Series 6642
Governor Spry Joseph Hillstrom case records

Dates: 1915-1916.

0.20 cubic foot and 1 microfilm reelSkip to Containers

These records are housed in the Utah State Archives' permanent storage room.

Historical Note

An agency history is available.

Scope and Content

As chief executive officer of the state, Governor Spry had the authority to commute the sentences of those convicted of crimes. The conviction and execution of Joseph Hillstrom (Joe Hill) became one of the most controversial criminal cases in Utah history; it generated national and international interest. There are newspaper clippings, a funeral oration, reports, and essays on radicalism.

An open letter to the Salt Lake Telegram was written by Joe Hill. In it, he replyed that he tried to discharge his attorneys, although the judge refused the request, because they did not cross examine the state's witnesses and failed to offer a defense. Further, Hill stated, he had not been in Salt Lake City long enough to make an enemy, and the evidence showed that Morrison was killed by an enemy for revenge. He expressed the view that because of his involvement with the Industrial Workers of the World, he was being used as a scapegoat. He ended the essay by stating, "I have lived like an artist and I shall die like an artist."

A copy of the funeral oration for Joe Hill is included; it was presented by Judge O.N. Hilton at the West side Auditorium in Chicago on November 25, 1915. He described the areas where he felt the trial was unfair: providing presumption of innocence; establishing motive; failing to find a bullet that would indicate Hill was shot in the grocery store; and producing a reliable eyewitness identification of the killer. Hilton criticized the Mormon Church, the Utah Supreme Court, the State Board of Pardons, and Governor Spry.

Numerous reports from private detectives, written shortly before and after Hill's execution, described their activities to keep under surveillance the members and the headquarters of the Industrial Workers of the World. They were trying to establish if there was a plot to harm Governor Spry, or to harm Salt Lake City. To protect the Governor, they also provided him with an escort service.


Alphabetical by document type.

Related Records

Gary Gilmore scrapbooks from the Supreme Court, Series 26075, contains scrapbooks that relate to another famous capital punishment case in Utah history.

Custody History

This series was transferred to the Archives from the Office of the Governor in 1955.

Additional Forms

This series is available on microfilm.

This series is available online as part of the Utah State Archives Digital Archives.

Access Restrictions

This series is classified as Public.

Preferred Citation

Cite the Utah State Archives and Records Service, the creating agency name, the series title, and the series number.

Processing Note

The series was transferred to the Archives from the Office of the Governor in 1955. Some of the petitions are undated. Microfilming occurred during 1991. Archival processing was completed during 1991. Any documents missed or blurred at the time of initial filming will appear at the beginning of the reel.

Indexing Terms

  • Hill, Joe--1879-1915--Trials, litigation, etc.
  • Spry, William.
  • Crime--Utah.
  • Executions and executioners--Utah.
  • Criminals--Utah.
  • Radicalism--Utah.
  • Murder--Investigation.
  • Private investigators--Utah.

Container List

1 1 1 Essays on Radicalism [2 items]
1 1 2 Funeral oration [1 item]
1 1 3 Investigation and Protection reports [67 items]
1 1 4 Newspaper articles [31 items]
1 1 5 Summons [1 item]

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