Agency History # 1104


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 (Laws of Utah, 1896, chapter C, pp. 333-334).

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.


In providing for the observance, 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 pioneers and a reception honoring the surviving pioneers, at which each received a gold Pioneer Badge. The commission had earlier conducted a survey to identify surviving pioneers. The handwritten responses, bound together in two volumes, were designated as "The Book of the Pioneers" and deposited in the archives of the state. Relics, souvenirs and curios donated by surviving pioneers were collected by the commission, catalogued, and displayed in the Hall of Relics. The collection was intended by the commission to form the nucleus of an exhibit for a future State Historical Society. The commission conducted a poetry contest and sponsored singing and music writing competitions. Other events included such amusements as concerts, plays, athletic contests (baseball tournament, football games, track and field competition, and bicycle races), various parades, an electrical display on Main Street, and pyrotechnic displays at Saltair and on Capitol Hill. The commission was "empowered to raise funds to meet necessary expenses...by public subscription, and in such other manner as may be determined." In addition to public subscriptions, the commission sold silver Jubilee Cups, sold official programmes, and charged admission to events.


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 as "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 legislative action 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.


Spencer Clawson, chairman

Ernest G. Rognon, secretary

Mrs. George Y. (Inez C.) Wallace, treasurer

Brigham Young, director-general

Edward F. Colborn, press bureau chief

Reed Smoot

H. H. Spencer

W. A. Nelden

Emily Katz

Cora Hooper Eldredge

Wm. B. Preston

Jacob Moritz

John D. Spencer

Elias A. Smith

Mrs. R. C. Easton

Horace G. Whitney

COMPILED BY: W. Glen Fairclough, Jr., January 1998


Utah. Semi-Centennial Commission. Official Report and Financial Statement of the Utah Semi- Centennial Commission and Official Programme of the Utah Pioneer Jubilee Held at Salt Lake City, Utah, July 20 to 25, 1897 [Series no. 5641].

———. Administrative records [Series 5641].

———. The Book of the Pioneers [Series 14107].

———. Program [Series 14162].

Utah. Legislature. Laws of Utah. 1896 Chapter C, pp. 333-34; Laws of Utah. 1897 Chapter LVI, pp. 231-33 [Series no. 83155].

Utah. Secretary of State. Public Documents Serial Set, 1896-1956. [Series no. 240]; no. 25, Official Report, 1897-98.

Page Last Updated July 2, 2003.