Category Archives: Resources

Downwind in Utah

SHEEP DEATH IN CEDAR CITY

The spring of 1953 brought with it unusually large losses in sheep herds that had spent that winter grazing in the mountains of southern Nevada and southern Utah. The winter and spring of 1952/1953 had been unusually dry, and most livestock owners had provided their herds with supplemental feed and water to make it through to summer. Of the approximately 11,710 sheep that had wintered within 40 miles north and 160 miles east of the Nevada Test Site (NTS) in 1953, 1420 lambing ewes and 2970 new lambs would ultimately succumb to a painful and mysterious death in the ensuing year.

Horses with Radiation Burns (series 11571).

Horses with Radiation Burns (series 11571).

In addition to the disturbing number of deaths, sheep owners also observed that many of their animals appeared to suffer from unusual burns on their faces and bodies. These burns were reminiscent of those documented in cattle that had been near the Trinity nuclear test site in New Mexico, when the world’s first atomic weapon was detonated on July 16, 1945. The burns were also similar to the beta burns found on horses living near the NTS, where above-ground nuclear testing had been taking place since 1951. Speculation quickly focused on two NTS nuclear test series, Operation Tumbler-Snapper conducted in 1952 and Operation Upshot-Knothole conducted in 1953, as the source of death and injury witnessed among the Cedar City sheep herds.

INITIAL INVESTIGATION

Map of the area effected by tests at the NTS in 1953 and 1954 (series 11571).

Map of the area effected by tests at the NTS in 1952 and 1953 (series 11571).

The first veterinarians outside of the Cedar City region to investigate the mysterious sheep deaths were John Curtis and F.H. Melvin, who were assisted by the Bureau of Animal Industry (under the Department of Agriculture). Both men were concerned with the possibility that radiation had played a primary role in the sheep deaths, and what that could mean for the human populations of southern Nevada and Utah. After their investigation, Curtis and Melvin returned to Salt Lake City and voiced their concerns to the director of the Utah Department of Health, Dr. George A. Spendlove. Based on that report, Spendlove immediately requested epidemic aid from the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) for further study.

In early June the USPHS sent three of their own investigators to Cedar City. These representatives included Monroe A. Holmes (a veterinarian for the Public Health Service Communicable Disease Center), Arthur H. Wolff (a veterinary radiologist at the Environmental Health Center), and William G. Hadlow (a veterinary pathologist at the Public Health Service Rocky Mountain Lab). When the USPHS representatives arrived in Cedar City they were joined by two investigators from the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the agency responsible for administering nuclear tests at the NTS. These AEC representatives included Major R.J. Veenstra (an Army veterinarian attached to the Naval Radiological Defense Lab in San Francisco), and R.E. Thompsett (a veterinarian on contract with the AEC who ran a private practice in Los Alamos, New Mexico).

Sheep Necropsy Report from W.J. Hadlow (series 11571).

Sheep Necropsy Report from W.J. Hadlow (series 11571).

The team of USPHS and AEC investigators observed sick lambs in Cedar City and initially concluded that radiation and malnutrition were the most likely candidates for problems afflicting the herds. Melvin A. Holmes drafted a report that brought together the investigative work from the seven different agencies initially involved with analyzing the sheep losses in Cedar City. In addition to the main report, individual reports were filed by Wolff, Veenstra, and Thompsett, each of which mentioned radiation more prominently than Holmes as the likely cause of the sheep deaths. These reports were immediately classified by the AEC and not provided to Cedar City sheep owners or local Iron County authorities.

SECOND OPINION

Statement from Douglas Corry on his Cedar City Sheep Operation (series 11571).

Statement from Douglas Corry on his Cedar City Sheep Operation (series 11571).

The AEC was loathe to compensate for livestock losses based on harmful radiation due to the precedent it would have set for future claims of loss from exposure to fallout from tests at the NTS. This led to the AEC organizing a second investigation of the sheep herd losses in Cedar City in the summer of 1953. The investigators used in the second investigation had much closer ties to the AEC than those members of the first investigation team. They included Dr. Paul B. Pearson (chief of the AEC Division of Biology and Medicine), Lieutenant Colonel Bernard F. Trum (an Army veterinarian assigned tot he AEC agricultural research program at Oak Ridge, Tennessee), and Lieutenant Colonel John Rust (also of the AEC agricultural research program at Oak Ridge). This second investigatory group focused exclusively on malnutrition as the primary cause of sheep herd loss, and maintained zero contact with members from the first investigation. In a later court case, Iron County extension agent, Stephen Brower recalled a conversation with Paul Pearson in which the latter claimed that the AEC couldn’t expose itself to the risks of setting a precedent in paying sheep owners for their losses. Instead he suggested that the AEC might help fund a range study, again reinforcing the malnutrition narrative as the sole reason for losses and damages to the sheep herds around Cedar City. The AEC did subsequently provide $25,000 for a range study in the Cedar City and Nevada areas used by the sheepmen.

SQUARING THE INVESTIGATIONS

In August of 1953 all participants from the first and second sheep death investigations met in Salt Lake City to review the evidence from both studies. At this meeting there was concerted effort placed on the first group of investigators to abandon their position that radiation was a primary contributing cause to the sheep deaths.

Report from October 1953 Los Alamos Conference on Livestock Losses (series 11571).

Report from October 1953 Los Alamos Conference on Livestock Losses (series 11571).

On August 9, 1953, Paul Pearson met with livestock owners in Cedar City to discuss the second group of investigators findings. At that time malnutrition and disease in the herd were cited as the likely culprits. It was also at this time that AEC officials began advancing the premise that radiation levels from the NTS tests were too low to cause radiation poisoning in the sheep herds. In order to validate this claim separate radiation studies were conducted on sheep herds living near heavily irradiated sites in Los Alamos, New Mexico and Hanford, Washington. Sheep in these studies were exposed to varying levels of radiation and the effects were documented.

On October 27, 1953 members of both studies and AEC officials met in Los Alamos to again review evidence from the studies, as well as the evidence from the sheep radiation tests from Los Alamos and Hanford. The secretary for the meeting was AEC official Charles Dunning, who subsequently drafted a short report stating that the expert opinion held that there was a preponderance of evidence against fallout as a contributing cause in the sheep deaths. This report was signed by those in attendance, but the strong dissenting opinions from outside the AEC (primarily from Veenstra, Holmes, and Thompsett) remained.

COURT BATTLES

With the resumption of atmospheric atomic tests as part of the Operation Teapot test series at the NTS in 1955, Cedar City sheep owners who had suffered heavy losses in 1953 filed suit against the AEC for $177,000 in damages. This led to AEC and Justice Department lawyers placing heavy pressure on members of the first investigation to officially change their position that radiation had served as a primary cause of the Cedar City sheep deaths (in order for the government to put up a unified front as defendant).

Statement from Parowan sheep owner T. Randall Adams on sheep loss (series 11571).

Statement from Parowan sheep owner T. Randall Adams on sheep loss (series 11571).

R.E. Thompsett (of the first investigation team) was heavily dependent on AEC money to fund a private animal hospital in Los Alamos, and eventually went on the record as abandoning his belief that radiation was a contributing cause. At the same time both Monroe A. Holmes and R.J. Veenstra (also of the first investigation team) agreed to disqualify themselves as expert witnesses if called upon to testify.

The trial took place in federal court in September of 1956 and lasted fourteen days. The government was represented by John Finn of the Justice Department’s Torts section, while the sheep owners were represented by Dan S. Bushnell. The judge presiding over the case was A. Sherman Christensen. The government’s defense (backed by expert witnesses and unclassified records) maintained that fallout levels from the Upshot-Knothole Test Series were too low to cause the sheep deaths, and that the timing between the atomic tests and subsequent sheep deaths was purely a coincidence. Judge Christensen sided with the expert testimony provided by the AEC, stating that the government was negligent in not warning sheep owners of potential fallout in the area, but nothing more.

THE LEGACY OF LIVING DOWNWIND

In 1979 a second case was brought to federal court, this time arguing that fallout from the Nevada Test Site was responsible for the death and suffering of human inhabitants of the downwind area south and east of the NTS. At this time records that had formerly been classified became public and the extent of the AEC cover-up with the 1952-1953 sheep case came to light.

Original records from the sheep studies revealed that the radiation dose levels in the thyroids of the affected Cedar City sheep were nearly 1000 times the permissible dose for humans. Records also revealed the extent to which AEC officials went to get members of the first investigation team to change their opinion of radiation as a primary cause in the sheep herd losses.

Schedule of nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site during 1953 (series 11571).

Schedule of nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site during 1953 (series 11571).

In February of 1981 six of the original plaintiffs from the 1955 lawsuit brought a new suit to federal court asking for a new trial. They claimed that fraud had been committed upon the court by AEC and Justice Department officials. Judge A. Sherman Christensen heard the case again and the plaintiffs were again represented by Dan S. Bushnell. A settlement offer was extended to the government of three million dollars for damages, but government representatives refused the offer. Evidence was heard over four days in May of 1982 and Christensen delivered his decision in August, ruling that at the time of the sheep radiation studies the AEC held monopoly on information and that government experts and attorneys had deliberately acted to withhold certain pieces of that information from the court.

Judge Christensen ordered that a new trial was to be held, but that decision was overturned on appeal by the Tenth Circuit Appeals Court in Denver. Eventually the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the Tenth Circuit decision was sustained by a 5-3 vote in January of 1986. Chief Justice Warren Burger (who had served as head of the Justice Departments Civil Division at the time of the original sheep case in 1955) disqualified himself from making a formal decision in the case.

Another court case was brought against the U.S. government in the early 1980’s and included residents from Iron County. The suit sought damages from the federal government, and was initially successful on a ruling from Judge Bruce Jenkins that awarded some damages to downwind cancer victims, and their families. However, the case was appealed, and the decision was also overturned by the federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Correspondence on pending Mackelprang lawsuit for injuries suffered from above-ground nuclear testing (series 11571).

Correspondence on pending Mackelprang lawsuit for injuries suffered from above-ground nuclear testing (series 11571).

To date, the most tangible action taken to address the legacy of atmospheric nuclear testing in Nevada, and the impact it had on nearby populations, was passage of the 1990 federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which created a trust-fund to award individuals who suffered from radiation-related injuries that occurred before adequate safety warnings were given, or safety protocols enacted in an effected area.

The story of the 1953 sheep deaths in Cedar City can be traced through sheep radiation study records created by the Utah Department of Health, and now maintained by the Utah State Archives.

Other related records include radiological surveillance reports and radiation study reports from the Utah Department of Health, administrative records and occupational health hazard records from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, and Environmental Coordinating Committee minutes and agendas from the Utah Division of Environmental Health.

A final valuable resource held by the Utah State Archives is various radiation study records gathered by the office of Utah Governor Scott Matheson. This collection, in particular, pulls together a variety of materials from a broad range of state and federal government agencies regarding tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site and their impacts on local southern Utah communities. These records once served as the backbone for policy decisions and stances on the issue of downwinder recompensation made by Governor Matheson, who himself grew up in the southern Utah town of Parowan during the era of above-ground atmospheric testing, and would later pass away from a rare multiple myloma cancer in 1990.


SOURCES

Fradkin, Philip L. Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy. Boulder: Johnson Books, 2004.

Fuller, John G. The Day We Bombed Utah: America’s Most Lethal Secret. New York: New American Library, 1984.


The Law of the River: The Central Utah Project

 


This is the third (and final) in a series of blog posts that will explore records held by the Utah State Archives that help illuminate the story of Utah’s role in the larger western movement to tame and develop the Colorado River as a vital resource in the arid west.


ENVISIONING THE CENTRAL UTAH PROJECT

Due to circumstances of geology and demographics, the bulk of Utah’s population lives on the eastern edge of the Great Basin, hundreds of miles (and thousands of feet of elevation) removed from the Colorado River water promised to the state by the Colorado River Compact. In 1946 the first scheme for addressing this disconnect was conceived. Modeled on successes by the Bureau of Reclamation in the early 20th century at Utah’s Strawberry Reservoir and nearby Heber Valley, local planners developed the concept of the Central Utah Project (CUP).

According to its proponents, the CUP would guarantee full use of Utah’s allotted share of the Colorado River by implementing a series of aqueducts, diversion and storage dams, and tunnels that would effectively move water from the eastern Colorado River Basin to other areas of the state, including the growing population centers along the Wasatch Front.

1947 conception of the Central Utah Project (series 200).

1947 conception of the Central Utah Project (series 200).

The first attempt to create the CUP came in 1946 when federal legislation was proposed by Utah senator, Abe Murdock. This legislation was met with defeat, as it was determined that any attempt at such a massive project in Utah needed to be bound up with larger planning in the Upper Colorado River Basin as a whole. Up to that point, the states of the Upper Basin hadn’t even determined how the Upper Basin allotment would be divided between them. This, in turn, spurred negotiations that would lead to the 1948 Upper Colorado Basin Compact, an agreement that granted Utah 23% of the 7,500,000 acre feet of water apportioned to the Upper Basin by the Colorado River Compact.

In that same year (1948), the Colorado River Storage Project Act (CRSPA) was also proposed. This legislative action proposed a comprehensive plan for developing the Upper Colorado River Basin. However, a variety of delay’s prevented the Congress from authorizing it until 1956. Upon its authorization, the Central Utah Project was born, effectively serving as the largest single participating unit in the CRSPA plan.

This early history of the CUP’s origination and initial planning is reflected in records held by the Utah State Archives, which includes correspondence records from the office of Utah Governor J. Bracken Lee (1946-1956), as well as Colorado River Commission case files created by the Utah Attorney General.

CUP ORGANIZATION

In simplest terms, the CUP serves to build the infrastructure needed to impound and transport water from the eastern Utah river basin to other water-starved regions in America’s second most arid state. The organizational apparatus for developing the CUP water delivery systems was born in 1964, with the legal organization of the Central Utah Water Conservancy District (CUWCD). The original seven-member board of the CUWCD was composed of one representative from each county in Utah impacted by CUP projects. This original board included members from the counties of Salt Lake, Summit, Wasatch, Utah, Juab, Uintah, and Duchesne. Later the board would expand to include representation from Garfield, Piute, and Sanpete counties. The CUWCD was established to both oversee the management of water projects associated with the CUP, as well as manage Utah’s repayment of federal funds that had been allocated for CUP projects by the Colorado River Storage Project Act.

1968 Central Utah Water Conservancy District Ribbon Cutting event (series 200).

1968 Central Utah Water Conservancy District Ribbon Cutting event (series 200).

The CUWCD set to work by first organizing water development projects around the state into seven distinct geographic units: Vernal, Upalco, Jensen, Bonneville, Uinta, and Ute Indian. Setting project priorities and allocating resources has often proved contentious, particularly as projects went over time and budget throughout the latter 20th century. For example, in 1965 the Bonneville Unit (the single largest unit of the CUP) was allotted $302 million in funds to complete its associated water projects. Construction delays and the passage of time meant that, by 1985, over $2 billion in funds had actually been spent developing the Bonneville Unit.

The early history of work done for the CUP, as well as ongoing debates of how to fund the project appear throughout several record series held by the Utah State Archives. These include Upper Colorado River project files from the office of Governor George D. Clyde (1957-1965), correspondence records from the office of Governor Calvin Rampton (1965-1977), natural resource working files from the office of Utah Governor Scott Matheson (1977-1985), and correspondence records from Governor Matheson’s office.

COMPLETING THE CUP

Over time it became increasingly clear that the broad, ambitious goals of the CUP would be bogged down by both slow construction, as well as a lack of adequate ongoing funding and support from the federal government. Funding for the CUP (through the Bureau of Reclamation) was often a contentious point of debate among federal lawmakers, and the entire project was nearly defunded completely during the term of President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981).

1968 CUP News Report (series 200).

1968 CUP News Report (series 200).

The tendency to stall or delay water projects ultimately led to an unprecedented action in 1992, when Utah’s state and local officials asked the federal government to turn over authority to complete all unfinished CUP work to the CUWCD. This request was granted with passage of the 1992 Central Utah Project Completion Act (CUPCA). This legislation authorizes the CUWCD to oversee completion of CUP projects, particularly those in the Bonneville unit which includes areas of exploding population growth along the Wasatch Front. In addition, the legislation provides a means for over-site and environmental mitigation of CUP work to be overseen by the U.S. Department of the Interior through a newly created CUPCA office.

This climactic moment in the CUP’s history, as well as the negotiations that took place to secure passage of the CUPCA, can be traced in records held by the Utah State Archives, including Governor Norman Bangerter’s Washington Office records, as well as Governor Bangerter’s Chief of Staff correspondence records.

UNKNOWN FUTURES

The future of the Colorado River, and its millions of users, is a hazy one. How reliable will the river’s flow remain, particularly in the face of changing environmental conditions and exploding population centers in the western United States? Water allocations from the Colorado River have been re-calibrated at points in the past, based on lower flows and the fact that the original numbers agreed to in the 1922 Colorado River Compact were based on unusually (and unsustainable) high years of river flow.

A similarly unknown future faces the major water storage projects along the river, including those that compose the Central Utah Project. Consider, for example, the unknown fate of the Hoover Dam, an aging structure holding back a dwindling water supply that is currently being drawn on by more people than at any other point in its history.

Major questions concerning the Colorado River, and its use, face each of the western states that rely heavily on its water. Will the answer be a doubling down on the types of costly reclamation efforts that were meant to help the arid southwest “bloom like a rose?” Or will the answers increasingly take the shape of users learning how to more efficiently utilize the regions most critical resource? Whatever way the future flows, it is clear that the Law of the River is still, very much, a work in progress.


The Law of the River: Developing the Upper Basin


This is the second in a series of blog posts that will explore records held by the Utah State Archives that help illuminate the story of Utah’s role in the larger western movement to tame and develop the Colorado River as a vital resource in the arid west.


UPPER COLORADO RIVER BASIN COMPACT

Map of the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basin's (series 200).

Map of the Upper and Lower Colorado River Basin’s (series 200).

With the passage of the Colorado River Compact of 1922, the Colorado River Basin was divided into a Lower Basin unit (comprised of Arizona, California, and Nevada), and an Upper Basin unit (composed of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming). For the first twenty-five years after the compact was ratified, the bulk of development that took place on the river occurred in the Lower Basin. The construction of Hoover Dam, and other projects in the Lower Basin, had a direct impact on growing the human populations of the southwest. This, in turn, fueled the need for ever-more water in the region.

With the lower basin’s voracious hunger for water, a movement to begin developing the Upper Basin’s water allotment gained real momentum. This movement was fueled, in part, by concerns among leaders in the Upper Basin that unclaimed water in the north could be forever captured and taken by the unquenchable thirst of agriculture and populations sprouting up in California, Arizona, and southern Nevada.

Negotiations for how to divide the Upper Basin share of the river began when representatives from each Upper Basin state met to discuss the issue in 1946. Utah’s interests in this ongoing negotiation were represented by both Governor Henry Hooper Blood, as well as Utah State Engineer, Ed H. Watson.  Records from Watson’s office, in particular, reveal how prominently involved the State Engineer was in ensuring Utah received an equitable portion of the Upper Basin river allotment.

Two years of negotiation and planning ultimately culminated in the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact of 1948. This new accord added another chapter to the expanding Law of the River by guaranteeing a fixed percentage of water from the Colorado River to each Upper Basin state on an ongoing annual basis. Under the terms of this agreement, Colorado would 52% of the Upper Basin share, Utah 23%, Wyoming 14%, and New Mexico 11%. In addition, Arizona wasr allotted a 50,000 acre foot share for the small portion of the state that lies north of the division boundary line at Lee’s Ferry.

With agreement between the Upper Basin states on how to share their allotment of the Colorado River, the stage was set for the emergence of a massive, federally backed plan that would usher in an era of unprecedented change in the Intermountain West.

THE COLORADO RIVER STORAGE PROJECT ACT

With a compact among the Upper Basin states in place, a plan begin to take shape that would coordinate and guide development in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.  Over the course of eight years, planning and negotiations took place that finally culminated with passage of the Colorado River Storage Project Act (CRSPA) of 1956.

President Eisenhower triggering construction of dams at Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon (series 200).

President Eisenhower triggering construction of dams at Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon (series 200).

The provisions of this plan were broad and complex. At its heart the CRSPA sought to set in motion the construction of major water storage projects in the Upper Basin, as well as devise the means for transporting water across vast areas for the benefit of municipalities in the Colorado River Basin. CRSPA also marked a moment of important transition for the Bureau of Reclamation, and how it approached dam construction in the arid west. Prior development in the Lower Basin was done for the primary purpose of impounding a water supply that could be used for irrigation. Hoover Dam allowed for the generation of electrical power, but power generated by the dam was sold to growing populations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, with the cash generated from that sale being used to pay off the original construction costs for the dam.

With CRSPA, a new model employed by the Bureau of Reclamation in its dam construction and management. Under this new method, the preeminent use of impounded water in the Upper Basin was no longer for irrigation, but rather for hydroelectric power generation that could be sold cheaply to the public. Revenues generated by these “cash register” dams were then used to subsidize farmers in the Upper Basin who, due to environmental constraints inherent to the Intermountain West, were generally unable to grow the wide variety of agricultural commodities routinely produced by their counterparts in the Lower Basin. This thorny issue of balancing a public utility produced by a government agency against the interests of private public utility companies became one of extreme importance to the administration of Utah Governor George D. Clyde in the early 1960’s.

Pamphlet advertising the economic benefits of Upper Basin development (series 200).

Pamphlet advertising the economic benefits of Upper Basin development (series 200).

In the ensuing decades after the passage of the CRSPA, its ambitious goals began to take tangible shape on the western landscape. One of its faces became the dams associated with the Curecanti Project in Colorado. Another was the Navajo Dam constructed in northwestern New Mexico. Along the Utah and Wyoming border CRSPA took shape in the form of the Flaming Gorge Dam. And, perhaps most famously, CRSPA led directly to the controversial construction of the Glen Canyon Dam along the Utah and Arizona border.

CONTROVERSY IN ECHO PARK

The story of Glen Canyon Dam remains a contentious moment in U.S. environmental history, as it squarely pitted the interests of the Bureau of Reclamation and western developers against those of a burgeoning American environmental movement.

Pamphlet promoting reclamation efforts at Echo Park (series 200).

Pamphlet promoting reclamation efforts at Echo Park (series 200).

When planning first began on the Upper Basin developments that would culminate with dams at Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon, planners first cast their eyes east towards Utah’s Uinta Basin. In the mid-1950’s planners and promoters pushed for the construction of two dam sites in Dinosaur National Monument, one at Echo Park (at the confluence of the Yampa and Green rivers), and one at Split Mountain.

An unexpected push against placing the dams in Dinosaur National Monument by an organized environmental movement ultimately led planners to abandon the effort, and the U.S. Congress to enact laws that better spelled out the types of development that could occur in National Park Service areas. The complex legal discussions pertaining to Echo Park and Glen Canyon can be traced through records created by Utah’s Attorney General, and held at the Utah State Archives. With the Echo Park development off the table, and a promise from the Sierra Club not to oppose a dam site at Glen Canyon, the Bureau of Reclamation moved forward with development along the border of Utah and Arizona.

With passage of CRSPA, and allocation of $760 million in federal funds for Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon, construction on Glen Canyon Dam began in late 1956. Upon its completion in 1966 its impounded waters (named Lake Powell after General John Wesley Powell who had first navigated the whole of the Colorado River in 1869) could reach a full capacity of 26, 214,900 acre feet, making it the second largest development along the Colorado after Lake Mead. The construction of the Glen Canyon Dam has long served as a significant moment of loss for many who were able to witness Glen Canyon before it was flooded by the dam.

Construction of the Glen Canyon Dam (series 25473).

Construction of the Glen Canyon Dam (series 25473).

CRSPA was a crucial moment in both the river’s history, as well as Utah’s relationship to it. In addition to providing the mandate and funds to build the dam sites at Flaming Gorge and Glen Canyon, this legislation also authorized the creation of the Central Utah Project (CUP), a federal water project specifically tasked with overseeing Utah’s use and development of its allotted share from the river.

The story of federal efforts to establish and manage the Central Utah Water Project, which has proven to be among the most complex and costly provisions of CRSPA, will serve as the subject for the final blog post in this series.


SOURCES

Reisner, Marc. Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water. New York: Penguin Books, 1993.

Worster, Donald.  Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.


The Law of the River: Compact and Development


This is the first in a series of blog posts that will explore records held by the Utah State Archives that help illuminate the story of Utah’s role in the larger western movement to tame and develop the Colorado River as a vital resource in the arid west.


THE COLORADO RIVER BASIN

The Colorado River originates in the high Rocky Mountains of Colorado, before making its 1,750-mile journey to the Pacific Ocean, emptying at the Bay of California. Along the way it gathers run-off from a drainage basin 244,000 square miles in length, carves out the dramatic cliffs and canyons of southeastern Utah and Arizona’s Grand Canyon, and carries a silt load higher than any other river of comparable size.

Map of the Colorado River Basin made by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1922 (series 13912).

Map of the Colorado River Basin made by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1922 (series 13912).

The Colorado is an international river, draining water from seven western states, (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California) as well as Mexico. Moving from the highest peaks of the Continental Divide down to the low, arid deserts of the Sonoran and Mojave, the Colorado River is a vital artery running throughout some of the American southwest’s most spectacular (and unforgiving) landscapes.

For much of human history, the Colorado River, and its tributaries, have served a vital role in providing life-giving water to the region’s inhabitants. Many Indian tribes of the southwest practiced dry farming and simple irrigation techniques using scant available water resources. This model was later expanded on by white settlers in the region, particularly the early Mormon settlers of Utah.

The Colorado gained some measure of national celebrity from the famed expeditions taken down it by John Wesley Powell, first in 1869 and again in 1871-1872. These scientific trips gave Americans a better sense of the canyon country frontier, as described vividly by Powell, as well as providing Major Powell with some sense of the harsh environmental realities imposed by the arid deserts of the southwest.

CALIFORNIA’S THIRST

The story of the Colorado River in the 20th century, a period when it would become the most legally regulated river on Earth, begins with the explosive population growth witnessed in Southern California at the turn of the century. Water projects that carried water from California’s Owens Valley helped fuel tremendous growth in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.

Fields in California's Imperial Valley irrigated with Colorado River Water (EPA photograph from Wikimedia Commons).

Fields in California’s Imperial Valley irrigated with Colorado River Water (EPA photograph from National Archives and Records Service).

Similar efforts to carry (and control) Colorado River water to the famously dry Imperial Valley for irrigation and flood control raised serious questions among all of the western states in the Colorado River Basin. The legal history of water in the west had placed water rights under the provision of prior appropriation. Simply put, the first to develop a water right was the first to own it: “first in time, first in right.”

What if California’s rapacious, and seemingly unending, thirst lay claim to the bulk of available Colorado River water, and blocked anyone upstream from making later use of it? What if earthworks built by California to tame unpredictable floods from the Colorado locked in place an inequitable infrastructure, forever in favor of the Golden State?

With these fundamental questions in mind, representatives from the seven basin states (as well as U.S. Commerce Secretary, Herbert Hoover) met on January 26, 1922 and began work on an expansive interstate compact to regulate and share the Colorado River among all of its interested parties.

NEGOTIATING A COMPACT

In the eleven months between January and November, 1922 multiple meetings were held that would culminate in the Colorado River Compact. Over the course of its legal history, the various compacts, agreements, and legal decisions that have been placed on the Colorado River have come to be known as “the Law of the River.” In this regard, the Colorado River Compact is the backbone that serves to connect everything else together.

Utah’s representative to the 1922 negotiations was State Engineer, R.E. Caldwell, having been appointed by Utah Governor Charles Mabey. Records from the State Engineer documenting Caldwell’s work on the Colorado River Compact (as well as other river-related records from the office) are held by the Utah State Archives in series 13912.

Utah's copy of the Colorado River Compact (series 20221).

Utah’s copy of the Colorado River Compact (series 20221).

The major provisions ultimately agreed to in the Colorado River Compact were unique, and critical in dictating all future development made on the river.

The first of these provisions was the decision to effectively create two separate artificial basins within the larger Colorado River Basin. The Upper Basin was to consist of the mountain states of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico (the states that provide the bulk of the flow to the river). The Lower Basin was formed from Nevada, Arizona, and California. The line of demarcation separating these two units was designated at Lee’s Ferry in northern Arizona.

A second consequential provision of the compact stipulated how much flow from the river each basin was eligible to claim. Calculations for the Colorado’s annual flow were taken from dubious readings maintained by the Bureau of Reclamation during a multi-year period that saw the river rage higher than at any other point in its recorded history.

Based on these flawed Bureau estimates, the flow of the Colorado River averaged 17.5 million acre-feet of water annually. The Colorado River Compact stipulated that 15 million acre feet of this share was to be divided equally between the Upper Basin and the Lower Basin. The Lower Basin was awarded an additional 1 million acre feet under the threat that its representatives would walk away from the negotiations without that bonus allotment. The final 1.5 million acre-feet of flow was reserved for Mexico, a number that was cemented into law by an international treaty in 1944. It was left for the states within each basin to determine the percentage of their allotted flow that would go to each state.

DELAYED RATIFICATION

00200_Undated_WaterAllotmentMap

Water allotment map showing the Upper and Lower Basin’s (series 200).

Each member representative from the compact negotiations signed the accord and returned to their respective state, leaving final ratification of the compact to state legislatures or voters. In Utah, the Colorado River Compact was ratified immediately by the Utah state legislature during its 1923 session, and the compact was filed with the lieutenant governor, where it is currently found in series 20221.

The process of ratifying the agreement did not come easily for other states, however, as interstate squabbles arose over a host of issues. The most divisive of these occurred between Arizona and California, who couldn’t agree on how to divide the 8,500,000 acre-feet granted to the lower basin.

For six years the Colorado River Compact languished until the U.S. Congress intervened with passage of a bill that simultaneously provided a path for formal ratification of the Colorado River Compact, as well as authorized the Bureau of Reclamation to begin work on what would become the largest dam project on Earth, up to that point.

BOULDER CANYON PROJECT ACT

The Boulder Canyon Project Act of 1928 paved the way for nearly a century of reclamation activity on the Colorado River that has left a decidedly mixed legacy. One major provision of this piece of legislation was to make the Colorado River Compact legally binding. It sought to do this by settling the feud between California and Arizona over their shared water allocation. Accordingly, California was limited in its annual diversion to 4.4 million acre-feet per year, while Arizona was granted 2.8 million acre-feet (leaving the remaining 300,000 acre feet in the lower basin to Nevada). The Boulder Canyon Project Act went on to say that the Compact would become legally binding upon ratification by six of the states, one of those states needing to be the compact’s biggest player, California. This was accomplished, in spite of the fact that Arizona (out of protest) refused to formally ratify the compact until 1944.

In 1927, the year before the Boulder Canyon Project Act was passed, the Utah legislature formally repealed their original 1923 ratification of the compact. This was followed, in 1929, by a second ratification of the Colorado River Compact by the state of Utah, as well as the creation of a Utah Colorado River Commission. This commission, whose records can be found in series 165, was made up of three members appointed by Governor George Dern, and tasked with representing Utah’s interest on all matters related to the Colorado River.

The second major provision of the Boulder Canyon Project Act, was a mandate to build the first major dam site on the Colorado River. The location chosen for this was in the Black Canyon near Las Vegas. Construction on the Boulder Dam (later renamed Hoover) commenced during the heart of the Great Depression, in 1931. Over the course of six years thousands of workers built massive diversion tunnels, rerouted the Colorado River from its bed, sunk the foundations for the dam at bedrock, and ultimately constructed a 726′ plug in the Black Canyon that could hold back up to 28,537,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water in the impounded area named Lake Mead.

Photograph of the Boulder Canyon Dam site before construction (series 13912).

Photograph of the Boulder Canyon Dam site before construction (series 13912).

The water held at Hoover Dam has served a variety of purposes in the ensuing decades. A canal built downstream (named the All-American Canal) carries water from the Boulder project west, into California’s Imperial Valley. The water of Lake Mead has been used for recreation, irrigation, industrial use, and municipal use in both Las Vegas and the cities that mushroomed in southern California throughout the 20th century. Hydroelectric power derived from the dam has played a pivotal role in growing the populations in one of North America’s most inhospitable environments. Electricity generated at Hoover Dam has helped build industry, attract tourism, and provide critical hydration and conditioned air in a region often devoid of both.

VIEW FROM THE UPPER BASIN

The Hoover Dam served as the first vivid example of what a massive, federally backed water project on the Colorado River could look like. Upstream, leaders of the Upper Basin states kept a keen eye on the tremendous growth in the Lower Basin spurred by the Boulder Canyon Project. In many ways, the dam provided a template for future projects in the Upper Basin, as well as providing incentive for the Upper Basin states to organize into a coalition, lest they eventually lose their allotted water share to future projects in the Lower Basin.

Evidence that developing the state’s Colorado River share was a pressing issue for Utah leaders is found in records kept by two different governor’s of that era. Governor George Dern (1925-1933) maintained a subject file on the Colorado River Compact (series 206) that reflect Utah’s interaction with other western states on Colorado River issues, as well as the negotiations and discussions that went on with the 1928 Boulder Canyon Project.

Dern’s successor, Governor Henry Blood (1933-1941), in turn, maintained a Colorado River correspondence files (series 22918), which contains legislative bills, resolutions, general correspondence, minutes and reports related to Utah’s earliest attempts to help devise an Upper Basin reclamation plans to assure its share of water as designated in the Colorado River Compact of 1922.

The Colorado River Compact and the Boulder Canyon Project Act provided the thread upon which all of the states in the Colorado River Basin would ultimately go about drawing on their share of the Colorado River’s seemingly vast potential.

The story of Utah’s participation in developing a reclamation plan for the Upper Basin, and the implementation of projects based on that plan, will serve as the story for the next blog in this series.


SOURCES

Reisner, Marc. Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water. New York: Penguin Books, 1993.

Worster, Donald.  Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.


Law in the Utah Territory

UTAH’S FIRST LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

The first legislative assembly in Utah’s history was convened in Salt Lake City on September 22, 1851. Over the course of six months, 13 members of the Territorial Council and 26 members of the Territorial House of Representatives passed a series of acts and bills that formally codified the first laws of the Utah Territory.

The Utah Territory had been established by an act of the U.S. Congress on September 09, 1850, after a failed March 08, 1849 petition by Utah leaders to create a new state named Deseret. When the petition for the state of Deseret was submitted, the first Mormon settlers had been in region for nearly two years (having arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847). At the time of Mormon settlement in Salt Lake, the U.S. government was in the midst of the Mexican American War. U.S. Victory in this conflict would eventually lead to Mexico ceding large chunks of western North America over to federal control.

Wpdms_deseret_utah_territory_legend

Utah Territory with Deseret Border by Matthew Trump licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

 

The designation of the Utah Territory by Congress was part of a much larger set of bills passed that would come to be known as the Compromise of 1850. This “compromise” attempted to maintain a balance of power between free states and territories and slave states and territories in the Union. As part of complex package of legislation, California was admitted into the Union as a free state, while the territories of Utah and New Mexico were admitted under the provision that slavery in each territory would be decided by the popular sovereignty of its citizens.

With the designation of the Utah Territory, the size of Deseret was dramatically scaled back. Mormon leaders had originally called for a state that would have encompassed all of the Great Basin, the entire Colorado River Drainage Basin, and an outlet to the Pacific Ocean running through San Diego. Instead, the new territory was scaled back to include much of modern-day Utah, Nevada, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. In addition, legislation creating the territory called for the designation of territorial officials, the formation of a territorial legislative assembly responsible for enacting laws and a civil code for the territory, and the creation of a territorial judiciary.

On February 03, 1851, Mormon church president, Brigham Young was designated as the first Territorial Governor of the Utah Territory, and by September of that year, the 13 members of the Territorial Council (with Willard Richards as president) and 26 members of the Territorial House of Representatives (with William W. Phelps as speaker) had been chosen and met to conduct the business of Utah’s first legislative session.

ASSEMBLY BUSINESS

Between September 1851 and March 1852, the first legislative assembly in Utah’s history met in Salt Lake City and enacted Utah’s first set of formally recognized laws. Much of the work done by this legislative body came out of efforts that had already been made in drafting a proposed legal code for the failed State of Deseret. The Utah State Archives holds the records from this first legislative session. Examples from this series reveal the scope and variety of laws debated and passed by Utah’s first Territorial Legislative Assembly.

03150001001_SLCCharter

An act affirming Salt Lake City’s Charter (series 3150).

Among the most important pieces of legislation passed was an act approving charters for the cities of Salt Lake, Ogden, Provo, Manti, and Parowan. A portion of this record reads:

“Be it enacted by the Counsel and House of Representatives of Utah Territory Assembly that we reenact the following ordinances, passed by the Legislature of the State of Deseret, January the 9th and February the 6th A.D. 1851 granting the several petitions for the above named charters…And be it further enacted that we do grant unto the City Counsel of Ogden City the entire control of all the timber lying west of the Corporation to the Great Salt Lake.”

Much of the Territorial Legislative Assembly’s initial business sought to spell out property rights and resource regulation, as evidenced by the passage of another act granting access to water rights from Mill Creek Canyon to Brigham Young. In this record the assembly states:

“Be it enacted by the Governor and the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah, that the privilege is hereby granted unto President Brigham Young to take the waters from the channel of Millcreek, immediately below Neff’s Mill, and to convey the same to the channel of Big Kanyon creek agreeably to the provisions of the act passed in the Legislative Council of the State of Deseret, January 15, 1850.”

03150001045_BYMillcreek

An act granting Mill Creek water rights to Brigham Young (series 3150).

A third act demonstrates the lengths the Territorial Legislative Assembly went to provide social order in the new territory. This, “act in relation to the inspection of Spirituous Liquors,” serves as the first piece of liquor control legislation in Utah’s history. It established an office of Territorial Liquor Inspector, mandated the methods for determining alcohol levels, and establishes fines for anyone caught selling contraband liquor in the territory.

03150001036_SpiritousLiquors

An act establishing Utah’s first Liquor Inspector (series 3150).

These examples, all signed by powerful Mormon leaders acting in a secular government capacity, show just how intertwined church and state were in the early history of the Utah Territory. In the coming years this dynamic would shift as outside, non-Mormon populations began to settle in the territory and call it home. With increased federal influence, national westward expansion, mining booms, and eventually the birth of an intercontinental railroad system, the hold over government held by Brigham Young and other Mormon leaders would incrementally lessen over the years, though the influence the Mormon Church would wield over local affairs remained very much in tact. The legislative records of Utah tell the story of this growth and the profound changes that would come to the Utah Territory as it evolved towards eventual statehood in 1896.

LEGISLATIVE RESOURCES TODAY

Today the Utah State Archives preserves and provides access to a vast collection of historic records documenting Utah’s legislative history. In addition, the Utah State Legislature has made many of the records related to contemporary legislation freely accessible to the public through the Legislative website.

The Utah Legislature and Utah State Archives have also made a variety of useful guides available online that help explain the complexity of the legislative process, as well as how researchers can draw on historic legislative records to conduct important research, such as the discovery of legislative intent.

An effective democracy relies on the checks and balances placed upon its representatives by informed citizens. The Utah State Archives and the Office of Legislative Research and General Council serve as important government agencies in terms of promoting this ideal and ensuring that transparency remains an unassailable part of Utah’s annual legislative process.


The Life and Crimes of Frank Treseder

PROTECTING UTAH’S LAW ENFORCEMENT HISTORY

There are few collections in the Utah State Archives as rich and colorful as those associated with law enforcement. Through these records the escapades of both cop and criminal play out, providing dramatic snapshots of historical moments that are often tinged with high drama, emotion, and periodic violence.

In 2011, Salt Lake Tribune columnist, Robert Kirby approached the Utah State Archives with the idea for a project that would promote the importance of historic law enforcement records to the various communities responsible for creating them. As an ex-police officer, Kirby has made countless contacts with various law enforcement professionals throughout Utah during his career, many of whom have long acted as the lone custodians over their individual agency histories. After a successful presentation on the value of law enforcement records in October 2011, phone calls began to roll in from far-flung offices asking how the Utah State Archives might help in ensuring the long-term preservation of Utah’s law enforcement history.

One such call came from the Utah Board of Pardons, asking if the Utah State Archives would be interested in taking over the permanent care of an extremely unusual artifact: an 1887 painting of the Utah Territorial Prison that once stood in modern-day Sugar House Park. This painting had hung on the office walls of the Board of Pardons for decades, before getting reconciled to an office closet. The historic importance of this object was clear at once, and it was immediately transferred into State Archives custody for safekeeping. Using the small clues available on the painting itself, Archives staff conducted research for a finding aid, which soon revealed a back story of the artist every bit as interesting as the painting itself.

1887 painting by Frank Treseder of the Utah Territorial Prison in Sugar House.

1887 painting by Frank Treseder of the Utah Territorial Prison in Sugar House (series 27827).

A LIFE OF CRIME

Frank M. Treseder was born in 1853 in Jersey Island, England, and by the 1880s he had become well known to law enforcement officials in the Utah Territory. The first documented case of Frank Treseder running afoul of the law came in 1877 when he was brought up for trial in Salt Lake (along with Charles Howard) on the charge of robbery. According to Third District Court records, the pair had assaulted John Hepworth, robbing him of a gold watch valued at $180. Tresder was found guilty, and sentenced to three years in the Utah Territorial Penitentiary.

1877 charging document against Frank Treseder and Charles Howard (series 9802).

1877 charging document against Frank Treseder and Charles Howard (series 9802).

It wasn’t long after his release from prison before Treseder once again found himself in court, this time in  Ogden’s First District Court. According to court records, Treseder had been arrested (along with Meyer Seekel) for the November 24, 1881 theft of $1000 in gold coin and $500 in sundry checks from the home of Ambrose Greenwell. The pair was convicted on the charge of burglary on May 09, 1882, and Treseder would spend another three years in the Sugar House prison before his release on May 01, 1885.

Not even a year passed before Treseder’s next brush with the law. On January 22, 1886 Treseder and County Collector N.V. Jones were arrested by Federal officials in the Utah Territory and charged with bribery. According to officials, Treseder had made an attempt to bribe U.S. Marshals into giving up information on raids that the government was planning on making on polygamists and unlawful cohabitants in the Utah Territory. With the impending 1887 Edmunds-Tucker Act banning the practice of polygamy in the territory, Treseder was effectively charged with acting as an agent in gathering information that might be used to help protect LDS members who would soon fall under the legal reach of the federal government for their ongoing practice of plural marriage.

1886 demur from Frank Treseder on charges of attempted murder (series 6836).

1886 demur from Frank Treseder on charges of attempted murder (series 6836).

An interesting twist to the case came in March when Treseder (who was free on bail) was arrested again and brought before the Third District Court on charges of attempted murder. The March 02, 1886 Salt Lake Democrat reports that Treseder had approached Thomas Murray and discussed with him the potential murders of U.S. Marshal’s W.H. Dickson, E.A. Ireland, and E.A. Franks. Treseder’s attorney made a demur on this indictment, claiming that it didn’t conform to sections of the Territorial criminal code, and ultimately the charge of attempted murder against Treseder was dropped. However, on September 28, 1886 he and Jones were convicted on the original charge of bribery, and Treseder once again found himself facing a three year sentence in the state penitentiary.

THE UNEXPECTED ARTIST

It was this final stay in the Utah Territorial Prison where Treseder would turn to painting and create a series of works that have marked him as an important 19th century artist in Utah’s history. An inkling of this creative turn is described in the September 28, 1886 Salt Lake Democrat. Reporting on the bribery trial that would ultimately lead him to another stint at the Sugar House prison, the newspaper states:

“Frank Treseder spend the great part of his time while in court drawing pictures on paper. He is quite an artist in his way and seems to take as much pleasure in it as a school boy.”

This artistic talent seemingly blossomed during his three years in the state penitentiary. Another newspaper report from the April 13, 1888 Salt Lake Herald, describes the construction of a new penitentiary building on the prison grounds and states: “Frank Treseder, who has become quite an artist, has his studio [in the basement of the new penitentiary building].”

The view of the prison that is now held by the Utah State Archives is one of several that have survived to the modern day. The Springville Museum of Art is known to have two Treseder Sugar House prison paintings as well, one looking to the east, and the other looking to the west.

LIFE OUTSIDE THE SUGAR HOUSE PRISON

Frank Treseder was released from the Utah Territorial Prison in the late 1880s, and promptly married a woman named Mary Bennett, whom he had met while she was visiting the prison. Domestic bliss wouldn’t last however, as Bennett would appear before the Third District Court in 1892 asking for a decree of divorce from Treseder. According to her statement he had left her, and was last known to have been seen somewhere in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The court granted her divorce from Treseder and also sole custody over their child.

Information on Treseder after he left Utah is scant, but his story has an unhappy ending. According to a 1923 Texas death certificate, Treseder died alone on February 21, 1923 from paresis, with drug addiction listed as a contributing cause.

Whether Treseder remained an active painter after leaving Utah isn’t known either, as no other paintings attributed to him have been identified (leaving the Sugar House prison paintings the extent of his known work at this time). However, as this story demonstrates, you never know when another unexpected discovery might be made!


SOURCES

Ancestry.com. Texas, Death Certificates, 1903–1982 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013.

Salt Lake Democrat, “Before the Grand Jury.” Jan. 26, 1886. From Utah Digital Newspapers. http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sldemocrat/id/48655/show/48637/rec/4 (accessed Dec. 01, 2014).

Salt Lake Democrat, “Conspiracy to Murder.” Mar. 02, 1886. From Utah Digital Newspapers. http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sldemocrat/id/58696/show/58687/rec/11 (accessed Dec. 01, 2014).

Salt Lake Democrat, “Local Jots.” May 02, 1886. From Utah Digital Newspapers. http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sldemocrat/id/16196/show/16182/rec/2 (accessed Dec. 01, 2014).

Salt Lake Democrat, “Local Jots.” Sep. 28, 1886. From Utah Digital Newspapers. http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/sldemocrat/id/46791/show/46770/rec/30 (accessed Dec. 01, 2014).

Salt Lake Herald, “Out on the Hill.” Apr. 13, 1886. From Utah Digital Newspapers. http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/slherald18/id/78855/show/78830/rec/73 (accessed Dec. 01, 2014).

Salt Lake Herald, “Her Romance Ended.” Apr. 30, 1892. From Utah Digital Newspapers. http://udn.lib.utah.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/slherald19/id/120218/show/120181/rec/75 (accessed Dec. 01, 2014).

Swanson, Vern G. Utah Art, Utah Artist – 150 Years Survey. Layton: Gibbs Smith, 2001. Print.

Utah State Archives and Records Service. Board of Pardons. Utah Territorial Prison Painting. Series 27827.

Utah State Archives and Records Service, District Court (First District), Northern division civil and criminal case files, Series 1529.

Utah State Archives and Records Service, District Court (Third District), Territorial criminal case files, Series 6836.

Utah State Archives and Records Service, District Court (Third District), Case files, Series 9802.


Digital Public Library of America

DPLA

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) launched a beta of its discovery portal and open platform on April 18, 2013. The portal delivers millions of materials found in American archives, libraries, museums, and cultural heritage institutions to students, teachers, scholars, and the public. The Utah State Archives has contributed hundreds of thousands of pages through its participation with the Mountain West Digital Library.

Far more than a search engine, the DPLA portal provides innovative ways to search and scan through its united collection of distributed resources. Special features include a dynamic map, a timeline that allow users to visually browse by year or decade, and an app library that provides access to applications and tools created by external developers using DPLA’s open data.

“The DPLA’s goal is to bring the entire nation’s rich cultural collections off the shelves and into the innovative environment of the Internet for people to discover, download, remix, reuse and build on in ways we haven’t yet begun to imagine,” said Maura Marx, Director of the DPLA Secretariat. “Regular users can search in the traditional way using the portal, and developers and innovators can build on big chunks of code and content using the platform—we’re creating access, not controlling it.”

Utah State Constitution in the Digital Public Library of America

Utah State Constitution in the Digital Public Library of America


Legislative Publications

Legislative Research

Legislative publications available in the Research Center

As the 2013 session of the Legislature gets underway, we’d like to highlight some relevant publications that have been updated recently.

It’s always best to start with the Research Guide, such as Legislative History or Legislative Records Overview.

The Unannotated Code is the complete, codified law statutes reflecting changes in the most recent session. It has been published since 1982, when it was recognized that the full annotated code was getting unwieldy just to check what the “law of the land” was for a certain year.

The Utah Code Annotated is, however, immensely valuable when it comes to research in the legislative process and how bills turn into law (and sometimes even the intent of the legislation). Unlike other records and publications that are produced by government agencies and preserved by the Utah State Archives, this publication represents the work of editors experienced with legal research,  and is purchased for the use of research and future historical context. Supplements and replacement (“pocket parts”) are released a couple times a year.

Administrative Rules are created by agencies of the state’s executive branch and are enacted as laws under regulatory authority granted by the Legislature or the state Constitution. In short, the Legislature has created a method by which Executive branch agencies can codify their own policies and procedures and give them the force of law. Like the Utah Code, the Administrative Code is compiled with authorization by editors and published for the use of legal research. The most up-to-date information on rules is always found at http://www.rules.utah.gov.


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 .


How do you research?

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Please visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/W8MKXP9 to answer some questions about how you find – and find out about – websites and other research resources. The information you provide will help OCLC Research make it easier to discover materials in special collections.

Previous survey results were incorporated in the design of ArchiveGrid, a place to access descriptions and finding aids from hundreds of archives and special collections.


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