Tribute to Dale L. Morgan

Lowell Dale Morgan, 1914-1971

Many scholars have contributed to our knowledge of Jedediah Smith and the fur trade, none more so than Lowell Dale Morgan (aka Dale L. Morgan). His in-depth research yielded such classic books as Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West, The West of William H. Ashley, and, with Carl I. Wheat, Jedediah Smith and His Maps of the West.

Born, raised, and educated in Salt Lake City, Utah. Morgan contracted meningitis at age fifteen and became post-lingual deaf, a condition which forced him to withdraw from typical teenage pursuits. He eventually graduated from the University of Utah where two of his mentors were Wallace Stegner and Richard Scowcroft.

The Depression’s New Deal relief programs were Morgan’s path to conduct research for Utah agencies, to his war-time job in Washington, DC, and to a Guggenheim grant. His landmark biography Jedediah Smith and the Opening of the West was publishedin 1953. 

George Hammond, director of the University of California’s Bancroft Library, hired Morgan in that same year and soon appointed him to be an editorial and research assistant.

A prolific researcher, Morgan wrote or edited some fifty-three books, forty articles, and eighty-four reviews on Utah, Mormon, and western history, the fur trade, and the overland trails. He was a respected scholar, but not an academic historian. Morgan died of cancer in 1971.