As the Utah War settled to an occupation of the Utah Territory, Kirk Anderson, with financial backing from John Hartnett, started Utah’s second newspaper the Valley Tan, targeting Camp Floyd’s population of soldiers as well as the Gentiles settling in the Deseret.
In the first edition published on November 6, 1858, Anderson, wrote, “We have embarked in the enterprise of publishing a paper in this Valley, because we believed the interests and wants of a large portion of the people of the Territory, required an exponent differing essentially from any hitherto published in their midst, that the necessity of a newspaper in its true signification was demanded, local in its nature catching the current of events upon its mirror and reflecting them back to the people.” With that, the Valley Tan began its year-and-a-half run.
During that year-and-a-half of press, the Valley Tan tackled such difficult issues relating to the Utah Territory as polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the violence and unsolved or unpunished murders of both Mormons and Gentiles, the tenets of the LDS Church, and the position of the United States against the Mormons of the Utah Territory. However, thrown into those same pages were witty quips about yarn sales, beer, and local theater. Valley Tan’s writers laced their prose with s from Shakespeare. They commonly employed satire in their approaches to stories. The editorial section allowed for a public sounding board.
The Deseret News, as an LDS Church subsidiary, did little to address the sometimes vitriolic writing of the Valley Tan. However, the unchecked and un-countered stories condemning the Mormon religion and practices persuaded some private, LDS entrepreneurs to start their own newspaper, the Mountaineer, to correct the stories of the Valley Tan, thus creating a healthy competition between the two weeklies.
On February 29, 1860, the last edition of Valley Tan went out to the public. A lack of paper due to a bankruptcy of the stagecoach company that brought the supplies spelled doom for the newspaper. Ironically, the final few weeks of Valley Tan’s publication happened because of the, “obliging spirit” of the “proprietor of the Deseret News.”
Image: The Valley Tan. Title page of the newspaper "The Valley Tan". Volume 1, number 6. December 10, 1858. Courtesy of Utah Digital Newspapers.
See editions of the Valley Tan on the Utah Digital Newspapers website: www.lib.utah.edu/digital/unews. Also see Robert Fleming, “Turning the Tide: The Mountaineer vs. the Valley Tan,” Utah Historical Quarterly 64 (Summer 1996) 224-245. Also see Donald R. Moorman with Gene A. Sessions, Camp Floyd and the Mormons: The Utah War, (Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, 1992; reprint 2005), 75, 81-101.