Category: History

Looking back on the Labor Commission

Guest post by Archives and Records Service volunteer Dani Newton.  

I came to volunteer at the Utah State Archives and Records Service through a class I took this semester at Salt Lake Community College. We were required to spend a few hours every week at an archives and help with any projects.  I also had to pick my own research project and write a paper. I was not entirely sure what to expect when I started since it is pretty easy to get overwhelmed when you walk into the permanent repository, or even just listen to staff members list all of the ongoing projects as they try to figure out which one most needs an extra set of hands. I was assigned to process the Industrial Commission reports, which mostly focused on people who had been injured in mining accidents in Utah. Around the same time, while doing personal family research, I found documentation of some of my ancestors who had been killed in mining accidents, including my 2nd great-grandfather’s obituary, which listed a wife and six children still living. I began to wonder what happened in such situations. Did the company offer any kind of compensation to the family? Did the state or federal government? What about injuries? Were workers given any help or compensation? That is where the Industrial Commission comes in.

In 1916, the State Legislature allowed Governor William Spry to create a commission to investigate industrial accidents in Utah and the liability of the employers associated with the accidents. He was also to draft a tentative bill to create a permanent Commission to oversee industries and labor in Utah that would then be presented at the following session of the legislature. Governor Spry appointed the following men to his commission: Senator Don B. Colton of Vernal, Ira Browning of Castle Dale, Charles H. Pearson of Ogden, and R.C. Gemmell, H.B. Windsor, and H.K. Russell of Salt Lake City. These men were mostly from northern Utah while the rest of the state had little to no representation. According to a newspaper article published on July 2, 1916, the men of the commission also drew inspiration from other states that had passed similar bills around this time, such as Indiana, Kentucky, and West Virginia[1]. West Virginia was in a particularly bad situation because the state had funded it’s worker’s compensation. The state was bankrupted by over half a million dollars due to an overflow of claims from two large-scale mine accidents.

From January to March 1917, the debate over the bill was split between two factions. The majority, led by Senator Culbert L. Olson, believed that the new commission should have full control over the compensation funds.The minority, lead by Senator George H. Dern, argued that it would be more beneficial for the industries to go through regular insurance companies. Eventually, the minority’s version of the bill passed with the provision that any compensation should provide for 55 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage, not to exceed more than six years or $4,500 for temporary disability. The provision for individuals with a permanent, total disability included a payment of 55 percent of average weekly wage for five years after injury, then 40 percent of the average weekly wage until death.

July 1, 1917 was the official deadline for every company to have picked their insurance carrier and have their workman’s compensation setup. From then on, workers injured on the job or family members of workers killed during employment could apply to the commission for benefits.

Form C-7: First Report of Injury for Arvid Larson, Box 1, Folder 2, Utah State Archives and Records Service, Series 1005.

After an injury, the employer was required to file a claim that started with an injury report such as the one shown below. Each report had to include a variety of information such as the employer’s name, nature of the business, date of the injury, the worker’s nationality, if the injury occurred above or below ground, a description of the accident, and whether or not any unsafe conditions contributed to the accident. A surgeon’s report was also filed with each claim, giving a more detailed record of the injury and the injured worker’s level of disability, including whether it was a temporary or permanent injury, and any treatment going forward.

The Industrial Commission’s own published report states that the commission’s work contributed greatly to helping Utah’s economy by enforcing safety regulations, holding hearings for injured workers or their family members to claim benefits, and mediating disagreements between employers and employees.

“The experience we have had, since the Commission was installed, has convinced us beyond all question of doubt that strikes and lockouts are things that can be prevented if both the employer and the employee make an honest effort to get together. The result of our mediation during the past year, when several grave situations have been met with trouble, indicate the we have been the means of saving the State thousands of dollars and more serious loss through persuasion and conciliation, thus preventing imminent strikes and lockouts.” [2]

With the United States entering World War I in the same year, so much changed in the economy both throughout the country as a whole and in each state. It is difficult to say with certainty how much of an impact this individual bill had in Utah. One thing the Industrial Commission did provide, without a doubt, was an official channel through which working class families could seek financial support when a family member was injured or killed while working. As for my own ancestors, I have yet to find any evidence that their families received compensation after the accidents, though I am still holding out hope that further research will prove otherwise.


[1]”Workmen’s Compensation Bill is Being Shaped by Commission,” Salt Lake Telegram, July 02, 1916.

[2] Utah Secretary of State. Public documents serial set, 1896-1956. Report of the Industrial Commission of Utah Period July 1, 1917-June 30, 1918. Utah State Archives and Records Service. Series 240.

Other References

“Compensation Bill Passes after a Hot Debate.” Ogden Standard, March 07, 1917.

“Workmen’s Compensation Act Unanimously Passed by the Legislature.” Ogden Standard, May 26, 1917.

Utah Industrial Commission. Utah Industrial Commission Reports. Utah State Archives and Records Service. Series 1005.

Dani Newton is a volunteer at the Utah Division of State Archives and Records Service. Dani received her BA in history from Westminster College. She has continued her education at Salt Lake Community College and hopes one day to work full-time in an archives or museum. She is also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and works with both the Golden Spike Chapter and Utah State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. 
As an intern, Dani completed several projects regarding the Labor Commission records. Her commitment to that project and others has continued after her internship was complete. Her volunteer efforts have provided more accessible records for researchers.

Preserving Your Historical Family Records

SLC Fire Department photos, Series 23526


This week has been designated as Preservation Week by the American Library Association. This designation is a chance to highlight the importance of preserving items worthy of passing on to future generations. These items are held in thousands of museums, libraries and archival institutions, as well as in many family collections.

Here at the State Archives it is a core part of our job to preserve the records of government in Utah for the future. While we work with a large and diverse collection of government records, the basic principles of preserving these historical records are the same as those for preserving the historic family records you may have. The key to preserving any historic records is recognizing the threats that may damage or destroy them, and taking steps to reduce the risk from those threats. The major threats to our historical records include water, heat, light, dirt, pests, and handling. Here are a few tips to help preserve your priceless family documents:

  1. Gather all your historic family photos and documents together, organize them, and make an inventory. Many family records are lost simply because we don’t keep track of what we have.
  2. Put your family records in protective enclosures. Acid free archival boxes and folders are ideal for this. These enclosures can provide protection from water, dirt, and light and keep things from getting scattered.
  3. Store your records in a climate controlled space. Wide swings in temperature and humidity will damage materials over time. Don’t store records in a shed or in the attic where temperatures can reach extremes. Avoid storing items under water pipes and if you store them in the basement, keep them at least six inches off the floor, in case of flooding.
  4. Don’t wear out your priceless family heirlooms with use. Make sure your hands are clean when you handle them. Wear cotton or nitrile gloves to handle photographs. Make copies of things for hanging on the wall or for regular use. Don’t paste originals in scrapbooks or albums. Keep the original pristine for future generations. If you want to save your grandmother’s cookbook, copy the information and quit using the original. Digitize items to distribute copies among the family. Put the original away where it won’t get handled to death.
  5. If you are worried about your ability to properly care for your family records or don’t have someone to pass them on to who will care for them, consider donating them to a professional institution where they can be preserved and available for the entire extended family for years to come. There are a variety of institutions throughout Utah that can be repositories to preserve your historic records. The  Utah Manuscripts Association provides a list of most of the major archives in Utah.

By taking steps to protect the records that tell the story of our families, we can insure that the family legacy we have collected will live on to tell that story to future generations.

For more information on Preservation Week and additional information on preserving your family heirlooms go to .

America Comes to the War, 1917

As many probably already know, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the United States entering the Great War, later known as World War I. Our country was forever changed by the events of the Great War. Today’s social, cultural, economic, and political landscapes can be attributed in part to those events.  Over the next year and a half, the Utah Division of Archives and Records Service will be highlighting record series related to the war to help us understand this period of time  and the role local communities played in the larger conflict.

Today, April 6th,  is the official anniversary of Congress’ announcement to enter the war.

This was a drastic change from the President’s plea for neutrality, made less than three years earlier. At the beginning of the war, Wilson urged Americans to remain neutral “during these days that are to try men’s souls,”1  and, while war raged in Europe, public opinion in our country was fractured. There were groups that sympathized with our European Allies and supported our entrance into the war. Other groups had family or friends still living in the countries under the rule of the Central Powers and wanted the United States to remain neutral. The isolationists, a third group, also felt that this conflict was not our business or our problem and that our country should not be involved at all.

WilsonAddressesCongres04.02.1917 (1)
145th Field Artillery scrapbook, Series 10339

Over the next three years, a number of factors contributed to Wilson’s change of mind. But America’s road to war is a topic so broad that historians have been writing books about it for decades. A select set of titles are offered below. All of these factors culminated in Wilson’s address to a Joint Session of Congress on April 2, 1917.
Wilson’s forceful words were a ringing endorsement of protecting not only our country, but others who had suffered for trying to remain neutral as well; he asserted that Germany’s current tactics were “a warfare against all mankind… a war against all nations.”2  

[America’s previous stance of neutrality was] no longer reasonable or desirable where the peace of the world [was] involved and the freedom of its peoples, and the menace to that peace and freedom [lay] in the existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force…controlled wholly by their will, not by the will of their people.3

Yet Wilson’s call to action was also a call for caution and moderation. America’s “motive [would] not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, or human right, of which we are only a single champion.”4

145th Field Artillery scrapbook, Series 10339

Wilson’s words led to days of discussion throughout our country. From conversations around home fires to conversations in Congress, Americans were deeply invested in the outcome. Newspapers ran story after story about the ongoing war, U.S. responsibilities, and the danger of Germany and her allies.
On April 6th, America officially entered the war as a result of votes in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Their resolution committed “all of the resources of of the country” to bringing “the conflict to a successful termination.”5

145th Field Artillery scrapbook, Series 10339

Wilson immediately signed the resolution and issued a War Proclamation later that same afternoon, which also identified “alien enemies” living within the United States, and outlined how they could expect to be treated.6

The events of April 6, 1917, still have an impact today. As we commemorate the various anniversaries, we hope to document and help facilitate better understanding of  the role that Utahans played in the conflict and how the larger conflict affected Utah.

Upcoming posts will continue to highlight the images found in the 145th Field Artillery scrapbook, found in the State Archives’ permanent collection as we prepare it for online access through our Digital Archives.

You can learn more about World War I and the Centennial Commemoration events around the our country at the following links:

As noted above, here are a few books about the U.S.’s decision to enter the Great War:

  • America 1914 – 1917 by Walter Millis (1935)
  • America’s Entry Into World War I: Submarines, Sentiment, Or Security? by Herbert J. Bass (1964)
  • Over Here: The First World War and American Society by David M. Kennedy (1980)
  • Nothing Less Than War: A New History of America’s Entry into World War I (Studies In Conflict Diplomacy Peace) by Justus D. Doenecke (2011)
  • The Zimmermann Telegram: Intelligence, Diplomacy, and America’s Entry into World War I  by Thomas Boghardt (2012)
  • America’s Greatest Blunder: The Fateful Decision to Enter World War One by Burton Yale Pines (2013)
  • The United States in World War I: America’s Entry Ensures Victory by Jane H. Gould (2014)


  1. Woodrow Wilson: “Message on Neutrality,” August 19, 1914. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
  2. Utah National Guard, 145th Field Artillery scrapbook, 1917-1918, President Wilson’s Message Asking Congress to Declare that a State of War Exists with Germany, Utah State Archives and Records Service, Series 10339.
  3. Ibis.
  4. Ibis.
  5. Utah National Guard, 145th Field Artillery scrapbook, 1917-1918,Text or Resolution passed by Congress, Utah State Archives and Records Service, Series 10339.
  6. Utah National Guard, 145th Field Artillery scrapbook, 1917-1918, President Wilson Issues Proclamation that a State of War Exists, Utah State Archives and Records Service, Series 10339.


The American Presidency Project. “Woodrow Wilson: “Message on Neutrality,” August 19, 1914. Accessed March 31, 2017, at

National World War I Museum and Memorial. U.S. Enters the War. Accessed March 31, 2017, at

Utah National Guard. 145th Field Artillery scrapbook, 1917-1918. Utah State Archives and Records Service. Series 10339.

Japanese Internment in Utah

AFTERSHOCKS OF PEARL HARBOR When Japanese forces attacked the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, a chain of events was set in motion that would permanently alter the directions of each country and its citizenry. Pearl Harbor led to direct U.S. involvement in World War II, drawing millions of U.S. […]

Ogden Police Department Arrest and Jail Record Books Online



The Utah State Archives is pleased to announce that an assortment of arrest and jail record books from the Ogden Police Department have been digitized and are now available online for public access. These record books, dating from 1902 to 1941, document arrests made, and prisoners held, by the Ogden City Police Department. Arrest Record Books and Record of Prisoners Books include: name of person arrested, name of arresting officer, time and place of arrest, charge, and fine or punishment given. The Criminal Record Books and Prisoner Identification Records document individuals held by the police department and may include a prisoner number, mug shot, and the prisoner’s physical description. The two Criminal Record Books available were maintained by two different sections of the police department and contain nearly identical information and photos for the time period they both cover.

Design and Construction of the Utah State Capitol


Utah Archives Month is nearing its end for 2016, and the Utah State Archives is ending its month-long focus on the Utah State Capitol with information on two new additions to the Digital Archives that help tell the story of how the Capitol Building was designed and constructed.

Beginning in 1909, the Capitol Commission initiated a design competition for the purpose of selecting an architect to design Utah’s State Capitol building. Architects who wished to participate were required to demonstrate that they possessed the necessary expertise by submitting examples of their work. Those that were approved to participate received a Program of Competition outlining the rules of the competition and the design program for the proposed capitol. Records from this design competition are now available online, and include the rules for the design contest, photographic examples of work done by interested architects, booklets and photographs showing the proposed capitol designs submitted by various competitors, and a sampling of the Program of Competition booklets returned by architects who intended to enter the competition.

Design competition drawing for the Capitol submitted by Watkins, Birch, Kent, Eldredge, and Chesebro

Ultimately, Utah-based architect, Richard Kletting’s design was selected from those entered into the design competition, and construction on the building commenced with a groundbreaking ceremony on December 26, 1912. Over the next four years the Utah State Capitol was built, using Kletting’s construction plans, which are now available online through the Digital Archives. These original building plans are diverse and include plans for framing, various construction details, columns and stone work, dome framing, foundation and footings, cross-sections, and building elevations from various angles.


E. E. Meyers Proposed Capitol Design

The Capitol That Almost Was: The Board of Commissioners on Capitol Grounds, 1888-1896

The Utah State Archives holds records of the Capitol Grounds Commission, including minutes and financial records.  These records document the virtually forgotten efforts to construct a territorial capitol in the early 1890s.  With the 100th anniversary of the State Capitol dedication being celebrated this month, … Continue reading The Capitol That Almost Was: The Board of Commissioners on Capitol Grounds, 1888-1896

Minutes of the Capitol Commission Online

Members of the Utah Capitol Commission  during the laying of the cornerstone in 1914 (series 11275)

We are now midway through Archives Month, and the Utah State Archives continues to direct its focus and activities on celebrating the 100th year anniversary of the Utah State Capitol. This week we would like to share information on another new addition to the Digital Archives that documents the earliest planning and construction of “the people’s building.”

The Capitol Commission was formed in 1909 and authorized to select a suitable design for the building, and oversee the execution of plans and specifications for the erection of a State Capitol building on the Capitol grounds in Salt Lake City.

The minutes of the Capitol Commission have been digitized and are now available for online research through the Digital Archives. These minutes document the formal meetings of the Capitol Commission between 1909 and the completion of the Capitol in 1916. Meeting minutes record the names of members present at meetings, rules for a design competition for the building, information on outside consultants utilized during the planning and construction stages, expenses incurred by commission members in furtherance of their duties, group discussions about bids and the issuing of contracts, agreements for expenditures, and a list of the original cornerstone contents placed during building construction in 1914.

Capitol Commission Photographs Online

The Utah State Archives is pleased to kickoff Utah Archives Month with the first in a month-long blog series spotlighting records in our holdings that tell the story of the construction of Utah’s State Capitol building (celebrating its 100th year anniversary this month!).

The dome of the Utah State Capitol under construction in 1914.

This week we are highlighting photographs from the Capitol Commission which document the construction of the State Capitol. The majority of series 11275 contains pictures of the finished capitol building, ground breaking ceremony, initial excavation of the construction site, and individuals involved in the construction process. The collection also holds a unique commemorative photograph album produced by Shipler’s Commercial Photographs of Salt Lake City which was presented to commission members. The album documents the various phases of construction and construction details including cement, granite, and marble work, monoliths, interior details, phases of arch and dome construction, and numerous pictures from various angles of the exterior.

Stay tuned throughout October as we continue to tell the story of the construction of Utah’s State Capitol through the archival records held by the Utah State Archives!