British Travelers View the Saints, 1847–1877



Richard Burton, the nineteenth-century English explorer who visited the Latter-day Saints in 1860, warned readers of his book, The City of the Saints and across the Rocky Mountains to California, that there were three opinions about anything that happened in Great Salt Lake City: “that of the Mormons, which is invariably one-sided; that of the Gentiles, which is sometimes fair and just; and that of the anti-Mormons, which is always prejudiced and violent.” He divided his inclusive bibliography into the same three parts—Mormon, anti-Mormon, and Gentile, a category he further defined as works by the “comparatively unprejudiced observer.” In this category he placed the travel narratives of three Americans—Howard Stansbury, John Williams Gunnison, and Solomon Numes Carvalho; two Britons—William Kelly and William Chandless; and one Frenchman—Jules Remy.1

Historians who have made extensive studies of the Latter-day Saints’ image in nineteenth-century American plays, novels, periodicals, newspapers, and pictorial representations have found the image was decidedly negative, or, as Burton put it, “anti-Mormon.”2 No one has made a similar investigation of the Church’s image in another popular nineteenth-century medium, the travel account, in which Burton found more neutral views of the Latter-day Saints.3 Historians have used travel writing as sources for details of time, place, and person.4 They have also examined these firsthand accounts as a genre, summarizing how foreigners, particularly the British, viewed America.5 These broad studies of America give only a few sentences or paragraphs to the Latter-day Saints, however, even though a number of travelers devoted pages, chapters, and books to the subject.

As one step towards an analysis of the Latter-day Saint image in travel literature, this article looks at accounts by Britons who visited the Salt Lake Valley between the Latter-day Saints’ arrival in 1847 and the death of Brigham Young in 1877. These accounts include seven books by travelers who reached Salt Lake City by wagon or stagecoach before the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869 and eighteen by those who arrived by rail. These visitors were aware of the prevailing anti-Mormon stereotype but described the Latter-day Saints more impartially. Also, just as the negative image in other media reveal some of the fears and prejudices of the times, the more balanced, firsthand depictions disclose some of that time’s values and preoccupations.

The British travelers differed on logistic matters such as when and how they journeyed, whether they were headed west or east, and how long they stayed in Utah. (Please refer to the annotated bibliography for details.) Otherwise they were similar in background and purpose—the very model of “outside observers.” They were upper class, wealthy, well educated, and well traveled; all male except one; and literary, many being professional writers. They kept diaries, saved newspapers, and collected other material for inclusion in their books. Most visited Utah Territory as part of a tour of the United States, of North America, of both Americas, or of the world. Only one, Richard Burton, went to Salt Lake City for the sole purpose of observing the Latter-day Saints. But all would have agreed with him that the Church was “a subject of general and no small importance.”6 Aware that travel writers generally had a reputation for exaggeration, most were self-conscious about being accurate, apologizing for the briefness of their stay or their “surface observations.”7 They were acquainted with other travel narratives about the Latter-day Saints. Later visitors added to or took exception with the accounts of earlier observers, especially those of Burton, William Dixon, and Sir Charles Dilke. They also kept their audience in mind. For example, William Bell found “numbered amongst his readers the man of science, the lover of adventure, and the practical public.”8

The travelers’ comments about their visit to Salt Lake City fit well into Bell’s three categories. For the lover of adventure, the authors described the approach to the Latter-day Saint capital through Echo and Weber Canyons in terms spectacular if not sublime and Salt Lake Valley in words picturesque if not romantic. Adventurous writers made excursions to other canyons or took a dip in the hot sulphur springs near the city. But only the most daring, like the military men Captain Burton and Major Sir Rose Lambert Price, undertook an uncomfortable swim in the Great Salt Lake.9

For the practical public—investors, emigrants, tourists, and sportsmen—the Britons recorded prospects in Utah. Investors were advised to look closely but cautiously at mining, keeping in mind the substantial losses suffered by British investors in that “gigantic swindle,” the Emma Mine.10 Emigrants were warned that “Mormons own all the fertile land, and they are bitterly hostile to the advent among them of all persons but such as belong to their own faith.”11 For tourists, the travelers highly recommended the Townsend House, the hotel where most stayed; complained about the August heat and winter mud; exclaimed over the clear, dry mountain air; and noted tourist attractions, such as the slowly rising temple foundations, the Salt Lake Theater, Brigham Young’s houses, the Tabernacle and organ, Camp Douglas, the curious “All-seeing Eye” sign hung over the Latter-day Saint cooperative stores, and the steamboats on the Great Salt Lake. John Murphy informed sportsmen that the “fresh-water lakes and all the streams abound with fish” and listed the types of birds and “higher game” that were also numerous.12

It was to the man of science that the writers directed most of their remarks. With the same seriousness that they applied to Great Basin geography, geology, and ethnology, they described the Latter-day Saint economy, theology, and system of polygamy. To the British travelers, the Latter-day Saints were not an object of humor or derision, but a subject to study, explain, and evaluate. They related the Church to what they considered broader topics such as progress, the poor, democracy, freedom of speech, religion, the sanctity of the home, and women’s rights.

The Britons were impressed with the Latter-day Saint settlement because of its rapid growth, propriety, and “modified English appearance.” Salt Lake City reminded them of a “gigantic village” or “central market town” with a “charming mix of town and country” like “a quiet English country town.” They approved of the wide streets, the irrigation ditches, the houses nestled among fruit trees and “surrounded by familiar English flowers,” and the absence of bars and brothels.13 Successive visitors noted progress, industry, energy, perseverance, prosperity, hard work, thrift, sobriety, order, cleanliness, tranquility, civility, and quietness. James Bonwick, however, found Salt Lake “humdrum” in relation to San Francisco.14

The travelers also praised or criticized specific aspects of the community. Dixon and Maria Longworth were delighted with the theater, particularly the “proper” arrangements behind the curtain.15 Joseph Ollivant complimented the schools he visited—the university, a primary school, and an infant school.16 Some compared Salt Lake City newspapers and visited their offices, applauding the Church’s Deseret News and its English-convert editors for publishing “solid news” but condemning anti-Mormon papers like the Union Vedette for printing “trash.”17 Several criticized the Latter-day Saint economy, pointing out that “barter” and “want of specie” were hardest on the poorest, limiting their opportunity to save and keeping them “virtual prisoners in Utah Territory.”18 A number considered Brigham Young’s refusal to trade with Gentiles and his setting up of cooperative stores to be unwise and unfair. They believed competition would soon defeat the policy. Also foolish was President Young’s opposition to mining. Ollivant thought Utah needed an export other than agricultural products to bring cash into the economy. He concluded that “the Mormon has single-handed done much,” but for “material prosperity an alliance with the world around” is “advantageous.”19

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Figure 1. “Ensign Peak, north end of Great Salt Lake City” (engraving from Richard Burton, The City of the Saints [New York: Harper and Brothers, 1862], 358).

The British visitors were interested in the European converts, the majority of whom shared their nationality but not their class. Maria Longworth, the Viscountess of Avonmore, “had lived in Wales, the hunting ground of the Mormons, and whence they had carried off our best housemaids and cooks.”20 Perhaps aware that Americans negatively stereotyped converts as degraded foreign immigrants,21 Bonwick stressed that converts were not from the immoral demimonde or underworld but were instead “honest, God-fearing, earnest men and women,” the “pious, though ignorant, of our own country people.”22 The travelers printed statistics on the proportion of British to other European converts, included histories of the British Mission, explained the operation of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund, and described emigrant trains entering the city. But except for Cambridge graduate William Chandless, who was traveling incognito as a “cattle driver” rather than a gentleman, they reported no attempt to talk at any length with any number of these “pious, though ignorant.” The upper-class observers were, however, concerned about the welfare of their lower-class countrymen.

Was the condition of the converts improved from their lot in Europe? Several Britons pointed out a social drawback—the European converts were followers while American “Yankees” were the leaders.23 On the other hand, a benefit was that the converts’ children were receiving “a decent education.”24 Burton had no doubt that converts were improved morally (the community was “pure”), spiritually (bad food is better than none), and physically (the dry mountain climate cured the sickly English).25 Dixon stated that the care of the poor was a sacred obligation to the Latter-day Saints who were relieving Britain of “a painful duty.”26 Burton chastised his fellow British:

When wealth shall be less unequally distributed in England, thus doing away with the contrast of excessive splendour and utter destitution, and when Home Missions shall have done their duty in educating and evangelising the unhappy pariahs of town and country, the sons of the land which boasts herself to be the foremost among the nations, will blush no more to hear that the Mormons or Latter-Day Saints are mostly English.27

Chandless depicted some British convert followers but had no access to the American Latter-day Saint leaders.28 The other travelers, Burton in particular, provided portraits of the leaders. Most met Brigham Young and were favorably impressed; they expressed strong reservations about the extent of his power but otherwise described him as intelligent, fluent, honest looking, seemingly sincere—a possessor of good sense and great administrative ability, a Moses who delivered his people, a benefactor of the poor. Reciprocating these cordial feelings, Brigham Young told Murphy “that a class of English lords were the only truthful persons he met.” President Young added that even though he was “always glad to meet strangers” and “show them any kindness he could,” most repaid him with slander and sarcasm, “especially newspaper writers and bookmakers.”29

One English convert who was a leader in the religious community was admired by several travelers for his high “culture,” his “power of faith,” and his “truly brotherly way of treating his co-religionisis.”30 This was T. B. H. Stenhouse, editor of the Telegraph, a newspaper well regarded by the travelers. Stenhouse accompanied Burton, Dixon, and Dilke practically everywhere, just as he accompanied other prominent visitors to Utah Territory in the 1860s. One historian has suggested that Stenhouse had a marked influence on the good impression of the Latter-day Saints that these visitors developed.31 But Stenhouse had the opposite effect on a later visitor. William Rae was in town in October 1869, when Stenhouse was disfellowshipped for, as Rae saw it, “not being as ardent a supporter of the President’s [Brigham Young’s] temporal power as of his spiritual pretensions.” After “making an unqualified admission of error” and apologizing, Stenhouse was reinstated. Rae was not impressed that Stenhouse “submitted to the rebuke.”32

Although the British gentlemen liked Brigham Young and Stenhouse personally, they did not like what they stood for. Brigham Young was a one-man power, and Stenhouse was obedient to that power. Dilke and Dixon reported that Stenhouse told them Brother Brigham “ought to do everything” and “have his way in everything.”33 To Dixon, “such an act of prostration . . . in free America . . . coming from the lips of a writer who could make jokes and quote the last poem, and who is enough American to carry two revolvers in his pockets” was “more than strange. It was a sign” of “Asiatic obedience to a man without birth, without education” whom the Latter-day Saints “have chosen to regard as God’s own vicar on the earth.”34

British travelers in America at that time were critical of American democracy, not always of the theory, but of the practice. They considered the American political system of universal suffrage to be rule by the people but “not by the best people,” a rule resulting in “tyranny of the majority.” 35 The travelers pointed out that, in Utah, church and state went hand in hand—Utah Territory was a theocracy. They were critical of the theocracy, not because it was different from American-style democracy, but because they considered it an oligarchy, a tyranny, a despotism, a one-man rule. Chandless thought it “the very worst feature of Mormonism.”36 Burton was being sarcastic when he called it “the perfection of government,” because he then explained that the theocracy was like “the universal suffrage of the American States, tempered by the despotism of France and Russia.” All Church officers were first chosen “of the Lord through His Prophet” and were afterwards “voted in” by “every adult male” at the semiannual conferences. Thus, Burton continued, the Latter-day Saint male had “all the harmless pleasure of voting, without the danger of injuring himself by his vote.” Furthermore, Burton well understood “how thoroughly hateful to the petulant fanatical republican of the New World” was “the Mormon state within [a] state.”37

A political ideal asserted by the travelers as they discussed the Church was liberty—liberty of thought, speech, and action. They believed the British practiced it, the Americans less so, and the Latter-day Saints hardly at all.38 The toleration afforded the Latter-day Saint missionaries in England, declared Rae, stood out in contrast to the intolerant and inhumane treatment of the missionaries in nearly every other land and was “an honour to this sea-girt home of free thought and free speech.”39 Burton showed “how little of that ‘largest liberty,’ concerning which the traveler in the United States hears so often and sees so seldom, has been extended to” the Latter-day Saints.40 But for the Latter-day Saints themselves “freedom of thought or of action” was “as impossible as to idiots or slaves.”41 Some travelers, however, gave the Latter-day Saints credit for tolerating anti-Mormon preachers and the anti-Mormon press, itself doing harm “to liberty of thought throughout the world.”42 Finally, some believed, how the Americans would deal with the Latter-day Saints would underscore the riddle of liberty—“to what extent toleration of creeds implies toleration of the conduct which springs from creeds.”43

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Figure 2. “The prophet’s block” (engraving from Burton, The City of the Saints, 247). Visible are the wall, which at that time was strengthened with semicircular buttresses; the Lion House with its multiple gables; offices; the “Bee House”; and the Tithing Office.

The British observers were intensely interested in American religions, not just in Mormonism, but in all sects arising in a land without an established state church.44 A number of travelers made a determined effort to understand and analyze Church doctrine and practices. They questioned Church leaders, attended Sunday services,45 collected transcripts of sermons published in the Deseret News, excerpted catechisms provided by the Church Historian’s Office, summarized Orson Pratt,46 and read parts of the Book of Mormon.47 They displayed their knowledge of comparative religions. Some, like Burton, put Mormonism in the context of the Protestant Reformation.48 Bonwick characterized Latter-day Saint belief in the preexistence as “a sort of Miltonic version, and not unlike Milton’s original from the Persian Zoroaster.”49 A number noted Old Testament parallels and judged Mormonism to be millennial, materialistic, anthropomorphic, utilitarian, eclectic, hierarchical, patriarchal, and contradictory. But the British observers also took issue with each other. Dixon wrote that the Latter-day Saints believed that labor was “noble and holy” and that “every action of the day” was considered in relation to “the will of God.”50 Bell countered that the Latter-day Saints showed “an entire absence of religious devotion,” appearing “to worship no deity but the works of their own hands—not wood and stone exactly, but coin and fruit-trees, factories and theatres.”51

As well as analyzing the Latter-day Saint religion, travelers in the 1870s described two schisms from the Church—the “Reorganized Church . . . headed by the sons of Joseph Smith” and the “Church of Zion” (or “Godbeites”) presided over “by Messrs. Godbe, Harrison, and Shearman.”52 The travelers concluded that neither schism posed a permanent threat to the dominant church. Regarding the Reorganized Church, Rae observed that “the living priest” (Brigham Young) had “a great advantage over the dead prophet” (Joseph Smith).53 The Godbeites, however, were not dismissed as lightly.

Probably attracted by a shared cultural background, the British travelers seemed particularly interested in the Godbeites, who either had been born in Great Britain or had proselyted there. Like the travel writers, the Godbeite leaders “virtually to a man” displayed “artistic, journalistic, or literary talent.”54 Furthermore, the Godbeites promulgated the British Victorian ideal of “freedom,” interpreted, in part, as freewheeling public debate and laissez-faire economics.55

The travelers summarized the tenets of the Godbeites, who professed to communicate with “departed spirits.”56 Because of this Godbeite belief, the Latter-day Saints told visitors that the Godbeites were given over to the Devil, but “further investigation,” such as talking to the dissidents and reading their newspaper, the Tribune, satisfied Bonwick that “they were not less moral than the orthodox, though a great deal more daring and inquisitive.”57 Ollivant judged their “programme” of “universal charity” to be “too ideal to be successful in such a world as ours” but found it “impossible to withhold a feeling of respect from these men who against great difficulties” were “trying to reform the principal abuses of the system”—polygamy and the “infallibility of the priesthood and of Brigham Young.”58

Polygamy was the topic on which the travelers wrote the most pages, gave the strongest opinions, were most familiar with what others had written, and made the greatest effort to get information. They questioned Latter-day Saints (mostly men), collected publications such as the revelation on “plurality of wives” (D&C 132) and Belinda Pratt’s defense of polygamy,59 and gathered statistics, which varied widely, about the number of Brigham Young’s wives, the proportion of females to males in the Territory, and the percentage of polygamous to monogamous marriages. They tried to find out if Latter-day Saint women were really the ugly, wretched creatures of the anti-Mormon stereotype.60

All the travelers commented on the general appearance of Latter-day Saint women. Only a few, however, had a firsthand look at a polygamous household and could surmise whether the women were happy or miserable. While not finding them ugly, most observers were not impressed. They described the women as plain, unfashionable, modest to the extreme, quiet, shy, subdued, perplexed, thoughtful, and melancholic. Bonwick judged them “healthy” and “contented looking” but “a deal heavier than their sisters in the monogamous East.”61 On the other hand, Burton “found them exceedingly pretty and attractive, especially Miss ___.”62 Chandless, who boarded for two months with Vincent Shurtleff and his four wives and children,63 found each of his hostesses attractive. He also stated that the “wretchedness of wives in Utah has been greatly exaggerated: . . . human nature is apt to suit itself to necessities, and many among their daily occupations have little time for repining.”64 Besides, Bonwick pointed out, “there is another cause for the silence of wives under the burden [of polygamy]. They voluntarily submitted to the yoke.”65

Harris thought the “firm belief” of Latter-day Saint women in polygamy “strange.”66 But regarding the women’s support of polygamy, Burton explained, “the Mormon prophets have expended all their arts upon this end.”67 The travelers summarized the Latter-day Saint defense of polygamy, which included religious, social, and physical justifications. Foremost, it was a “religious duty” based on revelation, Old Testament precedent, and concepts of both premortal existence and afterlife. The issue for women was not happiness, but salvation—“no Cross, no Crown.”68 Of secondary importance were social benefits claimed by the Latter-day Saints—it built population, took care of excess females, and combatted “the social evil” (prostitution). All travelers but Burton decided not to print the Latter-day Saints’ physical arguments for polygamy because they “touch[ed] on subjects too delicate” to mention.69 Burton, however, explained: “All sensuality . . . is strictly forbidden beyond the requisite for ensuring progeny,” and the mother must remain continent “during the gestation and nursing of children.”70

As the Latter-day Saint prophets allegedly expended all their arts to convince Latter-day Saint women to submit to polygamy, so the travelers exerted their reasoning power to dispute the Latter-day Saint rationale. In so doing, they asserted their own values. Monogamous marriage was as important and sacred an institution to them as polygamous marriage was to the Latter-day Saints. Dixon declared, “Marriage lies at the root of society,” and “the true law of nature . . . is, that one male and one female shall make their home together.”71 Burton affirmed that “monogamy is best fitted for the large, wealthy, and flourishing communities,” implying that polygamy might be appropriate for small, poor, struggling ones.72 But was it acceptable for Christian and Western communities? Longworth concluded no, that “living in the West, and being Christians . . . made the crime.”73 Some pointed out fallacies in Latter-day Saint arguments. Contrasting polygamy to social evils did not make it right, nor did the antiquity of the practice. Why not concubines, too, asked Bonwick.74 Others worried about specific problems such as the legal status of additional wives and children and the early age at which Latter-day Saint females married.75 A few judged polygamy incestuous in appearance if not in practice.76 A number believed it unfair to bachelors.77 At least two supposed it would result in an excess of female births.78 Several noticed the lack of romance in courtship and marriage resulting in “an unnatural reserve at home” and “Moslem gloom” hanging over society.79 Dixon and Rae thought it gave Brigham Young power to impose or bestow additional wives on favored “elders and apostles,” making him, as Dixon put it, “the master of every house in Utah.”80

The inequality of Latter-day Saint women was a point against polygamy expressed by almost every traveler. Dilke stated: “If we have one argument against polygamy which from our Gentile point of view is unanswerable, it is not necessary that we should rack our brains for others. All our modern experience is favorable to ranking woman as man’s equal; polygamy assumes that she shall be his servant—loving, faithful, cheerful, willing, but still a servant.”81 This point did not bother Burton, who thought womanhood happier “below par” than on a pedestal.82 It upset Chandless, however, that Latter-day Saint men argued “the physical and mental inferiority of the female sex” before their wives.83 Bonwick, too, was uneasy with the Latter-day Saints’ “undue exaltation of men,” the inferior position of wives who succeeded the first, and the belief that a Latter-day Saint woman’s “express and highest mission” is that of marriage and bearing children. About the latter, Bonwick asked, “Should it be held disreputable, or contrary to Scripture warrant, for Miss Martineau or Miss Florence Nightingale to persist in their taste for a single life?”84

Every traveler had an opinion about the future of the Church. Burton, writing just before the Civil War, thought the Latter-day Saints would become an independent nation, maintaining theocracy and polygamy.85 The others predicted change as a result of “foes within, as well as foes without.”86 Internal “foes” included the eventual death of Brigham Young, the influence of schisms, and the modification of tenets as “American forms of thought” prevailed.87 External foes would not and should not include physical force; past persecution was wrong, and besides, it had strengthened the Church.88 Neither would the rising waters of the Great Salt Lake “swamp” the Latter-day Saints. But the Gentiles would.89 Due to the discovery of minerals and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, Gentiles were pouring into Utah.90 With wealth and prosperity, the power of the “Prophet and his apostles” would “sensibly decline.”91 A number of travelers also noted the initial attempts to enact and enforce legislation against polygamy. “Enforce the law,” they advised, and let the government “place its shield between the Mormons and the darts of Jove.”92

Although a few travelers raised the possibility that the Latter-day Saints would again move, either to Mexico or the Sandwich Islands, rather than let go of polygamy,93 most predicted that the Latter-day Saints would give it up. Two travelers who paid a visit to Church Historian George A. Smith in 1875 claimed that Smith told them polygamy was not essential for the Church to flourish. The Reverend Manning wrote that Smith said if the time came for the Latter-day Saints to abandon polygamy, they could “go back upon the first revelation,” a passage in the Book of Mormon that condemns polygamy. John Murphy quoted Elder Smith as thinking “that the truths of the faith would survive, even if polygamy were abolished.”94

A study of British travelers in the Mountain West in the 1870s, ’80s, and ’90s focused on Colorado and concluded that the visitors found “the West” to be the “most American” part of the country.95 If the author had included Utah Territory in his focus, he could have added that the Britons found Utah’s Latter-day Saint theocracy to be not only un-American but also at odds with a number of cherished British values as well. Dixon’s point of view reflected that of most travelers: the Latter-day Saints had “cast aside” the “white” man’s “most precious conquests of time and thought—personal freedom, family life, change of rulers, right of speech, concurrence in laws, equality before the judge, liberty of writing and voting.”96 Yet the British observers admired the Latter-day Saint community’s rapid development, sobriety, English appearance, and attention to the poor and uneducated European converts. They also liked individual Latter-day Saints, despite having “no very elevated respect for their creed.”97

The Latter-day Saint image in the British travel accounts is broader and more balanced than the negative stereotype of other genres. Yet the travelers wrote in light of the stereotype, tempering it, adding details, and responding to the issues it raised. This analysis of travel literature also supports several conclusions about public opinion made in Jan Shipps’s study of the Latter-day Saint image in periodicals. The “scholarly” articles that appeared occasionally in these periodicals were more “neutral” than other types, such as those by religious leaders.98 The travelers considered themselves “men of science” and probably regarded plays, novels, most newspaper and periodical articles, and cartoons about the Latter-day Saints the way Rae regarded Dixon’s writings about the Latter-day Saints—not “trustworthy merely because they happen to be entertaining.”99 Shipps’s study of periodicals also concluded that polygamy was “the primary concern of those who wrote about the Latter-day Saints between 1861 and 1895,” followed by Latter-day Saint political control.100 No other British traveler suggested, as Burton did, that the issue of polygamy had been “used as a tool by designing men to raise up enmity against a peaceful, industrious, and law-abiding people.”101 Rather, the majority concurred with Frederick Whymper that the Church had “its good points. The practice of polygamy” was “its great curse.”102

Annotated Bibliography

Secondary Sources

The main studies of British travelers in America are these: Allan Nevins, America through British Eyes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1948); Jane Louise Mesick, The English Traveler in America, 1785–1835 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1922); Max Berger, The British Traveller in America, 1836–1860 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1943); and Richard L. Rapson, Britons View America: Travel Commentary, 1860–1935 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1971). A study focusing mostly on Colorado is Robert G. Athearn, Westward the Briton (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1953).

Books by British Travelers

The following list of travel books was compiled from the Athearn and Rapson bibliographies, which were selective. Thus it does not contain every British traveler who published comments about a visit to the Latter-day Saints between 1847–1877. Nor does it include accounts by British apostates such as John E. Davis, Mormonism Unveiled (Bristol, 1855); or British Saints such as Frederick Hawkins Piercy, Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake Valley, ed. Fawn M. Brodie (1855; Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1962). Nor does it include periodical articles based on a visit to Salt Lake City such as Charles Marshall, “Salt Lake City and the Valley Settlements,” Fraser’s Magazine (July 1871).

The biographical information in the annotations is based on the aforementioned books by Athearn and Rapson and on Margaret Drabble, ed., The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 5th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985). The books are arranged chronologically, based, as far as I can determine, on when the traveler visited Latter-day Saints rather than on the date of publication.


Kelly, William. An Excursion to California over the Prairie, Rocky Mountains, and Great Sierra Nevada; with a Stroll through the Diggings and Ranches of That Country. 2 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1851 (reprint; New York: Arno Press, 1973). Kelly, an articulate, good-natured Irishman, rested for several days in Salt Lake City in late June 1849 with a party of about twenty-five gold-seekers, the majority British. He kept a diary with the intent of publishing.

Chandless, William. A Visit to Salt Lake; Being a Journey across the Plains with a Residence in the Mormon Settlements at Utah. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1857 (reprint; New York: A.M.S. Press, 1971). Chandless (1829–1896), a wealthy Cambridge graduate, gave up law for travel and exploration. He crossed the continent on a whim by hiring on as a “cattle driver” with a wagon train bound for Salt Lake City. There, he boarded with a polygamous family during November and December 1855 before continuing to California via the Mormon corridor. He later explored and mapped the southern tributaries of the Amazon River.

Burton, Richard F. The City of the Saints and across the Rocky Mountains to California. Ed. Fawn M. Brodie. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963. Burton (1821–1890), who left Oxford without graduating, published over forty volumes of travel as well as other literary works. In 1860 Burton took the mail stage to Salt Lake City and spent three weeks there, in September, gathering information for his book on the Latter-day Saints.

Dixon, William Hepworth. New America. 2 vols. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1867. Dixon (1821–1879) was editor of the Athenaeum, a London literary periodical. In 1866 Dixon met Charles Wentworth Dilke, the son of the proprietor of the Athenaeum, at Omaha, Nebraska, and together they traveled by stagecoach to Salt Lake City, where they spent fifteen days in August (?) collecting material about the Latter-day Saints. New America went through eight editions. Also based on the 1866 trip is Spiritual Wives, 2 vols. (London, 1868). Dixon returned to Utah in 1874 and later published White Conquest, 2 vols. (London, 1876).

Dilke, Sir Charles Wentworth. Greater Britain: A Record of Travel in English-Speaking Countries during 1866 and 1867. London: MacMillan and Co., 1869 (first published as a two-volume work in 1868). Dilke (1843–1911), Cambridge graduate and son of the proprietor of the Athenaeum, accompanied Dixon, its editor, on a visit to Salt Lake City in August (?), 1866. He later became a radical M.P. Some say Dilke might have succeeded Gladstone as prime minister if not for his connection in a divorce scandal. Greater Britain passed through four editions.

Bell, William A. New Tracks in North America: A Journal of Travel and Adventure Whilst Engaged in the Survey for a Southern Railroad to the Pacific Ocean during 1867–8. London: Chapman and Hall, 1870 (reprint; Albuquerque: Horn and Wallace, 1965). Bell, a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, took no part in the survey for the Kansas Pacific Railway Company but served the expedition first as “photographer” and then as “physician.” In February 1868 he traveled by mail coach from San Francisco to Salt Lake City, where he “remained some time” (460).

Townshend, Frederick Trench. Ten Thousand Miles of Travel, Sport, and Adventure. London: Hurst and Blackett, 1869. Townshend (1838–1924), a captain of the Second Life Guards, along with a fellow officer, C. P. Kendall, joined a party of American army scouts crossing the plains in 1868. Townshend spent four days in Salt Lake City that winter before continuing to California in the “odious mud-wagon” (209).

Whymper, Frederick. “From Ocean to Ocean: The Pacific Railroad,” in three parts in Illustrated Travels: A Record of Discovery, Geography, and Adventure. Ed. Henry Walter Bates (London, 1869). Traveling west a week before the transcontinental railroad was completed (10 May 1869), Whymper spent a few days in Salt Lake City.

[Harris, W. A., and Alexander Rivington]. Reminiscences of America in 1869. London: Sampson Law, Son and Marston, 1870. The authors spent several days in Salt Lake City in August (?) 1869. “Harris wrote more than two thirds of the book” (Rapson, Britons View America, 234), which was originally prepared as lecture notes.

Robertson, William, and W. F. Robertson. Our American Tour: Being a Run of Ten Thousand Miles from the Atlantic to the Golden Gate, in the Autumn of 1869. Edinburgh, 1871. In Salt Lake City for a few days at the end of August 1869, the authors complained of 118-degree heat. They wrote to “preserve recollections” and published privately.

Rae, W[illiam] F[raser]. Westward by Rail: The New Route to the East. London: Longmans, Guen, and Co., 1870. (The New York 1871 edition was used.) Rae (1835–1905) spent a few days in Salt Lake City in October (?) 1869. His impressions of America were first published as letters in the London Daily News, the visit to the Latter-day Saints being one series. Rae differed with Burton and Dixon but found Dilke sensible and fair (x–xi).

Ollivant, J[oseph] E[arle]. A Breeze from the Great Salt Lake: or New Zealand to New York by the New Mail Route. London: William Hunt and Co., 1871. Ollivant, an educator and correspondent for the Southern Cross, Aukland, New Zealand, spent 13–16 June 1870 in Salt Lake City. His letters about Utah were lost, and he recast his notes for the book.

Bonwick, James. The Mormons and the Silver Mines. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1872. Bonwick (1817–1906), an Australian colonist, spent time in Salt Lake City during the winter of 1870–71 (?). He wrote other books on colonial subjects and on travel.

Lawrence, George Alfred. Silverland. London: Chapman and Hall, 1873. Lawrence (1827–1876), an Oxford graduate, abandoned law for a career as a novelist. Visiting Salt Lake City in early February 1872 at the expense of the Emma Silver Mining Company, he toured the Emma Mine and then became ill.

Lester, John Erastus. The Atlantic to the Pacific: What to See and How to See It. London, 1873. (The Boston 1873 edition was used.) Lester spent a few days in the spring of 1872 in Salt Lake City. Parts of his book appeared first as letters to The Providence Evening Press. Although included in Athearn’s bibliography, Lester was possibly not British because in his preface he referred to “our” Great West (6).

Merewether, Henry Alsworth. By Sea and by Land; being a trip through Egypt, India, Ceylon, Australia, New Zealand, and America, all round the world. London: Macmillan and Co., 1874. Merewether (1812–1877) made a one-night stop in Salt Lake City in 1872.

Longworth, Maria Theresa, Viscountess Avonmore [Thérèse Yelverton]. Teresina in America. 2 vols. London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1875. Longworth (1832?–1881) spent over a week in Salt Lake City at Christmastime 1872. She wrote three other books about travel in the United States.

Boddam-Whetham, J[ohn] W[hetham]. Western Wanderings: A Record of Travel in the Evening Land. London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1874. Boddam-Whetham (1843–?) spent a few days in Salt Lake City in the summer of1873 (?). He is the author of other travel books.

Campbell, John Francis. My Circular Notes: Extracts from journals, letters sent home, geological and other notes, written while traveling Westwards round the world, from July 6, 1874, to July 6, 1875. London: Macmillan and Co., 1876. Campbell (1822–1885) spent one day, 12 August 1874, in Salt Lake City.

Davenport, Montague. Under the Gridiron: A summer in the United States and far West, including a run through Canada. London: Tinsley Brothers, 1876. Davenport spent a few days in Salt Lake City in the summer of 1875.

Manning, Rev. Samuel. American Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil. London: The Religious Tract Society, [ca. 1876]. Manning (1822–1881) was a Baptist minister who edited the Baptist Magazine. He spent a few days inSalt Lake City in the summer of 1875. He also wrote other travel accounts.

Murphy, John Mortimer. Rambles in North-Western America from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains: Being a description of the physical geography, climate, soil, productions, industrial and commercial resources, scenery, population, educational institutions, arboreal botany, and game animals of Oregon, Washington Territory, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. London: Chapman and Hall, 1879. Murphy called on George A. Smith, so he visited Salt Lake City before 1 September 1875 (when Smith died). Murphy went south as far as St. George to find “Simon pure” Latter-day Saints. He wrote other books about the American West.

Price, Major Sir Rose Lambart. The Two Americas; an Account of Sport and Travel with Notes on Men and Manners in North and South America. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, 1877. Price (1837–1899) observed the funeral of George A. Smith, Sunday, 5 September 1875, during his several-days visit to Salt Lake City.

Falk, Alfred. Trans-Pacific Sketches: A Tour through the United States and Canada. Melbourne: George Robertson, 1877. Falk, an Australian, spent a few days in Salt Lake City in May 1876.

Leng, Sir John. America in 1876: Pencillings during a Tour in the Centennial Year: With a Chapter on the Aspects of American Life. Dundee: Dundee Advertiser, 1877. Leng (1828–1906), editor of the Dundee Advertiser, visited Salt Lake City for one day in the autumn of 1876. Parts of his book first appeared in the Dundee Advertiser as “Across the Atlantic.”

About the author(s)

Edwina Jo Snow holds a master’s degree in American studies from George Washington University. A version of this paper was presented to the Mormon History Association, Oxford, England, July 1987.


1. Richard F. Burton, The City of the Saints and across the Rocky Mountains to California, ed. Fawn M. Brodie (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963), 219, 224–38.

2. For a listing of works discussing the image of the Latter day Saints in various media, see James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976), 648–49; and Gary L. Bunker and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Graphic Image, 1834–1914: Cartoons, Caricatures, and Illustrations (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1983).

3. For an introduction, see Edwina Jo Snow, “Singular Saints: The Image of the Mormons in Book-Length Travel Accounts, 1847–1857” (Master’s thesis, George Washington University, 1972), which also includes a discussion of accounts published in the 1860s. See also Edwina Jo Snow, “William Chandless: British Overlander, Mormon Observer, Amazon Explorer,” Utah Historical Quarterly 54 (Spring 1986): 116–36.

4. William Mulder and A. Russell Mortensen included excerpts from British travelers in Among the Mormons: Historic Accounts by Contemporary Observers (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969). Leonard J. Arrington used British observations to fill in his portrait of Brigham Young in Brigham Young: American Moses (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 324–28.

5. Two studies are Richard L. Rapson, Britons View America: Travel Commentary, 1860–1935 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1971); and Robert G. Athearn, Westward the Briton (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1953).

6. Burton, City of the Saints, 228.

7. Burton, City of the Saints, 224.

8. William A. Bell, New Tracks in North America: A Journal of Travel and Adventure Whilst Engaged in the Survey for a Southern Railroad to the Pacific Ocean during 1867–8 (London: Chapman and Hall, 1870), vii.

9. Burton, City of the Saints, 367–68; and Major Sir Rose Lambart Price, The Two Americas; an Account of Sport and Travel with Notes on Men and Manners in North and South America (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, 1877), 265–66. The only other traveler who swam in the Great Salt Lake was J[ohn] W[hetham] Boddam-Whetham, Western Wanderings: A Record of Travel in the Evening Land (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1874), 77–78.

10. Price, The Two Americas, 263. For a detailed history of Alta City’s Emma Mine, the “most famous—or infamous” of all Anglo-American mining enterprises in the 1870s, see Clark C. Spence, British Investments and the American Minig Frontier, 1860–1901 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1958), 229.

11. John Mortimer Murphy, Rambles in North-Western America from the Pacific Ocean to the Rocky Mountains: Being a description of the physical geography, climate, soil, productions, industrial and commercial resources, scenery, population, educational institutions, arboreal botany, and game animals of Oregon, Washington Territory, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming (London: Chapman and Hall, 1879), 229.

12. Murphy, Rambles in North-Western America, 232.

13. Burton, City of the Saints, 221; William Chandless, A Visit to Salt Lake: Being a Journey across the Plains and a Residence in the Mormon Settlements at Utah (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1857), 154; Frederick Whymper, “From Ocean to Ocean: The Pacific Railroad” in three parts in Illustrated Travels: A Record of Discovery, Geography and Adventure, ed. Henry Walter Bates (London, 1869), 57; and J[oseph] E[arle] Ollivant, A Beeeze from the Great Salt Lake: or New Zealand to New York by the New Mail Route (London: William Hunt and Company, 1871), 50–51.

14. James Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1872), 30.

15. William Hepworth Dixon, New America, 2 vols. (London: Hurst and Blackett, 1867), 1:198–208; and Maria Theresa Longworth [Thérèse Yelverton] (Viscountess Avonmore), Teresina in America, 2 vols. (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1975), 2:47.

16. Ollivant, A Breeze from the Great Salt Lake, 68–79.

17. Burton, City of Saints, 281–82; Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, Greater Britain: A Record of Travel in English-Speaking Countries during 1866 and 1867 (London: MacMillan and Co., 1869), 107–17; and Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 160–63.

18. Chandless, A Visit to Salt Lake, 214–23; and W[illiam] F[raser] Rae, Westward by Rail: The New Route to the East (London: Longmans, Guen. and Co., 1870), 119–20.

19. Ollivant, A Breeze from the Great Salt Lake, 101–3.

20. Longworth, Teresina in America, 35.

21. Snow, “Singular Saints,” 91–92.

22. Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 106.

23. Chandless, A Visit to Salt Lake, 154; and Rae, Westward by Rail, 138.

24. Chandless, A Visit to Salt Lake, 36; and Dixon, New America 1:241.

25. Burton, City of the Saints, 494–95.

26. Dixon, New America 1:241.

27. Burton, City of the Saints, 495.

28. Chandless, A Visit to Salt Lake, 210–13.

29. Murphy, Rambles in North-Western America, 242–43.

30. Dixon, New America 1:245; and Burton, City of the Saints, 247, 399.

31. Ronald W. Walker, “The Stenhouses and the Making of a Mormon Image,” Journal of Mormon History 1 (1974): 55.

32. Rae, Westward by Rail, 153–54. Stenhouse requested excommunication less than a year later in August 1870 (Walker, “The Stenhouses and the Making of a Mormon Image,” 62).

33. Dilke, Greater Britain, 102; and Dixon, New America 1:245.

34. Dixon, New America 1:245–46.

35. Rapson, Britons View America, 130, 137; italics in original.

36. Chandless, A Visit to Salt Lake, 178.

37. Burton, City of the Saints, 334–35, 456.

38. British travelers generally thought Americans were less tolerant of dissent than were the British (Rapson, Britons View America, 139).

39. Rae, Westward by Rail, 137.

40. Burton, City of the Saints, 456.

41. Rae, Westward by Rail, 118.

42. Dilke, Greater Britain, 117.

43. Dixon, New America 1:243.

44. Rapson, Britons View America, 144.

45. In the Tabernacle, Murphy did not sit in the front section reserved for Gentiles but, by mistake, sat “among the chosen people.” He got poked in the ribs during Brigham Young’s inflammatory sermon against the Gentiles. “That’s the way to give it on to ’em,” his seat mate said (Murphy, Rambles in North Western America, 240).

46. Burton was disappointed that he could not meet Pratt (Burton, City of the Saints, 393–94).

47. Chandless, A Visit to Salt Lake, 164; and Burton, City of the Saints, 284.

48. Burton, City of the Saints, 405.

49. Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 50.

50. Dixon, New America 1:250, 268.

51. Bell, New Tracks in North America, 462–63.

52. Ollivant, A Breeze from the Great Salt Lake, viii, 80–82.

53. Rae, Westward by Rail, 126.

54. Ronald W. Walker, “The Godbeite Protest in the Making of Modern Utah” (Ph.D. diss., University of Utah, 1977), 23–24.

55. Walker, “The Godbeite Protest in the Making of Modern Utah,” 25.

56. For the spiritualist aspect of the Godbeite schism, see Ronald W. Walker, “The Commencement of the Godbeite Protest; Another View,” Utah Historical Quarterly 42 (Summer 1974): 217–44.

57. Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 146.

58. Ollivant, A Breeze from the Great Salt Lake, 91–92, 82.

59. Belinda Pratt was the second wife of Stenhouse and a “foremost female advocate of polygamy” (Walker, “The Stenhouses and the Making of a Mormon Image,” 61).

60. Bunker and Bitton said there was “double jeopardy” in being a nineteenth-century Latter-day Saint woman. She could be maligned for the supposed attributes of both women and Latter day Saints (see chapter 7, “Double Jeopardy: Visual Images of Mormon Women,” in The Mormon Graphic Image, 123).

61. Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 111–12.

62. Burton, City of the Saints, 455.

63. Snow, “William Chandless,” 130.

64. Chandless, A Visit to Salt Lake, 199–202, 192–93.

65. Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 113.

66. [W. A. Harris and Alexander Rivington], Reminiscences of America in 1869 (London: Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, 1870), 275.

67. Burton, City of the Saints, 482.

68. Burton, City of the Saints, 482.

69. Chandless, A Visit to Salt Lake, 241; and Ollivant, A Breeze from the Great Salt Lake, 150.

70. Burton, City of the Saints, 479.

71. Dixon, New America 1:288, 302.

72. Burton, City of the Saints, 480.

73. Longworth, Teresina in America, 36.

74. Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 127, 125; and Ollivant, A Breeze from the Great Salt Lake, 109–11.

75. Ollivant, A Breeze from the Great Salt Lake, 111; Burton, City of the Saints, 477; and Murphy, Rambles in North-Western America, 252.

76. Chandless, A Visit to Salt Lake, 193; Dixon, New America 1:307–11; and Whymper, “From Ocean to Ocean,” 66. The travelers were referring to alleged instances in which a man had married a woman and her mother.

77. Chandless, A Visit to Salt Lake, 252; Burton, City of the Saints, 483; Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 103; and Murphy, Rambles in North-Western America, 244, 252.

78. Burton, City of the Saints, 479; and Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 123.

79. Chandless, A Visit to Salt Lake, 259; Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 101, 124; and Burton, City of the Saints, 468.

80. Dixon, New America 1:315–16; and Rae, Westward by Rail, 122–23.

81. Dilke, Greater Britain, 106.

82. Burton, City of the Saints, 481.

83. Chandless, A Visit to Salt Lake, 241.

84. Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 124–28. Harriet Martineau, a widely read British author dedicated to humanitarian reform, spent two years in the United States (1834–1836) and wrote about her experiences.

85. Burton, City of the Saints, 334.

86. Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 168.

87. Bell, New Tracks in North America, 465.

88. Rae, Westward by Rail, 169; and Rev. Samuel Manning, American Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil (London: The Religious Tract Society [ca. 1876]), 80.

89. Harris and Rivington, Reminiscences of America in 1869, 275–76.

90. William Robertson and W. F. Robertson, Our American Tour: Being a Run of Ten Thousand Miles from the Atlantic to the Golden Gate, in the Autumn of 1869 (Edinburgh, 1871), 77; and Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 169.

91. Price, The Two Americas, 263.

92. Rae, Westward by Rail, 177; and Bonwick, The Mormons and the Silver Mines, 187.

93. Dilke, Greater Britain, 121; Robertson, Our American Tour, 77; and Alfred Falk, Trans-Pacific Sketches: A Tour through the United States and Canada (Melbourne: George Robertson, 1877), 57.

94. Manning, American Pictures, 79–80; and Murphy, Rambles in North Western America, 248.

95. Athearn, Westward the Briton, 151.

96. Dixon, New America 1:245.

97. William Kelly, An Excursion to California over the Prairie, Rocky Mountains, and Great Sierra Nevada; with a Stroll through the Diggings and Ranches of That Country, 2 vols. (1851; reprint, New York: Arno Press, 1973), 1:234.

98. Jan Shipps, “From Satyr to Saint: American Attitudes toward the Mormons, 1860–1960,” (paper delivered at the 1973 Meeting of the Organization of American Historians), 21 (copy in possession of the author).

99. Rae, Westward by Rail, xi.

100. Shipps, “From Satyr to Saint,” 18, 22.

101. Burton, City of the Saints, 232.

102. Whymper, “From Ocean to Ocean,” 66.

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