LeRoy R. Hafen

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LeRoy R. Hafen
Hafen 001a.png
Authors LeRoy R. Hafen and Ann Hafen in 1960
LeRoy Reuben Hafen

(1893-12-18)December 18, 1893
DiedMarch 8, 1985(1985-03-08) (aged 91)
Parent(s)John George Hafen
Mary Ann Stucki

LeRoy Reuben Hafen (December 8, 1893 – March 8, 1985) was a historian of the American West and a Latter-day Saint. For many years he was a professor of history at Brigham Young University (BYU).[1]


He was born on December 8, 1893 in Bunkerville, Nevada to John George Hafen, a polygamist, and Mary Ann Stucki.[2][3][4] He attended high school in Cedar City, Utah for two years and then at the St. George Stake Academy (now Dixie State College of Utah)[4] in St. George, Utah. It was in St. George that Hafen met his wife, Ann Woodbury. They were married on 3 September 1915 in the St. George Temple. He received his bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University. After this he taught school in Bunkerville and then was the principal of Virgin Valley High School. He then pursued graduate studies receiving his master's degree from the University of Utah, writing his dissertation on the Mormon handcart pioneers, and then received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.[5] At Berkeley Hafen studied under Herbert E. Bolton.[3]

For 30 years, from 1924 until 1954, Hafen was the Colorado State Historian,[6][7] and then he taught at BYU for 17 years. While Colorado State Historian Hafen was also the director of the Colorado State Museum and editor of the Colorado Magazine.[6] He also worked as a history professor at the University of Denver. Among other projects as State Historian Hafen oversaw was a diorama of the city of Denver funded through federal work aid projects.[8] In 1947 Hafen served as a visiting professor at the University of Glasgow and in 1949-1950 he has a fellowship at the Huntington Library.[3] Hafen was one of the founders of the Western History Association.

Hafen taught both American and Latin American history at BYU. He and his wife donated a collection of 3000 books and 2000 pamphlets.

Among books by Hafen were the history of Colorado, The Indians of Colorado, Handcarts to Zion, Broken Hand: The Life of Thomas Fitzpatrick and a large collection of books on Mountain Men and the fur trade. Hafen edited the collection entitled The Mountain Men and the Fur Trade of the Far West which had 292 biographies by at least 20 different authors.[9] Among the authors whose work appeared in these volumes edited by Hafen were David J. Weber, Abraham P. Nasatir and Carl P. Russell. Hafen also edited Volumes 9, 10 and 11 of the Southwest Historical Series.[10] Hafen also edited (along with his wife Ann) the 14 volume collection of primary sources The Far West and the Rockies, 1820-1875 which was the leading publication of the Arthur H. Clark Company during the 1950s and for the editing of which Arthur H. Clark, Jr. had specifically recruited Hafen.[11]

Hafen's book Broken Hand: The Life of Thomas Fitzpatrick involved him in a complex set of interactions to bring it to publication. He originally co-authored it with W. J. Gent with the intent of having it published as a popular history. With the advent of the Great Depression Gent was not able to sell the manuscript. In the summer of 1930 Hafen taught at the University of Colorado and also joined with John Van Male in the formation of The Old West Publishing Company, with the two of them as partners in the business. This ended up being the only book published by the company.[12] Hafen also wrote with Carl C. Rister Western America (1941) which was a text-book on the history of the Trans-Mississippi west in the United States and through 1960 was the only textbook with this as its primary focus.[13]

Among articles of note by Hafen were "The Old Spanish Trail, Santa Fe to Los Angeles" in Huntington Library Quaarterly Vol. 11, No. 2, Feb. 1948, p. 149-160.

Many of Hafen's books were written in cooperation with his wife. This included the 15 volume series called the Far West and the Rockie Mountains. The Hafens were the parents of two children.[4]

Ann died in 1970 of cancer. In 1971 Hafen married her widowed sister Mary. He died on March 8, 1985 in Palm Desert, California.[3][14]


Hafen's book The Overland Mail, 1849-1869 was republished in 2004 by the University of Oklahoma Press with a foreword by David Dary.[15]

The Colorado Historical Society gives out a LeRoy R. Hafen award.[16]


  1. ^ "LeRoy Reuben Hafen". University of Denver. Archived from the original on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2011-03-08. LeRoy Reuben Hafen (1893-1985) taught history at the University of Denver (DU) from 1935 to 1950. He also wrote books and journal articles on the history of Colorado and the American West. ...
  2. ^ "The LeRoy Hafen Photograph Collection". Utah State Historical Society. Archived from the original on 9 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-09. LeRoy Reuben Hafen was born 8 December 1893 in a Mormon town known as Bunkerville, Nevada. The twelve-pound baby boy was born to a polygamist father, John George Hafen and his second wife Mary Ann Stucki Hafen. Growing up in an experimental communal living with thirty-six households ...
  3. ^ a b c d Thrapp, Dan L. (1991), "Hafen, Leroy R.", Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, Vol. 2: G-O, University of Nebraska Press, p. 604, ISBN 978-0-8032-9419-6.
  4. ^ a b c "Author-Sleuth Follows Clues To Far Places", The Deseret News, April 2, 1960.
  5. ^ Utah State History website bio of Hafen
  6. ^ a b Kent, Allen; Lancour, Harold; Daily, Jay E. (1980), "State Historical Society of Colorado", Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science: Volume 29 - Stanford University Libraries to System Analysis, CRC Press, pp. 33–34, ISBN 978-0-8247-2029-2.
  7. ^ Spring, Agnes Wright (1981), "Dr. Leroy Hafen", Near the Greats, American Traveler Press, pp. 68–69, ISBN 978-0-939650-31-6.
  8. ^ The Colorado Historical Society's dioramas, Rocky Mountain PBS, "In early 1933, the State of Colorado almost stopped funding the State Historical Society. The Society's historian, LeRoy Hafen, recognized that the combination of federal funds and unemployed professionals could be used to further the Society's goals. " Oct. 23, 2009, accessed 2011-03-08.
  9. ^ table to find the various biographies in the multi-volume collection
  10. ^ Rodman Wilson Paul. "Colorado as a Pioneer of Science in the Mining West" in The Mississippi Valley Historical Review Vol. 47, no. 1 (June 1960) p. 36
  11. ^ Theodore Grivas, "The Arthur H. Clark Company, Publisher of the West: A Review of Sixty Years of Service, 1902-1962" in Arizona and the West Vol. 5, No. 1 (Spring, 1963), p. 77.
  12. ^ preface by Hafen to the 1981 edition of Broken Hand: The Life of Thomas Fitzpatrick
  13. ^ Harvey L. Carter. The Far West in American History (American History Association, 1960) reprinted by Wildside Press, 2009, p. 8
  14. ^ The overland mail, 1849-1869: promoter of settlement precursor of railroads. 2004. LeRoy Reuben Hafen died at age 91 on March 8, 1985, at his winter home in Palm Desert, California. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  15. ^ link to google books copy of the 2004 edition of Hafen's book on the overland mail
  16. ^ website mentioning the award

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