Gus Becker, who founded and ran Becker’s Brewery in Ogden until he died in 1947, also kept a pretty significant scrapbook.
A couple of them, actually. Massive ledger books into which he pasted all his speeches, letters, pictures and other memorabilia. Somehow — I have no idea how — those two ledgers ended up at Union Station.
I first saw them when Bob Geier was running the place for Ogden City. They were one of those things I really hoped to do a story on while working at the paper, but never did. Oh well.
The ledgers are still here in the Union Station archive, and we recently started the really massive job of digitizing them so we can put them into our computer system and, someday, on the internet.They’ll be a prime candidate for the virtual museum that the Weber State University history department is putting together.
Meanwhile, they’re just massive fun to dig through.
Becker was good buddies with the Browning Arms company folk. He used their products to become a pretty successful trap shooter. The scrap books contain many letters between Becker and members of the Browning family.
Some of the best reading is speeches that Becker gave to various patriotic forums. He had his speeches all typed out on small sheets of paper that he pasted into the ledger, one next to the other. He gave what I would call a “stem-winder,” something designed to anger and rouse up the crowd. The blah speeches given by politicians today, glued to their tele-prompters and focus groups, careful not to offend anyone, are a poor shadow of what once was.
According to a history of him put out by the Utah State Division of History (click here!) he was an honorary life member of Baker-Merrill Post of the American Legion for his strenuous work for soldiers and veterans. He was never afraid to speak his mind, especially on patriotic issues.
Needless to say, Prohibition was something he hated and found unconstitutional, unethical and illegal. Bad for business, too, which is why his discussions on Prohibition are particularly vitriolic.
A speech he gave in the early 1930s contains this bit:
“In a recent address that eminent scholar, Hon. Bennett Hall, president of the University of Oregon, said ‘Demagogues thrive and rule in America today because people respond to fiction more rapidly than to fact.’
“Look at the situation as it exists. How many people have the courage to tell the truth about prohibition. Isn’t it a fact that if you don’t happen to agree with the proponents of prohibition that you are immediately branded as an outlaw and in league with bootleggers and the baser element and the devil? Aren’t you maligned by those holier than thou apostles of fanaticism as being an enemy of the Constitution and
God knows what not?”
Interestingly among his dear friends were many prominent members of the LDS Church. Becker gave a July 4 speech in Mountain View, Wyo., in 1938, Proud of what he’d said, he had copies printed up and sent them to some dear friends: President Heber J. Grant of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, David O. McKay (later also president), T.S. (Sam) Browning, and George Browning.
All wrote back, thanking him sincerely.
I was particularly fascinated by President Grant’s letter, which I show here in full. He was so close to Becker that he thanked him sincerely for keeping him supplied with ginger ale, chatted in a friendly way about his insomnia, and offered a book about Brigham Young that Preston Nibley had recently written, “Brigham Young, the Man And His Work.”
The two are obviously old friends, which should surprise nobody. Success in business, especially in Utah, means getting along with everyone, and Becker was obviously very successful.