Mormon Literature 100 Years Ago — 1912

0---RidersIn counterpoint to Andrew Hall’s now 12-year-old annual review of Mormon Literature[fn1] (the first part of the latest edition appeared last week), I thought it might give some perspective to look at what Mormon Literature looked like 100 years ago. Boy have we come a long way!!

Unfortunately, I was only able to look at the books published in 1912, not items in periodicals, because the periodicals aren’t available online, except for a few cases[fn2]. The periodicals also require significantly more work to pull out the literary items. I hope to get through many of the periodicals sometime this year — and if I do this again next year, I’ll try to include periodicals from the start.

1912 was a year when Mormons must have felt under attack. The apostate scion of the late George Q. Cannon, Frank Cannon, had published his exposé of the Church in book form in 1911 (it had appeared in periodicals the previous year), and a wave of anti-Mormon materials hit the country and the world. The first big anti-Mormon film, the Danish film Mormonens Offer (A Victim of the Mormons) had just been released in the end of 1911 and was being distributed worldwide. And, the explusion of missionaries from a German town had made headlines around the world, leading activists in England to form the “British anti-Mormon League” and  ask the home secretary, Winston Churchill, if the same thing couldn’t be done in Britain[fn3].

So, it isn’t surprising that there were so many anti-Mormon works published during the year. The biggest surprise was the number of literary works published for the RLDS (now Community of Christ) market. As I was at one point (perhaps a couple of decades ago), I was completely unaware that the RLDS community had even produced novels so early. But, in contrast, the Utah mormon community had 9 periodicals (not all carried literature), while the RLDS community had just a single periodical.

I should mention that, as I undersand it, the 1912 edition of Added Upon is Anderson’s final major revision to the text, and is probably the edition that most later editions came from (of course many of the recent POD editions are taking the text from the first edition — a bad idea, IMO). Riders of the Purple Sage is clearly the best known work on this list, and has some importance in literature because it largely defined the pattern for subsequent westerns. And, finally, the appearance of the work of humorist Charles Farrar Browne (who used the pseudonym Artemus Ward) in 1912 is interesting — a testament to his lasting influence. Mormons should perhaps be grateful that he passed away as early as he did (in 1867, at age 32).

Even without the periodical works, I think this is an interesting list. The books portion I think is quite complete — but I’m not as certain about the film portion. I do want to eventually put together the periodical portion, since I think it could give further insight.




  • Anderson, Nephi (1912). Added upon: A story. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News, 1912 (1898).
  • Anderson, Nephi (1912). Piney Ridge cottage: The love story of a “Mormon” country girl. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Deseret News, 1912.


  • Brown, Paula (Pauline Browning Dykes). (1912). The Mormon girl. Lamoni, Iowa: Herald Pub. House, 1912.
  • Frances (Marietta Walker). (1912). Object-lessons on temperance, or, The Indian maiden and her white deer. Lamoni, Iowa: Herald Pub. House, 1912 (1907).
  • Frances(Marietta Walker). (1912). With the Church in an early day. Lamoni, Iowa: Herald Pub. House, 1912 4th edn. (1891).
  • Wight, Sarah Estella. (1912). His first venture and the sequel. Lamoni, Iowa: Board of Publication of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1912.


  • Browne, Charles Farrar, Howells, W. D., & Johnson, Clifton (1912). Artemus Ward’s Best Stories. Edited by Clifton Johnson. With an introduction by W. D. Howells. Illustrated by Frank A. Nankivell. [With portraits.]. Harper & Bros.: New York & London, 1912.
  • Chapman, C. H. (1912). The Mormon elder, or The triumph of virtue: A farce. Portland: The Futurists, 1912.
  • Grey, Zane. (1912). Riders of the Purple Sage. A novel. Harper & Bros.: New York & London, 1912.
  • Kester, Vaughn (1912). The fortunes of the Landrays. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1912, ©1905.
  • Lewis, Charles Bertrand. (1912). Bessie Baine: Or, The Mormon’s victim. Chicago: M.A. Donohue & co, 1912 (1876).
  • Möllhausen, Heinrich Balduin. (1912). Illustrierte Romane: 3,5. Leipzig: List, 1912 (1883).
  • Pidgin, C. F., & Cosmopolitan Press. (1912). The house of shame: A novel. New York: Cosmopolitan Press, 1912.


  • Parade in Liberty Park, July 24, 1912 (dir. Chet & Shirl Clawson) 1912
  • The Romance of Mormonism (dir. W. H. Harbeck) 1912
  • Salt Lake City, Utah, and its Surroundings, Nov. 1912
  • [Salt Lake City Pictorial Film], Nov. 1912


  • The Danites, 1912
  • An Episode of Early Mormon Days, 1912
  • Marriage or Death, 1912
  • The Mormon (dir. Allan Dwan), 1912
  • The Mountain Meadows Massacre (1912) January, 1912



[fn1] Andrew has begun republishing his older reviews, which originally appeared on the AML-List, on Dawning of a Brighter Day.

[fn2] Of the 9 English-language LDS periodicals in print during 1912 5 are available online: the Young Women’s Journal, Juvenile Instructor, Improvement Era (available only on Deseret Book’s pay-for service), Deseret News and Women’s Exponent. Not available are the Millennial Star, Children’s Friend, Liahona the Elder’s Journal, and the Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine. In addition, there were three non-English periodicals in print in Danish, German and Swedish.

[fn3] I may have this connection a little off, but I can’t really investigate in detail yet. I do have a newspaper article that has an English source asking if the same thing that was done in Germany could be done in England. I don’t know if Churchill was actually asked that, however.

4 thoughts on “Mormon Literature 100 Years Ago — 1912”

  1. Th,

    For what its worth, I’m not at all sure 1912 was a seminal year. I wonder if, put in context with other years, it might not have simply been an average year.

    Perhaps after looking at a few years worth of information about what was published each year we can hazard a guess.

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