Utah History to Go
Traveling Gypsies Brought an Exotic Lifestyle to Rural Utah
Change and Creativity
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 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
Gypsy camp

Gypsy camp at Salt Lake City, December 19, 1906

W. Paul Reeve
History Blazer, February 1995

To most residents of rural Utah in the early 1900's summertime meant hauling hay, digging ditches, irrigating crops, and tending livestock. Other than the usual dances and town parties there was little diversion from the monotony of farm labor--that is until traveling bands of Gypsies began making appearances and causing stirs of excitement. In Deseret, Elsinore, Oak City, Kanab, and other remote communities news of these exotic visitors would spread quickly. Most of the Gypsies were of Balkan, Eastern, and Central European descent and had come to America at the turn of the century. Their nomadic lifestyle took them from ranch house to farm village where they would entertain, beg, and reportedly even steal to survive.

The men in their big hats and spangled vests and the women in full skirts, black braided hair, bright scarves, necklaces made of coins, and large earrings would lead their caravan of wagons, horses, dogs, and children through town. They often entertained the townsfolk with trained animals. In Manti, Sanpete County, one resident remembered a band of Gypsies that owned a large black bear that danced; this group also had a monkey, perched atop an organ grinder, that caught all the nickels thrown to him. In Oak City, Millard County, a Gypsy singer entertained town residents for hours at the city hall with his extensive repertoire. In Elsinore, Sevier County, another Gypsy performed rope tricks; an hour-long demonstration of his skill was a highlight of the town's Fourth of July celebration.

In addition to showcasing their various talents, the Gypsies employed other methods to earn a living. Gypsy women would often tell fortunes for fifty cents, many of the men were ardent horse traders, and there are also stories of persistent Gypsy begging. Burt Hales told of the family garden in Oak City from which his father peddled produce to help support the family. One day after his father had given the Gypsies some vegetables, one lady was not satisfied and returned to get more. Hales's explained that he had given all he could and needed the rest for his customers. When the woman persisted and started into the garden, Hales's father had to call the family dog to induce her to leave.

The Gypsies generally traveled in groups of five to ten families and camped in vacant lots on the outskirts of town. They would stay a few weeks to a month before moving on to other communities. In the end, industrialization, the coming of the automobile, and the Great Depression all combined to bring an end to the Gypsies' way of life. In order to obtain government relief many were forced into a sedentary urban lifestyle, and their nomadic wanderings largely vanished. Regardless, memories of the entertainment and adventure that the Gypsies seemed to create linger among older residents of several rural Utah communities.

For additional information see David A. Hales, "'The Gypsies Are Coming! The Gypsies Are Coming!,'" Utah Historical Quarterly 53 (fall 1985): 367-79.


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