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Folklore in Utah

A History and Guide to Resources

David Stanley

Publication Year: 2004

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.

Published by: Utah State University Press

Title Page

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pp. iii


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pp. iv


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pp. vi-viii

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pp. 1-5

In the process of editing this collection of essays and descriptions of programs and archives, I came across two items that I thought especially pertinent and interesting to the study and collection of Utah folklore. The first was Jill Terry Rudy’s thoughtful essay on Alta Fife and Alta’s role in the remarkable folklore...

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Folklore Work in Utah—A Historical Survey

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pp. 6-19

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...

Part I: The First Folklorists

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Folklore and the Literary Generation of the 1930s

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pp. 22-28

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...

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Hector Lee

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pp. 29

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...

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Folklore and a Utah Childhood

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pp. 30-33

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...

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Wayland Hand—Utah Folklorist, International Scholar

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pp. 34-40

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—...

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Austin and Alta Fife, Pioneer Folklorists

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pp. 41-48

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...

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Lester Hubbard and the Folksongs of Utah

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pp. 49-53

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...

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Thomas Cheney and the Dilemmas of Mormon Folklore

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pp. 54-59

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...

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Olive Woolley Burt, Collector of Murder Ballads

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pp. 60-66

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...

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Helen Papanikolas, Folklorist of Ethnicity

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pp. 67-75

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...

Part II: The Second and Third Generations of Folklorists

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“On Being Human”: The Legacy of William A. Wilson

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pp. 78-85

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...

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Barre Toelken, Folklorist of Culture and Performance

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pp. 86-96

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...

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Jan Harold Brunvand and the Urban Legend

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pp. 97-102

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...

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The Third Generation of Utah Folklorists

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pp. 103-117

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...

Part III: Studies in Utah Folklore and Folklife

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Native American Folklore Studies

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pp. 120-141

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...

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Mormon Folklore Studies

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pp. 142-152

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...

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J. Golden Kimball Narratives

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pp. 153-155

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...

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Latino Folklore Studies

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pp. 156-160

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...

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Ethnic Folklore Studies

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pp. 161-170

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...

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Material Culture Studies

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pp. 171-177

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...

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Studies in Utah Vernacular Architecture

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pp. 178-184

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...

Part IV: Public Programs

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Public Folklore in Utah

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pp. 186-203

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...

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Under the Big Top: The Utah Humanities Council and Folklore

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pp. 204-215

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...

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Ethnic Organizations and the Maintenance of Tradition

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pp. 216-223

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...

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The Folklore Society of Utah

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pp. 224-229

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...

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Lessons of Summer: The Fife Folklore Conference

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pp. 230-239

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...

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Cultural Tourism in Utah

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pp. 240-245

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...

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Folklore in Utah’s State and National Parks

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pp. 246-248

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...

Appendix A. Academic Programs

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pp. 249-261

Appendix B. College and University Folklore Archives

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pp. 262-267

Appendix C. Utah Folk Arts Collection and Chase Home Museum and Archive

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pp. 268-273

Appendix D. Calendar of Festivals and Community Celebrations

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pp. 274-278

Bibliography of Utah Folklore

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pp. 279-329

Index to Bibliography

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pp. 330-336


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pp. 337-343

Photo Credits

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pp. 344


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pp. 345-352

E-ISBN-13: 9780874215076
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874215885

Publication Year: 2004