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Daily life in Utah at the beginning of the 20th century


Picture of Salt Lake City
Picture of Salt Lake City

After World War II, Utah’s population grew rapidly. Utah’s growth has been partly the result of large family size among Mormons, but also the result of migration to Utah. The immediate postwar period saw an influx of European Mormons, many from war-devastated Germany; during the 1980s and 1990s, the largest immigrant groups came from the Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and Mexico. Although Mormons still make up the majority of the state’s population, Utah’s ethnic and religious diversity has increased.

Utah’s postwar growth was the result of the expansion of defense manufacturing, particularly of guided missiles, and of defense installations such as Hill Air Force Base, the Ogden Defense Depot, and the Tooele Army Depot. Utah’s copper-mining industry continued to employ a large number of workers, and an oil boom also helped the state’s economy. Utah’s economy became much more diverse in the 1980s and 1990s. There were many reasons: greater automation in the mining industry; a decline in the defense industry with the end of the Cold War; the expansion of government; continued growth in higher education; the arrival of computer industries; and an increase in tourism.

The construction of Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green River and Glen Canyon Dam, which formed Lake Powell on the Colorado River, created two major recreation areas and provided more jobs. Both dams were started in 1956 and completed in 1963.

Most of the postwar industrial expansion occurred along the Wasatch Front. The suburbs of Salt Lake City, Ogden, and Provo expanded rapidly, transforming once-rural Mormon towns into communities for those who worked in metropolitan centers. In 1980 West Valley City was formed from three suburban areas and immediately became Utah’s second largest city. Salt Lake City underwent extensive rebuilding, including the construction of the Salt Palace, and the Mormon Church Office Building, among many others.

Other parts of the state also grew quickly, notably Saint George, which attracted many people who had retired, and Moab, which became a favorite of mountain bikers and tourists. In the 1970s Arab oil-producing countries cut back oil production and stopped oil shipments to the United States, dramatically increasing the price of oil and gasoline. This so-called energy crisis greatly aided the oil fields of the Uintah Basin and the coal fields of Carbon and Emery counties, where the production of coal reached an all-time high. The national economic recession of the early 1980s profoundly affected Utah. Thousands of mining, manufacturing, and home construction jobs were lost, and by late summer of 1982 the state’s unemployment rate had reached its highest level since 1941. In addition, copper production dropped because of low world copper prices. A slow economic recovery began in 1984, but the mining industry remained depressed and many mines, including Utah’s largest copper mine remained closed for up to two years. The mining industry began to recover in 1987, when world copper prices finally increased. The large Geneva Steel Plant closed early in 1987 but reopened later that year under new ownership.

In the 1980s high-tech businesses, such as WordPerfect, Novell, and Unisys made Utah an important center in the computer industry. These businesses continue to employ thousands of Utah workers. Utah’s role in the computer industry became even larger when in 1995 the Micron Company announced plans to construct a huge facility at Lehi. Engineering, architectural, surveying, legal, and financial services employed many more people. In addition, Utah businesses, such as Huntsman Chemical Corporation and Nu Skin International, employed many other Utahns. "Utah" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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