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66th Annual Utah History Conference

Transportation and Movement

September 27–28, 2018

It’s possible to read Utah history as a story of movement and transportation. The centrality of movement to exploration, industry, and travel—major themes in Utah history—is obvious. Less so is the way movement can be seen on a more conceptual level as a way to evaluate change over space and time: the variation and transformation of the landscape, the flow of ideas and people into and out of the state, the mobility of groups and individuals, the development of transportation-related infrastructure, and the transportation and communication networks connecting the state to regional and national systems.

The flow of ideas and people is now more global than ever before, rendering traditional boundaries that confined physical movement less operable.

The Utah Historical State Society, thanks to our generous sponsors, offers the conference free to scholars, writers, educators, students, and the general public. Registration is required.  Registration will be available March 15, 2018.


Thursday, September 27 
8:30 am–5:00 pm
Rio Grande Depot, 300 S. Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City
State Archives Building, 346 South Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City

Friday, September 28 
7:45 am – check in and morning refreshment
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Plenary, lunchtime keynote and awards presentation, history and panel sessions
Utah Cultural Celebration Center, 1355 West 3100 South, West Valley

We are pleased to announce David Haward Bain, author of “Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad,” will provide the conference keynote address. Bain is the author of dozens of books and articles.

Empire Express is an epic narrative history covering not only the dramatic struggle to link the oceans with twin bands of iron but three decades in which America doubled in size, fought three wars, and discovered itself. A main selection of the Book of the Month Club and a selection of the History Book Club, Empire Express was a finalist both for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in History and the Francis Parkman Prize, and won the New England Historical Association’s and the National Railroad and Locomotive Historical Society’s annual book prizes; the author was elected a Fellow in the Society of American Historians. The work was featured on Brian Lamb’s C-SPAN show, “Booknotes” and adapted by PBS “The American Experience” into a 2-hour documentary.



Thursday, September 27 – TBA

Friday, September 28 – TBA

Schedule at a Glance – TBA


Call for Papers

This is both a call for papers and a call for community recognition of the centrality of transportation and movement to Utah and the western region. We invite the public, scholars, students, policymakers, and organizations to submit proposals for papers, panels, or multimedia presentations on this theme.

2018 Outstanding Achievement Awards

Nominations Now Being Accepted!

The Utah Division of State History’s annual awards recognize individuals and groups who have made a significant contribution to history, prehistory or historic preservation in the state of Utah. Whether these efforts on behalf of the past are quiet or prominent, they benefit the state’s citizens in tangible and intangible ways. Utah State History therefore invites nominations of persons or organizations who have given extraordinary service or completed outstanding projects in the field of Utah archaeology, preservation or history, or in support of one of Utah’s heritage organizations. This project or activity may include research, preservation, education, fundraising, community programs, volunteerism, journalism or other activities.

Helen Z. Papanikolas Award
Best Student Paper on Utah Women’s History

Utah State History sponsors the Papanikolas Award to encourage new scholarly research in the area of Utah women’s history at colleges and universities.  The award is named for Helen Z. Papanikolas (1917-2004), a former member of the Utah State Board of History who was most noted for her research and writing on Utah and ethnic history, but also wrote fiction, as well as women’s history.

Submission Guidelines

  • Papers must address some historical aspect of women’s lives in Utah.
  • The author must be enrolled at a college or university.
  • Papers should not be published.
  • Papers should include original research that includes primary sources. The paper must be footnoted.
  • Papers should not be more than 50 pages long.
  • Papers must be received by May 15, 2018.
  • Please call or E-mail us on May 16, 2018 if you have not heard directly from us that we received your paper.

The winner receives a monetary award as well as being honored at Utah State History’s annual meeting held September 28 at the Utah Cultural Celebration Center.

Submit papers to:
Linda Thatcher
(801) 534-0911

Thank you to our generous conference sponsors!



USS Utah

The USS Utah During World War I and World War II

On December 7, 2017, the bell was placed on permanent display in the University of Utah’s Naval Science Building.

Background of the USS Utah

President Theodore Roosevelt and Secretary of the Navy William H. Moody proposed naming a battleship for the state of Utah on their visit in 1903. The proposal became reality when Congress authorized its construction on May 13, 1908.

Built by the New York Ship Building Company and launched on December 23, 1909, the USS Utah was sponsored by Alice Spry, daughter of Governor William Spry.

Commissioned in August 1911, the USS Utah joined the Atlantic Fleet in 1912 after Captain William S. Benson led this ship through its shakedown cruise.

In 1914 the Utah participated in action at Vera Cruz during the Mexican Revolution. She assisted in the transport of refugees to Tampico, Mexico and sent a landing force to occupy Vera Cruz, Mexico to prevent weapons and ammunition from being delivered to General Huerta.

After the United States entered World War I, the USS Utah was stationed at Bantry Bay, Ireland and served as the flagship for Admiral Thomas S. Rodgers, Commander of Battleship Division 6. Her main responsibility during the war’s final months was to protect supply convoys. She ended her service in Europe by joining the honor escort carrying President Woodrow Wilson to France.

After the London Naval Treaty of 1930, the USS Utah was redesignated as a “miscellaneous auxiliary ship.” She now served as a remote controlled target ship to train anti-aircraft gunners. She effectively filled this role for the Navy from 1931 to 1941.

On December 7, 1941, the USS Utah was moored on the northwest side of Ford Island opposite Battleship Row. In the first minutes of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Utah was struck by at least two torpedoes and began listing heavily to port. The order was given to abandon ship and by 0812 the ship had rolled over and sunk. Six officers and fifty two enlisted men were killed, including Chief Petty Officer Peter Tomich, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions that day.

After the attack, the Utah was partially turned “… inshore to clear the approach to an adjacent pier.” The Navy began to assess the damage to determine if she could be repaired and if salvage operations could begin. On September 5, 1944 she was declared “out of commission, not in service” and was struck from the Navy’s list of ships on November 13, 1944.

How Did the Ship’s Bell from the USS Utah End-Up at the University of Utah?

The ship’s bell from the USS Utah was originally presented by the United States Navy to the Utah State Historical Society in April 1961. Transfer of the bell was arranged through the office of Senator Wallace F. Bennett and was given to the Historical Society on an indefinite loan basis. For almost six years the bell was housed at the Historical Society’s offices in the Kearns Mansion on South Temple.

Discussions began in 1965 to loan the bell to a new Naval History Museum that was to be located in the Naval Science Building on the University of Utah campus. The museum was to be an affiliate of the Utah State Museum of Natural History. In January 1965, the Board of Trustees of the State Historical Society passed a resolution supporting the creation of the museum.  Everett L. Cooley, Director of the Utah State Historical Society and Major Gaut, curator of the Naval History Museum, began communicating to arrange the loan of the ship’s bell and other items from the Historical Society’s collection. The bell was to be loaned to the museum with the condition that the Historical Society could ask for its return if in the future a new Utah State History Museum was established. The bell was transferred in February 1966 with the intention of either displaying it inside the Naval Science Building or on an appropriate foundation outside the building.

Pearl Harbor’s Forgotten Hero: The Story of the USS Utah

1961 Press Release from Senator Wallace F. Bennett

1961 Press Release from the Clearfield, Utah Naval Supply Depot

USS Utah The Utah Daily Chronicle Feb. 10, 1966

USS Utah Salt Lake Tribune April 11, 1961

Trail of the West

Free Film Series: Classic Hollywood Cinema and the Imagination of the American West

The Utah State Historical Society, Ms. Naoma Tate, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, and others invite you to celebrate the spirit of the American West through art, movies and events.

The films will be shown on third Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., January – June 2018, at the Fort Douglas Post Theater (245 S Fort Douglas Blvd). See a list of all screenings.

  • January 18, 2018Buffalo Bill (1944)
  • February 15, 2018Ramona (1928)
  • March 15, 2018Ramrod (1947)
  • April 19, 2018Wagon Master (1950)
  • May 17, 2018Brigham Young (1940)
  • June 21, 2018Westward the Women (1951)

The series focuses on Utah’s storied landscapes and how classic Hollywood films used them to create an ideal, imagined American West. Dr. James V. D’Arc, a retired BYU motion picture curator and professor of film, will offer a brief lecture before each screening and lead a post-viewing discussion.

At the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, you’ll find activities from December 2017 to June 2018. Read a booklet of all events.

As part of this effort, join us for Screening Utah, a free, public film series done in partnership with the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.


Parking Instructions: Please park behind the Ft. Douglas Post Theater (taking Ft. Douglas Blvd.). Parking lot 84 is the closest, but lots 77, 78 ,79 are also available. Parking is free at the University after 6:00 p.m. See the map to the left.

Utah World War I Commission

April 2017 marked the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, a defining conflict of the modern era.

To commemorate the sacrifice and involvement of Utahns in the Great War, the Utah WWI Commission will provide information and resources to the public.

Utah’s World War I Monuments, which details WWI memorials throughout the state, is available for free as a PDF.


The commission is offering small grants to encourage Utahns to recognize the impact of WWI in their communities.


Educational resources, archival finding aids, and much more.


Event listings will be updated regularly. If you know of a WWI-related event in Utah, email us at


Coming soon: photo gallery, list of Utah’s WWI dead, and monuments.

Contact Us

Valerie Jacobson, WWI Commission Project Manager

300 S. Rio Grande Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84101