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Utah at the beginning of the 20th century


explosion at Castle Gate in 1924
explosion at Castle Gate in 1924

Between 1900 and 1930 the population of Utah increased from 276,749 to 507,847. Agriculture continued to lead mining and manufacturing as the source of income for Utahns, and state and federal irrigation projects opened new land to cultivation. Smelting and manufacturing increased sharply between 1900 and 1930, particularly during World War I (1914-1918), and manufacturing surpassed mining as a source of income in the state. The increase in copper mining was the major development in mining. By 1910 the total value of copper produced each year in Utah exceeded that of any other mineral produced in the state. In subsequent decades, copper held its lead. The rapid growth in railroading, mining, and smelting brought non-Mormon immigrants to the state, including people from Italy, Greece, the Balkans, Japan, and Spanish-speaking countries. Mining was especially dangerous in Utah, as in other states, and immigrants did much of the labor. Poor working conditions were common. One of the worst mining accidents occurred at the Winter Quarters mine near Scofield, Utah, in 1900, when an explosion killed 200 miners. An explosion at Castle Gate in 1924 killed 172 workers.

Workers began forming labor unions to improve bad working conditions and low pay. In these industries laborers were mostly immigrants from southern and central Europe, so union activity in Utah was largely a non-Mormon movement. Bad feelings grew between unions and the Mormon church, and the animosity increased in 1914 after the murder of a grocer and his son. Joel Haggelund, a Swedish immigrant better known as Joe Hill, was arrested, charged with the murder, convicted, and sentenced to be executed. His case became widely known around the country because of Hill’s membership in the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical labor organization. Although many around the nation felt that Hill had been convicted unfairly because he was a radical union member and an immigrant, he was executed at the state prison on November 15, 1915.

The Great Depression, the hard times that hit the country in the 1930s, was particularly difficult in Utah, especially in the mining industry. Unemployment rose from about 9,000 in 1930 to about 36,000 in 1931 and to about 61,500, or more than one-third of the working force, in 1932. Thereafter the rate declined, but even so the unemployment rate averaged about 10 percent for the period from 1934 to 1940. Many families were dependent on relief payments from the state and federal government, as well as from the Mormon church.

World War II (1939-1945)


Topaz War Relocation Camp
Topaz War Relocation Camp

World War II (1939-1945) had a significant impact on Utah.

The war helped the state economy recover completely as farm prices rose and manufacturing and mining were expanded in response to wartime demands. Many Utahns left to serve in the armed forces or to work in defense industries, primarily in California. The state also saw a large influx of people from other states. Many were assigned to military installations like Hill Air Force Base and Fort Douglas, worked at supply depots in Ogden, Clearfield, and Tooele, or were treated at Bushnell Military Hospital in Brigham City. Executive Orders 9066 and 9102, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) and upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States, instructed the military to transport 70,000 United States citizens of Japanese descent and 42,000 Japanese citizens residing on the West Coast to relocation centers in the interior. Many were interned in Utah at the Topaz War Relocation Camp. In addition, a dozen prisoner-of-war camps held Italian and German prisoners during the war. The federal government also built a large steel plant at Geneva, near Provo. After the war the plant was sold to private industry and its operations were expanded. By 1950 manufacturing had passed agriculture as a source of income in Utah. "Utah" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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