Verdoia: Let's begin with this notion of trying to understand the era between 1860 and 1870. A marketplace and an economic center. If you could take someone by the hand and take them back to that point in time and try to describe what the economic activity of Salt Lake City and the Utah Territory was like. How might you see it?
Bradley: There are some wonderful photographs of main street from the 1860's and the thing that strikes you when you look at them is that most of the buildings were one or two stories tall. They were relatively small businesses that were run by families or individual entrepreneurs. They specialized in a particular type of product that might be sold or service that might be given but there was a whole line of services available in Salt Lake City as early as 1860.
But it would have looked like any dusty frontier town. Main Street itself was not paved, there were wood sidewalks that ran along the side of it. Wagons and horses and people would have been walking up and down the street. During the daylight hours that the street would have been busy. It would have been filled with people talking and conducting business. The streets immediately to the east and the west would have already have some sign of industry or small warehouses and so there was already a diversification of the main street itself and the streets pushing in both directions. These primarily residential areas, but to the west increasing industry and warehouses. Already in the 1860's Brigham Young was encouraging the members of his church to be involved in home manufacture of goods. I think he could anticipate the changes that would occur in Salt Lake City when the railroad came and so he encouraged his people to be self-sufficient. And he would frequently take time in general conference addresses to talk about the importance of everyone producing products that could be sold to one another and to markets outside of the state. He promoted the production of hats and shoes and brooms, clothing. He gave the Relief Society the special commission to engage in the Sara Culture movement, the production of silk, silk products so they wouldn't be dependent on silk dresses or silk fabrics that they would have to import from outside of the state. The home manufacturer was an early way that Brigham Young started addressing the dependence that he saw too many of his people having on outside markets. By the end of the 1860's the discussion started to be conducted about joining together in some sort of cooperative organization and in the mid 60's the group of very prominent businessmen in Salt Lake City joined together and came up with the idea of Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution which was the same sort of thing. Let's join together to create some sort of economic opposition to outsiders so that we can take care of our own.
Verdoia: You say that by 1860 Salt Lake City looked like many other frontier communities. And yet there is something uniquely different about the Salt Lake Valley as a primary settlement to the Utah Territory and that is the fact that it is organized around theological or spiritual organizing principles. How did that influence the nature of economics, economic interaction in the marketplace, did it influence it?
Bradley: Well, let me talk more broadly about that settlement pattern and maybe inch my way towards that, but the when Salt Lake City was originally platted and people were given their individual family lots, it was based on the idea of the plat of the city of Zion that had been a revelation given by Joseph Smith in 1833 when the Mormons were living in Kirkland. And so the streets are laid out according to the cardinal directions of the compass north, south, east, west. And they are very regular, they are very wide and there is this very strict sense of the appropriate distance a building should be located from the street. So that is what dictates the original platting of the city, but very quickly within a decade the Mormons start to build other types of buildings that sort of pull them away from that original theological idea about what a city should be, the plat of the city of Zion. And you see it in a couple of different ways. First of all and just using Brigham Young's estate as an example, Brigham Young starts to build for his family sort of family kingdom and it includes houses for his various wives and children, eventually a school house and a whole bunch of other out buildings that provide all the basic services and resources that his family requires. But then very close to his home located in the very center of downtown Salt Lake City the Mormons start to build a number of other buildings that really don't have anything to do with the basic survival, but create certain amenities that bring the city up to a different level. Richard Bushman describes this new type of city as the gentile city, a city that is not necessarily based on a theological idea, but a city that is beautiful, that is about civility and about the gentile life. Which means you have access to certain cultural amenities. The Salt Lake Theater for example, the Social Hall, those are buildings that aren't necessary for the physical survival of the people but very much about the cultural and intellectual survival of the people. So within a decade after that original settlement those types of structures and institutions are established and that creates a very different kind of a city from that original intent as determined by the plat of the city of Zion. And so that rising level of sophistication which doesn't mark that of other urban areas on the East Coast but certainly important in terms of the western experience is also running parallel to a similar growth in economic life. And economic life up until the coming of the railroad that is largely based on the internal trade or exchange of goods and increasingly after the coming of the railroad the exchange is good with state's markets in the rest of the United States as well.
Verdoia: Which brings me to the consideration of Brigham Young. Often associated with extraordinary planning power, social power, political power, theological power, economic power. Brigham Young seems to be a man that encourages those interests such as the theater, recognizing the need for social, eventually for parks, but at the same time while he encourages this he also wants to have a certain confined aspect of Salt Lake. Do you see that playing out the dichotomy or this dichotomy if you will, the man's interest.
Bradley: Some of the reasons why Brigham Young is so incredibly interesting to study because he is so enigmatic. He is very broad-minded and recognizes the importance of culture. You know he travels widely in Europe before the Salt Lake Temple is built for example and the influence that he sees in Gothic architecture from England for example we see materialized in the temple itself, so he is experienced. He sees the value of cultural influences from outside of Utah, but as you say in terms of economic life he also sees those outside influences as a great threat. And he wants above all else to maintain the stability and the security of his people and so he develops economic programs that will guarantee that type of economic security.
Verdoia: What external forces started to influence the Utah marketplace in the 1860's.
Bradley: Well, in the aftermath of the Utah War (1857-1858) I think there is a growing suspicion of anything that has to do with the federal government and so the presence of representatives of the government is a continual irritant and always a reminder that there is some sort of outside force that can interfere with the internal affairs of Utah Territory. The Utah Territorial legislature from the very first asserted its independence and wanted to maintain that independence, but the presence of those federal officials was a reminder that that was largely an illusion and that they always has this sort of superior ability to interfere when they felt the need, there was a need for that kind of interference.
Verdoia: You started seeing people like Patrick Edward Connor. (A controversial U.S. Army office headquartered in Salt Lake City starting in 1862.) How are these outside inquisitors, these outside settlers, if you will, economic settlers viewed within the community?
Bradley: Connor is an interesting figure because he comes and in 1862 his manner a little bit restless, a little bit bored, they really don't have anything to do and so he allows some of them to do some prospecting and they make some of the earliest discoveries of the rich mineral deposits in the mountains around the Salt Lake Valley as well as in other parts of the state. And that really stirs things up. Brigham Young up until that time had had a sort of tentative interest in mining particularly up in Summit County. He had funded some initial exploration of the mineral deposits in those mountains before, even before Connor's men discovered these deposits. But after Connor who is an outsider establishes that mining will be a concern that he and his men will pursue, Brigham Young takes a very different stance on that. And he starts to encourage his people to stay away from the mining enterprises. Not to interfere, not to be seduced by the lure of riches. He is particularly concerned about the moral impact of mixing with the prospectors and the miners in the mining towns.
Verdoia: The enigmatic Brigham Young. The man who could welcome cultural influences. He at the same time could be extraordinarily sensitive to how those influences might in fact corrupt the enterprise of building the very special places.
Bradley: And he goes back and forth you know, you can find statements in General Conference addresses where he is totally opposed to the idea of mining for example. And then you can find others where he is talking in support of mining efforts, telling the people the various ways he sees that kind of wealth building up the kingdom. So he goes back and forth on many of those issues even to the point of creating policies that might either facilitate some sort of economic exchange or absolutely prevent it. So you know he is all over the board.
Verdoia: How do his followers react?
Bradley: With prettymuch unquestioning loyalty. But they also try to work around of his hard stands on economic issues. You really see that in the mining history of central Utah. Originally Brigham Young is so opposed to having any kind of interaction between mining, miners, prospectors and his people, but there are many people down for example in Beaver County who stand to make a great deal of money if they put their resources into a mining enterprise. And they, as you say, they solicit some sort of official approval from Brigham Young so that they can feel comfortable in going forward in that kind of action. So you see that kind of effort more outside of the Salt Lake Valley and central Utah and southern Utah you see this effort of various individuals trying to solicit some sort of support from Brigham Young on issues that he apparently has made some sort of official proclamation about like mining and I think it is in hopes that it will be some sort of wiggle room so that they can make money that would actually help the kingdom be built up.
Verdoia: Okay, so here we are at this point when the 1860's are progressing, the railroad is not here yet. But there is sensitivity on the part of Brigham Young and other leaders of the Utah Territory. That there must be some mechanisms in place to protect the integrity of the marketplace, of the people who settled this territory. And this starts leading in the direction of the cooperative move. Let's begin with this concept of Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution. What is its genesis? What is its reason for being brought into existence?
Bradley: I think that in the earliest discussions about the potential for forming this kind of an alliance under the cooperative umbrella it was in reaction to the perception of an economic threat from outsiders and particularly those non-Mormon businessmen who were already in Salt Lake City and who were already very successful who were making a lot of money off of the saints themselves, so it wasn't just the perception of new comers coming in and additional businesses being formed. But these were successful businesses that were already making money off of the Mormon people. So it was partly in reaction to that. I think it was also a reaction in terms of fear. The fear that this threat could become even greater and that they wouldn't be able to stand up against it. I think it also was a recognition of the growth of the Utah Territory that there were many communities throughout the Utah Territory throughout the Mormon corridor who had gone beyond the settlement stage. Who were now in this formative stage where if they needed products from outside of the state of Utah some sort of store was going to have to be established and it could be a store that was owned and operated by an outsider or it could be a store that was run by a cooperation, a cooperative of stockholders of people from that community itself. So the alternative was we can do it for ourselves and we can keep control over it or we can give control over to someone else. We will economically benefit if we control it ourselves whereas the benefit will go to someone else if we don't.
Verdoia: But he also sees the opportunity of this specter of non-Mormon businessmen doing good business and making money. He also sees there and opportunity to chastise his flock for following fashion. As being lured or seduced if you will by current trends.
Bradley: And he calls those "fashionable goods" or "states goods". . .and that was a very loaded term. It wasn't just things that were imported from outside of the state but it was those kinds of things that you probably ought not buy. The many of the cooperatives throughout Utah Territory sold these kinds of products that were produced at home, the brooms, the straw hats, the dresses, the cloth that was woven by pioneer women. Those kinds of materials that were produced at home were frequently sold in the local cooperatives as well as cast iron stoves and a variety of other products that were considered to be essentials, you know essentials for the frugal housewife rather than the sort of frivolous goods that he would have called states goods.
Verdoia: So this notion of the cooperative as we considered the ZCMI, starts to physically manifest itself in Salt Lake City where there is a symbolic if you will seal of approval that starts to appear.
Bradley: I love to imagine main street during that first few years after the ZCMI cooperative institution was first organized because businesses that became associated under that umbrella which were the first departments of department store would put the logo of ZCMI over their door. The all seeing eye, more holiness to the Lord was recognition that this was a member institution in the ZCMI operation. That meant that if you went inside that door that you were a loyal member of the church who was supporting a church business. And if you went in a different business next door that didn't have that kind of logo over the door then you were essentially a traitor. And these wonderful narratives about people in Logan or in Ogden or wherever who chose not to buy their new stoves at a ZCMI cooperative business and were called in by there bishop and scolded for not supporting the company stores. So there is this really obvious physical way of establishing your loyalty to this economic system.
Verdoia: In other respects the cooperative movement takes on community wide characteristics and that plays out in dramatic fashion in places such as Porterville or Brigham City and this seems to be more as I say community wide in nature. Can you help characterize that movement?
Bradley: Even today in Brigham City there are physical remains of the widespread community nature of the cooperative movement up there. Brigham City's experiment in cooperation was one of the most successful. And besides the cooperative dry goods store itself there are a number of other associated industries where cloth and clothing and shoes and other kinds of products were produced. And so it was a more diversified economy based on this center connection back to cooperation.
Verdoia: Was it a finger in the crack in the dike. . .or was the economic challenge the whole dam destined not capable of holding back the tide of economic enterprise that would eventually envelope Utah?
Bradley: Absolutely, I think that because of the growth that continued at a rapid pace throughout the 60's and 70's and 80's in Utah, you know more and more people just kept flooding Utah Territory. There was no way that Brigham Young could prevent his people from engaging in commerce with outsiders. You know that was, that became a pipe dream right from the very first. But, perhaps more important than that the cooperative movement created a mechanism for people in these various communities you know more than three of four hundred communities had some sort of cooperative enterprise of one kind or another. It provided them with a mechanism for joining together in terms of economic life. And so it was just another agent of community. It was another way that people could come together besides their association they felt in their ward which is a religious kind of community that is created. This economic cooperation was proof to them that Mormonism permeated all aspects of their lives and that felt good to them. Now they believed they were a community of saints and this was just yet another manifestation of that kind of community ethic.
Verdoia: Was the goal of the cooperative movement communalism or was it control?
Bradley: I think it was both. That is a very difficult question because it depends on how far you back up. Perhaps when Brigham Young and the various businessmen that he first talked about these ideas with maybe they thought of it as control but it very quickly became something far larger than that. And it was I like to think of it more as a community mechanism. It was another way that people in communities could join together to create a stable base for yet another aspect of their lives.
Verdoia: Circling the wagons economically?
Bradley: Absolutely, yeah, it was another line that divided them, insiders from outsiders. You know every bit is important as polygamy or any of the other distinctive beliefs of the Mormon Church. If you were in a community with a Mormon cooperative, a very small community of say 500 people and you were an outsider that would be something that would disadvantage you. Because you would not be a stockholder in that cooperative and you wouldn't have access to goods in the same convenient and efficient way and so it would impact your life. That was very much a benefit to members of the church and a disadvantage to people outside of the church in the smaller outlying communities.
Verdoia: You talked about the physical manifestation the all seeing eye, holiness to the Lord and almost an unspoken sense that your neighbors were watching as you entered these stores. Did this have a chilling affect on non-Mormon businessmen that were in the community at the time ZCMI was organized?
Bradley: Oh, I think it must have. I think it must have been incredibly upsetting to them because this was essentially a way of dividing the customers up into sort of convenient lumps. And those individuals who weren't necessarily loyal or active members of the church would of course continue to conduct business with them. But those who were many of them would never have disobeyed the advice of their president and crossed that line. It was a line, it was like drawing a line in the sand along main street if you will, and those who chose to cross it often did it at their own peril.
Verdoia: In 1868 Brigham Young signs a contract that provides labor support for the construction of the railroad through the Territory of Utah. Do you have any sense of how that news was received? Was it cause for celebration, cause for concern? What is your understanding of that?
Bradley: In each of the northern counties of Utah Territory as the railroad would come through their county the building of the railroad, the gathering of resources whether it be wood for the ties or metal for aspects of the building of the railroad it added greatly, it benefited greatly each of those counties as it came through. It provided work for men who might be farmers or who might be engaged in all kinds of different enterprises. It was a ready source of work and economic benefit for the people in those counties. So whether the original news of it was well received or not it was a benefit to the Territory of Utah. And it sort of crept its way through and when you study the records of the individual counties you can see the way, they always talk about it in their county commission minutes. For example they will talk about the call for workers, the call for lumber or whatever it is but it is seen as an economic benefit to each of the Territories or each of the areas that it moves through.
Verdoia: Let me ask you to take a kind of a longer view. How successful was specifically the ZCMI nature of the cooperative move?
Bradley: Well, yeah, the parent operation of ZCMI was never a true cooperative it was essential a wholesale entity that sent goods out to the local cooperatives. The local cooperatives were in some cases very successful and lasted for a decade or two decades sometimes three decades I think there are a couple of them that are still in operation today. But for the most part they were very beneficial.
The local cooperatives were particularly beneficial during the formative stage, the stage after the first decade of settlement. When the community was becoming more stratified when more people were moving in with special talents or skills it helped them to get over that hump. And in many cases the cooperative would close down after a decade or two because of that, because then the community had other business that were competing and that more efficiently or more appropriately met the specific demands of the population. So they really helped in that first formative time period but didn't necessarily help so much in the long run or have an enduring impact in the long run. In the more isolated communities the cooperatives lasted longer and that is because they continued to address the very specific demands of the people who continued to live there.
Verdoia: Is there a physical impact on the appearance of Utah with the coming of the railroad?
Bradley: I know it changes dramatically the built environment so I can react in terms of that. In 1869 the built environment changes dramatically and it changes very quickly and the reason for that is not necessarily the free marketplace, but the introduction of new products. Before that time the tools that were used to build buildings were relatively primitive, you know they were ones that have been carried into the west in wagons so they are not necessarily large tools, but they were relatively primitive. But after 1869 more sophisticated tools, parts of buildings, building materials can be shipped in and so in terms of the physical environment you start seeing some pretty important changes very quickly in that first decade. We also become exposed to outside styles and outside building technologies and influences and so you start seeing that kind of an influence in a physical sense as well. And so the market in terms of materials that are used in the physical environment explodes. You know it is so incredibly different from the time period before that that we have a very different look to the city within a decade and it is all tied to the coming of the railroad.
Verdoia: So in effect what you are saying is this is in fact the change.
Bradley: I am really interested in another aspect of the coming of the railroad in terms of the physical layout of Salt Lake City. After the railroad comes to Salt Lake City and they start building industrial complexes and associated businesses near the railroad depots they are also is this immigration of an increased number of immigrants who come from places in Europe besides Great Britain and many of those ethnic populations start to locate near the railroad depots on the west side of Salt Lake City. And in particularly the last two decades of the 19th century, and they gather in ethnic enclaves. And the reason why I think that is so interesting is because it really challenges the homogeneity of the way we tell the story of Salt Lake City. Right to the west of main street and very much tied to the story of the coming of the railroad is a diverse ethnic group of men and women who worship in very different churches, a variety of different religions who eventually move to other parts of the state perhaps to engage in mining or you know in agriculture or whatever. But there is this sort of secret side of the city forgotten in official narratives of the city and it is located in the proximity of the railroad. It is the gateway as it is called now to Salt Lake City. But it is interesting that the places they lived, that the places they gather are close in proximity to the railroad depots.
Verdoia: One of the primary reasons that Brigham championed the transcontinental railroad was the increased ease of bringing immigrants of his church to Utah Territory. Yet, if you look at the passenger manifests in the first five years of operation from 1869 to 1874 there is a majority of non-LDS travelers coming into the Territory.
Bradley: Right, and the Greeks and increasingly after the railroad is finished there are also Orientals. And those ethnic populations are reluctant to move into the east side of Salt Lake City with the dominant Mormon population that is Anglo-Saxon and largely of British decent so they settle on the other side and they gather together with people of their own faith or their own language group or whatever. But there is very much this division between, again between insiders and outsiders, but it becomes east and west and the location of those neighborhoods is related to the placement of, or proximity of the railroads.
Verdoia: You have already made the statement about the 1860's as an extraordinary decade of transformation in Utah. For you how does that most clearly manifest itself?
Bradley: In a physical sense, is that what you mean? By the end of the 1860's the avenues have been plotted and many middle class families or blue collar working families would have moved into the avenues. The avenues would have been physically different from the center part of Salt Lake City. The roads would have been more narrow, the lots were smaller, the houses were located closer to the street and they started to be oriented around a different type of almost public transportation. This was the distance from the place that those people most likely would have worked and I think that changes that results in a different sense of connection to the community itself the people in the avenues might have been more connected to their neighborhood itself rather than the larger community of Salt Lake City. So there starts to be divisions between different zones and neighborhoods and parts of the city, partly about economic levels, ethnicity and proximity to place of employment. But there is this shifting in terms of zoning there was by the end of the 1860's there was a part of Salt Lake City where cultural buildings were built. There seemed to be a growing awareness of where civic or governmental buildings would be built. So there was this sort of shifting and rearrangement of spaces in terms of zones.
Verdoia: This takes place in effect one generation after the first white settlement in the Salt Lake Valley. And so this relatively short period of time they were entering this new era. And certainly many of those original pioneers are still very much alive as this decade of the 1870's is prepared to dawn. To them as they were one of the originals or one of the early arrivals would the future appear secure or uncertain?
Bradley: You know I think in terms of their relationship with the country at large it might have seemed really uncertain and that is because of the increase of tension over the issue of polygamy. But in terms of their own personal success, the money that they were making off of their businesses or the sale of their land or whatever I think they would have been very optimistic because growth was very much, how would I say that, yeah. The decade of the 70's is one when another hundred settlements are organized from Salt Lake City and so the state or the Territory of Utah is still being settled and the colonies are being established. And so growth is very much the focus of the day. You see that in the records of ZCMI. You know you can track the growth of that one particular entity but its connection to larger entities throughout the rest of the state. Many of those men who are involved in ZCMI are also involved in other business. Men like Horace Eldridge become very, very wealthy, in fact Brigham Young holds out Horace Eldridge in a conference address as an example of a good rich man. You know we should look to his lead because he knows how to deal with wealth and still be a man of God. And so those men who, who we give credit to for turning over their, let's see, I guess another way of saying that would be, the men who were involved in the initial organization of ZCMI gave the products, the inventory of their individual businesses to ZCMI but they also were involved in other enterprises that continued to grow and continued to bring them monetary success. And so into the next decade those men became key figures in the economic commercial life of Salt Lake City and of Utah Territory in general. So they are very much marked by success and optimism about their economic futures.
Verdoia: So in a very simple sense the years of isolation are over.
Bradley: Right, absolutely, with the coming of the railroad but also
this attitude that perhaps we should be open to some sort of relationship,
partnership with businesses outside of the state. Because the Territory
stands to benefit by those kinds of associations.
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