Semi-Centennial Commission

Entity: 1104
Entity Type: State Government


The Utah Semi-Centennial Commission (1896-1898) was created by the First Legislature as an independent state agency through approval of a joint resolution passed April 5, 1896. The commission's purpose was to conduct a semi-centennial celebration in 1897, the fiftieth anniversary of the arrival of the Utah Pioneers in Utah. Called "The Utah Pioneer Jubilee," the celebration was held in Salt Lake City on July 20-25, 1897. Having completed its work, the commission terminated activity in early 1898.

Biography/History Notes

The authorizing legislation charged the commission "to control and conduct" the semi-centennial celebration. The body was authorized "to fix the time and place for holding such celebration, which time shall include the 24th day of July, 1897." Opening ceremonies included the unveiling of a monument honoring Brigham Young and the original pioneers and a reception honoring the surviving pioneers. The commission compiled "The Book of the Pioneers," and collected and displayed relics, souvenirs, and curios donated by pioneers. The commission conducted a poetry contest and sponsored singing and music writing competitions. Jubilee events included parades, concerts, plays, athletic events, an electrical display, and fireworks displays. The commission raised funds through public subscriptions and the sale of official programmes.

The commission was composed of fifteen members. Original officers appointed by commission members included a chairman, secretary, and treasurer. A director-general and press bureau chief were later appointed. Commission members also served as chairmen of the various standing committees.

The joint resolution providing for a semi-centennial celebration directed Governor Heber M. Wells to appoint ten persons to a commission. Commissioners qualified on November 20, 1896, and immediately organized at "The Utah Semi-Centennial Commission." Standing committees appointed by the chairman were formed in January 1897. Committees included: Advertising, Amusements, Children's Day, County Display, Decoration, Design, Electrical Display, Finance, Fireworks, Floats and Parades, Invitation, Legislative, Music, Pioneers, and Railroads. Subsequent legislation approved March 11, 1897, authorized the appointment of five additional members, who were named by the executive. Commissioners served without compensation. Five people--an assistant director-general, an assistant secretary, an assistant press bureau chief, and three clerks--were employed by the commission.