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In 1895 Utahns Wondered When Statehood Would Come
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Struggle for Statehood
Struggle for Statehood Chronology
In 1895 Utahns Wondered When Statehood Would Come
A State is Born
Party Politics and Utah Statehood
The Constitutional Convention is Called
Constitution Was Framed in City and County Building
African American Community and Politics, 1890-1910
The Broad Ax and the Plain Dealer Kept Utah's African Americans Informed
Clarence E. Allen Was Utah's First Congressman
How Utah Lost One of Its U.S. Senate Seats in 1899
Salt Lake Native Was Interred in the Kremlin Wall
The Shooting of Arthur Brown, Ex-Senator From Utah
Convict Labor Helped to Build Utah's Road
Strawberry Valley, 1st Federal Reclamation Project
Women's Suffrage in Utah
Woman Suffrage Dominated Politics in Utah
Kanab Residents Chose Women to Run Their Town, 1912
Ruth May Fox, Forgotten Suffragist
Soren Hanson's "House That Eggs Built"
Utah Arts Council
Utah State Historical Society
The Beginning of Public Support For Libraries
The Pasta King of the Mountain West
Celebrating the New Year in Salt Lake's Chinatown
Electrifying Utah-Engineer Lucien L. Nunn
A Brewer-Sportsman's Prairie Style Home in Ogden
Saltair
Saltair Village Was a Unique Place to Live
Boxing Fans Take the Plunge at Saltair
Castilla Hot Springs Attracted Many Visitors
Minstrel Shows
Utah State Capitol
Utah in the Spanish American War
Captain Richard W. Young and Spanish-American War
A Soldier's Life at Fort Douglas in the Early 1900's
Methodist Women Missionaries Worked Hard in Utah
Flour Mills
Guano Sifters on Gunnison Island
The Lehi Beet Sugar Factory
The Salt Industry Was One of the First Enterprises
From Free Salt to a Major Industry
Hospitals and Health Crazes in the Late 1800's
The Myths and Legends of Butch Cassidy
Butch Cassidy
Would the New State of Utah Go Metric?
A Look at Working Women in the Early 20th Century
Jobs in 1900
Explosion of Pleasant Valley Coal Company
The Lucin Cutoff
Southern Utah's First High School
Life Was Precarious in Turn-of-the-Century Utah
Salt Lake City Had Its Typhoid Mary
Vaccinations in Wasatch County
Promoting Physical Fitness
Woman's Home Association Tried to Help the "Fallen"
Juvenile Delinquency Posed Problems For Utahns
Traveling Gypsies Brought an Exotic Lifestyle to Utah
The First Large Factory in Utah
The Rise and Fall of Ogden's Packing Industry
Newsboys Claimed Their Street Corners in Downtown
The Bamberger Electric Railway
The First Cars in Two Small Towns
A Bicyclist Challenges the Great Salt Lake Desert
Daredevils of the Sky-Early Aeronauts in Utah
Ogden Defeats Salt Lake City in a War of the Wheels
Utah's Immigrants at the Turn of the Century
Boys' Potato Growing Clubs
Joe Hill and the I.W.W.
Socialist Women and Joe Hill
A Bit of Polynesia Remains
Justice Zane and Antipolygamy
The Salt Lake Valley Smelter War

Miriam B. Murphy
History Blazer, December 1995

On Sunday evening, December 8, 1895, Jerrold R. Letcher of the Utah Commission left Salt Lake City for the nation's capital. He was carrying the official canvass of the November 5 vote on the proposed Constitution and a certificate issued by the commission attesting to the accuracy of the canvass. Both items had been printed on parchment corresponding in size and quality to the original engrossed copy of the Constitution to be presented to Grover Cleveland at the same time. Hoyt Sherman, another member of the Utah Commission, had entrained for Washington two days earlier to arrange for the official presentation of the documents to the president. Meanwhile, anxious citizens of Utah--no doubt spurred by continuous newspaper reports--wondered when Cleveland would actually proclaim statehood. Many hoped it would occur before the end of the year. On December 10 the Salt Lake Tribune noted a rumor that Letcher would not reach Washington for at least 10 days since he planned to visit relatives on the way.

By December 13, though, Letcher had arrived in Washington only to find everything on hold. Cleveland was on a duck hunting trip. Finally, on Monday, December 16, a delegation headed by Territorial Governor Caleb W. West and including Letcher and Sherman of the Utah Commission, Delegate to Congress Frank J. Cannon, Isaac Trumbo, and Judge J. W. Burton made their official visit to the president. Following introductions, Letcher made his presentation: "Mr. President:..in company with my colleague, Mr. Sherman, I come on behalf of the Utah Commission to lay before you the Constitution of the proposed State of Utah, pursuant to the order of the convention which framed it, together with a statement of the votes cast on the question of its ratification or rejection, and the certificate of our board as to the result." After a few additional comments, Cleveland accepted the documents and said he would study them "at once." The Tribune speculated that the statehood proclamation could come as early as the following week. However, the territorial auditor and treasurer wanted statehood delayed until January 1 to settle accounts as did a representative of the territorial courts. The chair of the Salt Lake City and County Republican Committee also favored January 1 since "admission day will no doubt be one of the holidays of Utah, and if it should be a few days after New Year's" there would be three holidays in a row.

On December 19 headlines announced "Red Tape for Statehood." According to the Tribune, "Utah's Constitution is going through the routine of red tape before the report upon its validity will reach the President. It is now in the hands of the Attorney-General [Judson Harmon], who is comparing it with the enabling act, and who, when he has finished his examination, will inform Mr. Cleveland that it is entirely in accordance with law. When this result has been received, the President will consider the question of the date of issuing the proclamation." Governor West thought that probable dates might be the 23rd or 30th of December or the Monday after New Year's Day.

The following day, December 20, the newspaper reported that Frank J. Cannon had visited the president and that the proclamation of statehood would almost certainly occur on January 1. But two days later the Tribune reported that the attorney general had found the Constitution "to be in all respects in accordance with the terms prescribed in the enabling act. Therefore the President will issue his proclamation January 4th next, declaring Utah a state of the Union." State officials were to assume their offices on the Monday following admission, January 6.

Still, press dispatches in Washington confused Cannon. On the day before Christmas he again called at the White House to ask Cleveland's private secretary if reports that the president would proclaim Utah a state on New Year's Day were accurate. Secretary Thurber assured him that the event would take place on January 4 as announced. Cannon nevertheless told the Tribune's Washington Bureau that he was "still of the opinion that the President will perform his ministerial duty in announcing the entrance of Utah into the sisterhood of States on the first day of the new year." With such confusion in the air it is no wonder t hat when the event occurred on January 4 the Western Union agent on Main Street in Salt Lake City ran out of his office and fired shotgun blasts into the air--the agreed signal--to inform the new state's officials and ordinary citizens that statehood had indeed come.

And in retrospect it is just as well that statehood did not arrive during the Christmas season or on New Year's Day. The historic date would probably have been lost amid the tinsel, caroling, advertising, and partying of the season. Falling as it does on January 4, it never became a "holiday," but it has remained a day for remembering Utah's long struggle to achieve parity with the other states of the Union. For more than three decades the Utah State Historical Society has sponsored the official Statehood Day ceremonies. Interestingly, Jerrold R. Letcher, the Utah Commission member involved in the final statehood procedures in 1895, became in 1897 "the one most responsible for the [Historical] Society's formation" during the heightened historical awareness generated by the Pioneer Jubilee of 1897 celebrating 50 years of settlement.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune, December 8-25, 1895; Glen M. Leonard, "The Utah State Historical Society, 1897-1972," Utah Historical Quarterly 40 (1972).

 

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