The Flaming Gorge Dam Power Lines: Good for Utah, or a Needless Tax Burden?

By Martin Kuprianowicz

In 1956, Congress authorized the Colorado River Storage Project, which called for the construction of four large dams: Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona, Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green River in northeastern Utah, Curecanti Dam on the Gunnison River in western Colorado, and the Navajo Dam on the San Juan River in northwestern New Mexico. The plan, approved by Congress, provided a financing system which would return to the taxpayers the full cost of these dams and participating projects over an 86-year period.

The project was designed to promote irrigation and water control, but most importantly it was to provide electricity. For most of the revenue to “pay out,” the cost would come from the sale of the electric energy produced by these dams to publically-owned, consumer-owned, and privately-owned utilities. However, the public was not entirely in favor of this latest federal construction project, and a letter to the editor in the May 16, 1961, issue of The Daily Utah Chronicle labeled it as “a tremendous sum of money” which could be easily saved if only private companies were allowed to build the powerlines, and not the federal government itself.

The main purpose of this project was to provide more people with electricity. An article in the February 23, 1961, edition of The Murray Eagle headlined “Power Officials Addresses Murray Rotarians Monday” said that the development of electricity paved the way for creation and use of the thousands of devices and appliances in Utah. These powerlines, as argued by the federal power official, were a step forward for Americans and modern-day humans.

In March 1961, The Salt Lake Times reported that Rep. David S. King called upon Interior Secretary Stewart L. Udall to give congress revised budget requests, claiming that the current budget requests were not “appropriate to the plan of an all-federal transmission system,” originally endorsed by the Eisenhower Administration. At this time, the powerlines from Flaming Gorge to Vernal, Utah and the powerlines from Vernal to Colorado were already under construction, but were projected to exceed the originally proposed budget.

In June 1961, the front page of The Lehi Free Press described Lehi Mayor Harold D. Westering’s effort to gain more funds for the Flaming Gorge powerlines project, as the city council at the time was arguing that the originally proposed budget plan was not realistic to the actual costs of the project. The mayor met with congressmen in Washington DC such as Senator Moss and Congressman King, in an attempt to gain more funds for the construction of the powerlines from Flaming Gorge. The congressmen sent letters back to the mayor and other Utah officials explaining the advantage of Utah having these federal powerlines.

By September 1961, a compromise was reached on the budget plan for the construction plan of the federal powerlines, according to the front page of the September 25, 1961, issue of The Provo Daily Herald. A report ordered by interior secretary Stewart L. Udall and the Bureau of Reclamation called to “exhaust every possible effort” to work in cooperation with private utilities and to report back on the federal projects progress by February 15, 1962.

Construction of the Flaming Gorge Dam was successfully completed on August 17, 1964. Without the building of these federal powerlines, Utah may not have developed as swiftly as it has. The Salt Lake Valley is one of the most developed and modernized regions in Utah, and this is greatly due to the consistent and powerful flow of electricity to the region. Now, we are seeing a major transformation in the Salt Lake Valley as major technology companies are relocating to Utah and building headquarters here. Had the construction of the federal powerlines from the Flaming Gorge dam been postponed or never happened, the Salt Lake Valley may not be the technological, industrial, and cultural hub that it is today. It may have been playing “catch up” with surrounding states with more prevalent access to vast quantities of electrical power, and look very different today.

Martin Kuprianowicz is a senior at the University of Utah. He is majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism and minoring in Spanish.

Primary Sources

“Contract Awarded for Generators at Flaming Gorge,” Provo Sunday Herald, January 22, 1961, 2.

“Power Official Addresses Murray Rotarians Monday,” Murray Eagle, February 23, 1961, 9.

“King Requests Udall Revise Budget for Transmission Systems,” Salt Lake Times, March 17, 1961, 3.

Johnson, T. S., Letter to The Editor: “Proper Power?” Utah Daily Chronicle, May 16, 1961, 2.

“Council Hears Mayor on Washington Trip; Takes Action on Lehi Freeway,” Lehi Free Press, June 15, 1961, 1.

Dominy, F. E., “Bureau of Reclamation Work in the Colorado River Basin,” Bureau of Reclamation, Upper Colorado River Office, June 29, 1961.

Lammi, E. W., “All-Federal Power Line Is Approved,” Provo Daily Herald, September 25, 1961, 1.

Secondary Source

Udall, Morris K. Those Glen Canyon Transmission Lines – Some Facts and Figures on a Bitter Dispute, July 1961.




















Gregory Crampton: U of U Professor Who Conducted Archaeological Research on Glen Canyon

By Seungwon Na

Glen Canyon, located in southeastern Utah and northern Arizona, is now a popular tourist site where millions of people visit each year to enjoy the beautiful scenery and nature: Lake Powell and the tributaries of the Colorado River. However, while tourists relish their excursion to Glen Canyon, they are not fully aware of the efforts that were put by many scholars and researchers to maintain its historical values and beauty. In fact, there is a prominent researcher whose study on Glen Canyon must be recognized: Dr. C. Gregory Crampton.


Dr. C. Gregory Crampton was a prominent researcher who conducted research on Glen Canyon to record its history before the construction of the dam. He died in 1995. Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society.

Before Dr. Crampton joined the history faculty of University of Utah in 1945, he was already a renowned scholar for his study in Latin American countries. The Daily Utah Chronicle described the professor on November 7, 1961, as a member of “Phi Kappa Phi, scholastic honorary, and Phi Alpha Theta, national honorary society in history.” However, it was after moving to the University of Utah when he started to focus on his research in Glen Canyon. Since 1957, Dr. Crampton started to work for the National Park Service. According to a 1961 Daily Utah Chronicle article, as construction of Glen Canyon dam was expected to be completed by 1963, Dr. Crampton had to “salvage archeological, geological, and historical values in the area” before then. However, within the short amount of time, Dr. Crampton succeeded in unveiling Glen Canyon’s historical background and recording its original land formation.

The first task Dr. Crampton had was to identify the missing history of Glen Canyon before A.D 1300. Through careful excavations, he found out that the first dwellers in Glen Canyon were the Anasazi, so called ancient ones. (Ghosts of Glen Canyon, p. 1) Dr. Crampton asserted they settled in Glen Canyon around the 10th century A.D. and relied on farming and hunting for their livings. In his 1986 book Ghosts of Glen Canyon, there is a evidence of “prehistoric petroglyphs located near Hite in upper Glen Canyon.” (p.1) After staying temporarily in Glen Canyon, Dr. Crampton presumed Anasazis left the region due to a sustained drought or the appearance of hostile nomads. (Ghosts of Glen Canyon, p. 2)

Soon after analyzing the first prehistoric men to land in Glen Canyon, Dr. Crampton moved on to study people who visited Glen Canyon later. He discovered that in 1776, Spaniards Dominguez and Escalante arrived in Glen Canyon. Dr. Crampton claimed they were the first white men to land in Glen Canyon. On the Southern part of the Glen Canyon, Paiute Indians fought to preserve their territory against Navajo Indians. (Ghosts of Glen Canyon, p. 3) He also found out that during 1821-1848, Glen Canyon was used as a trade route between New Mexico and California.


Lake Powell, a reservoir on the Colorado River, was created after the construction of Glen Canyon dam in 1963. Used by permission, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Nevertheless, this was not an end to the discovery of Glen Canyon’s history. His 1986 book Ghosts of Glen Canyon tells us that in May 24, 1869, John Wesley Powell, “an American explorer and civil war veteran,” (p.7) visited the place to complete the missing portion of the map. In September 1883, the Cass Hite’s findings of gold in the region attracted many prospectors and many Mormon explorers and fur trappers visited the place. (Ghosts of Glen Canyon, p. 9)

After finishing his research about Glen Canyon, Dr. Crampton published his book Standing up Country: The Canyon Lands of Utah and Arizona in 1964. The reaction from the public was sensational as he was a pioneer to fully investigate the history of Glen Canyon and publish it as a book. The professor was also proud that he “[preserved] the history of the flooded area for future use.” (“Dr. Crampton Reviews”) According to a 1965 Daily Utah Chronicle article, in 1964, the Western Heritage Awards Commitee acknowledged his achievements and awarded him the Outstanding Western Non-fiction Book of the Year.

Dr. Crampton continued his teaching at the University of Utah and visited numerous institutions in the United States to lecture about his findings in Glen Canyon. After tremendously contributing to Utah history, he died in 1995. His students and professional associates described him as a professor with “intellectual acuteness and integrity.” (Peterson, 4) Although Dr. Crampton is not alive, his effort and dedication to inform people about Glen Canyon will be forever remembered and appreciated.

Seungwon Na is a senior at the University of Utah. He is studying communication with an emphasis in journalism.

Primary Sources

 Dr. Crampton to Tell of Glen Canyon,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 27, 1958, 3.

Dr. Crampton to Speak on Glen Canyon History,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 7, 1961, 1.

Dr. Crampton Reviews Chapter of Utah History,” Daily Utah Chronicle, November 8, 1961, 1.

Ex History Honorary Chief to Address Ute Students,” Daily Utah Chronicle, January 10, 1962, 3.

Dr. Crampton to Lecture Tuesday,” Daily Utah Chronicle, July 18, 1963, 1.

Canyon Country is the Subject of Beautiful New Illustrated History,” Times Independent, November 5, 1964, 10.

U of U Prof Writes History of 4-Corner ‘Standing Up Country,’” Beaver County News, November 19, 1964, 1.

Professor’s Book Lauded,” Daily Utah Chronicle, May 18, 1965, 5.

Secondary Sources

Crampton, C. Gregory. Standing Up Country: The Canyon Lands of Utah and Arizona. New York: Knopf, 1964.

Crampton, C. Gregory. Ghosts of Glen Canyon: History Beneath Lake Powell. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bonneville Books, 1986.

Peterson, Charles S. “In Memoriam: C. Gregory Crampton, 1911-95,” Utah Historical Quarterly 63, no.4 (Fall 1995): 2-6.









The Long History Behind the Natural History Museum of Utah

By Heather Ernst

In 1961, “in the basement of the decaying, eroded Biology Building, a collection of Utah fauna [was] cached away wherever room may [have been] found.” The Daily Utah Chronicle further noted that the cramped rooms were known at the time as Utah’s Museum of Natural History. Many university staff and students were pushing then for the construction of a new museum. But it wasn’t until the legislature made House Bill 93, which called for the construction of a Utah State Museum of Natural History, that the building plans were finalized. Now, almost 60 years later, the collection of Utah artifacts that were overflowing in a couple small classrooms in 1961 are housed in an even newer, state of the art building opened in 2011. So how did we get here? What is the history behind our beautiful Natural History Museum of Utah?

We’ll start our historical journey in 1961, when an editorial published on January 30 in the Daily Utah Chronicle called for the construction of a Utah natural history museum. The article referred to the new building as “a must.” Shortly after the article was written, real plans came into effect toward the new Utah State Museum of Natural History. In fact, on September 29, 1965, a Daily Utah Chronicle editor, Paul S. Taylor, reported the new museum was to be housed in the George Thomas Library on the University of Utah campus. The museum had a director, Dr. Jesse D. Jennings, a professor of anthropology, and it was to combine the existing Anthropology and Geology Museums. In a Daily Utah Chronicle article published on February 23, 1968, Jennings stressed the educational importance of the museum, calling it “an integral part of the educational program of the University, for the benefit and enjoyment of the people of Utah.” The people did not have to wait long as the museum officially opened its doors in the fall of 1969.


The George Thomas Library on the University of Utah campus was the home of the Natural History Museum of Utah from 1969 to 2011. The museum was later moved to The Rio Tinto Center in 2011. Used by permission, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Once the museum was opened in the former George Thomas Library on campus, its allure spread across the Salt Lake Valley. “The museum and its displays will be of great interest to students in a wide variety of disciplines on the campus and will be a significant addition to the state’s cultural resources,” said Jennings in the Daily Utah Chronicle on February 7, 1969. The museum was home to anthropological, biological, and geological materials in a program of exhibits, educations and research. The artifacts were brought from the Desert Museum as well as from the Charles Nettleton Strevell Museum. The new Utah useum was set to house 150 exhibits at the time of its opening, including life-size dinosaur skeletons and dioramas of various areas of Utah. The major group displays were made up of the Wasatch Front, Jurassic Dinosaurs, and Utah Mule Deer. Many of the displays in the museum were funded by private donations plus federal grants. However, University students also had a role in the funding of the museum.

An article from the Daily Utah Chronicle describes how the museum asked the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU) for financial help in developing and maintaining the new museum. The students were asked for $1.50 per student to come from regular fees, and in return, the museum would give them a year’s admission to the museum. The regular admission fee was a single dollar for adults and fifty cents for children under 15; much cheaper than today’s $12-15 admission fees.

By the fall of 1972, the Utah Museum of Natural History had become even more widely known and even received accreditation from the American Association of Museums. On September 27, 1972, the Daily Utah Chronicle reported “of the 6,000 museums in the United States and Canada, only 139 have received accreditation from the American Association of Museums,” making the honor that much more profound. The museum accreditation signifies that a museum has met the standards established by the museum profession and the Accreditation Committee. The museum was praised highly, having been referred to as an exemplary institution for design and technique.


Three of the first mounted dinosaurs were displayed in 1968 at the opening of the new Utah Museum of Natural History. The dinosaurs were an Allosaurus attacking a Camptosaurus, while a second Allosaurus looks on. Used by permission, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Over the last 60 years, the museum has continued to flourish, grow in popularity and receive plenty of accreditations, including the one from the American Association of Museums. The collections have grown over time through research, acquisition and contributions to add up to more than 1.6 million objects. The museum grew so much. however, that it had to relocate once again into an even larger building in 2011. According to director Sarah B. George in a New York Times interview, the museum had inadequate quarters for research and collection. A new building was needed as soon as possible and a mix of public and private funds pushed the ambitious planning for the new Rio Tinto Center, the home of the Natural History Museum of Utah.

The new museum building, the Rio Tinto Center, was designed by Todd Schliemann. He drew his inspiration for the building from the Utah deserts. Schliemann explained his inspiration saying, “We talked to people about how they felt about their place [in Utah], and it became evident that architecture would have to reflect this place.” (Maffly) The building, which opened on November 18, 2011, is located on 17 acres in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountain Range and cost $102 million to construct. The building has a powerful impact under the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains and is surrounded by biking and hiking trails. The museum is home in the dominion it surveys, the natural world. The building’s exterior directly relates to the natural world surrounding it, covered in copper to resemble the sedimentary layers of Utah’s red rock geology. The roof of the museum features two 10,000 gallon cisterns to store rain water. Gardens of native grasses along the edges of the building help to moderate temperatures. Similarly, the new museum has installed solar voltaic panels on the roof to harvest energy from the sun and put it toward the building’s electrical needs. The best part of the new building was that more than a fourth of the materials came from recycled sources and most of the construction waste was recycled. “The new building represents the rich and natural history of Utah,” said Patti Carpenter, the museum’s public relations director, in a 2011 interview with the Deseret News.

The rich and natural history of Utah has been available for years. However, the construction of the “new” museum in 1969 made that history much more accessible. The Rio Tinto Center increases accessibility to artifacts and Utah natural history while adding a variety of educational and research opportunities that couldn’t be found in the past. The Natural History Museum of Utah has a rich history on its own, but the new building has brought new exhibit galleries, engaging programs for the public and research facilities. The museum has become invaluable to the University of Utah, Utahns as well as tourists. The museum is still a work in progress, with new educational programs and interactive exhibits added regularly, but the progress made over the past 60 years simply cannot be ignored.

Heather Ernst is a senior at The University of Utah. She is majoring in mass communication with an emphasis in journalism and minoring in creative writing.

Primary Sources

New Museum: It’s a Must,” Daily Utah Chronicle, January 30, 1961, 2.

Paul S. Taylor, “Museum of Natural History Planned For New Library,” Daily Utah Chronicle, September 29, 1965, 4.

Suzanne Boynton, “Old Library To Be Museum,” Daily Utah Chronicle, February 23, 1968, 6.

Geoff Towns, “Natural History Museum to house 150 exhibits,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 8, 1968, 5.

Utah museum represents funds from U students,” Daily Utah Chronicle, February 2, 1969, 12.

Campus houses two accredited museums,” Daily Utah Chronicle, September 27, 1972, 2.

Michael Ann McKinlay, “Museum makeover: Natural History Museum of Utah Rio Tinto Center will open Nov. 18,” Deseret News, November 13, 2011.

Brian Maffly, “Natural History Museum of Utah: Rio Tinto Center designed with a sense of place,” The Salt Lake Tribune, November 14, 2011.

Edward Rothstein, “History Carved Out of the Hills,” The New York Times, March 23, 2012.

Secondary Sources

Accredited,” Davis County Clipper, September 1, 1972, 28.

Hague, Donald V. “Museums in Utah,” Utah History Encyclopedia.

Natural History Museum of Utah announces opening,” Utah Business, November 1, 2011, 16.



This map shows the hot spots of affected areas from nuclear fallout caused by the bomb tests at the Nevada Test Site. Used by permission, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

By Maddie Colosimo

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) ordered the United States government to conduct nuclear tests in the western states. This resulted in numerous people living around this area getting exposed to nuclear fallout and contracting some form of cancer. These people were later referred to as the Downwinders. At the same time of these tests, the University of Utah received a $3 million grant from the AEC to put toward nuclear research. This article will give a brief history of the AEC, examine the university’s role in the tests, and discuss the legacy of the Downwinders today.

As World War II ended, the United States Government created the Atomic Energy Commission to control nuclear development under President Harry Truman. Aside from aiding in national defense, Congress wanted the AEC to “promote world peace, improve public welfare, and strengthen free competition in private enterprise.” The Atomic Energy Act was then signed by Truman on August 1, 1946. (Buck, p. 1)

On January 6, 1961, the Daily Utah Chronicle wrote a story about the AEC giving Utah universities grant money for nuclear research. This grant was from the Atomic Energy Commission. They awarded the University of Utah, Utah State, and Brigham Young University a total of $4 million over a 10-year period for research in atomic studies. The University of Utah received the largest chunk at $3,552,528.

On February 3, 1961, an article in the Daily Utah Chronicle announced the addition of a new medical center on campus. This housed a research facility from the Atomic Energy Commission which included dog kennels for beagles as their nuclear test subjects. A reporter wrote a story in the same issue of the Chronicle, predicting the 1960s to be a decade of science with the grant from the AEC as well as Time magazine naming 15 prominent scientists its “Men of the Year.”

The Atomic Energy Commission’s generous grant to the University of Utah supported many research projects on campus that led to many amazing advancements in modern science. Unfortunately, the Atomic Energy Commission left a negative impact in the state of Utah with the fallout of their nuclear testing.

The University of Utah’s Marriott Library recently conducted interviews with many of the surviving Downwinders. Justin Sorenson interviewed a man named Joseph Ward Spendlove. Spendlove was born in Delta, Utah, in 1942 and lived there until 1958. Many members of his community began to get cancer around that time which eventually took the life of his mother. Today he is living with prostate cancer while taking care of his brother, who has a degenerative nerve disease. Doctors are unsure if it is related to the nuclear testing. To this day, Spendlove still attends his high school class reunions where the topic of conversation is almost always centered around who has most recently died of cancer.

Ilene Hacker is another living Downwinder. She was raised in St. George, Utah, through the 1960s. Hacker’s father died from pancreatic cancer when he was just 48 years old. She and 13 of her close friends from high school were diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. Despite living in the crossfire of nuclear toxicity and being well traveled, Hacker still feels that she is living in the greatest place on earth. With that, she also feels a total distrust of the government.

The nuclear tests done in the western US have had a tremendous impact on the people who inhabit the region. By the firsthand accounts of modern Downwinders, we see this is an issue that persists even today. Ilene Hacker’s distrust in the government is not unwarranted and even members of Congress agree. The fact that so many people died because of nearby nuclear testing provoked a bill in the 1990s by Utah Senator Orrin Hatch to give compensation to these victims. There has been a recent movement to expand the compensation to victims throughout all of Utah, as well as neighboring states like Idaho and Montana and even Guam. For all of those heavily affected, compensation would range from $50,000-$150,000 — which, as the leader of this movement Preston Truman explains — would not even cover the cost of one chemotherapy treatment.

Maddie Colosimo is a senior at the University of Utah and is majoring in communication with an emphasis in strategic communication and minoring in art history.

Primary Sources

AEC Grants For Utah’s Universities Applied in Research,” Daily Utah Chronicle, January 6, 1961, 1.

Important— But…” Daily Utah Chronicle, January 6, 1961, 1.

Law, Business, Medicine Are Building Projects,” Daily Utah Chronicle, February 3, 1961, 9.

Dr. Libby Talks Tonight in Spencer Hall,” Daily Utah Chronicle, March 2, 1961, 1.

Ute Briefs: Atomic Energy,” Daily Utah Chronicle, December 12, 1961, 4.

Atomic Exhibit Due In Salt Lake,” Daily Utah Chronicle, September 2, 1960, 4.

Spendlove, Joseph Ward, et. al. “Interview with Joseph Ward Spendlove, Downwinders of Utah Archive.” Transcript of an oral history conducted on June 25, 2019, by Justin Sorensen and Anthony Sams, Everett L. Cooley Oral History Project, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Hacker, Ilene, et. al. “Interview with Ilene Hacker, Downwinders of Utah Archive.” Transcript of an oral history conducted on June 12, 2017, by Justin Sorensen. Everett L. Cooley Oral History Project, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Secondary Sources

Buck, Alice. “The Atomic Energy Commission.” Washington, D.C.: US Department of Energy, 1983

Davidson, Lee. “Utahns who say family members died from cancer because of radioactive fallout would be eligible for $150K under new bill,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 6, 2018.

JCordes, “Scientific Discoveries of the 1960s.”

Utah Department of Environmental Quality, “Impact of Aboveground Nuclear Tests on Southern Utah,” September 11, 2019.

An Anthropological and Environmental Look at the Effects of the Glen Canyon Dam on the American Southwest

Aerial glen canyon

Negative of an aerial view of part of Glen Canyon in early days of Lake Powell. Possibly taken in November of 1964.
Used by permission, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

By Daniel Belding

The Glen Canyon region is one of the most popular destinations of the American Southwest. The area is perhaps most known for Lake Powell, yet many visitors do not know the story of how this site was formed. Lake Powell is a reservoir which was created when the backwater from the Glen Canyon Dam flooded Glen Canyon.

The United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) notes that upon Congress’ approval of the Colorado River Storage Project Act in early 1956, construction of the dam began and officially concluded in 1966. The Glen Canyon Dam is an engineering marvel that provides the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Nevada, and California with a steady water supply. Aside from California, each of the aforementioned states also benefits from the dam’s hydroelectric power. In “Dam(n) How Times Have Changed…,” Peter Lavigne writes, “Dams have turned the arid deserts of the West into dazzling electrical cities, water-wanton agricultural plots, and high desert grazing ranges.” While the Glen Canyon Dam has turned a barren landscape into a livable region and provided clean energy the project faced scrutiny which has lasted to this day. Even the construction process itself proved to be tumultuous.

glen canyon construction

Photo shows construction work on the Glen Canyon Dam in 1963. Used by permission, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

One of the largest controversies surrounding Glen Canyon’s intentional flooding was the loss of archaeological sites within the canyon. However, the October 13, 1960, issue of The Daily Utah Chronicle highlights the efforts of anthropologist Dr. Jesse D. Jennings along with others to salvage and preserve these historic sites. Jennings also created a film that showcased the work required to complete the salvaging and discussed the necessity of the dam. The film was presented at the University of Utah to positive reviews. The Daily Utah Chronicle also reported in the February 23, 1960, issue that Glen Canyon was once home to over 300 Native American sites that dated back 800 years prior to the dam’s construction. Although some sites were lost, Jennings and his team of anthropologists were able to uncover numerous ancient records opening doors for further research on the tribes of the Southwest and why they vacated their former settlements.

While the work of Jennings and his colleagues was celebrated by many, it also highlights the frustrations of those who opposed the dam. The October 14, 1960, issue of The Daily Utah Chronicle explains that Jennings and his team were the first non-indigenous explorers of the majority of these sites. This was met with controversy as opposition of the dam saw this as an intrusion that was a direct effect of the region’s rapid development.

A quote from the article “Man’s Impact on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon” featured in the July-August 1974, issue of American Scientist further highlights the Glen Canyon Dam’s adverse effects. The article states that the once remote Southwest now houses “some of the most extensive and persistent scars of large scale environmental modification.” (Dolan, Robert, et al., p. 392) As roads and residential developments continued to appear in the region, Lake Powell was filled with sediment and eroded materials that are important to the Colorado River’s stability. However, the dam blocked these resources from entering the lower portions of the river, resulting in a change in the Colorado River’s shape, flow and flood patterns as soon as the 1970s.

glen canyon bridge

Photo showing Glen Canyon Bridge. Photo by Greg Dimmitt or David Thompson during a South Cottonwood Ward river trip on the Colorado River around 1960 or 1961. Used by permission, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

The Glen Canyon Dam project was met with considerable outside protests, yet there were many issues with internal affairs as well. The Times Independent reported in the April 20, 1961, issue that Utah was one of the last affiliated states to actively support the filling and creation of Lake Powell. Once Utah politicians agreed on the project more trouble arose. Early into the construction process workers went on strike after wages were cut. The March 11, 1960, issue of the Salt Lake Times covered the workers’ strike, which forced Utah Senator Frank Moss to introduce a bill to the Treasury hoping to erase interest the project had accumulated during the period when no progress was made on the dam. The strike went on to delay completion of the dam by six months.

Glen Canyon Dam is an often unrecognized project which has helped shape the Southwest. The dam has been met with both praise and opposition. Millions have visited and enjoyed the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, while other groups still actively call for the dam’s decommissioning. The Glen Canyon Dam’s commissioning was a major factor in the development of the Southwest but this has certainly come at a price.

Daniel Belding is a senior at the University of Utah. He is majoring in communication.

Primary Sources

“Publication Outlines Utah’s Anthropological Sleuthing,” Daily Utah Chronicle, February 23, 1960, 3.

“Moss Asking Congress to Overlook Strike in Dam Interest Cost.” Salt Lake Times, March 11, 1960, 1.

“Glen Canyon To Be Topic For Lecture,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 13, 1960, 2.

Richard Rosenbaum, “Salvage Movie with Talks Sparks Interest,” Daily Utah Chronicle, October 14, 1960, 2.

“Utah Backs Commission,” Times Independent, April 20, 1961, 2.

Secondary Sources

Dolan, Robert, et al. “Man’s Impact on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon,” American Scientist 62, no. 4 (July-August 1974): 392–401.

Glen Canyon Unit,” United States Bureau of Reclamation.

Lavigne, Peter M. “Dam(n) How Times Have Changed…,” William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review 29, no. 2 (2005): 450-480.





How Ecker Hill Was Named after the President of the Utah Ski Club from the 1930s to 1940s

By Ileana Brown


Photo of Utah ski jumping pioneer Pete Ecker at Dry Canyon near the University of Utah, about 1918. Alan K. Engen Photograph Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Peter Sandaker, formerly known as Peter Sand Ecker, was born in Oslo, Norway, on March 25, 1898, to Ole Lauritz Johannessen Sandaker and Ingeborg Sandaker. (Perry, Welland, Haws) He had six siblings, including Oline Marie Funnemork (born Sandaker), and Jakob Sandaker. (My Heritage) In 1968 The Utah Daily Chronicle reported on Peter S. Ecker in an article titled “Skiing: Sports Continue to Grow.” The article stated he migrated to Salt Lake City from Oslo, Norway, at the age of 20 in 1918. He was a Norski photographer and a pioneer in ski jumping. His passion for skiing and photography led him to create Ecker’s Photo Studio and join the Norwegian-American Athletic Club (NAAC). The club was created by Norwegian immigrant Martinius “Mark” A. Strand in 1918 to promote Utah skiing. On April 21, 1920, Ecker married Gudrun Kristine Kaalstad (1898-1984) in the Salt Lake temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They had three children: Norma Ecker Larrabee (1921-1996), Raymond Ecker (1925-2001), and Harold Ecker (1928-2015). (Haws)

On October 15, 1924, the Utah Chronicle announced the official Utonian photographer, Peter S. Ecker. His job was to take professional photographs of the students and staff at the University of Utah for the yearbook. His ads were often published in the Utah Chronicle. Before he began his own studio, Ecker was formerly with Lumier, Wilcox and Freemondo Studios until he bought the Berryman Studio on 131 S. Main Street in Salt Lake City. He renamed it Ecker’s Studio. On November 16, 1939, an ad was published in the Utah Chronicle announcing Ecker’s new Bell & Howell Filmo Camera Department containing personal motion picture equipment “to help you capture the thrill of moments you will want to live again.”

In the late fall of 1928, Utah Ski Club members Ecker and Strand pioneered ski promotion by establishing a ski jumping facility near Parley’s Summit. The club included Norwegian Americans, all interested in promoting winter sports. (Utah Division of State History) In the same year, by Christmas Day, they completed a series of jumps. In 1929, the club hosted the first ski jumping tournament on “the hill,” then known as “Rasmussen Ranch” due to its suitable terrain. (Barlow)

Ecker 1

Photo showing Peter S. Ecker and Alf Engen at the ski jumping tournament held at Ecker Hill, Summit County, Utah, in January 1931. Wasatch Mountain Club Photograph Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Ecker and Strand were responsible for setting up major ski tournaments. Due to their efforts, many Utah skiers were encouraged and inspired to join and participate in the ski jumping revolution. Some of the big names include: Halvor Hvalstad, Halvor Bjornstad, Sverre Engen, Einar Fredbo, Ted Rex, Alf Mathesen, Lars Haugen, Steffen Trogstad, Alf Engen, Vic Johannsen, Axel Andresen, Nordquist, and Ralph Larsen. (Utah Division of State History)

Ski-jumping continued to remain popular throughout the early twenties and thirties. The Utah Daily Chronicle reported in 1968 thatAxel Anderson monopolized the jump title from 1918 to 1922 and 1924-’27 with leaps of 80 feet at best.” Mark Strand says “The ‘Big Boom’ of skiing began in 1930. In one year we jumped into national-—no, world—attention.” Not only that, but in 1930 with the help of many supporters and the Rasmussen family, whose hill was the ski jumping location, helped create the reality of the jump. Many supporters sought out a dedication ceremony on March 2, 1930, where Governor George H. Dern named the hill overlooking “Rasmussen Ranch” after the President of the Utah Ski Club, Peter S. Ecker. (Barlow)

In 2016, Jacob Barlow wrote an article titled “Ecker Hill Ski Jump.” “Ecker Hill attracted many amateur and professional jumpers from all over the world” who competed in events drawing thousands to the state. Alf Engen, a young 20-year-old who came to Utah from Norway in 1929, made himself a name on Ecker Hill. In 1930 he leaped 247 feet in the air and broke five world records. He became a recipient of the “Skier of the Century” award. (Nelson, Barlow) “Through the continuing efforts of Strand, Ecker, and later S. Joseph Quinny, Ecker Hill became the site of national tournaments from 1930 to 1949, and was on the international ski tour.” (Bea) Not long after the 1949 National Championships, Ecker Hill’s popularity declined due to bigger and better-designed hills. The hill was also rendered “obsolete” once ski equipment and techniques improved.(Roper, Ecker photographic exhibit)

Peter S. Ecker, Mark Strand, Axel Anderson, and Alf Engen will continue to be known as the Norwegians who propelled Utah’s winter sports. After ski jumping died down Ecker continued to manage popular Salt Lake City photo emporium Ecker Studios for 40 years (Alf Engen Ski Museum, Welland, Haws) and continued to take pictures for the University of Utah’s yearbook, the Utonian. (Utonian 1941, 1944) Due to the decline in the popularity of ski jumping many tried to revive Ecker Hill in the late 1960s, but the reality was, ski enthusiasts wanted to participate in the sport of causal downhill skiing. (Mays, Roper) “Local resorts such as Brighton, Alta, and Park City began their rapid growth during the 1950s. Ecker Hill was last used around 1960.” (Roper) In recognition of its significance, on May 5, 1986, a monument dedicating the early ski jumping site, Ecker Hill was put up in Summit County, Utah (Wilburn and Jean Pickett Photograph Collection) and the site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Roper)

Ileana Brown graduated in December 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (with an emphasis in journalism) and Film Production. She hopes to continue advancing her skills in all things media, including photography, videography, and writing in hopes to land a career in TV production.


Joan Nelson, “Skiing: Sport Continues to Grow,Utah Daily Chronicle, December 5, 1968, 10.

Advertisement, Utonian photographs, Utah Chronicle, February 10, 1944, 2.

Utonian Pictures,” Utah Chronicle, January 6, 1944, 1.

Advertisement, Ecker Studio, 1941 Utonian, The University of Utah.

Advertisement, Ecker Studio, Utah Chronicle, November 16, 1939, 3.

Utonian Photographer is Announced,” Utah Chronicle, October 15, 1924, 1.

Barlow, Jacob. “Ecker Hill Ski Jump,” October 8, 2016,

Haws, Julie. “Gudrun Kristine KaalstandEcker,”

Mays, Bea. “Ecker Hill,” Summit County, Utah.

Perry, Judyth Christensen. “Peter Sand Ecker,”

Roper, Roger. “Ecker Hill,Utah History Encyclopedia.

Welland, Betsey. “Peter S. Ecker papers, 1930s-1950s,” Archives West, Orbis Cascade Alliance.

Peter S. Ecker, 1797-1878,” My

Peter S. Ecker,” Alf Engen Ski Museum.

Roper, Roger. “Ecker Hill: A Photographic Exhibit.” Utah Division of State History.


The Story of Alta Ski Resort

By Lorenzo Pighini

Skiing serves as one of Utah’s main forms of recreation, and locals believe the state possesses “The Greatest Snow on Earth.”  However, mass public skiing wasn’t always readily available to Utahns. In the fall of 1938, the development of Alta, what is now known as one of the most elite ski resorts in the world, began. Within a decade, Alta had become a nationwide attraction. The story of how Alta came to be is quite remarkable, and certainly imperative to the growth of one of Utah’s most coveted historical pastimes.

Before skiing in Utah reached mass popularity, it was used as a means of travel throughout Utah’s rugged mountain terrain. According to A. Joseph Arave, the first Utah skiers included trappers, miners, and others who relied on skis as a means of transportation. Gradually, it became a recreational activity for those looking to tour the mountains and by the late 1920s, these tours, as well as ski-jumping meets, began to attract thousands of Utah residents. Due to the growing interest and demand in skiing, several small ski areas were developed using simple tow rope and T-bar systems. All the while, The Alta Winter Sports Association was building Utah’s first ski lift and what would eventually become one of Utah’s finest ski resorts.


Ski Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

The New York Times reports that after Alta was destroyed by fire and avalanches in the early 1900s, the lone resident of the town was the self-declared mayor George Watson. Watson agreed to give 1,800 acres of land to the United States Forest Service. With the help of Watson and the Forest Service, the Association was able to obtain land to construct the resort. The Association raised $10,000 in order to construct the lift, and was able to obtain a permit to construct the chairlift in the fall of 1938. An aerial mining tramway was then purchased from a pair of mining men, and the Association converted the machinery into a lift. It was named The Collins lift and it scaled the mountain a total of 2,740 linear feet.


Alta Photograph Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

After the success of constructing Utah’s first operational lift, Alta’s popularity skyrocketed. New lifts were constructed in the early 1940s, and while many ski resorts nationwide shut down throughout the duration of World War II, Alta remained open and offered recreational relief to soldiers based in Utah. The Utah Chronicle reported on February 6, 1941, that University of Utah students were able to take tri-weekly bus trips sponsored by the student ski club to the resort. As Alta began to expand year after year, so did the number of visitors. According to Anthony Will Bowman, between 1964 and 1965, over 230,000 visitors went to Alta between the months of December and April.

As ski resorts have become Utah’s largest tourist attraction, as well as one of the state’s most profitable industries, Alta Ski Resort still possesses some individuality among other local resorts such as Park City and Canyons Resort. Alta is one of only six resorts in the National Ski Area Association where snowboarding isn’t allowed. Alta has also stuck to fundamental values of skiing, focusing its efforts on providing a quality skiing experience on unmatched terrain, rather than selling out for profit or joining a massive corporate conglomerate. This refusal to adapt has allowed Alta to preserve its integrity and remain the most historical ski resort in Utah.

Lorenzo Pighini is a Chicago native majoring in communication and minoring in business at the University of Utah. He moved to Utah to pursue an education and to experience world-class snowboarding.


Arave, A. Joseph. “Skiing in Utah,” Utah History Encyclopedia, Utah Education Network.

Bowman, Anthony Will. “From Silver to Skis: A History of Alta, Utah, and Little Cottonwood Canyon, 1847-1966″ (Master’s thesis, Utah State University, 1967).

“Ski Manager Plans Bus Trips to Alta,” Utah Chronicle, February 6, 1941, 2.

Jake [no last name]. “SkiUtah License Plate.” Ski Utah, November 20, 2007.

DeLeo, William. “Alta, Utah Historical Timeline.”

Diliberto, Gioia. “Earning It; A Ski Area Without the Extremes,” New York Times, March 22, 1998.

Photo Gallery. Alta Historical Society.


Utah Sugar Beets: A Struggling Industry

By Andres-Alcantar Castro

During World War II, President LeRoy E. Cowles encouraged University of Utah students to help struggling sugar beet farmers. Ads were placed in the Utah Chronicle to increase participation. The Chronicle reported that only 24 students had participated. Utah farmers continued looking for workers in the coming years but the industry fought to keep crops plentiful despite the shortage.

Sugar beets supplied half of the nation’s sugar by then. The U.S. military relied on sugar and foodstuffs for energy. In 45 years, Americans went from consuming 45 to 109 pounds of sugar per capita, making the U.S. the world’s largest sugar consumer. The sugar beet became a viable option because it grew where sugar cane couldn’t. Sugar beets, however, yielded a maximum of 15 percent sugar and thus required research to yield more. (Weeks, p. 370)


Beets at loading station. 
Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society.

As early as June 1942, the North Cache News printed an article emphasizing the struggles that farmers faced in finding labor to thin their sugar beets. The locals suggested that farmers use children to help in the fields. While farmers were first reluctant, the crisis changed their minds. White-collar workers from Bingham City also helped the farmers of Cache Valley. The article points out that the labor shortage wasn’t only because of men turned soldiers, but also men working in the industries conducive to the war.

The Rich County Reaper reported on January 2, 1942, that 1.5 million workers would be needed by 1943 to produce sugar and other products. In addition, 12.7 million tons of sugar would be needed in 1943. This amount was twice as much as that needed in World War I.

University students might’ve thought the work was not worth doing because they were paid $1 per ton harvested. This amount translates to only $15 today, adjusted for inflation. The university, however, claimed it was patriotic to work in the beet fields and even offered transportation to and from the university to encourage students to do so. A Chronicle article published in the October 15, 1942, issue reported, “Even though it is difficult for students who are busy with defense jobs and activities …, they may, in a few spare hours after classes, do a job which to them might seem minute and unimportant, but which in reality will greatly aid in our war program.”


Layton Sugar Factory, wagon dumping beets into hopper.
Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society.

During this time, the Japanese relocation program had begun. The Topaz internment camp housed many of the displaced Japanese-Americans. On October 14, 1942, the Topaz Times printed a job announcement for topping sugar beets for $16 monthly pay. This work was attractive to Japanese men because they had little freedom. Fifty-six other Japanese men left for Cache County, while some went as far as Preston, Idaho, to work. Even Topaz only had 250 of the 400 workers needed there. Also, Mexican miners had started immigrating to Utah since the 1930s but by the 1940s about 60 families settled in Garland, Utah, to work in the sugar beet fields. Mexican immigrants were able to take advantage of the pay from the sugar beet industry and work toward building a community. (Solórzano, p. 18)

The new labor force helped the beet farmers harvest crops but they still required advancements in technology to reach their goals. Luckily, groups like the American Society of Sugar Beet Technologists were researching new ways to increase yields and were optimistic for the future of the industry. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on January 5, 1942, that a new method, tested in 326 beet fields, controlled irrigation and produced a higher sugar content within beets. Naphthalene acid amide was also a chemical being tested that could eliminate the leaf hopper, a type of fly that attacked the leaves on beet plants. The acid was reported to cause plant growth in some cases but damage in other cases.

The sugar beet industry suffered from a wide labor shortage, particularly because of the war. The university students’ reluctance to help was only part of a bigger problem. Farmers had to rely on immigrants and community members for their farms to survive. Small sugar yields helped win the war but more research needed to be done to make it successful.

Originally from the Columbia River Gorge area of Oregon, Andres Alcantar-Castro is a senior at the University of Utah. He will graduate in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication with an emphasis in journalism.


“Working in Beet Fields Is Patriotic and Fun,” Utah Chronicle, October 15, 1942, 5.

“Chairman Issues New Appeal for Student Labor,” Utah Chronicle, October 15, 1942, 1.

“Questions,” Topaz Times, October 14, 1942, 2-3.

“Farmers Accept Boys and Girls in Beet Fields” North Cache News, June 19, 1942, 4.

“Sugar Experts See Big Future for Industry” Salt Lake Telegram, January 5, 1942, 13.

“U. S. Farmers with Less Labor, Supplies, Machinery, Must Double the Production Shown in World War I,” Rich County Reaper, January 2, 1942, 3.

Solórzano, Armando. “The Making of Latino Families in Utah,” Beehive History 25 (August 31, 2009): 18.

Weeks, Michael. “Sugar State: Industry, Science, and the Nation in Colorado’s Sugar Beet Fields,” Western Historical Quarterly 48, no. 4 (October 2017): 367–391.

Nuclear Testing: Southern Utah’s Battle for Air


During the years of World War II and throughout the years of the Cold War, we saw many horrific acts of violence that changed many components of our society. Within these acts of violence, the rise of destructive weapons, known as nuclear weapons, were more prominently showcased throughout the world.

Not only were these nuclear weapons used for “safety,” but they were also manufactured to showcase a nation’s superiority. In 1945, toward the end of WW II, the United States was the first nation to use nuclear weapons, on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After these horrendous events, and as the quest for world dominance continued, many more nations began developing nuclear weapons. With that in mind, the competition to create the world’s best nuclear weapon was in the works. And with the United States taking on the role of global hegemon, it was clear that in order to create the perfect weapon, many tests had to be conducted throughout the US.

Nevada, with its desert-like geography and immense amounts of open space, was an ideal site for one of the nuclear testing centers operated by the United States Department of Energy. Nye County, in south-central Nevada, also was close to two cities in southern Utah: St. George and Cedar City. With the initial test-taking place in January 1951, many Southern Utahns were unaware of what exactly the nuclear tests would entail. But in the coming years, the disastrous effects of the “purple cloud” became more evident. (“Atom Explosions”) As Seegmiller writes, “Relatively few Iron County residents were aware of or concerned about nuclear testing when the first mushroom-shaped cloud rose into the western skies … but the cloud figuratively remains over southern Utah and Nevada to this day.”

The Salt Lake Telegram reported on January 27, 1951, that “residents of Southern Utah, miles to the cast of here, said they saw the sky light up and heard the distant rumbling.” This initial blast was the beginning of many tests. And although that was the case, many were not aware of the harmful toxins that nuclear tests would release on the residents, as well as on the surrounding residents of Southern Utah.

Through the initial steps of the first nuclear test, further progress needed to be achieved. Therefore, another nuclear test was conducted in April 1952. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on April 14, 1952, that “indications pointed to the testing of another atomic device rather than a full-blown atomic bomb,” which would essentially “be developed into future atomic weapons.” Many of the repercussions were still not evident to the residents, but it became clear that more nuclear tests were to be conducted in the near future.

Moreover, another nuclear test was conducted in March 1953. The Iron County Record reported on March 5, 1953, that “ranchers, miners, migrants, private fliers, and others concerned are warned that the atomic energy commission’s Nevada proving grounds will be used for nuclear experiments.” Although this was the case, many were still not warned of the harms, but instead had to find out about them the hard way.

In consideration of the above tests that were conducted throughout the years of 1951-1953, some individuals who were educated on the matter of nuclear weapons concluded that they were obliged to talk about it. It wasn’t until 1953 when some of the nuclear tests’ tragedies began to become evident. More specifically, and as reported in the May 7, 1953, issue of the Irony County Record, University of Utah research student Ralph L. Hafen noted that he was “morally obligated to warn people of the irreparable damage that may have occurred or may in the future occur” from the nuclear tests. Hafen stated in the Irony County Record that the plutonium and radiation that the tests released could affect many components of southern Utah residents’ lives, which can be summarized to include cancer, blindness, mutations, death, and climate change.


The Iron County Record reported on March 3, 1955, that ranchers were convinced atomic testing had killed their sheep.

Many individuals in southern Utah began noticing that some changes in their everyday lives could be related to the nuclear tests that had been conducted in the border state of Nevada. And although they noticed, it was clear that the tests would continue to be conducted. That being said, the March 31955, issue of the Iron County Record reported that “the third atomic blast [of 1955] was seen from Cedar [City],” which shows its severity, because Cedar City is more distant to the Nevada border. The article also stated that that southern Utah farmers were “convinced that the atomic fallout from the experiments at Yucca Flats in Nevada two years ago was the direct cause of heavy loss to sheep herds grazing in adjacent areas.” Therefore, they filed a lawsuit against the Atomic Energy Commission for its actions and incompetent behavior. Also in 1955, many citizens, including southern Utah residents, were briefly told about the harms that the nuclear tests could have on their lives. The Iron County Record reported on February 3, 1955, that “the Atomic Energy Commission, Department of Defense, has announced that it will not be responsible for patrons who might wander into the area, without proper authority.” It was also reported in the same issue that it was dangerous to be around the tests, identifying that “caution has also been advised for individuals in the general area.”


The view of an atomic explosion at the Nevada Test Site, located 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas in Nye County, Nevada. Lloyd Franklin Manis Collection, Special Collections, University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Used with permission.

The book Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy by Philip Fradkin discusses the government’s historical role with nuclear testing. Fradkin highlights how the Atomic Energy Commission was at fault through “the mistakes and subsequent cover-ups” that they used with these nuclear tests. (2) It is clear that the government officials involved with these tests were aware of their harms, but did not feel a need to tell residents the details. Instead, these officials withheld information, and gave them a brief warning four years after the first nuclear test took place.

Southern Utah residents were deeply affected by these events and by the actions of the Atomic Energy Commission. In the book Justice Downward: America’s Atomic Testing Program in the 1950s, a former University of Utah professor, Howard Ball, discusses the careless behavior of the government. Ball examines the events of the blasts, and quotes Frank Butrico, a Public Health Service radiation safety monitor who worked in St. George during the 1953 series of tests. Butrico testified in a 1982 wrongful death suit filed by 24 cancer victims and their relatives. He said, “The radioactive cloud hung over St. George for over two hours, fallout radiation levels peaked at a little less than 6 rads, well over even AEC standards.” (Ball, 43)

In addition to that, southern Utah residents were not truthfully told about this information. Instead, they were told, “Radiation levels were a little above normal but not in the range of being harmful.” (Ball, 43-44) Not only was valuable information withheld from residents, but they also were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation that indefinitely caused many issues to their health and surrounding environment. With a matter as severe as this, it is saddening to learn about the truths after they had initially taken place. Although there isn’t a reliable statistic proving the amount of illnesses and cancer-related deaths the exposure of the radiation levels caused, Seegmiller reports that “as of September 1994, 1,003 claims had been approved, 829 claims had been denied, and 125 were pending.” These figures illustrate just how severe the effects were on southern Utah residents.

All in all, it is clear that the nuclear tests that were conducted in Nevada are an incredibly important part of Utah’s history as a whole. Although this research focuses on the years of 1951-1955, these nuclear tests ultimately changed many people’s lives, and to this day in 2017, the effects that these nuclear tests had on southern Utah residents are extremely palpable. It is important to take into account these events, because although these nuclear tests caused many tragedies, they are an essential part of our history, and are important components in learning more about how nuclear activity had an effect on Utahns.

That being said, today, the government has set up funds to compensate families for the illnesses and deaths these blasts may have caused. Although it does not make up for the damages the nuclear tests have done, it does show some initiative and responsibility on the government’s part. Looking through the United States Department of Justice webpage, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act “established an administrative program for claims relating to atmospheric nuclear testing and claims relating to uranium industry employment.” (RECA) And if these nuclear tests are proven to be the cause of any harm, then families would receive compensation to make up for the indescribable damage.

Aryan Farahni graduated in May 2017 from The University of Utah. He attained a Bachelor of Science degree in political science, with minors in media studies and international studies. 


“Atom Explosion Set off in Nevada,” Salt Lake Telegram, January 27, 1951, 1.

“Spews Purple Cloud,” Salt Lake Telegram, October 30, 1951, 1.

“Scientists Arrive at Vegas for Second A-Blast,” Salt Lake Telegram, April 14, 1952, 2.

“Atomic Proving Ground Set for Nuclear Test,” Iron County Record, March 5, 1953, 3.

Ralph L. Hafen, “Effects of Atom Blasts on Southern Utah Discussed by U. of U. Student, Iron County Record, May 7, 1953, 9.

“Citizens Are Warned of Dangers at Nevada Test Site,” Iron County Record, February 2, 1955, 2.

“Local Sheep Raisers File Suit with Govt. for Loss,” Iron County Record, March 3, 1955, 1.

“Third Atomic Blast Seen From Cedar,” Iron County Record, March 3, 1955, 8.

Ball, Howard. Justice Downwind: America’s Atomic Testing Program in the 1950s. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Fradkin, Philip L. Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989.

The United States Department of Justice. “Radiation Exposure Compensation Act.”

Seegmiller, Janet Burton. “Nuclear Testing and the Downwinders.” Utah History to Go,






Utah’s Role in Nuclear Testing During the Early 1950s


The early 1950s were a tumultuous time for the United States of America. The Red Scare was well into effect, the Korean War was raging on, and Soviet Russia’s nuclear capabilities were looming on the horizon. These issues carried into 1951, marking the beginning of the new year with nuclear testing in what is now known as the Nevada Proving Grounds. The Proving Grounds are 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas. On January 27, 1951, the United States began dropping nuclear bombs to test the effect of them.


The U. S. Atomic Energy Commission distributed handbills such as this one before the first series of tests was conducted. The public is advised that there is “no danger” to individuals living outside the testing area. The Downwinders of Utah Archive, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

On January 4, 1951, the Iron County Record published an article stating, “We must pull out of Korea completely and stop useless sacrifice…. The A-bomb should be used if it will help our forces in Korea.” These lines tell us how local community members felt about the political situation then. Later in the article it is stated that “not a single letter expressed actual terror at the thought of another war and the possibility of A-bombs being used against us. War … is better than attempted appeasement of aggressors.” The local citizens would rather be exposed to the effects of nuclear radiation than roll over to the enemy. Little did they know, they got what they wished for.

In late January 1951, nearly a dozen nuclear bomb tests took place. The Salt Lake Telegram published an article on January 29, 1951, discussing how the 10th and 11th atomic blasts had affected locals. The bombs rattled casinos over 60 miles away in Las Vegas. The newspaper also reported on the wide number of complaints from citizens: “Citizens generally were not pleased. The police department got four calls per minute for a half hour.” Beyond this general grumble and discontent from Las Vegas and Utah residents, public fervor died down for a while.

A conference was held at the University of Utah in May 1951 on the subject of nuclear testing and specifically how Americans had been kept sheltered from just what nuclear bombs and energy could do when compared to other countries. An article published in the Salt Lake Telegram on May 19 discussed how the United States had recently declassified and made public a large amount of nuclear information. The author rightfully draws a connection between this now-public knowledge and citizens, especially Utahns and Nevadans, having such an up-close experience with nuclear bombs.


This image was published in a February 1955 information booklet produced by the AEC for people who lived near the Nevada test site.

Later in 1951, multiple nuclear tests were delayed because “light winds” could spell death and disease for local residents of Utah. The Salt Lake Telegram reported in November that “the postponement was the third in as many days.” This tells us just how common and deadly these light winds could be.

In April 1952, the United States began testing the effects of nuclear fallout on troops. The Salt Lake Telegram discussed how from 10 miles away the heat from the blast singed the hair off of people’s faces. The heat was described as a “blast furnace.” The soldiers had dug fox holes only 4 miles away from ground zero, subjecting themselves to extremely unhealthy doses of radiation.

For over a year, the continued nuclear testing didn’t receive much attention, as it just became a part of day-to-day life except for when it caused a much greater inconvenience. In May 1953 residents of Cedar City and southern Utah, specifically St. George, were asked to stay in their homes and not leave or drive anywhere. The problem lasted longer than one would expect; the radiation lingered in the air days after the nuclear test. The levels of radiation were deemed safe by the Atomic Energy Commission. The Iron County Record reported on May 21, 1953, that “the levels of radiation produced outside the test control area were in no way harmful to humans, animals or crops.”

Poisoning from radiation takes time to rear its ugly head in the form of cancer, birth defects, and other unfortunate symptoms. Janet Burton Seegmiller writes in The History of Iron County that:

Relatively few Iron County residents were aware of or concerned about nuclear testing when the first mushroom-shaped cloud rose into the western skies and drifted to the northeast in 1951, but the cloud figuratively remains over southern Utah and Nevada to this day. Residents live with every day what the cloud left behind that the eye could not see. There are no southwestern Utah neighborhoods or communities that have not been touched by the tragedy of cancer or birth defects or lingering bitterness over human and financial losses.

These people had been promised by their own government that they would be safe throughout the nuclear testing. They had been lied to. Seegmiller discusses that declassified documents show even back in the late 1940s it was painfully aware to scientists that this was hazardous to human and livestock.

The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) proceeded to continue with the tests, anyway. Sheep began to have burns on their faces and miscarry fetuses that had deformities. Those that survived to birth would often die due to other deformities. Everyone still believed the government when it reassured the citizens that everything was fine. In 1984, the United States District Court ruled in Allen v. United States that “fallout caused human deaths and the federal government was negligent in failing to warn residents.” But the government won a reversal on appeal on the grounds of national security. On May 11, 1984, the New York Times reported that a federal district judge ruled that ”the Government was negligent in failing to warn residents who lived in the path of fallout plumes about the danger of radioactive contaminations.” The government again appealed the decision. In Utah, The Right Place, Thomas G. Alexander writes, “Although they knew or suspected the danger from the fallout, they did not tell the people… that they stood in risk of cancer or leukemia. Rather, AEC officials publicly lied about the danger.”

In 1990, the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act was passed. The government apologized to its very own citizens, now known as the Downwinders, and established a compensation program to help individuals who contracted certain cancers and other serious diseases. On March 2, 2015, the Department of Justice reported that it had awarded more than $2 billion in “compassionate compensation to eligible claimants” under the act.

Zach Carlson is a student at The University of Utah. He is pursuing a degree in communication with an emphasis in journalism. Zach is an avid consumer of movies, video games, and books, and loves dogs.


“Let’s Hear from the People,” Iron County Record, January 4, 1951, 2.

“Nevada Area Braces for More A-Blasts,” Salt Lake Telegram, January 29, 1951 3.

“The Big Question,” Salt Lake Telegram, May 19, 1951, 4.

“Storm Delays Atomic Tests,” Salt Lake Telegram, October 26, 1951, 7.

“Wrong-Way Wind Postpones Nevada A-Test” Salt Lake Telegram, November 17, 1951, 2.

“Mighty A-Bomb Slams Troops,” Salt Lake Telegram, April 22, 1952.

“Plan ‘Most Daring’ A-Bomb, Troop Maneuvers,” Salt Lake Telegram, May 26, 1952, 3.

“Atomic Winds – Fall-out,” Iron County Record, May 21, 1953, 2.

Alexander, Thomas G. Utah, The Right Place: The Official Centennial History. Salt Lake City, Utah: Gibbs Smith Publishers, 2003.

Peterson, Iver. “U.S. Ruled Negligent in A-Tests Followed by Nine Cancer Deaths.New York Times, May 11, 1984.

Seegmiller, Janet Burton. A History of Iron County: Community Above Self. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1998.