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Release: Immediate

New UI Press book recounts Minnesotan's search for 'Salt Lantern'

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A jar of sea salt and Victorian mementos launch a Minnesota man's search to find his ancestors in a new book from the University of Iowa Press that's part memoir, part architectural history and part history of the Upper Midwest.

"Salt Lantern: Traces of an American Family," by William Towner Morgan, recounts Morgan's search for his family's history, beginning with his great-grandmother's journey to America in 1855. The trip was commemorated with a "salt lantern," a jar filled with salt from the Atlantic Ocean, a drawing of a Victorian house, and other mementos of Great Britain.

Fascinated by the salt Lantern during his fatherless childhood in Pipestone, Minn., Morgan, now a professor of American studies, used the Victorian artifact as the starting point to discover his ancestors. His research took him to England, Scotland, Ireland, Vermont, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota.

Morgan's pilgrimage to find the "salt lantern house" led him on several journeys, both external and internal, and resulted in a multi-faceted family history.

"In this remarkable personal and family history, William Towner Morgan reminds us of the importance and omnipresence of artifacts in shaping our daily lives and our perceptions of the past," says award-winning historian Richard Francaviglia. "[The book should be] required reading for anyone interested in researching family and community history."

William Towner Morgan is professor of American studies at St. Cloud State University. He is the co-author of "Light from the Hearth: Central Minnesota Pioneers and Early Architecture."

"Salt Lantern" is the latest installment of the "American Land and Life Series" from the UI Press.

"Salt Lantern" is available at bookstores nationwide for $29.95 clothbound and $15.95 in paperback. The book can also be ordered from the UI Press by calling (319) 384-3808 (for calls within Johnson County) or 1-800-235-2665 (outside Johnson County).

Information is also available at the UI Press website: