Agency History #773


In order to "recognize the important contribution to the heritage of the state of Utah played by the pony express," the Thirty-third Legislature in March 1959 approved creation of the Utah Pony Express Centennial Commission to coordinate the state's centennial observance (Laws of Utah, 1959, Chapter 72).

Northern Utah and Salt Lake City figured prominently in the 1,966-mile Pony Express route between Sacramento, California, and St. Joseph, Missouri, throughout the mail delivery service's 18 months of operation.


The commission coordinated activities in Utah with commemorative events organized in other states as well as those of the National Pony Express Centennial Association, whose headquarters was also in Salt Lake City.

At an unofficial meeting on April 8, 1959, the commission chose to support rodeos and other events customarily sponsored by established local celebration committees. Local committees were invited to join hands with the commission, which suggested that observances everywhere be built around a Pony Express theme. The commission also sponsored special events.

Re-enactments of the eastbound and westbound rides over the original Pony Express route were the heart of the observance. At the suggestion of the Utah Commission, the National Association scheduled the re-runs to coincide with the annual Days of '47 observance in Salt Lake City and the annual Pioneer Days celebration in Ogden. Under the direction of the Operations Committee, the Utah Commission on September 15, 1960, sponsored an awards dinner and ceremony in Salt Lake City recognizing the volunteer riders and helpers.

The Committee on Parades and Pioneer Events directed most of its attention to the big traditional parades in Ogden on July 23 and in Salt Lake City on July 25. The commission presented 50 double street banners bearing the Pony Express emblem to Salt Lake City and 50 to Ogden.

The Committee on Queens selected the Pony Express royalty in September 1959. The queen and her attendants also participated in numerous luncheons, parades, rodeos, fairs, festivals, and special programs throughout the fall of 1959 and the summer of 1960.

The Committee on Arts concentrated efforts on giving the University of Utah 1960 Summer Festival a centennial flavor.

The Committee on History coordinated its efforts with those of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers in producing a centennial edition of Kate B. Carter's Utah and the Pony Express. Copies of the 88-page booklet were distributed to state elective officials, school superintendents, junior and senior high school libraries, and other organizations and officials selected by the Utah State Historical Society.

The Committee on Promotion determined how to best use news stories developed by the other standing committees.

While most events were successful, the efforts of two committees came to naught. The Committee on sports abandoned its plans to bring to Utah an exhibition or competition of national scope. The Committee on Communications Exposition, which had hoped to arrange a display of materials and machines used in early day communications, gave up on the project because the large companies in the wireless field were looking ahead to the 100th anniversary of the completion of the first transcontinental telegraph system in 1961.

Commission members also delivered numerous talks about the Pony Express to civic clubs and church and school groups throughout the state.

The Utah Commission established and maintained a close relationship with the United States Post Office Department. A die purchased by the Utah Commission for installation in one of the cancelling machines in the Salt Lake City Post Office was used between April and August, 1960. The Utah Commission also hosted a traveling Postal Cavalcade, a depiction of the history of communications in America with special reference to the Pony Express, in Salt Lake City on July 28 and 29, 1960.


The 40-member commission operated under the direction of the Governor (honorary chairman), who had authority to appoint individual members. The Governor was given a wide range of discretion in making selections. The only criteria for membership was on the basis of "interest and ability." The authorizing act did not enumerate a mandatory number of members, only that they be "in such number as necessary to carry into effect the purpose" of the act. It did, however, require participation by three ex officio members—the chairman of the tourist and publicity council, the director of the historical society, and the chairman of the park and recreation commission.

An executive board comprised of the chairmen of the nine standing subcommittees and the officers of the commission were empowered to act in the name of the commission as a whole. Although plans called for the executive committee to meet once each month and for the general membership to meet once each quarter, the groups did not adhere to this schedule in practice.

While most day-to-day details were handled by the commission chairman and his secretary, a full-time executive secretary was employed from March 1 to May 23, 1960.


In December 1958, Governor George Dewey Clyde asked David R. Trevithick, Salt Lake City Postmaster, to serve as general chairman of a group of Utah citizens who would work with the National Pony Express Association in planning for and producing activities to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Pony Express.

When the legislature met in January 1959, there was agreement that a commission should be created and that an appropriation of state funds be made for the commission's use. At the time of the group's first meeting on Feb. 4, 1959, the enabling act had been prepared but had not yet been introduced. Because the exact status of the committee had not yet been determined, only general aspects of the contemplated celebration were discussed. The group did, however, approve an organization chart showing an executive committee and nine standing subcommittees.

Empowered by the enabling act to "organize and direct such subcommittees as it shall consider necessary," the Utah Pony Express Centennial Commission officially formed nine subcommittees, namely: Arts, Communications Exposition, Finance, History, Parades and Pioneer Events, Pony Express Run (Operations), Promotion, Queens, and Sports.

The Utah Commission played no official part in the production, sale, or distribution of medals and first-day covers issued by the National Association to commemorate the Pony Express.

The Commission's report to the Governor and State Legislature says that commission records on expenditures and other important documents were to be filed with the State Finance Commission (Agencies #388 and #390) and the State Historical Society (#495).


David R. Trevithick, Chairman

Governor George Dewey Clyde, Honorary Chairman

Sherman P. Lloyd, Vice Chairman

George Smith, Treasurer

Clarence A. (Bud) Reeder, Jr., full-time executive secretary (March 1 to May 23, 1963)


Gus P. Backman, Chairman—Tourist and Publicity Council

Dr. A.R. Mortensen, Director—Utah State Historical Society

Harold P. Fabian, Chairman—Park and Recreation Commission


Dr. C. Lowell Lees, Committee on Arts

Dr. Carl J. Christensen, Committee on Communications Exposition

Clarence Bamberber and John M. Wallace, Committee on Finance

Dr. A.R. Mortensen, Committee on History

Fred E. Curtis, Committee on Parades and Pioneer Events

Lyle A. Larsen, Committee on Pony Express Run (Operations)

Arthur R. McQuiddy, Committee on Promotion

Mrs. Harry Nelson, Committee on Queens

James R. "Bud" Jack, Committee on Sports

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


Biennial Budget, State of Utah, For the Period July 1, 1961 to June 30, 1963.

Carter, Kate B., Utah and the Pony Express, Centennial Edition (Salt Lake City: Utah Pony Express Commission and Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1960).

Laws of Utah, 1959, Chapter 72, page 142.

Report of the Utah Pony Express Centennial Commission to the Governor and the State Legislature (Salt Lake City: 1961).

Page Last Updated July 2, 2003.