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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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Station Cars Kick Automotive Butt at Peach Days Show

One of the hardest working volunteers at Union Station is Steve Sherwood, who maintains our Browning-Kimball Car Museum collection of classic wheels.screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-2-06-04-pm

It is a labor of love, but also a lot of work. It is not uncommon to find Steve struggling with an old fuel pump or radiator because, despite their classic states, and despite the fact they don’t get used much, the cars need constant maintenance.

Part of it is normal aging, part of it is that the cars don’t get used much. You’d think a car that just sits would always be ready to go, and you’d be wrong. Cars, like any other machine, are made to be used, and when they aren’t, they deteriorate.

So it’s nice to see Steve’s work recognized at times, and this year he was. He drove two of our cars to the annual car show at Peach Days in Brigham City, sitting alongside more than 700 entries. One of them, the 1932 Lincoln, took best in show of its category, “30s and 40s Original.”screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-2-06-20-pm

Cars from the 1930s and 1940s in original condition are rare already, and one as clean and lovely, not to mention as cool, as our ’32 Lincoln is unique. The reward doesn’t represent rareness, however. It recognizes all the work Steve has done keeping it up and running and lovely.

You can see this car, and many more, in our museum, daily. If you’re here Thursday, Tuesday and Saturday, you can also see Steve.



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Meet Annie Roe, Our New Blogger

Hello Ogden! My name is Annie Roe, and I’m going to start writing articles on the Union Station blog.
Why? For practice, experience, and fun. Here’s a little background about me.

Annie Roe, new Union Station Foundation blogger.

Annie Roe, new Union Station Foundation blogger.

I’m 13 and I have lived in Ogden my whole life. I love writing and I want to be an author. I’m fairly new to blogging, but I’ve been writing for 6 years, and in June 2015 I went to Washington D.C. for the national level of National History Day for a paper I wrote about Jane Austen.
In addition to writing blog posts, I also get to explore the archives and research Ogden’s past. On the historical side of things, I don’t have much experience except that I just love learning and history has always been interesting to me. I am very excited about this opportunity I have.
I’ve only been a volunteer for a short time, but I can say that it is really cool. I spent several hours browsing the archives and it is incredible. There’s a lot more than you’d except from a first glance. It’s not just old papers and photos. I learned about things I didn’t even know existed in just a short amount of time. I’m glad that I live in a place that has these records about the past.
One of my favorite things to learn about is the stories of the people that lived through history. Sure, facts help you know more, but they can only take you so far. The stories are what really make history rich and entertaining to learn.
I also really enjoy family history, and besides just finding names, I love to read life sketches and see pictures of my ancestors. In Union Station, I’ve already read stories of people and seen the faces of those in Ogden’s past that I’ve only heard names of before. I hope that through this experience, I’ll be able to make the stories more accessible to the people that live here.
Where else in Ogden can you find so much about this city’s past? There is information about the railroad, World War II, Ogden High, and lots more. It is possible to glance into the lives of people who lived years ago and to experience a different time. There’s a lot that I haven’t seen yet and I’m looking forward to not only learning more about the place I live, but also being able to share it with the citizens of Ogden.

Annie visits our Railroad Museum's new Riding in Style exhibit.

Annie visits our Railroad Museum’s new Riding in Style exhibit.

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Saving Irene Woodhouse

Found a fun news clip about Irene Woodhouse today. Or, more accurately, by Irene.

Irene was a historian in Ogden who, for many years, wrote a regular column in the Standard-Examiner called “Ogden Anecdotes.” They were stories about the past, as seen from the 60s and 70. We do stories about the “good old days” of the 60s and 70s, now, and in 30 years they’ll be about those crazy teens of the 21st Century.

Irene's book, published in 1983

Irene’s book, published in 1983

This particular clip is interesting because in it, Irene talks to Clix Swaner, who was also a historical artifact. Clix was born, if my memory serves, about 1899 and died when he was about 102. He saw Ogden go from horses and buggies to jet planes.

Clix ran a gas station at the corner of 27th and Grant, and the building is still there. Irene is talking to him about the Binford-Kimball Motor Company, where Clix worked in the 1920s.

Pumping gasoline back there meant you really did, Clix said. The gasoline pump had a tank on top that you would pump full of gasoline, then allow to drain down into your car.

“The most gas you could pump was five gallons,” he told her. “If someone wanted eight, or something like that, you pumped  five and delivered it, then pumped three more.”

Gradually things improved, he told her. Canopies appeared over the pumps to keep the sun off. Station buildings, at first small, were enlarged and stored supplies for sale and to service cars.

And each oil company had its own line of stations. Irene said she saw an old news clip referring to oil company executives complaining of overbuilding. “He cited Utah as having too many stations, one for every about 18 automobiles.”


Irene’s columns were collected into a book which, apparently, you can still find for sale. Try here on Amazon. (click!)

For more on Clix, click here  (click!).

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Riding in Style: Nobody Lives Like This Any More

I had the incredible pleasure of showing Ann Roe, niece of one of our employees, around our new “Riding In Style” exhibit in the Utah State Railroad Museum.

Ann Roe in our "Riding in Style" exhibit's selfie booth.

Ann Roe in our “Riding in Style” exhibit’s selfie booth.

Ann wants to learn to write, so she’ll be doing some blogging for us. I wanted to show her the new exhibit because it is a good example of how history both shows us how life used to be, and also how it is linked to the present, giving us both lessons and meaning.

A big thrust of the the exhibit is the history of African Americans in Ogden. Black people from around the nation were hired by the railroads to be porters, waiters, cooks and other service jobs. The Pullman Corporation, which made sleeping cars, hired former slaves in the 1870s because they were used to working horrible hours in bad condition. Pullman’s interesting hiring practices led to the formation of labor unions, because even former slaves know that they’re being abused.

Cream jug from the Pullman company.

Cream jug from the Pullman company.

So there’s that. But there’s also the extreme elegance of service to customers on the railroad. Blacks may have worked in bad conditions for low pay and horrible hours, but the customers who rode the trains were treated to the best.

You can see it in the tableware on display in the exhibit. Ann is sitting at a table in front of a picture taken in a typical railroad dining car of the 1950s. The picture is a publicity shot, but people really did dress up for dinner back then, and the tables in dining cars really were laid with linen table cloths, real china dishes and crystal classes.

(Important note: The table she is sitting at is set up for folks to shoot selfies. It is not laid with real Union Pacific china. We made fake stuff because we know it is going to get bumped and broken. The real stuff is locked up in the display cases.)

Real UP dishes. We keep these locked up.

Real UP dishes. We keep these locked up.

What fascinated me was not just the glassware, but some menus from railroad dining cars our archive recently acquired.

The menus, and prices, are from the World War II era, and it is hard to describe how different the world they mirror is. This is food on a train, folks. Food prepared in a narrow crowded galley and served on a swaying metal box rolling along the rails, and I’d like to have you show me a premium first class five star ride on any airline in the world today that could match it.

Never mind that: Show me a restaurant anywhere in Utah that even comes close. Maybe Lamb’s in Salt Lake, and a few places I never even dream of affording.

But look at the choice facing any Joe Schmo who sat down for dinner on the Great Northern’s “Empire Builder,” which ran between Chicago and Seattle (and still does, now via Amtrak.) The Number One “Table D’Hote Dinner” offers a choice of fresh fish, bake ham, roast turkey with dressing, grilled pork chops with fried apples, roast prime rib or oysters saute on toast. A side of potatoes O’Brien, fresh green vegetables, salad, tea biscuits or cold bread, cream cheese or crab apple jelly, and apple pie or ice cream and cake for dessert.

Coffee, tea or milk, included, of course! And all for a dollar (which, to be fair, is about the same as $15 in today’s money.)

Typical scene in a 1950s dining car.

Typical scene in a 1950s dining car.

And check out the asterisk: Seconds are free!

Why such great food? Back before airlines and interstate highways stole all their business, railroads offered the best and fastest way to get across the country. A number of competing railroads fought for passenger business. Better service meant more business.

A UP bib.

A UP bib.

The menus show more than just food, however. There’s hints of world affairs. A banner down the side of one urges rail passengers to “Be Sure And Buy Victory Bonds.” World war II was on, the public was helping finance it by loaning the government money.

A note on the bottom of one, from 1943, also hints at wartime controls:  “All prices are our ceiling prices,” it notes, as set by the federal Office Of Price Administration in Washington D.C. The federal government was pumping money into the economy like crazy during the war. To avoid runaway inflation, and control domestic consumption that would have taken away from the war effort, it slapped wage and price controls on everything. Saved up money from buying bonds, and pent-up demand, is what led to the economic boom of the 1950s and rapid growth of the American middle class everyone today wishes would come back.

But that life, and the life or railroading, is gone forever. Try not to think about it, too hard, the next time you get on an airplane, shoe-horned into a tiny seat, expected to survive your cross-country trip on a couple of dry crackers and water or what passes for coffee.

This is lunch. Lunch!

This is lunch. Lunch!


Your dinner selections

Your dinner selections


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Telitha Lindquist Greiner carried on her family’s legacy

I read, with great sadness and a bit of loss, the obituary of Telitha Lindquist Greiner in the Standard-Examiner recently. (Click here.)

Sadness because I know her husband well. Jon Greiner was former Ogden Police Chief, a former Utah State Senator, and heck of a nice guy, now running Ogden’s Airport.

You hurt for a guy whose love dies far too young.

Telitha Lindquist Greiner

Telitha Lindquist Greiner

But loss, too,  because Telitha seems to be one of the few people in Ogden I cannot remember ever interviewing, or even meeting, in my time at the local newspaper.  After I read her obituary I knew I should have. Her list of accomplishments, involvements and organizations is very long, all intertwined in efforts to make my city a better place.

Telitha is the third woman in her family to bear that name and the fourth is her and Jon’s daughter. Her mother,Telitha Lindquist, was the wife of John Lindquist, of Lindquist Funeral Homes. Her grandmother, Telitha Browning, was the daughter of Matthew S. Browning, who is someone you should know, although he seems to have faded into the background.

So, Telitha Greiner’s lineage directly links her to one of the key founders of Ogden’s industrial base 100 years ago, one of the buildes of Ogden, a  man who doesn’t get anywhere near the notice he should. She carried on his legacy, also quietly.

John M. (left) and Matthew S. Browning in the doorway of their new business.

John M. (left) and Matthew S. Browning in the doorway of their new business.

Quietly seems to be the watch-word here. Matthew was the guy who stood in the shadows while his brother, John M. Browning, got all the accolades as a gun inventor, but a lot of folks forget that it was Matthew’s business smarts that made the family gun business a success.

You can be the smartest inventor in the world — and John may well have been — but if the bills don’t get paid, the profits don’t get invested, your genius is lost. Matthew made sure the bills got paid.


The Lindquist family has a lovely web site on Matthew (click here!) but here are some highlights:

In 1879 Matthew and John bought their father’s gun shop, setting up Browning Brothers Company and the J.M. and M.S. Browning Arms company.

While John stayed in the shop, inventing guns, Matthew S. used the extensive revenue generated by the gun business to branch out. The brothers were involved with the Bar B. Ranch,which ran thousands of head of cattle. They formed the Utah State Bank, with Matthew as president. He later merged with the Eccles family to form First Security Bank, now owned by Wells Fargo.

The list of other businesses he was involved in is extensive: Railroads, rapid transit companies, banks and industries too numerous to mention. There was even a Browning Brothers Overland Automobile Dealership (which is a foreshadowing of the Browning-Kimball Car Museum here at Union Station.)

Matthew didn’t just sit around and count his and John’s money. He spent his own time in the gun shop, getting his name on 25 patents along with John. But as the family web site makes clear, he also worked hard to build his community.

Matthew S. on fire department ladder, late 1800s.

Matthew S. on fire department ladder, late 1800s.

“Matthew’s political and civic involvements included two years as mayor of Ogden in 1900 and 1901; he served as president of the Weber Club, a member of the Ogden Chamber of Commerce, and president of the city school board. In 1912, Matthew served at the request of the governor on a committee to design and fund the Utah State Capital building. He was also asked to run for governor of Utah but declined because Mary Ann didn’t want to move to Salt Lake City.”

He was even involved with the volunteer fire department.

Matthew S. Browning died of a heart attack on June 29, 1923, collapsing in his office in the Eccles Building. His funeral was attended by the president of the LDS Church, the governor of the state of Utah, the previous governor of the state of Utah, and seven former or current mayors of Ogden.


Matthew S. Browning

Matthew S. Browning

People knew they’d lost a huge contributor to the community. This week we’ve lost another, but our community is better because of their work.



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Harm Peery — Ogden’s lovable rogue revealed.

The Standard-Examiner had a wonderful story about Mayor Harm Peery the other day (click here!) that looked at his role in

Harm leads the 1934 Pioneer Days Parade.

Harm leads the 1934 Pioneer Days Parade.

starting the Pioneer Days Rodeo.

Which, yes, he did do. In an era when the Great Depression was on, Harm was a business man who knew that he needed to juice up the economy, to get things moving. With Utah’s unemployment edging up to 25 percent, banks closing and malaise spreading, he also knew folks were hungry for some fun.

And Harm, whose family had a long history in local politics (his father had been mayor) and business, was just the guy to do it.

Harm was a showman. He built Peery’s Egyptian Theater on Washington Boulevard in 1924, and opened up other theaters around the west. The first story in the Standard-Examiner’s extensive file on him is not about politics, it’s about him opening a new Orpheum Theater in Evanston, Wyo.

Peery’s bombastic ways as mayor reflected his life in general. As early as 1911 he was getting speeding tickets for driving one of the first cars in Weber County too fast. In one case he was fined $20 for speeding around the corner of 24th and Grant in Ogden. $20, in 1911, was a lot of money, similar to $500 today. Probably he was just showing how good his cars were — in 1910 he opened the Hupmobile dealership in Ogden.

The old copies of the S-E show him getting zinged several times for automotive offenses — speeding and parking tickets plagued him even while mayor.

He always, very publicly, paid the fines.

Being the kind of guy he was, how could he not be popular? He was elected to three successive 2-year terms staring with 1934.

Harm Peery, right, and Police Chief L. M. Hilton, get their beards tweaked during Pioneer Days.

Harm Peery, right, and Police Chief L. M. Hilton, get their beards tweaked during Pioneer Days.

He was defeated in 1939, probably because of a financial scandal surrounding his signature event, the Pioneer Days.

In March of 1939,  L.C. Smith, a retired superintendent of the Ogden Union Railway and Depot Corporation, which ran Union Station for the railroads, filed a lawsuit against Peery, his cronies, and Pioneer Days. His suit alleged that, while ostensibly founded for the benefit of Ogden, Pioneer Days was really a scheme by Peery and his pals to run rodeos and other amusements for their own benefit.

Says the suit, “not withstanding the fact that all of the money that came into the possession of said Ogden Pioneer Days, Inc., was the money of said Ogden City and public money, that nevertheless the said individual defendants had taken and used large and divers sums and amounts of the money coming into their hands as officers of the Ogden Pioneer Days, Inc., for their own personal use and benefit.”

The suit was long and drawn out, but Smith won. Peery and pals had to pay back $17,000, which would be like writing a check for $300,000 today.

Yeah: Ouch.

Peery's plaintive cry for mercy -- and it worked!

Peery’s plaintive cry for mercy — and it worked!

Harm Peery in the 1950s.

Harm Peery in the 1950s.

So Peery lost that year, but never changed. He kept running his bar and dance hall, the Old Mill, and kept flouting the law. He had pinball machines and slot machines. He stayed open after hours. He kept parking illegally. As recently as 1960 he was getting busted for selling beer to minors. “I’m just trying to run a poor man’s club,” he told the jury after that one, and they bought it.

People, apparently, would buy a lot when Harm was selling. In 1947 he got so sick of folks harassing him over it all that he ran for mayor again, and he was blunt about his intention: He was doing so to flout the law.




This is made clear in a marvelous piece of journalism, published in the S-E in October of that year by none other than Abe Glasmann, son of the newspaper’s founder and the publisher for many, many years.

It is clear Abe had no love for Harm, and Harm had none for Abe, but there was respect there. On Oct. 26 Harm published the following, which I have to assume is a reasonably accurate rendition of the police but biting conversation the two men had, keeping in mind that Abe was doing the writing. You can almost hear him chuckling as he’s typing away, too:


Two days after the primary election, both candidates for mayor dropped into the Standard-Examiner offices and were officially interviewed.

Harman Peery came in first.

“”Lo, Abe,” said Mr. Glasmann.

“‘Lo, Harman.” 

“How about some articles in the paper, Abe?” said Harman.

“What kind of articles, Harman?”

“Why, articles to support me,” Harman replied.

“No can do, Harman. We don’t see things alike.”

Harman: I can’t understand your not supporting me, Abe; our interests are the same. You are a big taxpayer. We got to get taxes down.

Glasmann: I don’t mind the increases in taxes, Harm. On our business property our rents, like those of the Peery estate, have increased faster than the taxes. We’re happy about that. On our homes it is the only increase in the cost of living that is reasonable. All other costs of buying clothes, food, repairs and so forth have more than doubled. City and County employes have had their salaries increased. I’m really surprised that the tax increases are so moderate.

Harman: Well, we can cut them by having gambling. I don’t mean big gambling, but little gambling — slot machines, pin balls like they have in other parts of the country.

Glasmann: But Harman, that’s against the law.

Harman: Those laws are damfool laws, like midnight closing. I don’t believe in them. Let’s have some gambling. Let the people have some fun. Let the business men make some money.

Glasmann: Harman, I’ve always said that personally I do not think you took any of the graft collected in your administration, that you were personally honest.

Harman: Thanks, Abe.

Glasmann: But Harman, as a public official you were both corrupt and dishonest. I believe, Harman, that you have a right to advocate any kinds of laws or conditions, open gambling, prostitution or what not, but as a public official you should uphold the laws of the land.

Harman: Those laws are foolish laws like the twelve o’clock closing. I can’t make a living at the Old Mill and close at midnight. Why, last summer a couple of cops came in and saw some slot machines. “We ought to take those machines,” they said. “We wish somebody were playing them. We’ll be back later when there are more people around.” I told them that i had my cards  printed announcing for mayor, but that if they would quit persecuting me I wouldn’t run for mayor. All I wanted was to be left alone.

Glasmann: In other words, you agreed if you could run the Old Mill after twelve o’clock and run slot machines you wouldn’t run for mayor.

Peery busted for "contributing."

Peery busted for “contributing.”

Harman: That’s right. If they would leave me alone. Abe, let’s get together, cut taxes and have gambling, not big gambling but little gambling, the kind that doesn’t do any harm, then lets let the people have some fun and let the business man make some money and let the taverns stay open after midnight. They can’t make any money with a midnight closing.

Glasmann: Harman, said I said before, we don’t see alike. You have been arrested and convicted more than 20 times

for open violation of the law. I think your being mayor has always been bad for Ogden — bad influence and bad publicity. We have tried to keep the newspaper out of local politics. If we take any stand in this election it will be against you.

Harman: Sorry about that, because I think we should work together.

“‘Bye, Harm.’

“Bye, Abe.”


Pretty brutal, huh? But Harm still won.

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Harm Peery’s Newspaper file now available

I cannot believe how cool this is.

Harm promoted Pioneer Days. Looking silly was part of the pitch.

Harm promoted Pioneer Days. Looking silly was part of the pitch.

For me, as a news reporter and as a historian, Harmon Peery has always been an object of both mystery and fascination.

Mystery because he lived and worked so long ago. Fascination because he was such an amazingly larger than life personality. He was a scoundrel, a rogue, a crook and liar. He was lovable and brash and made no bones about anything.

And now, thanks to the kind assistance of the Standard-Examiner, we have available, in digital format, both here at Union Station and at the Weber State University Special Collections, a massive window on Ogden’s Cowboy Mayor.

It is hard to say how great these files are.

From the day he announced for mayor in 1933, until the day of his death on Jan. 24, 1961, Harm made the paper hundreds of times. Every time he was in a news story a very hard working person at the Standard-Examiner would cut the story out, stamp it with that day’s date, and carefully paste it into a file folder. The Standard has about 25 of those folders in its morgue.

For years the lady who did that was Donna Bingham, a dear person who started working at the Standard in the 1940s. She only married once, during World War II, to a guy who went off to war to fly airplanes and never came back. From then until the 1990s Donna’s whole life was the Standard and those files, thousands of them, on every subject that made the paper.

Harm Peery’s file is particularly fun. In it we see every bit of fun Harm got in to: How he went to war with Salt Lake City over traffic fines, Pioneer Days, gasoline sales and much else.

You have to remember, in 1934 Utah was in the depths of the Great Depression. Utah’s unemployment rate was 25 percent, or higher. Towns like Ogden were desperate for anything that would boost business and bring in money.

Harm was a business owner as well as politician. Some might argue he was more about business than politics. He took the small 24th of July observation Ogden had been having and, in 1934, made it a major state-wide promotion, with a rodeo, a huge parade, and a lot of publicity.Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 11.18.50 AM

To lure shoppers to Ogden from Salt Lake City he promoted a weekly city lottery, offering up a free car to the winner. He sold gasoline from the city’s pumps at a nickel a gallon less than Salt Lake City dealers were selling it. In honor of leap  year in 1934 (when, so we are told, women can ask men to get hitched) he offered a free wedding ceremony to anyone who came to him. If they would agree to move to Ogden, he’d also offer a free building permit.

13301374_10207766799920651_6678393525989971455_oThis promotion hit its height in 1935 when King Edward VIII of England abdicated his throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. Harm promptly offered to perform the ceremony, for free, and said if the happy couple would wait and get  hitched during Pioneer Days he’d throw in a free honeymoon trip Yellowstone Park.

They didn’t take him up on the offer — they went to France — but the story went national, which was the point.

Harm had little use for laws against gambling and drinking. Ogden’s 25th Street was a wide-open party, 24-7, and Harm felt it only needed regulating.

His loose attitude towards the law led to him being arrested numerous times for violating operating hours, having gambling devices, selling to minors,and so on. This led, during his campaign for re-election in 1947, to a memorable exchange between him and Abe Glasmann, editor of the Standard-Examiner, which Abe reported in an editorial:

Harm didn't want to be too hard on crime if it paid.

Harm didn’t want to be too hard on crime if it paid.

Harm argued to Abe that taxes needed to be cut to help out local businesses. Abe, a local businessman, said they didn’t need it.

Said Harm: “Those laws are damnfool laws, like midnight closings. I don’t believe in them. Let’s have gambling. Let’s let the people have some fun. Let the businessmen make some money.”

Abe said Harm was entitled ot his opinion,”but Harmon, as a public official you were both corrupt and dishonest.”

Abe said the paper would not be backing Harm. It didn’t matter. Harm was reelected.

The clip files have been carefully digitized and are now in the archive of both Union Station Foundation and Weber State University Special Collections.

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Boy, shades of Butch Cassidy and Sundance, there was a time when guys with guns really did hold up trains.

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Right here in little old Utah, too.

Someone said I should look into those robberies, so I did and it’s great fun. A quick search of the old newspapers turned up several.

This one, in June of 1910, happened just north of Ogden. It didn’t involve horses running beside the train and bandits leaping across cars, but other than that good old Butch would have felt right at home.

The story in the Box Elder News for June 30, 1910, reads like a pulp novel, with the train being brought to a halt by “torpedoes” on the line (which were just what we call flares). Then, “with daring equal to any robbery pulled off by the infamous James gang,” they rifled the safe and strolled through the cars, taking watches, emptying wallets and even ripping the diamond ear rings off of one poor passenger.

The train was No. 1 of the OSL line — Oregon  Short Line, a subsidiary of the Union Pacific  — which left Ogden’s Union Station at 1:30 in the morning, going north. The engineer stopped it at 2nd Street when he saw the flares on the track. The three robbers got to the scene in “a rubber tired rig,” which I am only guessing refers to a car of some sort, but horses and buggies were still common back then.

When the head brakeman went forward to see what the flares were about the robbers hit him on the head with a gun, then took him to the express car and ordered him to tell the messenger inside to open the door.

(Does this sound exactly like the robbery in the film about Butch Cassidy staring Robert Redford or what?)

The messenger opened the door, the robbers crawled in, ordered the guy to open the safe, and emptied it.

Shots were fired when they met rear brakeman, N. J. Franklin, who was walking ahead to see what was going on. The robbers ordered him to stop, fired two shots but didn’t hit him, then knocked him to the ground where he rolled into a ditch and feigned being unconscious. After the robbers passed into the passenger cars, he got up and ran three blocks to the home of Deputy Sheriff John Hutchens.

Hutchens hustled off, but by the time he got to 2nd Street the train was pulling out.  This is fascinating — the train was held up, the brakeman was missing, the passengers robbed, but after the robbers flee the engineer and conductor just say “OK, schedule to meet, Let’s go!”

In any event, while one robber held a gun on the crew, the others went through the day coach, sleep and two chair cars, guns drawn, relieving people of their valuables. Then they got back in their rubber tired vehicle and made their escape.

A posse was formed, which did locate the vehicle, abandoned. The posse was “mounted” in automobiles, but other than that the whole thing played out the same.

If they caught anyone, the local papers that survive did not report it, but I’m happy to be proven wrong.


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Frank Francis, a beer-loving Ogden builder

Frank Francis is one of the most under-appreciated builders of Ogden I can think of, a situation I hope to rectify in my work here at Union Station.

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Ogden Mayor Frank Francis

For starters, he was the founder, in 1904, of the Ogden morning “Examiner,” which is the reason there’s a hyphen in the name of Ogden’s present newspaper. The morning Examiner was bought by evening Ogden Standard in 1915 and merged into it in 1920. Francis stayed on as executive editor and columnist.

Francis was also mayor of Ogden, serving three two-year terms, from 1920 to 1923 and again 1928 and 1929. One interesting aspect of Francis’ reelection bid in 1922 was the unwanted endorsement of the Ogden chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, which liked his law and order stance.

Francis won anyway.

Union Station owes him a huge debt. When the station burned in February of 1923, the first inclination of the railroads was to repair the wreck as best they could and let it go at that. Francis led a vigorous campaign to get a new station built. The result you see today.

Even when not mayor, Francis was influential in Ogden. His daily “News and Views” column in the S-E highlighted coming and goings and doings in Ogden’s bustling economy. He was well-connected and widely liked.

So it is no surprise that he was a close friend of Gus Becker.

Becker is now also widely unknown, which is sad, because he was both a heck of a nice guy and something of a local character. Becker ran Becker’s Brewery in Ogden until his death in the 1940s and was a vigorous champion of Ogden, Utah, and the local economy.

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Gus Becker with one of his hunting dogs

Prohibition hit Becker hard. Breweries make their living making alcoholic beverages, after all, and many closed. His brewery employed several hundred people, bought tons of barley and other crops from local farmers, gave jobs to local laborers, truckers and business owners.

Prohibition was repealed in 1933. While Utah cast the deciding vote, it failed to allow the making of alcoholic beverages in the state. Becker, who’d kept his brewery alive making non-alcoholic beer and soft drinks, felt this was both unfair and stupid economics.

Frank Francis, a man with a very popular and prominent podium from which to speak, was a strong ally of Becker’s.

On May 6, 1933, Francis sat down at his typewriter to both thank Becker for a letter of condolence (I don’t know what for) and to expound on the brewer’s problem with Utah’s laws. This letter is one of hundreds preserved in Becker’s scrap books, now part of the Union Station archive’s collection.

Francis’ observations and arguments about the banning of alcohol are both well-thought and applicable even today.  Now, as then, we are grappling with the legal control of something the public wants, but can’t have.  Then it was alcohol, now it is marijuana and other things, but the situation is the same overall.

Francis told Becker he “cannot see the wisdom in morals or in law of our present contradictory attitude, which prompts us to close our eyes to human behavior and pretend to believe that by some miracle of duplicity we can clothe ourselves with a smug goodness which allows us to strike an attitude of moral superiority, when as a matter of fact we are indulging in something very close to hypocrisy.”

He said he had recently visited Ely, Nevada, where he was told that the coming of legal beer had “improved their social condition. They found themselves refreshed by the consciousness of doing openly that which many of them had been doing clandestinely. They had thrown off false and put on candor and a degree of wholesome self respect.”

Francis said the whole experiment with Prohibition was an education for him.

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News headline show Prohibition’s economic impact in Ogden.

“I voted for prohibition, principally because the old saloon had become a foul thing and a corrupting influence in our public affairs. I never dreamed of something worse growing out of the abolition of the traffic which centered in the brothels of the old day. Men like Darrow (Clarence Darrow, the lawyer who defended evolution in the famous Scopes “Monkey trial”) dwelt on personal liberty, but I was willing to give up much of that liberty, if by so doing humanity as a whole could be benefitted.

“Gradually I was disillusioned, as I discovered that when law ran contrary to the appetites or desires of any large number of people, classed as respectable, the whole structure of law was endangered. I was made aware that goodness could not be legislated into human beings, and any movement in that direction eventually would be reduced to a farce. I also found that the liquor traffic had shifted from the open saloon to the home and speakeasy, and that high powered salesmen had victimized the youth of the land with their hip pocket offerings.”

Finally he said, “why not acknowledge we have made a mistake and, following the will of the people as expressed in our last national election and as written into the Huggins bill in our own state, proceed to permit your plant to manufacture 3.2 per cent beer for shipment.”

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The Huggins bill, which would allow brewing beer in Utah for shipment out of state, was indeed passed by the Legislature.

Becker, in a speech to the Ogden Lions Club a year later, said the Huggins Bill had immediate positive effect.

He was able to give new jobs to 100 people and bought 4 million pounds of barley, raising the price from 65 cents per 100 pounds to $1.50 per 100 pounds.

In 1934, when Utah unemployment was pushing 35 percent because of the Great Depression, that had an immediate positive impact.

Francis, in closing his letter in 1933, said ending Prohibition could also have positive effects beyond the pocketbook. A community that can admit its mistakes, he said, is a stronger community, and a better one.

As he said: “We seem to be obsessed with the idea that, to yield to what experience has taught us, would be a confession of weakness, though to my mind it would be a demonstration of broadness of view and strength of character.”

Nicely said.

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