March 8, 1894
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On the eve of Utah’s Statehood, the men who were elected to the last Territorial legislature bridged a number of religious and cultural divides. After 1890 a general sense of cooperation pervaded Utah’s business and political worlds. Political party allegiances were re-drawn to match national patterns, and businessmen encouraged cooperation with each other regardless of political or religious affiliations through their positions on Chambers of Commerce.
By 1894, Representative Anthony W. Ivins believed that “an era of good feeling and fellowship sprang up, and as confidence in each other was developed, toward none was it more universally extended than toward our fellow member who had been chosen as Speaker of this House, to preside over us.” At this point, House Speaker Albion Emery’s health was deteriorating quickly. Emery had made his fortune in the Silver King Mining Company in Park City and spent most of his years in Utah in public service. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, the Republican “was a thorough Western man in tastes, habits and inclinations; a man of great good sense, keen mind, and warm sympathies—a steadfast friend, a companionable gentleman.”
Emery’s genial nature endeared himself to his fellow representatives, regardless of political allegiance. On the last day of the legislative session, Representative Ivins, a Democrat, presented the gavel to Speaker Emery as a token of gratitude and camaraderie. Ivins described the gavel’s symbolism on the House floor: “It is made of mountain mahogany, one of the hardest and most enduring of woods, appropriate symbol of our respect and esteem, which shall endure yet for many days to come. The golden bands with which it is bound are not more pure and imperishable than should be our loyalty and patriotism to our country and its institutions; those golden bands are not more endless than shall be the life of our Nation, which must go on and on, becoming more and more the light of the world, with never ending story.” Ivins continued, “The names engraven upon those bands of gold, Mr. Speaker, are the names of your friends and fellow laborers, in whose behalf I make this presentation. As you read them in the years to come may they bring back some pleasant remembrance of the Thirty-first Legislative Assembly of Utah, and your association with the men of whom that body was composed.” Several months later, Emery succumbed to his illness a few days shy of his 48th birthday.
Not only does the gavel represent Albion Emery’s ability to endear himself to his colleagues, but it also signifies a moment in Utah’s history when political leaders worked together to bridge the religious, cultural, economic, and political divides that had plagued Utahns in the 1870s and 1880s. It is a symbol of hope for Utah’s future as the 45th state in the Union.