Agency History #1284


The State Department of Public Welfare was created by act of the 21st State Legislature in March 1935, retaining the existing organizational structure and personnel of the federal Emergency Relief Administration in Utah. Initially, the department coordinated distribution of federal aid to Utah citizens, but by 1937 had been charged with administering all forms of public assistance and welfare activities in the state.


The distribution of federal aid to Utah citizens was the original purpose of the department but within two years this purpose had been expanded to encompass the administration of all forms of public assistance and welfare activities in the state. Early functions included old-age assistance, aid to dependent children, the blind, unemployment assistance and help for unemployables, and various child welfare and adoption services. The department also coordinated with the Public Health Department to provide services to crippled children and dental health assistance. The responsibility for licensing child-placement agencies was transferred to Public Welfare from the Board of Health (UTSVH00500-A) in 1935. Several Great Depression and World War II era programs existed during the department's first ten years but most had been eliminated by 1947 when public welfare services were placed solely on state legislative appropriation.

Revision of the federal Social Security Act resulted in new federally funded programs beginning in 1950. Federal monies then became available for aid to the permanently and totally disabled. Functions provided previously with federal help were continued with state funding, including old-age assistance, aid to dependent children, aid to the blind, and aid to the permanently disabled. State supported marriage counseling existed between 1957 and 1961. The Public Assistance Act of 1961 increased welfare services generally. State programs for medical assistance for the aged and aid to counties to construct juvenile detention homes began as a result. New federal programs in 1965 and 1966 involved the department in local administration of food stamps, youth devleopment, community action, work experience, and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) programs as well as loan programs for rural housing and small businesses.


The Board of Public Welfare, consisting of the Governor and six appointees, governed the department until 1941 when it was replaced by a three-member Public Welfare Commission (UTSVH01310-A). The Commission was advised by a six-member Advisory Council from that date.


Three bureaus and two divisions comprised the newly organized department: the Bureau of Assistance and Services, Bureau of Finance and Audits, Bureau of Research and Statistics, Division of Old-Age Assistance, and Division of Child Welfare Services. A major reorganization of state government occurred in 1941, resulting in numerous changes in the organization. Responsibility for the administration of the Utah State Hospital (UTSVH00644-A), the State Training School (UTSVH01194-A), the State Tuberculosis Sanitorium (UTSVH01155-A), the Disabled Miners' Hospital, and the State Industrial School (UTSVH00532-A) was transferred to the Department of Public Welfare in this reorganization. Also, a bureau of Child Welfare Services was created in 1941 by combining the Division of Child Welfare Services and the juvenile court system. Informational Service, Commodity Distribution, and Food Stamp Sales units were also added, but the Food Stamp Sales unit was dropped two years later when the program was discontinued.

A Veterans Rehabilitation division existed from 1944 until 1947 when its functions were transferred to the new Department of Veterans Affairs (UTSVH01257-A). The Finance and Research bureaus combined and a separate Personnel Office was in operation by 1948. These offices were reorganized and renamed several times between 1948 and 1967. Responsibility for the State Disabled Miners Hospital was transferred to the University of Utah College of Medicine (UTSVH01256-A) in 1957.

Major reorganization resumed in the 1960s. A permanent Council on Aging (UTSVH00033-A) and a Committee on Children and Youth (UTSVH00141-A) were created in 1961. A new Division of Staff Development was created by dividing the Bureau of Personnel and Staff Services in 1962. New additions that year included the Bureau of Family Services, Division of Recovery and Legal Services, and the Division of Institutional Accounts. This was followed in 1963 by the Division of Medical Services. The divisions of Institutional Accounts and Public Assistance, and Accounts and Research terminated in 1964. A Division of Work Experience and Training was added in 1965, the same year that the juvenile court system separated from the department. The Tuberculosis Sanatorium ceased operation in 1966 after the department contracted with the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital in Ogden for the care of tubercular patients. This function was transferred to the Division of Health (UTSVH00484-A) in 1967.

Following a study of state government by the Governor's Commission on the Organization of the Executive Branch (UTSVH00597-A), known commonly as "Utah's Little Hoover Commission", the department's ten divisions were consolidated into eight in 1966: Research and Planning, Finance, Program Development, Personnel, Plans and Systems, Program Operations, Staff Development, and Quality Review. This was the first step toward unification of services recommended by the Commission. The following year the department was merged with the Department of Health (UTSVH00483-A) and others to form a new Department of Health and Welfare (UTSVH01116-A).


No known changes


Acting chairmen, Board of Public Welfare (1935-1941)

F.P. Champ, May 1935 to 1937

J.W. Gillman, March until July 1937 (when he became Executive Director)

Hugo B. Anderson, 1937 to 1941


Darrell J. Greenwell, May 21, 1935, through July 1937

J.W. Gillman, 1937-1942


Sophus Bertleson (1942-1944 and 1944-1947)

Philo T. Farnsworth (1947-1948)

H.C. Shoemaker (1950-1952 and 1952-1956)

Clyde C. Edmonds (1956-1958 and 1959-1961)

Ward C. Holbrook (1961-1963 and 1963-1967)

COMPILED BY: W. Glen Fairclough, Jr., July 1989


Agency History Research Files.

Annual Report, 19xx-19xx.

Biennial Report, First, 1936-1938.

Biennial Report, Second, 1938-1940.

Biennial Report, Third, 1940-1942.

Biennial Report, Fourth, 1942-1944.

Biennial Report, Fifth, 1944-1946.

Biennial Report, Sixth, 1946-1948.

Biennial Report, Seventh, 1948-1950.

Biennial Report, Eighth, 1950-1952.

Biennial Report, Ninth, 1952-1954.

Laws of Utah, 1935 (Chapter 69), Department of Public Welfare created.

Laws of Utah, 1937 (Chapter 88), Public Welfare Act revision; (Chapter 89), Division of Old Age Assistance created.

Laws of Utah, 1941 (Chapter 66), Public Welfare Commission created; (Chapter 68), Public Welfare Act revision.

Laws of Utah, 1961 (Chapter 126), Public Assistance Act of 1961.

Laws of Utah, 1967 (Chapter 174), Public Welfare absorbed by DSS.

Manual for Legislators.

Organization Charts—1939, 1940, 1954, 1962, 1966, 1967.

Southwick, Stephanie, DSS Manuscript History, Research File.

State and Local Government in Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah Foundation, 1954).

State and Local Government in Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah Foundation, 1962).

State and Local Government in Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah Foundation, 1973).

State and Local Government in Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah Foundation, 1979).

Utah Code Annotated, 1953.

Page Last Updated July 2, 2003.