Paul Dayton Bailey

Paul Dayton Bailey—a Utah author, editor, and publisher—was born on July 12, 1906, in American Fork, Utah. His parents were farmers and innovators, and his grandfather Joseph Forbes was a prominent American educator who created Utah's first free public school system and first public high school. Bailey's own work, both his writing and his editing, focused on chronicles of the American West and the LDS Church. 

As a child, Bailey moved from Utah to Oregon, Washington, and back to Utah as his father tried his hand at various farming ventures, none of which lasted long and which eventually plunged the family into deeper poverty. Bailey ran away to his grandparents in American Forks and was eventually rejoined by his mother and siblings, whom he dropped out of school to help support. He then left home for good at age 13 and traveled the West by railroad for three years, returning to Salt Lake City and enrolling at the University of Utah at age 16. He worked in stables, a county hospital, and The Salt Lake Telegram to pay for school, successfully putting himself through Henager's Business College and LDS Business College before moving to Los Angeles in 1926 seeking work as a radio operator. In LA, the plans for radio didn't plan out, and Bailey ended up working as a printer and typographer instead—experiences that would shape the remainder of his career. In 1927 Bailey also married his wife Evelyn, who he'd first met in Salt Lake City while working at the hospital, and his typographic work provided for both of them through the Great Depression. 

Bailey's writing career began as an offshoot of his work in printing and journalism. Even as he was a reporter for various California newspapers, Bailey also wrote historical articles for LDS publications and eventually moved on to full-length books with LDS presses. He then purchased and ran a small newspaper in Eagle Rock, a small town outside Los Angeles, while continuing to pursue his own career in journalism. These interests eventually came together with Bailey's foundation of Westernlore Press in 1943, using the same printing presses for both his newspaper and his new publishing company. Westernlore was initially intended to reprint rare classic texts about the American West, but it eventually began printing new works too. Though production was difficult during World War II because of wartime paper rationing, Westernlore was enough of a success that every edition Bailey printed quickly sold out and required new reprints.  Bailey's son Lynn took over Westernlore and moved the press to Tuscon, Arizona in 1973 after a fire destroyed all inventory at the original Los Angeles location. 

Bailey's love of the American West, its many cultures, and the stories of adventure and heroism he associated with it, are all evident in his works about the region. Bailey's relationship with his LDS background was slightly more ambivalent and he became partially estranged from the religious tradition of the LDS Church later in life. However, he always acknowledged that this was a part of his heritage and his success as an author, as much as the landscapes of the West that he so often celebrated. 

Bailey died in 1987, six years after his wife Evelyn, and the two are buried in Fillmore, Utah.


  • Ghost Dance Messiah(2nded), Westernlore Press, 1986
  • An Unnatural History of Death ValleyWith Reflections on the Valley's Varmints, Virgins, Vandals, and Visionaries, Chalfant Press, 1978
  • Holy Smoke: A Dissertation on the Utah War, Westernlore Press: The Great West and Indian series, 1977
  • Those Kings and Queens of Old Hawaii: A Mele to Their Memory, Westernlore Books, 1975
  • Polygamy was Better than Monotony: To My Grandfathers and Their Plural Wives, Ballantine, 1973
  • City in the Sun: The Japanese Concentration Camp at Poston, Arizona, Westernlore Press, 1971
  • The Armies of God: The Little-Known Story of the Mormon Militia on the American Frontier, Doubleday, 1968
  • The Claws of the Hawk: The Incredible Life of Wahker the Ute, Westernlore Press, 1966
  • For Time And All Eternity, Doubleday, 1964
  • Grandpa was a Polygamist: A Candid Remembrance, Westernlore Press, 1960
  • Sam Brannan and the California Mormons, Westernlore Press, 1959
  • Jacob Hamblin: Buckskin Apostle, Bookcraft, 1948
  • Song Everlasting, Westernlore Press, 1946
  • The Gay Saint: A Novel, Murray and Gee Inc., 1944
  • For This My Glory: A Story of Mormon Life, Westernlore Press, 1943
  • Type-high: A Novel, Suttonhouse Ltd., 1937


Paul Dayton Bailey Papers, Utah State Historical Society

Mormon Arts Profile 

Paul Dayton Bailey Photography Collection, ca 1940-1980