Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company records

Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company records

Dates: 1853-1880

The collection contains handwritten correspondence, financial instruments, passenger lists, and miscellaneous items. The materials relate to the activities and finances of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Included is a letter signed by Church leaders, Brigham Young (1801-1877) and Erastus Snow (1818-1888). Nine of the documents are in Danish. An index is located in the first folder of the collection.

  • Extent: 1 box (0.25 linear ft.)
  • Creator: Young, Brigham, 1801-1877. -- Snow, Erastus Fairbanks, 1818-1888. -- Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company
  • Call Number: MSS 843
  • Repository: L. Tom Perry Special Collections; 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts; 1130 Harold B. Lee Library; Brigham Young University; Provo, Utah 84602;
  • Access Restrictions: Open for public research.
Languages and Scripts
Conditions of Use
It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.
Preferred Citation
Initial citation: MSS 843; Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company records; 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts; L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. Following citations: MSS 843, LTPSC.
Other Finding Aids
File-level inventory available online.
Subject Terms
Religion; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Material Types; Correspondence; Mormon pioneers--History; Utah--History; Emigration and immigration--Religious aspects--Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Mormons--Utah--History; United States--Emigration and immigration--History; Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company--History
Genre / Form
Lists; Letters
Appraisal Information
19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts.
Finding Aid ID Number
Finding Aid Title
Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company records
Finding Aid Author
Jennifer Kim
Finding Aid Creator
This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2017-10-19 19:07:30 -0600.
Finding Aid Language
Biographical Info:

Administrative History

Organizational History

Initiated in 1849 primarily to help Mormon refugees from Nauvoo, Illinois, migrate to Utah, the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company (PEF) also became a major instrument for gathering Latter-day Saint converts to Utah from abroad. It assisted some 26,000 immigrants--about 36 percent of the approximately 73,000 Latter-day Saints who emigrated from Europe to the United States between 1852 and 1887.

In principle, funds the company expended on immigration were considered loans to those immigrants who benefited from the aid. The repayment of those loans was to provide a perpetual source of assistance for others. In practice, however, only about one-third of the PEF's beneficiaries repaid their loans in full, sometimes with interest; about one-third made partial repayment; the rest repaid nothing. Donations to the PEF in Europe and the United States, although sometimes substantial, were never sufficient to render the assistance Latter-day Saint leaders envisioned. Therefore, infusions of cash, credit, and services from other sources, including commissions received by church agents as passenger brokers, were administered under the auspices of the PEF, which became the primary institution around which Latter-day Saint immigration to Utah from abroad was organized from 1853 to 1856.

By late 1856 emigration had so exhausted the resources of the PEF and strained those of the Mormon Church that Brigham Young insisted that PEF operations be confined to the resources of the company itself. Thereafter, the means made available by donations and repayments enabled the PEF to assist a modest number of emigrants with the cost of their ocean voyage and, beginning in 1869, with railroad fare to Utah. In addition, for six years in the 1860s the pioneer system of labor tithing was tapped by each spring sending ox teams, wagons, and teamsters from Utah to a frontier outfitting point to haul immigrants back. Immigrants who benefited from this assistance by the "Church trains" signed promissory notes to the PEF. Theoretically, the PEF was to repay the church; but in practice this became a church investment that would yield other than monetary returns. Nearly two-thirds of all beneficiaries of the PEF were passengers of the "Church trains."

In 1868, benefiting from a special fund-raising drive and additional resources from Europe, the PEF helped bring 725 immigrants all the way to Utah. The company also aided more than 100 immigrants annually for the entire trip in 1869, 1871 to 1875, and from 1878 to 1881.

Brigham Young was the first president of the PEF. He was succeeded by Horace S. Eldredge in 1870 and by Albert Carrington in 1873. Beginning in the late 1850s, the LDS Church itself assumed primary responsibility for the organization of its immigration, and church immigration personnel were no longer considered mainly PEF agents. The church made other arrangements whereby relatives and friends in the Intermountain West could provide assistance to prospective immigrants in addition to any PEF aid available. By 1869 this private assistance eclipsed PEF aid. The last PEF aid was provided to a small group of Icelandic immigrants in 1887. Thereafter, in accordance with the provisions of the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887, the PEF was disincorporated and its assets were surrendered to the federal government. The assets were mainly promissory notes totaling more than $400,000 but virtually worthless under provisions of the statute of limitations.

Organizational history taken from Richard L. Jensen, "Utah History Encyclopedia".

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Ryan Lee
Curator - 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts