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Philip T. Van Zile scrapbook

 File — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS SC 81
Image of Philip T. Van Zile scrapbook
Image of Philip T. Van Zile scrapbook

Scope and Contents

Bound scrapbook which contains newspaper clippings regarding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, polygamy, Van Zile's work as U.S. District Attorney, and other activities that took place in Utah during the early 1880's. Many items are accompanied by holograph notations by Van Zile. Also includes letters to Van Zile from William M. Thompson and Robert G. McNiece.


  • 1879-1883


Conditions Governing Access

Original restricted due to sacred content. Public to use redacted color copy or online digital copy. Permission to access original must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Philip T. Van Zile scrapbook must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Coordinating Committee.

Biographical History

Philip T. Van Zile (1843-1917) was the U.S. District Attorney for Utah who was chiefly responsible for the prosecution of polygamy cases.

Philip Taylor Van Zile was born in Osceola Township, Pennsylvania. He prepared for college at Union Academy near Knoxville, Pennsylvania, then entered the classical course of the Alfred University and graduated in 1863. He enlisted in the army, and served in Battery E. First Ohio Light Artillery until the end of the American Civil War. He received his discharge in August 1865.

With the opening of the fall term of the University of Michigan, Van Zile entered the law department and graduated in the spring of 1867. He then went to Charlotte, Michigan and was admitted to the bar and began the practice of law. In the fall of 1868 he was elected prosecuting attorney and re-elected in 1870. In 1872 he was elected as a probate judge, and in 1875 was chosen circuit judge of the 5th district.

In 1878 on the recommendation of U.S. Senators Thomas W. Ferry and Isaac P. Christiancy and Representative Jonas H. McGowan, Van Zile accepted an appointment to the office of U.S. District Attorney for the Utah Territory from President Rutherford B. Hayes, as authorized by the Poland Act. On April 1, 1878, he resigned as circuit judge and left for Salt Lake City, where he served for nearly six years.

As part of his duties as District Attorney, Van Zile enforced existing anti-Mormon laws, including the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act and the Poland Act. In 1882 Congress passed the Edmunds Act, which revoked key civil rights from target individuals without trial or due process. Among other things it revoked polygamists' right to vote, made them ineligible for jury service, and prohibited them from holding political office. This forced the retirement of George Q. Cannon, who had been a delegate in Congress for ten years. Van Zile subsequently lost an 1882 election on the Liberal Party ticket to fill Cannon's seat in Congress. Of the 33266 registered voters, Van Zile received 4884 votes, while John T. Caine of the Peoples Party received 23039 votes. About 12,000 people were excluded from registering based on suspicion of polygamy.

In 1884 Van Zile returned from Utah to Michigan. In the presidential campaign of James G. Blaine, Van Zile was chosen by the convention, in his absence, to be chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. He served as chairman for two years.

Van Zile moved to Detroit in 1899 and the following year became a lecturer in the Detroit College of Law, and shortly after was elected dean of the college. He was also chosen Grand Commander of Knights Templar of Michigan in 1900. In 1894 Alfred University conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and in 1904 that of Doctor of Laws. His publications include "Van Zile’s Bailments and Carriers," and "Van Zile’s Equity Pleading and Practice."

Philip T. Van Zile died on October 26, 1917.


1 box (0.25 linear ft.)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Donated in 1974.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; 1974.


LDS cultural, social, and religious history (19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts collection development policy IV.a.i.1, November 2013)

Existence and Location of Copies

Redacted color copy of original available in Folder 2.

Processing Information

Color copy added and record updated; Ryan K. Lee; 2019

Register of Philip T. Van Zile scrapbook
Elisa Visick
2010 June 7
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States