A Peek At the Harm Peery Pioneer Days Bonanza

1935 Pioneer Days letterhead

Thank you, Harm Peery.

First off, you were one of the most fun mayors this town ever had.

Gasoline fights with Salt Lake City? Legal liquor sales? Protected prostitution? Getting arrested for selling booze to minors?


But not just fun. A promoter, bar none. You put this town on the map in the middle of the Great Depression, made it world-famous, and more important helped the town make some serious money.

What you did, of course, was promote Pioneer Days.

Before you came along it was a nice humble little thing, but you blew it up, made it exciting, made people start talking.You brought in a rodeo, movie stars, good times galore, and even led the parade.

And then, one day years later, you died.

When folks were tearing down your Old Mill bar at the mouth of Ogden Canyon to build a development, someone found some of your old scrapbooks.

The person who found them was a musician at the bar. He didn’t know what to do with them, but figured they were going to get tossed out, so gave them to another musician, whose wife, Francis Bush, was a school teacher with a feeling for historic preservation.

So Fran donated the scrapbooks to Union Station, where they got stored in boxes.

A few months ago I came across them, unlabeled as anything other than “Harm Peery Collection,” and chased their history down through Fran. I am VERY excited about these scrapbooks because they contain a lot of the ephemera — letterheads, ads, handbills, stationary — of Pioneer Days from 1934 and 1935.

This is all the really common, meaningless stuff that got tossed, and so is really hard to find now.

But it’s all really cool, with early logos in the distinctive type of art they used back then.

We also have a lot of the news stories from t hose days — the beard growing contests and the like.

Harm was always trying to find a way to make the national news.

When Admiral Richard E. Byrd was involved with his second Antarctic Expedition, from 1934 to 1936, Mayor Peery issued a public challenge to the explorers to take on Ogden in a beard growing contest.

When Wallis Simpson stole the King of England’s heart and he abdicated the throne in 1937, Peery issued a public offer to marry them, for free, during Pioneer Days. They declined the offer, or would have if they saw it in the news. I doubt he really mailed it to Antarctica, but he definitely sent it to the news services.

Pioneer Days is upon us again, so I thought I show you some of the stuff.

This is just a small sample. We’ve got a whole scrapbook full of it, and some amazing newspaper clips and even whole pages.

All showing what great fun this town was, and still is, thanks in great part to Harm.

Page 1 of the July 24, 1934, Pioneer Days Parade. Yes, they got it in the same day’s paper.