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Matthew Browning: Fireman, Burglar chaser!

Matthew S. Browning died a wealthy and respected banker in Ogden, but he started out having to scrabble his livelihood just like anyone else, hoping someone would buy stuff in his shop, dealing with shoplifters and chasing away burglars.  But from the beginning he was civic-minded, involved in his community.

Matthew and his brother John M. Browning, along with several of their half-brothers, started the Browning Brothers sporting goods business in Ogden in 1879. John was the inventor and his name is widely known, but Matthew, who was right there by his side, is less known in history.

Which is too bad. As I have said here several times, Matthew was the one with a head for business. Matthew used the family money to make huge contributions to building Ogden: banks, the opera house, urban railroads, car dealerships and on and on.

Which brings us to the photo you see here. I love this shot but, until today, did not know when it was taken.

I found this picture among photos in the Union Station archive. The picture shows a bunch of guys arrayed in front of some fire equipment, with a few of them perched on the extended ladder. The initials “M.S.B” by the middle guy on the ladder were, I always presumed, those of Matthew S. Browning.

And now I know I was right.

I searched for Browning’s name in early editions of the Ogden “Herald,” as made public on the Utah Digital Newspapers web site ( and found a headline referring to a “hook and ladder” company being formed.

Hook and ladder, of course, is what they used to call a fire department.

Reading down through the story, I learned that in 1880 Ogden had passed an ordinance forming the city’s first fire company, “which shall be composed of 20 able-bodied men whose duty it shall be to keep their implements in good order and ready for use, and on the alarm of fire are hereby required to remove their implements to the place of fire and do duty under the direction of the Chief Engineer, or his assistant.”

How’s that for a clearly written law: If you’re a fireman, your job is to put out fires. Couldn’t be clearer.

The news article, written in August of 1883, notes that if the city hadn’t taken so long to buy fire equipment “we have no doubt that much valuable property could and would have been saved out of the clutches of the insatiable fire fiend which has more than once brought destruction and devastation in our city limits.”

Don’t you love how they wrote news stories back then?

However, it notes, better late than never, and on July 4 of that year the members of that first company took part, in full regalia, with their new equipment, in the city’s Fourth of July celebration, a formal announcement that they were ready to serve the public.

Matthew Browning in his later years.

The article lists the initial members of the company, and we see Matthew Browning’s name listed, along with Samuel Browning, his half-brother. It makes perfect sense that the Brownings should be on that fire company, since their business was one of those threatened by the “insatiable fire fiend” that could put the entire city out of business.

An interesting note is that, for serving in the company, members who were injured in service would receive $5 a week compensation, and in the event of someone dying, he gets $50. Since they paid in only a $2 initiation fee, and $1 in monthly dues, it is obvious that if someone is hurt, or killed, an immediate financial problem will arise.

“Is it just, equitable, reasonable to demand of the members of the Hook and Ladder Company to risk their limbs and lives, to spend their time, neglect their business, and then not only bear their own current expenses, but also sacrifice from their private means to support their fellow who sustained injuries while discharging VOLUNTEER duty?”

This, the article notes, is unworthy of so fine a city as Ogden!

That business owners made sacrifices in the defense of their town from fire is evident from two other stories carried in the Herald about that same time.Ogden was a rough town, typical for a railroad boom town. These two particular stories involve burglaries of the Browning Brother’s store which, then, was located just south of what is now 25th Street and Washington Boulevard, on the east side of the street. It was located right about where  you now drive off the street to go into the Ben Lomond Hotel parking garage.

John and Matthew Browning, in the doorway of their first, and much-burglarized, shop in Ogden.

On March 6 of 1882 we learn that, on the evening of the previous Saturday, a burglar broke the glass in a door in the back of the shop and made entry. Unfortunately for this burglar, the brothers had had this problem before and so had rigged a trap.

“In a vice in the shop was a pistol loaded with goose shot,” the article reads. “A wire was attached to the trigger and extended to the back door.”

The gun went off, injuring the burglar slightly. Not being overly bright, this guy went into the shop anyway and broke into the front, sales area, of the shop.

At this moment Matthew, who usually slept in the shop for this very eventuality, came in the front door and saw the problem. He took out his own pistol, searched the shop, found the crook in the workshop, and made a citizens arrest.

The burglar pretended to be merely drunk and even invited Browning to a local bar to have a drink and make amends. Matthew went along with him and, while in the bar, sent for a cop.

On Dec. 5, 1883, another burglar in the shop had better luck. Taking advantage of Matthew’s dinner break, the crook broke in and stole 20 revolvers, worth more than $200.

The article notes that the brothers usually had a spring gun, and a big dog, to deal with burglars. However, on this night, the gun was not set and the dog was somewhere else, making Matthew’s dinner break a very expensive repast.


Ogden’s fire equipment has much spiffier ladder trucks these days. Picture taken on Veterans Day, 2016.





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MS Browning, the “forgotten” brother

Steve Lindquist and his ancestor, Matthew Sandefur Browning, face-off.

Ogden resident Steve Lindquist packed Union Station’s Dumke Conference room Tuesday with a talk about Matthew Sandefur Browning, and right now you are saying: “Who?”

Everyone on the planet, pretty much, knows Matthew’s brother. John Moses Browning is the guy who invented all the guns that bear the Browning name, or so most people believe.

What they don’t know, Steve makes clear, is that Matthew had a hand in some of the most significant patents that John received, and is responsible for much of the economic impact that Browning guns had on Ogden and the rest of the world.

Matthew’s much diminished profile in local and national history is a sore point for Steve Lindquist, who is one of the many descendants of Matthew S. in Ogden and Weber County. Those folks who crowded the room Tuesday were many of those relatives and descendants.

John Browning was born in 1855, and Matthew was born four years later. When Matthew was 20 years old, the two opened up Browning Brothers in Ogden, selling the guns they were making as well as a wide range of sporting goods. Early pictures of their shop shows it crowded with bicycles, for example.

Gun collectors and Browning family relatives crowd Union Station to hear about Matthew Sandefur Browning.

Matthew was the businessman while John was the inventor, but even so, Matthew’s name is on 26 of the 128 patents that bear the John Browning name. Some examples include the Winchester 1886 and 1892 lever action rifles, a repeating shotgun and several models of lever action shotguns.

The most significant patent to carry Matthew’s name was the “Flapper” rifle of 1892, the first working model of the gas-operated machine gun. The two developed it together, and every gas operated rifle since then — AK47 for example — uses the principles Matthew helped develop.

After 1895, Steve said, the patents only bore John’s name, “but I have to believe Matthew didn’t stay out of the shop.” He said “it’s hard to believe that a guy could sit at a desk all day when there was fun stuff going on in the shop,” and several family members in the audience confirmed that they heard talk, several times, of Matthew working in the shop on ideas.

Steve Lindquist shows one of the early rifles Matthew S. Browning helped develop.

The last gun that Browning Brothers made themselves was in 1892, when they sold the patent on the single shot rifle they had invented for $8,000. After that, they decided that there was more money easily made in selling ideas than guns, either selling the patents outright or selling rights and collecting royalties. Winchester in the US and Frabrique Nationale in Belgium ended up producing hundreds of thousands of Browning-design guns.

Which meant someone had to manage the family’s money. That was where Matthew shone. They invested in, or founded, automobile dealerships, urban railroads, banks, construction and much else. From 1900 to 1902 Matthew was even mayor of Ogden. He was even  spoken of as a candidate for Governor of Utah, but his wife refused to move to Salt Lake City.

Matthew died on June 29, 1923, while visiting his lawyer in the Eccles Building in Ogden (now a Hampton Inn hotel). His brother John died three years later.

While the world knows of John, Steve and other family members are doing what they can to keep Matthew’s name alive. He even has a web site — click HERE — with a lot more detailed history than I have space for here.

Steve Lindquist with some of his collection of guns and rifles developed by Matthew S. Browning.

His work is important. Everyone contributes to their town’s history, some in small ways, some in large, and all deserve to be remembered. Matthew’s huge contributions deserve a lot more attention than they get.


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Willie Moore is History Well Preserved

Willie Moore is/was one of those Ogden institutions that needs to be preserved, but of course humans have a way of getting older on you.

Which Willie did. Over the years, both when I worked at the Standard-Examiner and later, I watched Willie’s sometimes painful progress through life, getting older and more fragile as they years went on. When his wife Betty died a few years back, concern joined the mix because she and Willie had been a team and Willie’s health was not great.

Willie is a piece of Ogden’s history. He moved his barber shop all around, from the Ben Lomond Hotel to the Marion, to little shops here and there and, finally, about 10 years back, into the Marion again, in a corner shop that had been a lot of things over the years, including Rev. Robert Harris’ restaurant.

Willie said when his shop was there the first time he was paid a visit one day by Eleanor Roosevelt. She was staying in the Ben Lomond and had walked down the street and poked her head in. She told Willie and his customers to be sure and vote, he said, and was very pleasant.

I discovered Willie’s shop when it was located in a little building on 26th Street, opposite the Fire Station which was where the City Building’s parking lot is now.  I had two sons who needed haircuts, and a journalist’s salary that demanded cheap cuts, ahd the $2 Willie charged was the cheapest in town. So every couple of months the boys and I would march down and join the throngs of folks crowding the shop.

Willie moved his shop back to the Ben Lomond about 10 years ago.

One time I was standing with Willie while he was waiting for Betty to come pick him up at his barber shop in the Marion Hotel. I took out the camera and did a series of snaps with the Marion hotel’s sign overhead. Always like this one shot because it looks as if Willie is singing.

A couple minutes later Betty pulled up and picked him up. It was quite a job getting him into the car because his legs were getting weak.

Two years ago Willie left Ogden. His daughter Carol Scott, who lives in Maryland, came and took him home because she could see that her dad needed better care that he could give himself.

She is succeeding. Carol sent me a picture of him last week and it is a joy to see how well he looks, more rested and healthy that he’s been in a long while. Here it is:

But, here’s a real treasure.  Last week the Salt Lake Tribune announced it was putting, on line, its entire photo collection, more than 170,000 images. I pulled it up (click this link) and did a search for Willie. This is what I found:

Carol says the young lady in the picture is not her mom. It is someone Willie was dating before he met Betty. But still, look at Willie, young and prosperous, a wonderful future looking at him. The picture was taken December of 1945, and that looks like the Ben Lomond Hotel behind him.

So long ago.


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Old Ogden High Yearbooks Show A Different World

By Annie Roe

Union Station Archive Blog

1907 Ogden High Classicum

Last week, I found a small collection of Ogden High yearbooks while exploring the archives. Well, they’re not exactly yearbooks. There are 4 of them, from the years 1907, 1909, 1911, and 1936. The official title written on all of them is Classicum. In fact, the only one that looks like what we today think of as a real yearbook is the 1936.

The 1907 and 1909 Classicum are both a small book that has thick paper covers and bound with ribbon or cord, so it’s more of a souvenir pamphlet. There’s hardly any pictures in them. Instead, they’re full of stories and essays written by the students. On some pages, it talks about sports and what happened that year.  Here and there you’ll see a picture of a team or a group of students. The picture pages are quite interesting because there’s one page, and they just fit the faces wherever they can on the page. There’s little captions underneath that tells you who’s who.

The other thing about the 1907 Classicum that’s sort of surprising is their graduating classes. There were 2: the 1907 and the 1906 ½. (I’m still not quite sure why there was a ½ class, but it continues all the way through the 1911 Classicum.) There were only 29 seniors in the class of 1907. That amazes me. In some of my classes at school, which is just a portion of the 8th grade, there are quite a bit more than 29 students. The 1906 ½ has even less: just 15 students.

At the very back of the Classicum, there are quite a few ads. The best one is for the “Honeymoon Terrace.” So many people were getting married right out of high school that the company thought it would be a good idea to put an ad in the high school’s yearbook. The other ones include suits, gramophones, and pianos.

The best part about the 1909 Classicum was a story written by E. E. Carr. It’s called “In the Year 1999 A.D.” and is the author’s prediction about what life would be like in the 1990s. I’m sorry to say not all of the guesses occurred, but it’s hilarious to read what this person thought. In the story, the people ride in airships that go up to 2,000 miles an hour. It’s incredible that the author was imagining this as airplanes were only invented 6 years before.

1909 Track Team

Planes going three times the speed of sound, Mach 3, are going faster than 2,000 mph, so this finally happened.

The story describes flying long distances to run errands very casually. Today, it’s possible to travel quickly on an airplane, but it’s a long process. No one flies internationally just to pick something up. The main character’s plane seems similar to a car. It is used to transport small amounts of people wherever they need to go. Sadly, personal airplanes still haven’t happened. My family doesn’t take an airship to get groceries.

School calendar starts with some humor

It also talks about the use of condensed gasoline. To my knowledge, there is nothing described as condensed gasoline used to power planes or cars, for that matter. According to the story, it’s much better to use. If the author’s prediction is correct, there might be a million dollar idea there.

The 1911 Classicum looks more like a modern book. There’s still some stories, but this one includes a lot more about sports and other things happening in the school. There’s a few little comics drawn in that add some humor. The 1911 Classicum is also the first one to include individual pictures of the students. Every senior has a picture and a quote by their name.

Abe Glasmann later went on to be publisher of the Ogden Standard-Examiner

Right after the pictures, there’s a page called “Class Roll”. There’s a column for each student, and it has funny little predictions of nicknames, appearance, hobby, and even predictions of how they all die. For example, Clyde Woodcock’s nickname is Casey, his appearance is mild, his hobby is getting sick, and he will die in the chemistry lab. It might have been 100 years ago, but those seniors knew how to joke around.

Humor in the ad section — the brewery would have been Becker’s Brewery, which used to be on Lincoln Avenue near the Ogden River.

The 1936 Classicum looks like a real yearbook of today. There’s pictures of all students, sports teams, and clubs. There’s a lot of activities I’ve never heard of, but there’s also ones that I do at my school. It was really cool to look at how the yearbooks have evolved and I’m excited to see how they’re going to keep changing. Digital yearbooks on iPads? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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The amazing but quiet people among us

Union Station’s many volunteers look quiet, maybe quaint, even eccentric at times, but they’re amazing people when you scratch the surface.

For example, consider Terry Curtis, who sits at our lobby information desk several days a week. He’s a smiling, happy guy who makes jewelry out of sea shells and squashed pennies from the penny pinch machines sitting across from his desk. He always wears several necklaces made out of shells and pennies.

Terry Curtis’ paratroop wings on his vest.

His volunteer vest is very crowded with pins, toy badges and the like. Like I said: eccentric. (For the record, my vest has a bunch of pins too.)

I don’t pay them a lot of mind, but one day, up on the top left corner of the vest I spied a pair of simple wings with a tiny image of a parachute between them. Having hung out with a lot of veterans, I know what those were: Paratrooper wings.

“Are those real?” I asked, and Terry said yes, they certainly were.

This immediately put this genial and eccentric old guy behind the desk into a whole new light. After all, it takes a lot of guts to jump out of an airplane, and the military doesn’t let just anyone do it either. Paratroopers are a cut above your basic grunt and have a reputation for being tough, no-nonsense guys.

Turns out Terry was a member of the storied 82nd Airborne Division, serving in German and other places in the late 50s. That means he missed Vietnam, but did his share of jumping out of airplanes on training and deployment jumps.

What’s that like? “The first time scared me to death,” he said, and that was with his chute hooked to the plane so it would open automatically. Yes, there was a guy standing there to push him out if he froze up at the plane’s door.

Terry Curtis at his post.

Terry said the trickiest part was landing. The chutes they used then were those big round things, and if you didn’t land right and immediately collapse the chute by pulling it to the ground you could end up being dragged along the ground.

Terry said he could remember one time when he and a lot of others were lined up to jump and the sergeant came along, inspecting them. The sergeant went up to one guy, inspected his harness and suddenly punched the soldier in the chest.

At which point the guys entire harness fell to the ground, chute and all.

“The guy went white,” Terry said, because there had obviously been something wrong with the way his harness was rigged. If he’d jumped that way, he’d have fallen right out of his chute.

Terry said he got so comfortable with jumping that, on one jump, he even took a camera along and took a few snaps, during the jump, and he pulled a printout of

Terry, center-right, getting ready to jump.

them and showed them to me.

Amazing stuff. When you get so comfortable with jumping out of an airplane that you can stop to take snapshots, it means you are probably able to handle just about anything else life throws at you. Which is why Terry is such a smiling, easy-going guy today.

Drop by and say hi. And note the wings: they are real.


A picture Terry shot on the way down.


Parachutes fill the sky.


Terry hanging around base.


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Union Station in 1938 was decked out in holiday cheer to greet travelers.



Christmas is just around the corner, and Ogden has been getting ready since November. You can see lights downtown, trees in windows, and holiday decorations wherever you go.

Christmas village, now, is the centerpiece of Ogden’s holiday decorations, but years past saw some impressive displays all over town. Major buildings used to have their own displays, including Union Station.

One of Ogden’s holiday traditions is Christmas Village. It grows bigger each year and is cherished by families and Ogden residents. It’s been an annual event since the 1960s.

The first Christmas Village was in 1962, and the idea of Jerry Green. After seeing a disappointing Christmas parade with his son Tom, he developed the idea, received funding, and planned the event. It has now become a tourist attraction, and there are certainly no more disappointed children when it comes to Christmas celebrations.

The early 1980s saw the downtown Hof Winterfest, complete with a snowman contest that included this interesting penguin.

One of the hardest challenges Mr. Green faced was covering a giant missile that used to stand in the park where Christmas Village is. It was a tribute to Thiokol Corporation, which made missiles in Box Elder County, but didn’t exactly say “Christmas.”

However, with a bit of ingenuity, he came up with a solution to cover it with a giant 70-foot Christmas tree. The fire department had to help when the time came to finish decorating.

Several days before Christmas Village was supposed to open, Mr. Green tested the giant tree’s lights. They shorted out the system. However, with little notice, it was fixed the opening day.

There was no time to test the lights before Santa turned them on after the repairs had been made. Mr. Green was very nervous, but all the lights turned on and people were amazed.

Ogden has other Christmas celebrations that have come about and evolved such as the Christmas Tree Jubilee (which used to be held at Union Station and is now at the Eccles Conference Center) and the annual performances of The Nutcracker.

Christmas Tree Express in Ogden’s Union Station grand lobby.

My family’s Christmas traditions are linked to Ogden’s. Every year we go to Christmas Village on Christmas Eve. My sister and I have sung there with our school choirs. We celebrate the December birthdays in my family by going and seeing a performance of the Nutcracker. I love these traditions and it’s interesting to know the backstory.  I can’t wait to see what holiday customs Ogden will have in the future.

Happy holidays!

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Veterans Day Harkens To Union Station’s Critical War Role

Soldiers stand around Union Station during World War II. Pictures of the station during the war are scarce because security restrictions prohibited them. This appears to be taken from a hotel across the street.

Soldiers stand around Union Station during World War II. Pictures of the station during the war are scarce because security restrictions prohibited them. This appears to be taken from a hotel across the street.

I spent Saturday taking pictures of the Veterans Day Parade in downtown Ogden — the parade was revived in 2006 and has become a fixture in the city ever since.

Union Station didn’t play a role in this year’s parade — but that’s how it works. You help win the war, you move on, you become part of history.

Union Station now, of course, helps preserve that history. In 2018 it will host a huge exhibition about World War II in Utah and Weber County, now being assembled by our staff, Weber State University’s special collections, and other museums around the state. It will be a huge reminder of how we all worked together to win the war.

So here’s some images of this year’s parade — shot using a vintage lens and camera to try to capture some of the spirit of these old warriors as they, very sadly, fade away. There are fewer every year, and their diminished numbers always break my heart.








Ogden’s finest.


The flag from a different angle.


Patriot Riders and other vets — Vietnam Vets really took to motorcycles when they got home.


“Kilroy was here” was a popular WWII note that GIs left everywhere.


A popular sentiment of the day.


Dennis Howland, left, a Vietnam Vet and the guy who, in 2006, revived the Vet’s Day Parade in Ogden. The gentleman with him is Robert Porter, who organized this year’s parade.


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Displaying a very old love affair with a Hudson

Alan Stockland was 15 when he met his first love, an older woman, 20, glistening and shiny.

It was an on-and-off relationship. He had her for a while, then let her go, then got her back. And now he has her on display here at Union Station, so he can come and see her any time he wants.

She’s a car, of course. Whatd’ja think?

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-12-04-25-pmStockland, who has been a resident of Ogden since 1970, recently loaned Union Station’s Browning-Kimball Car Museum his 1935 Hudson, a completely restored throwback to the day when cars were lined with plush fabric, cushioned seats and hard unyielding dashboards that dashed your brains out in an accident. Everything on it looks new, from the suicide doors and plush seats, to the glass windshield that cranks open to let in the air.

The amazing thing is that this is the same car he bought, for $100, in 1956. He’d tried to buy it the year before, when he was 15, he said, but couldn’t afford the then-asking price of $200. When the owners came down to $100.

Yes, $100 sounds pretty cheap, but that is equal to more than $1,000 in today’s money, and he was buying a 20-year old car. Would you pay more than $2,000 for a 20-year-old car today? No, although if you do, and hang onto it for another 50 years, it too will be a valuable classic.

He said he bought the car and drove it while he went to college at the University of Nebraska. “I had the second oldest car at college,” he said, bested by someone with a Model-T. A few years later, needing money, he sold it again, getting $200 and thinking he’d done pretty well by himself.screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-12-04-02-pm

Life went on, he did well in life and started playing around with old cars. After a while he started thinking about that ’35 Hudson, his first car, and thought it would be fun to find another one. So he put an ad in the Hudson Essex Terraplane magazine and got a phone call from a guy in Texas.

“We got to talking and he described a few things on the car, and it turned out it was that car,” he said. So, of course, he bought it back, this time “for a few thousand dollars,” and home to Utah it came.

Mice had gotten at the upholstery, so he had that re-done. The engine, with only 35,000 miles, was still virtually new. It did need to be repainted, but other than that it’s pretty much still original.

Stockland admits he’s got “quite an emotional attachment” to the car, since it was his first, and since history seemed to conspire so strongly for him to have it back. As he’s aged and started thinking of thinning out his belongings, cars are an easy thing to let go, but not this one.screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-12-04-49-pm

For some time he’s had it on loan to Union Station, and recently made the decision to go ahead and donate it. He could sell it for a lot of money, but then it would go somewhere else and “I kind of want to be able to come see it,” he said.

So here it will stay, and Union Station is extremely grateful for his screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-12-04-12-pmkindness.

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Old Ads are More Fun than Old News

By Annie Roe

Union Station Blogger

Today’s archival treasure is newspaper clippings from the 1920s! The newspapers are documenting Charles Lindbergh’s famous flight, but that’s not the first thing I noticed.

Flipping through these papers, the ads immediately stood out. For starters, they are everywherep1150744. I mean, there are ads in today’s papers, but they are still manageable and you can read the stories without getting interrupted.

Not in 1927. There are ads everywhere, which I guess makes sense. Newspapers would have been one of the only ways to advertise products. They couldn’t advertise on TV, so there was a bit of an ad overload.

The other thing that struck me as funny was the kind of things the advertisements were selling. All kinds of stuff you’ve never heard of, like Fizz Cola. Don’t all sodas fizz?

One of them was for Wally Caps.

After a little research, I decided that the hats were named after Wally Pipps, a baseball player for the Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, and Cincinnati Reds. He is most famous for losing his starting position to Lou Gehrig.

p1150745I wouldn’t mind losing my starting position if I got a hat named after me. Silver lining, right?

Another ad boasted low prices for the Union Dental Company (and some strange looking teeth.) Their examinations and advice are free. The prices seem like a killer deal. $1 for a filling? Sign me up! Of course, then I remp1150743ember that $1 is really $12.50 and I change my mind.

Even though I can’t travel back in time and experience these companies or wear a brand new Wally Cap, I think these ads are a pretty good representation of the types of products from that time and they are incredibly fascinating.

Fascinating enough to steal the spotlight from Charles Lindbergh, anyways.

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The long and wide reach of Matthew S. Browning

Recently the Standard-Examiner ran a story about a local historic home for sale that might be — the sellers weren’t sure — connected to the Browning family?

Sure enough: Carolyn Rich Rasmussen, a descendent of Matthew Sandefur Browning, wrote the paper, giving the entire lineage: Her uncle, John Franklin Ellis, who was married to Matthew’s daughter Telitha, built the house at 2529 Jackson Ave. Telitha’s sister, Blanche, and her husband, Dr. Junior Edward Rich, lived in it eight years. Carolyn, of course, is descended from Dr. Rich.s-e-10-2-2016

Sorry for the genealogical listing: Who was related to whom gets intricate fast, especially when you are discussing the Browning Family. Jonathon Browning, the patriarch of the family, had several wives, they all had children, and they’re all still, many of them, around the Ogden area.

There are a lot of Browning homes, Browning descendants and Browning relatives. That they show up in such odd places and times is a testament to how intricately woven into the fabric of Ogden’s history the whole family is.

No, I am not going to try to list them all here. We are looking, today, only at Matthew S.


Matthew S. Browning

And well we should. The Browning Arms Museum at Union Station very rightly celebrates John Moses Browning, who invented the guns that still bear the family name, but not as many remember the his kid brother who really, no kidding, made it all possible.

Inventors invent, and inventions are often innovative, but it takes a shrewd businessman to turn the invention into a steady income, let alone a business empire.

In that regard, Matthew S. Browning was very shrewd indeed.

Matthew was the man who built and managed the Browning Brothers Arms business, parlayed the family’s business success into an industrial giant, branched out and developed a bevy of new businesses in Ogden and around Utah, and even ran the city as mayor for two years.

Matthew was the second son of Jonathan and Elizabeth Browning, born in 1859 in Utah Territory. He was four years younger than John M., but the two were always close. They learned the gun trade together, went hunting and fishing together, and built their first guns together, although John was always the innovator.

Matthew took the business side in hand early on. According to a biography at a web site about Matthew, assembled by Ogden

John, left, and Matthew S. Browning, hunting together.

John, left, and Matthew S. Browning, hunting together.

resident Steven Lindquist, one of Matthew’s descendants, Matthew managed things while John served a Mission for the LDS Church and while John went back east and to Belgium to supervise setting up assembly lines and manufacturing of the various guns they had licensed to those companies.

Licensing was their secret. Matthew and John started out making and selling guns. They had their own sporting goods shop in Ogden, selling their own guns, other sporting goods and supplies, and even bicycles. They quickly learned that the real money was in inventing them and then letting someone else build and market them. Winchester and Colt in this country, and Fabrique Nationale in Belgium, all produced guns that John designed.

Matthew took his time in the shop too. Guns were the family business, after all, and Matthew was as interested in how they worked as his brother. Matthew’s name is on 24 Browning Brothers patents, eight of which were manufactured.

Matthew was with his brother, John on that fateful day in 1890 when they were hunting amid some reeds and bullrushes north of Ogden. John noticed the blast from the gun pushed the reeds apart and a lightbulb lit. Both brothers went back to the shop, and three days later a working model of the world’s first gas-operated machine gun emerged.

Marriner Browning, Matthew’s son, wrote of seeing his father and John working together on a prototype of the Auto 5 shotgun, experimenting together to make the mechanism work best.


Matthew Browning inaugurating the Utah-Idaho Central Railroad, which he was a director.

While John concentrated on guns, Matthew invested the family money and branched out. He served on the boards of a number of a wide range of local businesses, including the Utah National bank of Ogden, the Utah-Idaho Central Railroad, the Lion Coal Company, KWFA radio station, the Ogden Transit Company, Utah Power and Light, Deseret National Bank and on and on. The Browning Brothers even set up the Browning Brothers Overland automobile company.

He wasn’t all business, though. Matthew was one of the four B’s, of Ogden — expert marksmen trap shooters (along with John Browning, Gus Becker and A.P. Bigelow). 

In 1890 he teamed up with John and David Eccles and local businessman Joseph Clark to build the Grand Opera House in Ogden. This later became the Orpheum Theater in Ogden.

Matthew was heavily involved in civic matters.

He was a regular at the Weber Club, a meeting place on the top floor of the Eccles Building where the city’s power elite met and steered the city’s future. M.S. Browning hung out with with such luminaries as David C. Eccles, Thomas D. Dee, Albert Scowcroft, Abe Glasmann, Gus Becker and others.They formed committees to guard the city’s interest in the  building of the Lucin Cutoff, encourage people to buy Liberty Bonds, and much more.

He was in the volunteer fire department at one time. In 1900 he was elected Mayor of Ogden, serving a single 2-year term. He

Matthew Browning poses on a ladder with Ogden's volunteer fire department.

Matthew Browning poses on a ladder with Ogden’s volunteer fire department.

was president of the city school board, and in 1912 served on a committee to design and fund the Utah State Capitol building. He was even asked to run for governor, but declined because his wife didn’t want to move to Salt Lake City.

He traveled and enjoyed life. A 1916 article in the Ogden Evening Standard has him returning from a tour of the east, including New York City. On the night of the presidential election in 1916 he was in the New Astor Hotel in that city, along with GOP candidate Charles Evans Hughes.

Early in the evening, Browning later told the Standard, “the New York Times, a Democratic paper, conceded the election of Mr. Hughes. Pandemonium reigned in the streets.”

Pandemonium indeed. Hughes hadn’t expected to win, and he really hadn’t. Woodrow Wilson, the Democrat, had actually won.

“Mr. Browning laughed heartily in telling of the sad awakening of the Republicans next morning.” the paper reported.  “Enormous sums of money were wagered in Wall Street,” the Standard said.screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-3-42-53-pm

Matthew S. Browning, comfortable.

Matthew S. Browning, comfortable.

Matthew went on to discuss the attitude of easterners to Utahns, which he said was not good. He said the New York “Globe,” a daily paper, “published a bitter diatribe against the people of Utah following the election,” which Browning called “a scandalous and outrageous attack.”

The vitriol was because Utah, apparently, was one of 30 states backing Wilson. Browning said “the people of the east know nothing of the unconquerable spirit of the progressive west, nor of the conditions west of the Rockies. The west is like a sealed and mysterious volume to them.”

Browning died June 29, 1923, of an apparent heart attack while visiting his attorney’s office in the Eccles Building, 24th and Washington. His funeral was attended by the current mayor of Ogden and six previous mayors, the current and former governor of Utah, and Heber J. Grant, president of the LDS Church. The list of pall bearers, and honorary pall bearers, was a list of the high and powerful of Ogden and Utah.

All those people turned out, of course, hoping that he wouldn’t be forgotten. Here in Union Station’s Archive we’re trying hard to keep that from happening too.

Our thanks to Steven Lindquist. His web site on Matthew Browning has a full list of his patents, pictures and much else. Check it out at

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