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A State of Euphoria Breaks Out as Old Glory Gets a New Star
100 Years Ago Today A State Of Euphoria Breaks Out
Hal Schindler
Published: 01/04/1996 Category: Nation-World Page: A1

Editor's Note: Tribune history writer Harold Schindler takes you back to the scenes of statehood a century ago today.

The waiting is at once infuriating, agonizing and frustrating.

Caleb West, governor of the territory, spent most of yesterday at the White House in Washington trying to see President Grover Cleveland, in hopes of persuading him to allow a delegation of Utahns to witness the signing of the statehood proclamation.

But West and congressional Delegate Frank J. Cannon cannot get beyond Cleveland's private secretary, Henry T. Thurber, who insists that there is no telling when the document will be signed and that the president is much too busy to discuss it.

It is believed in some quarters that the 1894 election in Utah was so disappointing to the Democratic Congress and the administration that it may endanger statehood. While it is not that bad, it is obvious that Cleveland is in no mood to cater to Utahns. Actually, he is being a bit boorish about the whole business.

Still, the governor persists and finally extracts a promise from the secretary to make a final plea on behalf of the delegation. West emphasizes how important this is to those in Utah and that a formal ceremony will make the scene a historic one. Thurber assures West he will do his best.

"I'll be in my rooms at the Riggs House. You will notify me immediately--if the president agrees?" "Of course," responds Thurber.

Well, West waits until nearly 2 a.m. for a telephone call. It never comes. The governor goes to bed determined to take the delegation with him to the White House; surely Cleveland cannot turn the Utahns down.

As usual at this time of year, Washington's famous cold weather lives up to its reputation. At 9:45 a.m., the mercury sits at scarcely 10 degrees above zero when the governor and his party--including congressional Delegate Cannon, Rep.-elect C.E. Allen and Junius F. Wells--leave Riggs House for the executive mansion, arriving five minutes later.

They are admitted to Thurber's private office, only to be told he is closeted with President Cleveland, but he will be out soon. The only other person in the office with the Utahns is Sen. Berry of Arkansas, who also is waiting to see Thurber.

At 10:03, the door leading to the president's office opens and the secretary appears, holding in his hand the proclamation for the admission of Utah as a state, the ink of the president's signature still is wet upon it.

Thurber is the only witness, but he does bring out with him the pen that had been used. In the governor's words, it was "a simple steel stub pen, inserted into a wooden holder," with which Cleveland has signed this most important Utah document.

The secretary hands the pen to Cannon in accordance with a promise made to him some time ago, and Cannon will carry it to Utah and deliver it to Gov.-elect Heber M. Wells for preservation in the historic archives of the new state.

Thurber tells The Salt Lake Tribune correspondent that the president looks upon the signing "as purely an executive act," and one not to be witnessed by the public anymore than the affixing of his signature to other routine papers and documents before him. Cleveland signed it when he did--at 10:03--Thurber says, simply because it came before him then in the ordinary course of business. It was done without ceremony or formality--in the privacy of his office.

The president, Thurber says, is gratified at being permitted to assist in the birth of a new state.

Members of the delegation conceal their disappointment that no one from Utah has been privileged to witness the signing. After handshakes and congratulations, Thurber sends a telegram in Caleb West's name from the White House to acting Gov. C.C. Richards informing him of the news.

By now it is a few minutes after 11 Eastern time, two hours ahead of Utah. The weather in Salt Lake City is much the same as it has been for the past month: Cold (34 degrees, with a low of 9), dry and grayish (chimneys have been working overtime) and no snow since mid-December.

Wait, it's coming over now! The telegraph key clatters furiously announcing a "flash" in the Western Union office at 159 S. Main. As the telegrapher transcribes the message, Marion B. Brown, Western Union's manager, reaches for his old double-barreled shotgun and a handful of shells. It is a moment he has prepared for (having clearing his intention earlier with Chief of Police Pratt).

Brown grabs the dispatch in one hand, the shotgun in the other and dashes outside. Standing in the middle of the street, he drops two shells in the breech, points the gun skyward and fires both barrels. It is just a few moments past 9:13 a.m. by the large bank clock on the corner.

A few doors down, a youngster lets out a yell and scrambles wide-eyed for a nearby doorway. He fears a holdup is taking place. Brown is shouting: "Statehood! Statehood for Utah!" as he reaches for more shotgun shells.

Inside Western Union, the telegrapher is on the telephone to The Tribune. The roar of Brown's shotgun barrage barely has faded down Main Street, when Benjamin Midgely, a Utah resident since 1857, raises the first 45-star flag from The Tribune building on West Temple.

The good word spreads rapidly. All over town, merchants begin decorating their stores and buildings in celebration. National emblems pop up everywhere, and bunting is the order of the day. George M. Scott and Cunningham & Co. have installed some temporary, but effective steam whistles outside their respective places of business and uncork a toot at frequent intervals during the morning and afternoon.

Toward 11 a.m., a monster whistle--provided by the City Council--sounds from the joint City-County Building steadily for two hours.

About 11:30 a.m., the National Guard battery takes its position on Capitol Hill and begins firing a rolling salute of 21 guns, accompanied by the ringing of bells and blowing of steam whistles--including a half-dozen bombs on the Deseret News corner (northeast) of Main and South Temple. Junior members of that establishment ignite the bombs and the concussion is felt for blocks.

The din ordinarily would be considered unbearable, but today is different; today it is "as agreeable as the softest strains from an instrument, because it shouts out that an event of the greatest moment to the people of the state has taken place." By noon, decorations are apparent upon nearly every store in the city. The most ambitious seem to be the red, white and blue bunting display covering the full front of Z.C.M.I. The Shoe Factory, F. Auerbach & Bro., and Jones Bank also ranked highly in the imaginative decoration department.

Bill Bingley with his "shotgun brigade" loose repeated volleys across the street from the Browning Bros. sporting goods and firearms company, 155 S. Main. Even the youngster who had been so startled by the first shotgun blasts in front of Western Union has fetched his tin horn and adds his worth to the pandemonium.

Meanwhile, on Temple Square, the 45-star flag created by seamstresses in the Z.C.M.I. Clothing Factory is hauled up the south face of the Salt Lake Temple between its east and west spires.

Because of the peculiar arrangement of metal rings sewn on the back of the flag, it isn't possible to hang the banner correctly and consequently the blue field is reversed. The flag dimensions--160 feet by 78 feet, with stripes 6 feet wide and stars 6 feet from tip to tip--make this the largest "Old Glory" in existence. (Certainly of the 45-star variety). It will be moved to the inside of the Salt Lake Tabernacle in time for the inaugural ceremonies and will cover the full expanse of the ceiling. The metal rings allow it to be attached to the ceiling, where it will hang for at least a year. The plan then is to again drape it on the south wall to commemorate the entry of the pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24.

Workers are busy lighting the temple grounds for a display of "surpassing electrical illuminative magnificence" the evening of the inaugural.

Through the business district today, every man grasps the hand of every other man and the greetings of a few days ago of "A happy new year to you" are replaced by the more appropriate, "A happy new state to you" and "All hail the commonwealth." From his shop at 12 S. Main, the West's premier photographer, C. R. Savage, as is his custom on patriotic occasions, raises the Stars and Stripes over his place of business; then sets about unlimbering his camera equipment to record the festivities.

At the Salt Lake City Fire Department, the chief and his lieutenants have procured two large anvils, and loaded the base of one with a quantity of black powder, set the other upon it, and lighted the fuse. The resulting "anvil salute" is a clanging hurrah as the metal block rockets upward.

As for the police, one officer, decked out in war paint and feathers, leaps whooping into the street and fires his sidearm at the sun.

While this is transpiring in the valley, back in Washington the Honorable Frank J. Cannon has taken his seat in the House, presumably for the last time as a delegate from the territory of Utah. Cannon has cleared his desk for his successor, Rep.-elect Clarence E. Allen, who arrived in the capital this morning, hoping to join Gov. West at the White House.

Allen will take his seat as the first representative from the state of Utah when Congress returns after the holidays.

The proclamation has been sent by special messenger to the State Department to be placed in the U.S. archives. Notwithstanding its importance, it is by no means an imposing document in appearance. It is in the handwriting of the engrosser of executive documents at the White House. Handwritten with a stub pen upon one large double sheet of plain white parchment paper, to which was attached the Great Seal of the United States. Copies of it were distributed to press associations shortly after the signing.

The Salt Lake Herald says it will present two gold-lined sterling silver cups to the first boy and the first girl born within the boundaries of Utah after 8:03 a.m. Jan. 4, 1896, that being the hour and the minute--by Mountain time--that the proclamation was signed.

(Sarah Vilate Hemingway was the first girl--born at 8:04 a.m. in Salt Lake City to Thomas and Vilate Betts Hemingway. Grover Jensen, who was named for the president, was the first boy, born at 8:10 a.m. in Gunnison, Sanpete County, to Antone and Hannah Jensen.) As word filters through the state's counties during the day, celebrations are spontaneous and occasionally boisterous with surprising consequences. In Nephi, for instance, the town's cannons and guns are fired and bells rung. The bell on the Central School house becomes a casualty of the celebration when it is torn from the belfry after a too-vigorous jerk on the pull-rope by enthusiastic revelers.

Bells and steam whistles rend the air for 15 intense minutes at Mount Pleasant, Brigham City, Logan, Gunnison, Moroni, Toquerville and Ephraim. In Kanab, all the musical instruments in town are brought into play while infantry and cavalry units parade.

Because of the sad death of one of its most prominent residents, Hamner Magleby, the town of Monroe decides against a public celebration for statehood.

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