Lael Morgan papers, 1936-2017
Collection Scope and Content
Contained in the Lael Morgan papers are: newspaper clippings; photographs, including a large number of slides and transparencies; manuscripts; scrapbooks; travel logs; correspondence; media; and memorabilia.
Series I. Clippings 1954-2011, includes clippings of articles by and about Morgan, many with photos by Morgan; clippings of articles of interest collected for her by Morgan’s parents; newspaper editions published or overseen by Morgan; and clippings concerning friends, colleagues and family.
Series II. Journalism notebooks, c. 1967-1987, consists of 69 spiral bound reporter’s/stenographer’s notebooks containing notes on life and culture in the Alaskan native villages and Alaskan cities Morgan visited.
Series III. Photographs 1936-2011, the most extensive series in the collection, contains a very large number of Morgan’s images created in her travels, in the form of black & white and color prints, snapshots, 35 mm slides, transparencies and negatives.
Series IV. Travel logs 1959-1985, contains spiral-bound and clipped loose-leaf logs, both typed and handwritten, chronicling Morgan’s travels.
Series V. Scrapbooks 1952-1999, consists of two large format bound scrapbooks with paper pages, and a three-ring binder with sheet protectors and loose pages.
Series VI. Manuscripts 1944-1997, is composed of one pocket-sized three-ring binder, various typescripts and one early stapled onion skin chapbook.
Series VII. Correspondence 1955-2017, contains handwritten and typewritten letters, greeting cards, postcards, and email printouts.
Series VIII. Memorabilia 1953-2011, contains objects, certificates, invitations and programs, and international documents.
Series IX. Media 1986-2012, contains VHS tapes, one CD, one cassette tape, one floppy disc and one hard drive.
Series X. Montana research 1996-2012, contains articles and correspondence, as well as chapter drafts.
Series XI. Tonga research 1998-2009, contains research on Tonga, Shirley Baker and family, as well as a draft of the Ray Wise Mala manuscript.
Series XII. Texas research 2003-2010, contains research on a variety of Texas historical characters and topics.
Lael Warren Morgan was born in Rockland, Maine, in 1936, and began her education in a two-room schoolhouse in East Vassalboro. She majored in drama at Emerson College before transferring in 1957 to Boston University School of Public Relations and Communications, and supported herself by working as a hotel night clerk. She graduated cum laude in the summer of 1959 and traveled with her husband, Dodge Morgan, to Anchorage, Alaska, where she worked for an advertising agency.
In 1963, the Morgans sailed halfway around the world in a 36’ schooner. On their return in 1965, Lael Morgan moved back to Alaska while her husband pursued work on the east coast. They divorced in 1971. Morgan started her journalistic career as a writer for the Malden Press in 1958. Later she became a photojournalist at the Juneau Alaska Empire in Alaska’s capitol city, and then covered crime and politics for the Fairbanks News Miner.
In 1969, she signed on as a reporter/photographer for the Los Angeles Times where, in 1970, she won the Photographer of the Year award for best photo feature. The award of an Alicia Patterson fellowship and a Rockefeller Foundation grant in 1972 helped her to establish a national reputation reporting on Native Americans. Morgan subsequently embarked on a freelance career working for publications such as the Washington Post, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and National Geographic Magazine. From 1974 to 1987, she served as roving reporter and photographer for Alaska Northwest Publishing and was assigned to visit every Alaska village named in the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement. Of the 220 that qualified, she visited all but 13.
In 1988, Morgan received her master’s degree from Boston University with a focus on publishing. Then, with business partner Kent Sturgis, she established Epicenter Press in 1988, a regional house that was to become the major publisher of Alaska titles. That same year, she joined the Department of Journalism and Broadcasting at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where she taught writing, photography, and multimedia. In 1999, after serving three years as department chair and winning a Fulbright to Fiji, Morgan returned to Maine to become managing editor of the Casco Bay Weekly. In January of 2000 she advanced to publisher and continued in that capacity until the paper was sold in 2003. From September of 2003 until the summer of 2005, Morgan was a visiting professor in the Department of Communications at the University of Texas at Arlington. Morgan remains acquisitions editor for Epicenter Press and occasionally utilizes her California private detective’s license, which she has held since 1981.
Morgan is the author of 16 published books on an eclectic array of subjects. In the 1970s, Doubleday published three of her books: And the Land Provides: Transition of Alaska Natives from a Subsistence to a Money Economy; Tatting, A New Look at the Old Art of Lace Making; and Women’s Guide to Boating and Cooking. Her book Good Time Girls of the Alaska Yukon Gold Rush, which in 1998 placed seventh on the Los Angeles Times best nonfiction list, won her the distinction of being named Alaska Historian of the Year. Her most recent works are Eskimo Star: From Tundra to Tinseltown: The Ray Mala Story, and Wanton West: Madams, Money, Murder and the Wild Women of Montana’s Frontier. Both were published in 2011.