Category Archives: History

Holiday Closure: Thanksgiving

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!

The Research Center will be closed Thursday, November 22, 2012 for Thanksgiving. Normal hours will resume Friday, November 23, 2012.


21st Amendment Ratification Records Online

Did you know that Utah was the state that fulfilled the constitutional requirement to ratify the 21st amendment to end prohibition? This amendment is also the only one thus far ratified by state conventions rather than state legislatures [Wikipedia]. The records of the Convention to Ratify the 21st Amendment for Utah are now online.

The 72nd Congress of the United States proposed the 21st amendment to the U.S. Constitution, repealing the 18th amendment and once again legalizing the manufacture and use of liquor. On October 10, 1933, Governor Henry H. Blood called for the election of delegates to a constitutional convention for the purpose of ratifying or rejecting the 21st amendment. The election was held on November 7, and the elected delegates met December 5. The amendment became effective with the ratification of 36 states; Utah was the 36th state to ratify. These records document the activities of the convention.

Convention to Ratify the 21st Amendment (1933)


Evidence From A Transatlantic Friendship

A Thank-You Gift from France

In 1949 a small boxcar arrived in Salt Lake City, a gift from the people of France.  Just after the end of World War II a train had traveled across America, collecting donations for war-devastated Europe.  Several years later, as a token of appreciation for the American assistance, a collection of boxcars known as the “Merci Train” arrived from France, filled with gifts.  The 49 boxcars had been used in World War I and were known as “Forty and Eights” because they could be used to transport 40 men or 8 horses.  One boxcar was to be sent to each of the 48 states and the remaining car was to be divided between the District of Columbia and the Territory of Hawaii.

Union Station in Ogden.

When Utah’s boxcar arrived, Governor J. Bracken Lee formally accepted the gift on behalf of the people of Utah.  The varied contents, including dolls, folk costumes, embroidery work, wine, books, crystal, and artwork, were placed on display for the public to see.  Today, a small collection of gifts from the boxcar is held by the Utah State Archives. 

Most of these items are currently on display at the Utah State Railroad Museum in the Ogden Union Station.  The items include a number of books relating the history, scenery, and culture of France.  The collection also includes medals, artwork, and a number of felt stars embroidered with the names of French and American cities.

What Happened to Utah’s Merci Train Boxcar?

After the Utah boxcar was emptied of its treasures, it ended up on display in Salt Lake City’s Memory Grove.  Over the years exposure to the elements took its toll.  In order to protect the car, it was repainted, but the original colorful detailing was covered over.  As part of the restoration of Memory Grove following the tornado that tore through the area in 1999, the Merci Train boxcar was removed from the park.  In 2006 volunteers completed a restoration of the boxcar and it was placed on the grounds of the Ogden Union Station, where it can be seen today.

The restored Merci Train boxcar.

The Mystery of the Remaining Merci Train Gifts.

The committee appointed by Governor Lee to oversee the contents of the Merci boxcar decided that after the initial public display in Salt Lake, the gifts would be divided up and dispersed among the state’s 29 counties so that more people would be able to see them.  The final fate of these dispersed gifts is unknown.  The gifts sent to the counties were presumably displayed for a time, but have been lost since then.  Perhaps some ended up in the collections of local museums or were distributed to residents.  Furthermore, the records of the Merci Train Committee have been lost as well, so there is no known inventory of the contents of the boxcar or any documentation of how the items were dispersed.  The only Merci Train gifts known to survive in Utah are in a the collection held by the Utah State Archives, but the most significant and expensive of the gifts are not among them.  Undoubtedly, many of the finest gifts are still out there, perhaps unidentified or in private hands.

Do You Know Anything About the Lost Merci Train Gifts?

Have you ever seen anything in some scattered corner of the state that might have come from the Merci Train?  If you have, we would love to hear about it.

More Information

For more information about the Merci Train and the gifts that have survived, you can visit the exhibit at the Utah State Railroad Museum, peruse the inventory of items held by the Utah State Archives at http://archives.utah.gov/research/inventories/20732.html , and read an article about Utah’s Merci Train boxcar in Beehive History 23 at http://utah.ptfs.com/awweb/main.jsp?flag=browse&smd=1&awdid=1 .


Top Baby Names in Utah 1906 Edition

It’s time to update and compare the most popular baby names, as found in birth certificates that are now public. A few shuffled around, but the #1 are the same as the year before (view 1905 top names)

Boys

  1. John
  2. William
  3. James
  4. George
  5. Joseph
  6. Charles
  7. Frank
  8. Robert
  9. Edward
  10. Harold

Girls

  1. Mary
  2. Alice
  3. Florence
  4. Ruth
  5. Thelma
  6. Helen
  7. Edna
  8. Dorothy
  9. Edith
  10. Mildred

Battleship Utah Silver Service

Just over one hundred years ago, the people of Utah were asked to raise money for a silver service set to be presented to the new ship named in honor of the state, the U.S.S. Utah. A committee was formed to accomplish this task and their records may be found at the Utah State Archives (Series 1129). As part of recent processing work, an index has been posted online for the schools and communities that contributed funds toward the silver service purchase. Read the full story at Utah State History, plus more on Wikipedia, including its final resting place in Pearl Harbor (the silver service having been removed long before and currently on exhibit at the Governor’s Mansion).


Historians Seeking Utah Law Enforcement Memorabilia

Mugshot books

Thank you to the Salt Lake Tribune for covering the final Archives Month presentation featuring Robert Kirby.

By Janelle Stecklein

The Salt Lake Tribune

State historians on Friday launched an effort to collect law enforcement memorabilia Utahns might have stored away.

“It’s important to save our law enforcement history because it’s something being lost every second,” said Melissa Coy Ferguson, the manuscripts curator with the Utah State Historical Society.

She said many law enforcement journals, booking documents or other old items of interest are often tossed because people or agencies don’t know what else to do with them. Some are tucked away in attics or garages.

“A lot of times families don’t understand what they have,” Ferguson said.

Read more at Historians seeking Utah law enforcement memorabilia | The Salt Lake Tribune.


Government Reorganization

For almost as long as there has been government in Utah, there has been the desire to reorganize, optimize, streamline and generally make it better. This past week, Governor Herbert announced the Advisory Council to Optimize State Government to fulfill recent legislation. The Utah State Archives holds records to several past projects of a similar nature and has made many of them available online.

Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch (a.k.a. “Little Hoover Commission”)

Legislature

Governor (1977-1985 : Matheson)


Senate Bills: From Statehood to World War II

The "bill back" for Senate Resolution 1 1946

There are now over 40,000 images in the Senate Working Bills digital archive. The date range of 1896 thru 1947 cover half of the legislative sessions until the target end date of 1989 (1990 to the present are on le.utah.gov).

 

In 1946 as a response to recent events, the Senate passed a resolution in a special session to honor sacrifices made during World War II. Resolution 1 begins:

RESOLUTION OF CONDOLENCE TO THE MEMBERS OF THE SENATE OF THE STATE OF UTAH WHO LOST SONS, BROTHERS OR OTHER FAMILY IN THE ARMED SERVICES OF THE UNITED STATES DURING WORLD WAR II.

See the complete bill file.

The resolution was passed unanimously (1 absent) on August 9, 1946 and is just one example the historical viewpoint provided by records such as these.


Police Evidence of Extortion in Ogden

Letter to Mrs Eccles

Letter from J. H. Martin to Mrs. David Eccles demanding a "small donation of $1000". (Click on image to see full size)

Writing Sample

Sample of Martin's handwriting on Police Department letterhead. (Click on image to see full size)


Recently, as the Archives staff was working with Ogden City to review historic records from Ogden held in the Archives, we ran across some mysterious records. The records were in the format of 24 large glass negatives, 11” x 14”. They had been identified simply as documents from the Ogden City Police Department. In order to determine more exactly what the documents were on these glass negatives, the Archives staff made digital images of the negatives and transcribed the handwritten documents. It soon became clear that the documents were from a criminal investigation.

They date from 1911-1913 and include letters from a dark anonymous figure who signed one of them with the title “The Tall and Short Man”. The letters were addressed to members of some of Ogden’s leading families and included demands for money, arrangements for late-night meetings, and threats of harm. In addition to letters, there were handwriting samples comparing writing from the anonymous letters to known writing of a man named Joseph Henry Martin.

Further investigation into court records, prison records, and newspapers revealed the broader story. Joseph Henry Martin was the apparent ring leader of a gang that targeted wealthy Ogdenites (especially widows), stealing and ransoming expensive jewelry and eventually extorting money with threats of violence. At one point, when the gang felt their demands had not been met adequately, they planted explosives at the house of a member of the Eccles family.

Utah State Prison Photo of Joseph Henry Martin (Click on image to see full size)

At one of the late-night meetings, police and a Pinkerton detective showed up. A gun battle ensued and the detective and Martin were both shot. Martin escaped, but his injuries gave him away and he was arrested. The police gathered known examples of his writing to compare with the extortion letters. Handwriting experts from out-of-state were called in to testify. In the end, Martin was convicted of assault for the shooting of the Pinkerton detective and sentenced to 5 years in the State Prison. In a second trial he was convicted for robbery and given a life sentence. Despite the life sentence and having escaped from the prison for a time, Martin was paroled in 1920 and he eventually left the state for California.

While much of the story is revealed in newspaper reports of the time, the documents found on the glass negatives are perhaps the most interesting evidence of the events. The letters allow us to hear the voice of Joseph Henry Martin and give us the clearest window into his schemes and the workings of a criminal mind in the early 20th century.


Utah State Constitution Online

The Utah State Archives is pleased to announce that the 116-year-old Utah State Constitution is now available with a full text search on its web site. The Utah State Archives is also the custodian of the record which now may be viewed along side a typescript taken from the 1898 Revised Statutes of Utah at archives.utah.gov.

The “engrossed” copy of the Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention following completion by the Engrossing Clerk Joseph A. Smith “without blot, erasure or interlineation, on parchment sheets, 11 x 17″ on May 8, 1895. Voters in Utah approved the new Constitution in November of the same year, and final approval from President Grover Cleveland came on January 4, 1896, when Utah officially became the 45th state in the Union. A complete archival description of the original record will also be available.

“The State Constitution is an important historical record. It is the original document of citizen’s rights in Utah,” comments the State Archivist, Patricia Smith-Mansfield. “Having online access provides the public a wonderful opportunity to see the original State Constitution.”

UPDATE: The Deseret News has published an article, “Original Utah Constitution documents posted online


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 325 other followers