Utah in the Twentieth Century
Publication Year: 2009
The twentieth could easily be Utah’s most interesting, complex century, yet popular ideas of what is history seem mired in the nineteenth. One reason may be the lack of readily available writing on more recent Utah history. This collection of essays shifts historical focus forward to the twentieth, which began and ended with questions of Utah’s fit with the rest of the nation. In between was an extended period of getting acquainted in an uneasy but necessary marriage, which was complicated by the push of economic development and pull of traditional culture, demand for natural resources from a fragile and scenic environment, and questions of who governs and how, who gets a vote, and who controls what is done on and to the contested public lands. Outside trade and a tourist economy increasingly challenged and fed an insular society. Activists left and right declaimed constitutional liberties while Utah’s Native Americans become the last enfranchised in the nation. Proud contributions to national wars contrasted with denial of deep dependence on federal money; the skepticism of provocative writers, with boosters eager for growth; and reflexive patriotism somehow bonded to ingrained distrust of federal government.
Published by: Utah State University Press
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As editors we owe a debt of gratitude to many who have assisted us over the course of this project. The authors whose essays appear in this volume deserve special credit for sticking with us through all the hard work of writing, rewriting, and proofreading. Some of their effort is rewarded with their work and names’ appearance in print. But there were others who were not as visibly rewarded. ...
Introduction: Utah in the Twentieth Century
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Pick up any map of Utah. Straight lines drawn at right angles demarcate the state, bisecting the landscape without reference to physiographic regions, mountain ranges, lakes, or rivers. Although those lines have a history, they reflect the intent or caprice of nineteenth-century lawmakers rather than the realities of the physical or cultural landscape. Often people have moved across ...
I. Getting to Know the Place: Image and Experience
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What do most people think of when they hear the word “Utah”? In 2007 Governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. and the Utah Office of Tourism hoped that potential visitors and residents would relate to the new slogan, “Utah: Life Elevated, . . . a quick, easy way to remember what Utah does best: put you on high ground.” But describing Utah in two words was challenging. “The colors ...
1. The Disappearance of Everett Ruess and the Discovery of Utah’s Red Rock Country
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On November 11, 1934, a young man wandered into the wild country near Escalante, Utah, and promptly vanished—presumably meeting his death, either by accident or foul play. Such events, while perhaps less common in the 1930s, are not that unusual. A 2005 New York Times article, using a phrase from park workers, described what they called “the disappearance season,” when young men (and it is almost always young men) venture out into...
2 “The Famous Blue Valley” and a Century of Hopes
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The first time I remember seeing Blue Valley was in 1972. I was a college student and had just emerged from an astonishing backpack into the Maze section of Canyonlands, a paradise of creek and sandstone. Our group decided to spend the next night among the sandstone walls and apple blossoms of Capitol Reef. On the way there, we drove through Blue Valley, several miles or so of...
3. Selling Sleep: The Rise and Fall of Utah’s Historic Motels
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On August 18, 2005, thirty-year-old Darla Woundedhead was fatally shot through the doorway into room 26 at the Dream Inn Motel at 1865 West North Temple Street in Salt Lake City. Five persons were charged with murder in the drug deal gone bad, most prominently Kerri Armant of Elko, Nevada, who pulled the trigger. Woundedhead was seven months pregnant when she was killed, and
4. Bernard DeVoto’s Utah
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For Utahns who have lived outside the state for any length of time, this exchange probably seems familiar. For those who haven’t, it may sound like Mark Twain poking fun at us again. But Twain was more urbane and playful in his parodies, and the unfolding explanation of how Utahns “really live” is as subtle as a skinning knife wielded by Alfred Packer.2 Further into this narrative were blisteringly...
II. Connecting to the Nation: Utah and the U.S.A.
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Brigham Young’s dream when he arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley was that the Mormons could be self-sufficient. He established home industries and businesses and asked church members to patronize them. But as often happens, reality outpaced the dream. The California gold rush, the Utah War, the stagecoach, the telegraph line, the Pony Express, and finally the railroad in 1869 ...
5. “Proud to Send Those Parachutes Off ”: Central Utah’s Rosies during World War II
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World War II had a profound impact on Utah. At the outset of the war, several communities in the state were still feeling the pangs of the recent Depression, especially in the agricultural sector. For many Utahns, the World War II period marked the end of isolation and the beginning of a new era. Utah changed as the United States accelerated its preparations for combat through the establishment...
6. Educating the Mormon Hierarchy: The Grassroots Oppositionto the MX in Utah
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In the late summer months of 1979, news that the deserts of Utah and Nevada had been targeted for the deployment of the MX (Missile Experimental) missile ignited a flurry of local activity bent on preventing the missiles and the proposed basing scheme from coming to these states.1 A product of the nuclear arms race, the MX missile, containing ten nuclear warheads, was designed to...
7. The WPA Versus the Utah Church
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On September 21, 1937, the New York Herald Tribune carried an editorial on page eighteen, “The Mormons Show the Way.” It extolled the Mormon people for tackling the economic and social chaos spawned by the Great Depression in their own way. The Herald Tribune reported that in early 1936, eighty thousand Mormons were on federal relief. Now, it suggested, only a handful remained on...
8. The Battle over Tariff Reduction: The Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, Senator Reed Smoot, and the 1913 Underwood Act
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In the 1910s, growing sugar beets was an important part of Utah’s economy. Sugar had successfully been extracted from beets in 1889 by the Utah Sugar Company, a corporation supported both financially and verbally by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By 1920 more than eight thousand farmers in northern Utah, southern Idaho, and central Washington were planting ...
III. Voicing Government: Politics and Participation
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When members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived in the Great Basin, their leaders formed a theocracy called the State of Deseret, whose proposed boundaries included all of Nevada and extended to the Pacific Coast. Those ambitious arrangements did not last. Instead, Congress took control, made Utah a territory, and progressively trimmed its size. Countering Congress’s ...
9. Public Opinion, Culture, and Religion in Utah
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This chapter examines (1) public opinion as well as (2) political culture and (3) religion in Utah. Through statistical analysis, it compares Utah to other states in these three areas. An historical perspective then shows the ways that the cultural and religious dominance of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affects Utahns’ public opinions...
10. Utah’s Denial of the Vote to Reservation Indians, 1956–57
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In 1956 Utah’s attorney general barred Indians living on reservations from voting. Utah’s enforcement of this prohibition developed relatively late, but it grew out of legal strategies and reasoning that many states had used to disfranchise Native Americans. As political scientist Glenn Phelps has observed, “Indian reservations and the Indians who live on them introduce unique...
11. “We are not seeking trouble and so will just go along quietly just now”: The IWW’s 1913 Free-Speech Fight in Salt Lake City
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On the evening of August 12, 1913, a dozen men broke up an Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) street meeting in downtown Salt Lake City. It was not a spontaneous act but one they had planned in advance. “Wobblies” were radical critics of the existing economic and political system who indicted capitalism for its exploitation of workers and called for its replacement with...
12. What Is the Best Way to Govern a City?
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In the 1970s, Cindy Orton and A. LeGrand (Buddy) Richards purchased a home near the Franklin Elementary School in downtown Provo, Utah. The area had always been a blue-collar, working-class neighborhood; many residents had worked as laborers, on the railroad, or in the steel industry. By the time that the Richardses moved to the area, most of these residents had retired. Over...
IV. Growing Challenges: People and Resources
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Over the course of the twentieth century, Utah’s population multiplied eight-fold, rising from 276,749 in 1900 to 2,233,169 in 2000. The number of residents swelled every decade, due partly to high birthrates. The most dramatic gains occurred from 1900 to 1910 (31.3 percent) and during the 1940s (25.2 percent), 1950s (29.3 percent), 1970s (37.9 percent), and 1990s...
13. Utah’s Public Schools: Problems, Controversies, and Achievements, 1945–2000
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As the people of Utah know well, public education costs. At the end of the twentieth century, in fact, it accounted for about 42 percent of all state and local expenditures. Little wonder that eyebrows are raised, tempers occasionally flare, and major, sometimes acrimonious, debates occur each time someone makes a new proposal for more school funding. This chapter attempts to summarize the...
14. From Cadillac to Chevy: Environmental Concern, Compromise, and the Central Utah Project Completion Act
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Water development has been a key to Utah’s history and the success of its desert communities. During the twentieth century, the state’s farmers, municipal water providers, and politicians lobbied the federal government for larger water projects. These projects provided needed water but also came with consequences. As Utah interests pushed for the “Cadillac” of Utah water projects ...
15. The Volatile Sagebrush Rebellion
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When President Bill Clinton stood on the south rim of the Grand Canyon and created Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in September 1996, after informing Utah’s congressional delegation and governor only twenty-four hours earlier, local and state reaction to the announcement nearly reached a breaking point. Certainly aware that some people in the local communities...
16. Utah’s Recent Growth: The St. George/Washington County Example
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Utah’s population increased by 1 million people between 1980 and 2006. Of the 2.5 million people in Utah in 2006, nearly 2 million lived on the well watered Wasatch Front, the narrow stretch of land on the foothills of the mountains from Brigham City on the north, through Ogden, Salt Lake City, and Provo, to Santaquin on the southern boundary of Utah County. It was not surprising ...
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Page Count: 412
Publication Year: 2009