22 September 2020

Citizen Protests and the Possibility of Military Occupation in 1885

 Flag at Fort Douglas 1864, from UDSH.

1885 was a time of civil unrest in SLC and which resulted in an act of citizen defiance that the US Army was asked to intervene, but refused.  

In the 1880s, tensions were high between the Mormon and the Gentile citizens of SLC.  The Utah Territorial Governor overturned a lawful election in 1880 (Cannon vs Campbell), the Edmunds Act of 1882 had made polygamy a felony, Utah women lost their right to vote in 1887, and many other issues.

On July 2 1885, Mormon apostle John Henry Smith was arrested for unlawful cohabitation, he was the most prominent Mormon to be taken into custody up to that point. Although the case against Smith was dismissed the fury of the Mormon citizens of SLC had been roused.

On the morning of the July 4 1885, SLC awoke see that the US flag on many prominent buildings had been lowered to half-mast. Flags at City Hall, County Court House, Salt Lake Theater, ZCMI, the Tithing Office, Deseret News, and the Gardo House (official residence of the President of the LDS Church) had all been lowered.

At first it was supposed that the flag indicated the death of former President Ulysses S. Grant, but this was soon dispelled when Fort Douglas continued flying the flag at full mast and no bulletins announced his death.

The flag had been placed at half-mast by private citizens as a “sign of mourning and the death of liberty” to the Mormon citizens of SLC. The mostly Mormon citizens deemed it a proper manifestation, but the Gentiles of the City saw the act as offensive and treasonous.

Tempers grew and alliances formed mostly along religious lines. Governor Eli H Murray, a staunch anti-Mormon, immediately telephoned the Commander at Fort Douglas, Gen Alexander McCook, for military aid to compel the raisings of the flags. Gen McCook refused to interfere.

By 5pm, a mob had formed marching on Main Street to ZCMI threatening to break in and raise the flag. Eventually all the flags were all raised to full mast by the cooperation and de-escalation of City and Mormon leaders. Although violence was threatened, none was initiated.

Source: History of Utah V3 by Orson F Whitney, 1898, p398-407

On a humorous note:
Anticipation of similar antics with the flag was predicted for the following July 24th 1885 celebration and preparations for another mob incident were made. But former President Ulysses S. Grant died on July 23 1885 and Governor Murray issued a proclamation to the people of Utah recommending that flags be draped in mourning until his burial. “The Governor did not recommend that the flags be half masted although he well knew they would be and that this was a perfectly proper proceeding.”

On a serious note:
During the SLC Council special committee after action review, a committee member who was a Gentile said that he “would not condemn the coolness of General McCook but quoted General [Patrick E.] Connor, the founder of [Fort Douglas] as having said that ‘if he had been there the flags would have been run to the top of the mast, or he would have poured hot shot into the streets of Salt Lake City.’”

In an alternative history timeline SLC could have had its own Bloody Sunday incident. Instead, the US Army refused to intervene in a mostly peaceful act of civil disobedience and the 1885 4th of July is now a relatively unremarkable day in SLC history. 

10 September 2020

Previous Windstorms with Massive Damage in Salt Lake

June 4 1949
The wind damage in recent days inspired me to investigate past windstorms in Salt Lake City. Here are a selection of wind damage photos in SLC. Dates and locations are stated when known. All images from the Utah Division of State History.

April 7 1956
April 6 1949
March 26 1938
April 7 1956
March 26 1938
June 4 1949
June 3 1963 in Rose Park
Unknown date
Unknown date, Liberty Park

07 September 2020

Paying Tuition with Farm Produce During the Great Depression

Westminster College class of 1932, from UDSH.

Westminster College allowed its students to pay tuition with farm produce during the Great Depression.

In 1932, one of the worst years of the Great Depression, the national unemployment rate rose to 23.6% and 10,000 banks had failed nationwide. Over 13 million Americans lost their jobs since 1920.

This was the setting in which the President of Westminster College, Dr. Herbert W. Reherd, announced that Westminster College in SLC would accept farm produce as payment for tuition to include vegetables, meat, potatoes, eggs, and honey.

The produce was used by the college and served to students in the dormitories.

Westminster decided to accept produce as payment after a similar program at Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant was successfully implemented the previous year.

At the time, Westminster College offered both High School and Junior College education as well as dormitories for boarding students.

Both male and female students were encouraged to attend the two-year college. In addition to academics, Westminster College offered extensive curriculum in arts and athletics including voice, piano, violin, glee club, drama, and public speaking.

Tuition was $80 ($1,513 in 2020 dollars) a year for college and $60 ($1,135 in 2020 dollars) a year for high school, with room and board $260 ($4,917 in 2020 dollars) annually.

One student, Clarence Dean from Myton, Utah, was able to pay for his tuition and boarding costs by delivering one ton of honey from his father’s farm.

Sources: SL Trib 1932-09-04 & 1932-09-07

Salt Lake Telegram 1932-09-08

03 September 2020

SLC Police Try Optography To Solve the Murder of Olivia Cooper in 1915

Franklin Confectionary shop in 1917,
268 S Main SLC. From UDSH.
In 1915, SLC Police tried photographing the eye of a murder victim in the hopes of seeing her last image- that of her killer. It didn’t work.

The body of Mrs. Olivia Cooper, 54 years old, was found lying in a pool of blood on the floor of the JHR Franklin confectionary shop at 268 S. Main St (now the Market on Main). She was killed around 4am of Jan 27 1915.

She was killed by a blow to the right side of the head, which nearly severed her ear. The blood ran under the front door, about 50 feet across the floor from where the cash register was situated. It was the blood under the door that alerted the two janitors of the adjacent theater who then called police.

Mrs. Cooper was a scrubwoman who opened the shop early to clean the floors. She was trying to earn some extra income while her husband was away to India on an LDS mission.

Police thought a burglar followed her in through the front door and she was killed in a struggle with the person rifling the cash register; only $5 ($128 in 2020 dollars) was missing from the register.

Inspector of Police Carl A. Carlson took charge of the case. After many dead ends in the case the Inspector turned to optography: photographing the eye with the belief that the last image seen before death is “recorded” on the retina. Carlson wrongly believed that this (debunked) forensic technique had been successful in Europe and had been used by police in the East.

Carlson had Mrs. Cooper’s eyes photographed with a high-powered lens; a strong light was shown into the eyes and an exposure of several minutes was made. This was the first (and only?) trial of optography in Utah. No image of the killer was produced, just an image of an eye.

Even after a reward of $500 was offered the police never solved the murder of Mrs. Cooper.

Sources: Deseret News 1915-01-27, SL Telegram 1915-01-28

Inside the Franklin Store 1906. 268 S Main SLC. From UDSH.

Inside the Franklin Store 1906. 268 S Main SLC. From UDSH.

Olivia Cooper, from Deseret News Jan 27 1915

Police Inspector Carl A. Carlson, 1917. From UDSH.