28 January 2021

Speedy, the Champion High Diver of the World Visits Saltair

Speedy diving from his custom platform at Saltair, 1897.
From Keystone-Mast Collection UC Riverside.
In 1897 the champion high diver of the world performed his daring stunt at Saltair.

During the summer of 1897, Salt Lakers were entertained and thrilled with the feats of “Professor Speedy” the “Champion High Diver of the World.”

Twice an evening at Saltair, Kearney P. Speedy (1875-1940) performed the daring act of a headlong plunge from a 100-foot-tall tower into a small pool containing only 3 feet of water. A special platform was built for Speedy at the top of the north tower of the Saltair Pavilion.

He performed alongside Archille Phillion, a tightrope walker, whose show included descending a spiral tower on a wooden ball and through a shower of pyrotechnics.

Speedy was originally booked for 2 weeks in July 1897 at Saltair but his performance proved so popular that he was extended through mid-August. His August shows were even more daring as the platform was raised to 125 feet.
Speedy diving from his custom platform at Saltair 1897.
From Keystone-Mast Collection UC Riverside.

Speedy grew up in Missouri and began his public career by jumping head first from the St. Louis Bridge as a young man.

According to Speedy, the secret to a successful high dive in a shallow pool was twisting in midair to slow the fall, hitting the pool vertically, and then twisting again immediately to merely skim the shallow pool.

By 1918, Speedy had mostly retired. He had toured the US for more than 20 years jumping from towers, bridges, and hot air balloons. In 1907 he performed in Africa and India and was the headliner attraction in England. In Africa he was presented with 65 two-carat diamonds for his performance at a diamond mine. His last world record dive was performed in 1921 by diving 186½ feet into 4½ feet of water.

Most of his dives were injury free but over the years he broke several bones and was blinded in one eye. Speedy died in 1940 in NY at the age of 65.

Sources: SL Herald 1897-07-11; SL Trib 1897-08-02

Saltair Pavilion 1913, from UDSH.

Advertisement from Billboard Fulton County NY ca 1890s

Detail of Speedy's portrait,
from Billboard Fulton County NY ca 1890s

Advertisement from Salt Lake Herald July 19 1897

21 January 2021

A SLC Original: First KFC Restaurant Franchise

KFC Bucket, 1969, from Smithsonian
National Museum of American History
SLC is home to the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant franchise.

Leon W. “Pete” Harman (1919-2014), a native of Granger and a graduate of Cyprus High School in Magna, pioneered the first Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise and helped build one of the world’s most prolific chicken brands.

In 1941, Pete and Arlene Harmon relocated from San Francisco back to Utah and opened their first restaurant, the Do Drop Inn, with a total capital investment of $15. Located at 3890 S State their new hamburger and root beer stand only sat 15 people.

The restaurant succeeded and every year Harmon would add to the menu and expand the restaurant’s building, except for his two years in the Army when he served in the infantry during WWII. Eventually, he renamed the restaurant Harmon’s Café which had amassed a seating capacity of 240 people, plus car service.

The biggest change to the menu took place in 1952 with the addition of “Kentucky fried chicken.”

Colonel Harland Sanders had perfected his chicken recipe through the 1930s and 1940s and operated his own restaurant, the Sanders Court & Café, in Corbin, KY. When I-75 bypassed Corbin, Col Sanders sold his restaurant and traveled the US to sell his chicken recipe to other restaurant owners. He was an early pioneer in the concept of franchising.

The first to accept his offer was Pete Harman in SLC. With a handshake agreement, the Harmans agreed to pay Col Sanders five cents for every chicken sold. For $3.50, customers received 14 pieces of chicken, mashed potatoes, rolls and gravy.

With the success of this handshake agreement Col Sanders incorporated his company under the name Kentucky Fried Chicken in 1952. By the early 1960s, KFC was sold in over 600 franchised outlets.

The partnership between Harman and Sanders continued to work together through the years. Harman invented the famous “to-go” paper bucket, developed training manuals and product guides for other franchisees, and emphasized the “Finger-lickin’ good” motto.

The first KFC (Harmon’s Café) at 3900 S. State in SLC was demolished in 2004 and rebuilt in the same location as a museum and an updated restaurant.

Vintage Harmons Café photo on display at Café/Museum

Harman and Sanders at the SLC Airport 1954, from UDSH.

Harman and Sanders photo on display at Café/Museum

An original Col Sanders suit on display at Café/Museum

An original pressure cooker on display at Café/Museum

Harmans Café 2002, before the demolition. GettyImages

Harmans Café 2019, after 2004 demolition and rebuild.

Statue of Harman and Sanders outside of the Cafe/Museum

20 January 2021

Words Not Fit to Print

This is an excerpt from the May 15 1900 edition of the Salt Lake Herald-Republican. Notice which offensive words have been censored and which offensive word has been printed.

It is important to see how comfortable people were (are?) with racial inequality here in SLC.

Of note, the SL Tribune also printed a similar quote on the same story but replaced the same word with “negro,” at the time a much more respectable term.

This is a preview of another racial conflict story I am currently looking into.

To be clear, I find it interesting that the words "son of a bitch go to hell" are blanked out but the word "niggers" is printed in full. In today's sensibilities it would be the opposite.

18 January 2021

Thelma Steward Beridon and Education Inequality

Continuing to explore the life of Thelma Steward Beridon (1898-1980) of SLC…

Typing class at LDS Business College ca 1905. From UDSH.
Note only White people in the photograph.

Shortly after Thelma died, her husband, Clarence Beridon, told an interesting story about Thelma during an oral history interview:

Clarence said that Thelma had a good head on her, she was very intelligent.

Thelma tried to enroll at LDS Business College, then located across from the SLC LDS Temple at 70 N Main St (where the current LDS Church Office Building is located).

The College had a program where men and women could go to school to learn business skills and when they finished, they could pay back the cost of school. At the time, the school guaranteed finding students’ jobs after they graduated.

The LDS Business College told Thelma that they would not accept her to the school because no one would hire her “because she was a colored woman,” as told by Clarence.

“She had a very good brain on her. It just wasn’t developed like it should have been. Like if she had been white it would have been different, see. She could have went on, see. They would have accepted her.” Clarence said in his oral history interview.

So instead of being able to learn typing and stenographer skills, Thelma was stuck doing domestic housework for others. She primarily worked for prominent SLC attorney Calvin A Behle (in addition to her NAACP volunteer work- see previous post).

Source: Oral History Interview with Clarence Beridon, interview 4-5, pages 11-13. From Marriot Library University of Utah.

LDS Business College 1961 before it was demolished. From UDSH.

Advertisement for LDS Business College,
From Salt Lake Tribune 1934-09-02

Advertisement for LDS Business College,
Deseret News 1932-09-21

An Attack on Thelma Steward and Wallace Thurman led to the Formation of the Salt Lake Chapter of the NAACP

Calvary Baptist Church Aug 1910, 679 E 300 South,
road construction in foreground. From UDSH
On April 9 1918, 2 Black teenagers were assaulted by about 6 White Soldiers from Ft Douglas at the intersection of 200 South and Main St SLC.

This incident and the lack of any accountability helped spur the creation of the Salt Lake Branch of the NAACP.

The two teenagers were Thelma Steward, age 19, and Wallace Thurman, age 15.

Thelma was the daughter of Samuel Steward- the longtime caretaker of one of SLC’s underground Comfort Stations (previous posts). Wallace went on to be a part of the Harlem Renaissance. Both teenagers were members of the Calvary Baptist Church, at the time located at 679 E 300 South (and now located at 1090 S State).

The two groups physically bumped into each other on Main Street and name calling started. Then Soldiers knocked Wallace down several times and badly beat him. The Soldiers also beat Thelma, then seized her and drove off with her in their automobile letting her out a short time later. Wallace reported that the Soldiers appeared to be drunk.

This incident outraged the Black Community of SLC, especially the membership of the Cavalry Baptist Church and a meeting was held on April 15 1918.

As a result of that meeting Pastor George W. Hart filed a protest with the SL City Council on April 18 1918 in which he stated the SLC Police deliberately stalled any investigation and allowed the Soldiers to escape in their anonymity.

It was this incident that prompted Pastor Hart and many members of the Calvary Baptist Church to organize the Salt Lake Branch of the NAACP in Feb 1919.

Pastor Hart served as the first president and Thelma served as the first secretary.

Sources: Oral History Interviews: James E. Dooley, Albert Fitz 1, Clarence Beridon 4-5, All from Marriott Library; SL Telegram 1918-04-18; Des News 1918-04-18

News clipping headline from Deseret News 1918-04-18

The only image of Thelma I could find, from her obit, SL Trib 1980-05-13

15 January 2021

The ‘Last Great Bison Hunt’ in the US, Part 2.

The ‘Last Great Bison Hunt’ in the US, Part 2. Click here for Part 1

Shooting at buffalo herd 1926 from UDSH

In 1926 the privately owned bison herd on Antelope Island was purchased by Andrew H. Leonard, president of the famous Scotty Phillips buffalo herd in SD.

Leonard originally intended to remove most of the bison and sell them to parks and zoos and to integrate some of the bison into his own South Dakota herd. As part of the contract with Buffalo Island Stock Co, he was to leave ~30 bison on the island to build up a new herd, but most of Antelope Island could finally be used for cattle grazing which was more profitable than the bison.

However, that plan was soon abandoned citing that it would be impossible as the bison were too wild. And so, another great hunt was organized to begin Nov 1 1926.

The 1926 hunt was advertised around the US and fancy invitations were sent to prominent big game hunters (image 5).

Unlike in 1921, there was little outrage from SLC or other Utahns. In fact, most newspapers largely supported the hunt and described it in celebratory fashion.

However, many leaders in the East expressed objection, including the president of the American Humane Association who had been called on to help stop the hunt just a few years previous.

G. W. Lillie “Pawnee Bill” from OK was the most critical stating that the bison “are to be slaughtered by rich men who call themselves sportsmen and have the money to pay… How a modern and up-to-date city like SLC can sit idly by and allow such an outrage at her very doors is something I cannot understand.”

Governor George Dern strongly rebuked the naysayers saying it was a private herd, nothing could be done, and Easterners didn’t understand anyway. Dern was also one of the early hunting participants.

Reports range between 100-200 hunters participating, each paying for the privilege.

Eventually, the State of Utah purchased part of Antelope Island in 1969 and bought the rest in 1981 and became Antelope Island State Park.

Sources: SL Trib 1926-07-22; Ogden Standard Examiner 1926-10-22; Davis Reflex 1926-10-28; SL Trib 1926-10-31; Park Record 1926-11-19

Utah Governor George Dern with his bison 1926 from UDSH.
Headline from Salt Lake Tribune Nov 4 1926

Invitations to hunters, Salt Lake Tribune Sept 19 1926

Clipping from Weekly Reflex Oct 28 1926

13 January 2021

The Last Great Bison Hunt

What was termed the ‘Last Great Bison Hunt’ occurred on Antelope Island in the 1920s.

Bison hunt on Antelope Island. Salt Lake Telegram 1921-01-24

100 years ago, Salt Lakers were outraged to discover that the private owner of Antelope Island and the associated bison herd, the Buffalo Island Stock Co, planned to kill most of the bison herd in a grand hunt to make way for cattle grazing, to begin Jan 1921.

For the price of $200 (~$3K today) a hunter was guaranteed one bison. An estimated 230 bison were on the island at the time.

Calls from SLC business leaders immediately went out to save the bison. The Elks Club vowed to raise money to buy the island. The national president of Humane Society and Utah’s congressmen were called on.

And a mock hunt with a taxidermied bison was staged in protest at the Brigham Young monument in downtown SLC.

All endeavors to save the bison failed, including an effort to make the island a National Bison Reserve, due to lack of funds to purchase the herd.

The Deseret News wrote an editorial calling the hunt a “grievous mistake” and “even if the herd must be destroyed, there is not reason why their killing should be made a bloody holiday.”

Regardless of the outcry, the first bison hunt began on Jan 12 1921. After reaching the island by boat from Saltair, each of the 5 hunters killed a large bull.

The grand slaughter of all the bison that was feared never materialized. After the bad press the Buffalo Island Stock Co stated they never intended to cull the entire herd and the hunting targeted only the older bulls.

According to the Buffalo Island Stock Co, 60 people purchased hunting permits. Several small parties continued to hunt the bison over the next few years, including heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey in 1923.

In 1923 they sold filming and hunting rights for production of the silent film “The Covered Wagon” which featured a bison stampede and hunt in which 7 bison were killed.

In 1926 the Buffalo Island Stock Co sold the bison herd.

And so begins Part 2.

Sources: SL Trib 1921-01-11, 1921-01-14; Des News 1921-01-10; Ogden Standard Examiner 1921-01-14; SL Telegram 1921-01-24, 1921-12-15; Davis Reflex-Journal 1923-09-27

Mock bison hunt at the Brigham Young monument. SL Trib 1921-01-13

Advertisement, Salt Lake Tribune 1921-11-27

Advertisement, Salt Lake Tribune 1921-01-16

10 January 2021

Bowling Was Once Scandalous Behavior for Women

Women bowling, ca 1900, NYC,
George Eastman Museum, from Wikimedia
Bowling was at its height of popularity in the 1960s and both men and women actively participated and competed for trophies. But the history of women’s bowling predates the 1960s by more than 80 years. Rare old photos document scenes of women bowling as early as the 1880s.

SLC hosted its own bowling alley as early as 1871. The Pioneer Bowling Saloon, located on 200 South, advertised itself as the “only full-length alley in the territory.” However, it was not open to women as it was a Gentlemen’s Club with a bar and always supplied the finest beers and Havana cigars.

Bowling was such a low-level activity that in 1872, Brigham Young condemned bowling alleys and gin mills as a consequence of “ungodly Gentiles” moving into Utah.

By 1906, Salt Lake City boasted 2 women’s bowling teams. Women bowled in ankle-length dresses with tight lace collars and wrist-length sleeves. Despite these modest clothes, women sometimes still risked their reputation if they bowled as it was still not seen as a wholesome activity befitting “proper” young woman.

Despite this, bowling became more and more popular among women. Crown Bowling Parlor located at 32 West 300 South SLC, in particular, encouraged patronage from women offering private alleys for ladies and clubs.

The first women’s national bowling tournament was held in St. Louis in 1916. Eight teams entered the tournament, competing for $225 in prize money.

By 1935, women’s bowling clubs became popular in SLC. City leagues and YWMC clubs were organized for women and girls and were advertised as an “ideal recreation with enough competition to make it more than just exercise.”

Sources: SL Trib 1871-11-23; 1872-05-08; 1906-01-15; 1935-10-20; 1966-12-15

Utah woman bowling, early 1900s from UDSH.

Utah women’s bowling team 1952, from UDSH.

Salt Lake Tribune 1871-11-23

 Deseret News 1906-01-15

05 January 2021

SLC’s First Homeless Shelter was Established in 1883

SLC transient bunkhouse building behind City Hall.
Detail of Panoramic view Illustration 1887, From UDSH.

SLC Mayor William Jennings proposed to the SLC Council in Dec 1883 that a dedicated shelter for transient people would be better than the practice of allowing the “tramps” to stay overnight in the City Jail.

Jennings explained that he often received visitors to his home (the Devereaux House) asking for overnight lodging and when a person was told that they would be locked in the City Jail with the prisoners they often refused preferring to walk the streets all night. He reasoned that if a suitable place were provided it would reduce “after dark crimes” within SLC.

Arrangements were made to clear a small storage building behind the City Hall building (relocated to Capitol Hill in 1961) and east of the City Jail. This area is now occupied by the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building at the corner of 100 S and State St.

Bunks were provided to house about a dozen people. The City Marshall had charge over the new City Bunkhouse as well as the City Jail.

As with other cities in the US which had established municipal lodgings, SLC required lodgers to work for a night’s stay and a breakfast meal, usually by providing labor on the streets or in gravel pits.

SLC provided lodging off and on for about the next 15 years. Newspaper reports are spotty, but it seems that sometimes the building was used for transient lodging, sometimes it was used as overflow for jail inmates, and sometimes it was used for storage.

An 1891 article reports that the bunkhouse was so dirty and rundown it was “unfit to lodge any human being and is a disgrace to the city.” By 1899 it was described as the “dilapidated old city bunkhouse” and it seems that SLC stopped providing lodging services to transient people soon thereafter.

(Tramp = a long-term homeless person who travels from place to place, especially after 1877).

Sources: SL Herald 1883-12-05, 1886-09-16, 1891-11-22; SL Trib 1893-12-13

1884 SLC Sanborn Map

Detail, 1884 SLC Sanborn Map

 Inside the municipal Lodging House in NYC. From Broke, by Edwin A. Brown, 1913.
The SLC shelter had bunks such as these, but in a much smaller building.

03 January 2021

Mattie Graham

Headline, from SL Herald Dec 25 1893
Martha “Mattie” Graham (1866-1893) shot herself in the head on Christmas Day 1893 because she feared eviction for not having enough money to pay the rent. She was 27 years old.

Mattie’s past is murky, especially her late teens and early twenties. She grew up in Montana, the youngest of 15 children.

By the time she was 27, she had been married and divorced and had two children. One of her children was living with the father and she had charge of the other child, an 11 year old daughter who she placed with another family somewhere in SLC.

In Dec 1893 she was working as a prostitute in a small brothel located above an Italian saloon at 125 S. West Temple SLC. Although she had been trying to make something of herself and was in the process of buying an inexpensive housing lot in the Liberty Wells neighborhood, she was in debt.

She told friends she owed $4K (~$116K today) and it was coming due. Further, she already had eviction problems at her last residence and was told she needed to pay her rent by Christmas or she was to be evicted at her present residence.

In the early hours of Christmas morning, 1893, Mattie was with a client in her room. She was looking at her belongings in a trunk and muttered something about “only 65 cents” and then suddenly shot herself in the head.

Her client was initially jailed for suspicion of murder but after the coroner’s inquest he was released as it was ruled a suicide.

Mattie’s mother in Montana was notified of her death but no further burial instructions were sent.

Mattie was buried in a Pauper’s Section of the SLC Cemetery on Jan 6 1894 at the expense of the SL County. She is one of the many unmarked graves.

Sources: SL Herald 1893-12-25; 1893-12-26; 1893-12-27; 1893-12-28; 1894-01-01; 1894-01-06

Pauper’s Field, Plat T. SLC Cemetery 2016, from FindAGrave