“Images of America: Salt Lake City 1890 – 1930” covers a significant era of the development of Salt Lake City and provides some insight into how it was transformed from a Mormon refuge into a key economic hub.
Ever since the East and West met via railroad in Promontory Utah in 1869, Salt Lake City quickly became an important railroad hub. The railroad led to increased diversity in all of Utah in both religion and economy. While originally most of Utah was predominantly Mormon, at the turn of the century many other denominations and religions made their home in Salt Lake City. For decades, Utah struggled to become a state due to the controversy surrounding polygamy. Once the practice was banned in 1890, Utah became the 45th state of the Union.
The book chronicles urban development and the transition from horse and buggies to automobiles and street cars. There are a handful of very interesting photographs showing the commotion in the streets during the years of transition. There was a photograph of an electric truck from 1918. This is interesting to note, because as hard as it may be to believe now, gasoline power was not a foregone conclusion during the early age of the automobile.
There were also some great photographs of telephone operators. It is fascinating how such “low tech” completely transformed the way that we communicate with each other. Similar to early computer programming, this industry was dominated by women and provided a good alternative to domestic or factory work.
One story that really stuck with me was about the B’nai Israel temple. This building was designed by the Jewish architect Philip Meyer who returned to Germany upon its completion. He ended up perishing in the Holocaust and was never able to return to worship in the temple that he designed.
I was surprised that such a specific period was chosen for this book. After reading it, it makes a bit more sense. The decades between 1890 and 1930 were critical in the development of this new state. Mormon influence was being diluted in all aspects of life and Salt Lake City transformed itself into one of the most important cities in the Western United States.
Images used in this text
Cover Image By Not given [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons