Category Archives: History

Highway 89 Digital Collections


The history of the American West is shaped and defined as much by its people as it is its landscapes. Nowhere is this more clear than in the winding path taken by Highway 89. On its 1,252-mile route from Mexico to Canada, Highway 89 passes through or adjacent to seven national parks, showcasing some of the most spectacular scenery in the American West.

Such distinctive landscapes make for a powerful history worth preserving and sharing. With this thought in mind, the Utah State Archives is proud to announce our participation with other cultural heritage organizations across Utah and northern Arizona to launch the Highway 89 Digital Collections Project.

Promotional artwork for the Highway 89 Digital Collections project created by John Clark.

The mission of the Highway 89 Digital Collections Project is to bring together the unique resources each member institution holds that help illuminate the history and stories of life lived along Highway 89. Digital items that have been uploaded to the site so far include photographs, postcards, and textual records.

Drawing on the latest in online exhibition technology, the Highway 89 Digital Collections website pulls together materials from a number of archival repositories and special collections including:


Exhibit pages on the Highway 89 Digital Collections website allow archivists and curators to draw on their skill and expertise in piecing together dynamic stories that illustrate the history of the road.

Image of a road sign on Highway 89 in Garfield County.

Two such exhibits from that Utah State Archives are currently accessible on the Highway 89 Digital Collections site. The first exhibit gathers together photographs that were taken by the Utah Department of Highways as part of a statewide inventory of road signs between 1965 and 1975. These simple plywood creations offer up a rich visual history of what travelers of that era would have seen as they made their way along Highway 89.

Ruins of a schoolhouse in Thistle.

A second exhibit features materials from the Utah State Archives that tell the story of the 1983 mudslide near the town of Thistle which flooded a section of the highway, destroyed the town, and created an earthen dam that fundamentally changed the landscape in Spanish Fork Canyon. For this exhibit, items from the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) were identified and digitized. They provide a monthly account of work done by state and federal workers to divert water from Thistle Lake, reroute important railroad lines, and physically move the section of Highway 89 that spurs off at the Thistle junction as it makes its way south towards the Sanpete Valley.

Future contributions from the Utah State Archives to the Highway 89 Digital Collections project will focus more on textual records created by various agents of Utah State government who have played important roles in making decisions that have impacted the growth and evolution of Highway 89. As we continue to add miles of digital content to the route, we will look forward to seeing you along the digital Highway 89!

Archives Month: Ann Torrence on U.S. Highway 89

All Events for Utah Archives Month | RSVP on Facebook | Get Directions

Thursday, October 24 at Noon

Ann Torrence - Highway 89

U.S. Highway 89: The Scenic Route to Seven Western National Parks

U.S. Highway 89: The Scenic Route to Seven Western National Parks is a visual guide to seven of America’s favorite national parks, hometown events and quirky roadside attractions linked by U.S. 89. Scenic Highway 89 traces the stories of legendary trappers, missionaries and homesteaders. Widened in the Roaring Twenties to satisfy America’s motoring enthusiasts, but bypassed by modern interstates, the 1,600 mile route from Canada to Mexico retains its back-roads charm. From Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, beauty queens to working cowboys, Ann Torrence’s stunning images and engaging text capture the enduring spirit of the west.

Writer and photographer, Ann Torrence drove over 15,000 miles to research and photograph U.S. Highway 89. Her documentary style explores the interplay of the human element and landscape; transformations of culture–what is kept, lost, and reinvented; and the iconography of the American West.

Following Ann’s remarks, staff of the Utah State Archives will provide a public demonstration of the new Highway 89 Digital Collections online initiative. This project is designed to gather and document the prized historical collections from various institutions throughout the region, all of which detail the important history that has happened along Highway 89.


Archives Month: 25th Street Confidential by Val Holley

All Events for Utah Archives Month | RSVP on Facebook | Get Directions

Monday, October 21 at Noon

Val Holley - 25th Street

Buy the Book

25th Street Confidential traces Ogden’s transformation from quiet hamlet to chaotic transcontinental railroad junction as waves of non-Mormon fortune seekers swelled the city’s population. The street’s outsized role in Ogden annals illuminates larger themes in Utah and U.S. history. Most significantly, 25th Street was a crucible of Mormon-Gentile conflict, especially after the non-Mormon Liberal Party deprived its rival, the People’s Party, of long-standing control of Ogden’s municipal government in 1889. In the early twentieth-century the street was targeted in statewide Progressive Era reform efforts, and during Prohibition it would come to epitomize the futility of liquor abatement programs.

This first full-length treatment of Ogden’s rowdiest road spotlights larger-than-life figures whose careers were entwined with the street: Mayor Harman Ward Peery, who unabashedly filled the city treasury with fees and fines from vicious establishments; Belle London, the most successful madam in Utah history; and Rosetta Ducinnie Davie, the heiress to London’s legacy who became a celebrity on the street, in the courts, and in the press. Material from previously unexploited archives and more than one hundred historic photos enrich this narrative of a turbulent but unforgettable street.

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 , and read an article about Utah’s Merci Train boxcar in Beehive History 23 at .

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)


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


  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”)


Governor (1977-1985 : Matheson)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 338 other followers

%d bloggers like this: