The White Book Road Guide

Miriam B. Murphy
History Blazer, October 1996

The White Book Road Guide published in 1920 by F. D. B. Gay was produced “from the standpoint of the man in the car.” This guide and others published by Gay not only catered to the needs of early automobile tourists but also reflected his desire to market “the scenic wonders of the western states to America.” Born in Massachusetts in 1878 and educated at Harvard and Northwestern, Gay had a long and varied career as a newspaperman and was associated with the San Francisco Examiner, Chicago Tribune, New York World Herald, Rocky Mountain News, and the Deseret News. Like many a traveler before and since, he became enamored of the southern Utah scenery. Associated with the Auto Club of Southern California, he secured “from them the first money to mark the roads of southern Utah.” As field secretary of the Associated Civic Clubs of Southern Utah and the Scenic Highways Association, he reportedly “mapped and routed the first roads of southern Utah.”

The 1920 guide takes the tourist in his automobile from Ogden to the Grand Canyon along what is essentially Highway 89. The driver is given exact mileage between towns and told precisely where to turn. For example, on the Sevier River route between Richfield, Sevier County, and Marysvale, Piute County, the guidebook notes that at Elsinore (7.4 miles from the Commercial Bank corner in Richfield) gas could be obtained at the drug store on the corner and to turn right there and at 7.7 miles turn left and follow the main road. After driving straight through Joseph, at mile 15, turn right with the poles. On reaching mile 16.7 the Cove School should be on the right. Where the road forks at mile 17.4 the driver should keep left for Marysvale. After crossing the river twice and a railroad siding once the road would take the tourist on into Marysvale, a distance of 30.5 miles from Richfield.

This particular guide was produced in cooperation with Josiah F. Gibbs and J. Cecil Alter. Alter, founding editor of Utah Historical Quarterly and head of the Weather Bureau in Salt Lake City for many years, waxed eloquent about “Automobiling to Wonderlands” and the beauties of Fish Lake, Bryce’s [sic] Canyon, and Grand Canyon. “The Grand Canyon, like a love affair, must be experienced for it cannot be described,” the ardent Alter wrote. Gibbs described the majestic grandeur of the Tushar Mountains straddling the border of Piute and Beaver counties, but another purpose of his writing was to promote Marysvale as the center of “the coming precious metals district of Utah.”

In addition to the precious metals pouring from the Deer Trail Mine, “vast deposits, beds and lodes” of alunite ore were being refined at the Mineral Products Mill a few miles outside of Marysvale—“sufficient to supply the United States with pure potash and potash-fertilizer during centuries to come.” Marysvale, “a mountain hamlet in the rough,” was the ideal spot from which to explore by auto or saddle horse “the great heart of the Tushar,” including Mount Belknap. From the top of this 12,139-foot peak virtually all of central, southern, and southwestern Utah could be seen. Indeed, “from the U.S. geodetic station, perched on the highest spot of Belknap’s…dome, one may look out and over one fiftieth of the earth’s circumference!”

Tourists would have found their needs well supplied in Marysvale in 1920. B. H. King, proprietor of the Pines Hotel, promised “Good service, reasonable rates. Special attention to Traveling Men and Tourists. Meals are served. Rooms are convenient.” G. T. Eayrs, owner of the Eayrs Drug, offered refreshing fountain drinks and confectionery as well as the usual drug store items and supplies for travelers such as thermos bottles and film. If one had not packed the appropriate attire or equipment for travel, Marysvale boasted a J. C. Penney outlet and the Marysvale Cash Store. The Wallace Johnson Garage stocked automotive supplies. In the days before credit and debit cards, the Marysvale branch of the State Bank of Piute did not promise travelers quick cash (although a letter of credit from a Salt Lake City bank might have worked as well), but it did promise “information on the wonderful mineral resources, potash deposits, sheep and cattle, also . . . the best fishing and camping spots in southern Utah.”

Although few travelers to scenic southern Utah today would want to rely on The White Book Road Guide, for historians Gay’s guidebooks are like time capsules revealing distant times and places.

Sources: The White Book Road Guide  (Provo: F. D. B. Gay, 1920); “Utah Booster Succumbs at Home in Provo,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 15, 1941