humans came, and another part consists of fields, factories, houses, and roads, the things people construct in order to live. The way we have chosen to live is physically etched on the land and...

  8. IV. Public Programs

    • 20. Public Folklore in Utah
      (pp. 186-203)
      Elaine Thatcher

      Utah’s traditional culture was perhaps first gathered and displayed for public edification either in a Mormon Church-owned museum that was located on Temple Square in Salt Lake City or in “relic halls” operated by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers (DUP). Early in the twentieth century, the DUP, founded in 1905, started gathering diaries and artifacts from members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) who crossed the plains to Utah before the coming of the railroad in 1869. There are eighty-eight DUP relic halls in Utah, all run by volunteers. The materials on display are generally identified...

    • 21. Under the Big Top: The Utah Humanities Council and Folklore
      (pp. 204-215)
      Anne F. Hatch

      For thirty years, the Utah Humanities Council (UHC) has served Utah’s public by providing resources, technical assistance, and funding for public humanities programming. Founded in 1974 as the Utah Endowment for the Humanities with initial funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the endowment’s main activity was to pass on federal funds as grants for projects that brought humanities scholarship and topics to adults. These programs were designed to bridge the division between “town” and “gown” and to bring academic insights to the general public. Since the first year of grants in 1975, many folklore-related projects have received UHC...

    • 22. Ethnic Organizations and the Maintenance of Tradition
      (pp. 216-223)
      Craig R. Miller

      Most people may be surprised to learn that Utah is home to over seventy distinct ethnic organizations representing nationalities from every corner of the world. The number of organizations by itself is an indication that people place a great deal of importance on maintaining their ethnic heritage. Gaining perspective on Utah’s history of immigration and recognizing patterns in the formation of ethnic organizations can help us achieve a deeper understanding of ourselves and our neighbors, and it can also help us understand how our community has grown and how it continues to evolve.

      A dynamic relationship exists between immigrant groups...

    • 23. The Folklore Society of Utah
      (pp. 224-229)
      David Stanley

      Utah folklore studies were spurred on in the late 1950s and early ’60s, as in other states, by the folksong revival, a wave of national interest in folk music that owed much to the popularity of such urban-based performers as the Weavers, Harry Belafonte, Burl Ives, and the Kingston Trio. All across the country, folksingers, university students, labor organizers, and musicians banded together in folk music and folk dance clubs, founded coffee houses, organized concerts, and started small record companies to market their own musical talents and those of the venerable musicians of Appalachia and the Deep South whom they...

    • 24. Lessons of Summer: The Fife Folklore Conference
      (pp. 230-239)
      Barbara Lloyd

      Early in the 1930s, a young man sat traveling on a train in France. He watched a man and a woman across the aisle from him as they shared a single cigarette, passing it from one mouth to the other, entwined by breath and smoke, passing it as lovers whose lips lingered and explored. This was more than merely smoking a cigarette, this was private coupling—sensual and intimate.

      It was clear to the young man that this way of smoking a cigarette was very different from anything he had ever seen in his own hometown in southern Idaho, deeply...

    • 25. Cultural Tourism in Utah
      (pp. 240-245)
      Julie Hartley

      Recent national and international studies conducted by the Utah Division of Travel Development note that local culture is one of the state’s prime tourist draws. For example, just as many tourists visit historic Mormon Temple Square in Salt Lake City as visit all of the state’s national parks combined. Cultural events comprised 18% of the activities in which tourists engaged in 2002. This figure reflects national trends: a 1997 study by the Travel Industry of America found that nearly ninety-three million Americans planned their trips to include cultural, arts, history, or heritage tourism. It also found that tourists drawn by...

    • 26. Folklore in Utah’s State and National Parks
      (pp. 246-248)
      Karen Krieger

      As the only Utah State agency managing historic and prehistoric sites, the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation has long striven to create for visitors authentic, meaningful experiences with Utah’s cultural resources. Accomplishing this goal requires good management—research, planning, protection, and interpretation—and the agency’s staff depend on folklore resources to inform all of these critical elements.

      Edge of the Cedars State Park and Museum, Fremont Indian State Park and Museum, and Anasazi State Park and Museum are all prehistoric Native American habitation sites managed by the division. All three actively engage contemporary Native American tribal representatives in researching,...

  9. Appendices

    • A. Academic Programs
      (pp. 249-261)
    • B. College and University Folklore Archives
      (pp. 262-267)
    • C. Utah Folk Arts Collection and Chase Home Museum and Archive
      (pp. 268-273)
      Carol A. Edison
    • D. Calendar of Festivals and Community Celebrations
      (pp. 274-278)
  10. Bibliography of Utah Folklore
    (pp. 279-329)
    David Stanley, Stephanie Sherman-Petersen, Sarah M. Rudd, Matthew Irwin, Nicholas Newberry and Cory Cartwright
  11. Index to Bibliography
    (pp. 330-336)
  12. Contributors
    (pp. 337-343)
  13. Photo Credits
    (pp. 344-344)
  14. Index
    (pp. 345-352)