Description

    The cipher books of Reed Smoot, the Mormon apostle-senator

    Senator Reed Smoot's Two Cipher Books, with Supporting Material , dated 1880-1938 and containing eight other books plus numerous photographs, images, letters, documents, and one coded telegram. Among the eight books are the complete four-volume set of the senatorial proceedings surrounding the Senator Smoot affair, an important episode in Mormon and American religious history.

    Reed Smoot (1862-1941) was a prominent Provo, Utah, businessman and, after 1900, an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints and a member of the church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. With his election to the U.S. Senate in 1902, he became the first Mormon and the only Mormon apostle to hold that office. Even though Smoot was not a polygamist, many senators felt that with the church's history of polygamy, such a high-ranking Mormon shouldn't be allowed to serve. Suspicion of the newly-elected senator and the Mormon church soon erupted into virulence as the Senate investigated the matter from 1904 until 1907 in what is known as the Smoot Hearings.

    As a matter of caution and privacy, Senator Smoot and high-ranking Mormon officials adopted the use of codes when writing letters and sending telegrams between Washington and Utah. Snooping Washington newspaper reporters quickly began complaining in their columns about Smoot's use of secret code, proving to the senator the efficacy and cleverness of his decision.

    This archive includes one coded Western Union telegram to "Senator Reed Smoot" dated January 16, 1905, from West Chicago. The coded message reads, "Horologe ache similarity similarity file firth stop collodion wipe david. Rollo." The deciphered words have been written above each word in pencil, likely upon receipt by Senator Smoot or a secretary after referring to one of their many cipher books. Two cipher books are included in this collection: (1) an untitled black-bound book containing 312 pages of code words with their meanings (no publishing information is included). On a blank endpaper is written in pencil, "Will continue"; (2) Cipher Book for the use of Merchants, Stock Operators, Stock Brokers, Miners, Mining Men, Railroad Men, Real Estate Dealers and Business Men Generally, compiled by Frank Shay (San Francisco: Published by Frank Shay, 1888, 253 pages) in limp-leather covers. Written in blue crayon on a front free endpaper are special instructions to "See letter of Geo Gibb July 18/[19]16. To send - count six words forward including the word used. To receive - count six words backward including word used." (George F. Gibbs, a bigamist, was a high-ranking church official. This note refers to a letter written by Gibbs to Smoot in an effort to, according to that letter, "simplify the telegraphing of code.")

    The senate committee recommended on February 20, 1907, that Smoot be removed from office, but the Senate dismissed the recommendation and allowed him to serve. Smoot and church officials continued using the codes for years after the hearings were over. Despite his initial troubles as a senator, Smoot, best known for cosponsoring the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, represented his state longer than any other senator. He retired in 1933 with his honorable reputation intact.

    The following books are also in this collection:
    (1) Proceedings Before the Committee on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter of the Protests Against the right of Hon. Reed Smoot, a Senator from the State of Utah, to Hold His Seat, Volumes I, II, III, IV (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1906);
    (2) Reed Smoot's personal copy of Cost of Living in American Towns. Report of an Enquiry by the Board of Trade into Working Class Rents, Housing, and Retail Prices, Together with the Rates of Wages in Certain Occupations in the Principal Industrial Towns of the United States of America (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1911);
    (3) 1900 Republican Campaign Text Book, issued by the Republican National Committee. Includes a ribbon reading "Delegate Republican State Convention March 2, 1900";
    (4) Hon. Reed Smoot, Senior United States Senator from Utah: His Record in the Senate (Salt Lake City, Utah: Issued by Charles M. Morris, 1914);
    (5) Tullidge's Quarterly Magazine, of Utah, her Founders, Her Enterprises, and Her Civilization, April 1881, Volume I, No. III.

    Also included are numerous items concerning Smoot, including an editorial cartoon, a White House invitation, Senator Smoot's 1906 ticket to the Senate chamber, an 1891 John Deere Farmers Pocket Companion with handwritten accounting entries, a land deed dated 1889 in Salt Lake County, a 1938 catalog for Barclay-designed Rolls-Royces and Bentleys, and Smoot's memorial service program. Additionally, various personal, business, and political documents and letters from Utah dating between 1880 and 1895, along with numerous receipts from the 1890s.

    Several photographs and images are also contained: a cabinet card of Smoot and Jimmy Dunn (ca. 1880); two engravings of Smoot (ca. 1890); a postcard featuring the Reed Smoot home in Provo, Utah; an image of LDS Church President John Taylor, George X. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith; a large photograph (11.75" x 9.75") of the Smoot family, ca. 1900; a photograph of several people standing in front of a Utah Western train, ca. 1909; and a photograph of Smoot's bust.

    The following seven photographs are framed:
    (1) Smoot shaking hands with Charles Lindbergh, September 3, 1927;
    (2) President Hoover, Smoot, and Congressman Carl Mapes, ca. 1930;
    (3) President Coolidge, Smoot, and Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, ca. 1926, with reproduced signatures;
    (4) LDS Church President Abraham Smoot, the father of the senator;
    (5) Smoot and "Ab" Jenkins in 1932 (Jenkins was a race car driver and the future mayor of Salt Lake City);
    (6) Senator Smoot's horseback riding party at Lion Canyon Utah, June 26, 1923, showing President Warren Harding leading a large company of men on horseback. Herbert Hoover is to the left of the president and Smoot, wearing a large hat, is to the right;
    (7) President William Taft and Senator Smoot standing in the center of the LDS Church tabernacle in Provo, Utah, with gathered congregation.

    This large collection has been well cared for. The two cipher books exhibit moderately-toned pages and some rubbing to the covers.


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    April, 2011
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