24 November 2020

Utah Celery Week

Betty & Calleen Robinson, Centennial Queen showing Utah grown celery, 1947, From UDSH.

For decades SLC sent its famed Utah celery variety to the White House for the President’s annual Thanksgiving dinner.

The SLC area was once a top producer of celery in the USA. The Utah Tall Celery variety was especially well regarded and is now often found in grocery stores and home gardens alike.

The Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce established the first annual Utah Celery Day (later expanded to Utah Celery Week) in Dec 1915 to promote the superiority of Utah-grown celery. Utahans were encouraged to send packages of celery to friends and family.

In 1923 Utah Governor Charles Mabey started an annual tradition of sending Utah celery to the White House for the President’s Thanksgiving meal. This was part of an initiative from the White House to receive the finest product from each state to highlight the President’s Thanksgiving.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was said to have particularly enjoyed the Utah celery and even asked for second shipment to be sent in 1941.

Utah celery was sent by Utah governors until 1948, with President Truman being the last to receive a gift of Utah celery.

The Utah celery industry faded at the end of WWII and died, almost overnight, about 1948.

Utah Celery was primarily grown by Japanese farmers living along the Wasatch Front and the Japanese largely failed to return to celery farming after being released from the WWII Japanese internment camps.

Further, much of the Wasatch Front farmland was turned into housing following WWII. Both aspects contributed the the demise of the Utah celery industry.

Sources: SL Telegram 1923-11-27; SL Trib 1941-11-22; SL Trib 1967-11-22. Colorization by PlaybackFM.

Utah Celery Week label, 1927

Celery Farmers Nov 1941, SL Trib Negative Collection. From UDSH.

C.M. Hall and Governor Henry H Blood packing the gift box
for the President’s table. From SL Trib 1939-11-12

Dorthea Stevenson and Lois Denne pack celery which was shipped to
President FDR for the White House Thanksgiving. From SL Trib 1942-11-14

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