excerpt – Red Stockings and Out-of-Towners
In his engaging book, America’s Obsession: Sports and Society Since 1945, Richard O. Davies sees sports in America as readily divisible into two eras. The pre-modem era provided participants and spectators with leisure activity—a type of escape from the tensions and worries of life. The modern period, on the other hand, is much less benign and has, in fact, tended toward the obsessive (and oftentimes destructive) for growing numbers of Americans.
Though perhaps a bit simplistic, Davies’s model is a handy one for sports history. This particular specialty is, after all, still in relative infancy. But as organized sports continue to grow in economic importance and as they insist on spilling relentlessly into matters of labor relations, gender-role definition, medical specialties, litigation and legal precedents, and much else, sports historians will grow in number, visibility, and importance. So, too, will their methodological models, theses, and historiographical nuances.
Anthologies of the type offered here will help move that process along. Perceptive readers will find much to pique their notions of social history in the pages that follow. But that is serendipity, not the primary objective. The articles gathered together for this volume, like those of the two preceding books in this series, are personal favorites and were chosen for that reason. Each can stand on entertainment value alone. Whether approached with a broader thesis in mind or not, these selections will delight the reader simply by their tapestry of rich story hues, human interest elements, and action.
Nevertheless, the first half-dozen articles provide more than a little grist for Richard Davies’s mill. The first and second, being set squarely in the frontier era, fit the model of escapism well. Over a century ago. Salt Lake baseball fans filled the stands to cheer on their team and find a few hours of excitement and enchantment at the ballpark. But Utah, it seems, has a way of being slightly different, and its experience with early baseball was no exception. Caught up in the religious polarization of that time and place, America’s nascent pastime took on an extra dimension. Two pre-eminent sports historians responded to the challenge of researching this little-known story. Much more than a play-by-play account of runs, hits, and errors, these two articles contain enlightening sociological and demographic data and some interesting conclusions. First published in a 1984 issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly, they deserve a replay in this book of favorites.
Fast forward through a century of bewildering change and come to rest in northern Utah during the 1950s-60s for our next selection. Utah is now mainstream, sports and other forms of entertainment are big business, and Americans everywhere are swept up in fast-paced lifestyles. Baseball is one of the few forms to have remained essentially unchanged. Each Saturday afternoon during the summer months, men put away their hand tools and farm implements in favor of bats and balls as they congregate at diamonds throughout the county. At places like Cornish, Smithfield, and Lewiston, they come to compete, their family members and friends watching and cheering from the old bench-style grandstands. It is Utah’s last chapter in community baseball, and only Cache Valley has the demographics to support it. The Wasatch Front cities have already begun to implode into a megalopolis, and most of the remainder of the state is too rural. Fortunately, another talented historian has captured this vanishing moment for our enjoyment. It is a wonderfully nostalgic story of personal aspiration, family dynamics, civic pride, and community growth.
Sitting squarely astride Richard Davies’s chronological dividing line between the early and the modem eras comes our fourth article. It is a rollicking story of the Salt Lake Seagulls within the Pacific Coast Football League. A shoestring operation from the beginning, this venture into professional sports was to foreshadow many of the complexities of today’s sports franchises—challenges of marketing, ambiguous relations with local government, inflated attendance figures, uncertain payrolls, unpredictable athletes, whispers of point shaving, and much more. Slip into the Seagulls’ huddle, watch in astonishment as the quarterback diagrams his play on the grass, and be prepared for a wild ride.
For reasons not clear in the historical record, Utah has had a much higher profile in boxing than most other western states, the obvious exceptions being Nevada and California. This may be due to such random occurrences as the Dempsey family’s move to Utah, an early sports editor for the Salt Lake Herald named Bill Rishel who foresaw possibilities that no one else did, or the appearance of a talented fight promoter named Tex Rickard. Certainly all of these men played a role, and their collective impact deserves analysis in the two short articles included here. One looks at the larger-than-life Jack Dempsey through the eyes of an admiring boy. The other pulls no punches in describing the underside of boxing, noting Rickard’s brief sojourn in Utah on his way to the big time, and offering hints as to why this sport, for all its savagery and vulnerability to corruption, continues to appeal to so many spectators.
From the most combative of sports, we turn to the most genteel in a fifty-year survey of tennis in Utah. This work makes its way into my list of favorites for many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity it affords to glimpse women athletes during the pre-Title IX years. The article also advances a worthy thesis—that Utah has always been a leader in promoting tennis. The author’s explanation for this, including a look at the role of personalities, rings as straight and true as a Bobby Riggs serve.
Racing enters the spotlight for chapters 8, 9, and 10, selections that are marvelously entertaining as well as instructive. Again we see a typical story but with a slight Utah difference. The excitement and fan appeal of high-speed bicycles on the banked hardwood track at the old Salt Palace is captured in original documents better than any historian could describe it. Two letters, appropriately annotated, whisk the reader back a century in time to a world of austere wood and frame coliseums, flanked by carnivals and freak shows, to experience the thrill of men and machines in no-holds-barred competition against the clock, gravity, and each other. It is a timeless spectacle, as old as antiquity and as recent as yesterday’s sports page, given an extra measure of meaning here by a gifted writer who witnessed it all as a bug-eyed kid.
Less contemporary, but eminently intriguing for today’s student of history, is the story of pari-mutuel betting at horse tracks in the mid-1920s. At first blush an unthinkable part of Utah’s social-cultural environment, pari-mutuel betting won a two-year authorization from the state legislature following a thorough public airing of the pros and cons. Ironically, its repeal was led by the same legislator who had introduced and championed the measure in the earlier biennial session. That is not the only irony to emerge from this article, as the careful reader will discover.
The third selection in our racing trifecta takes us to Utah’s West Desert for mach-one speeds on the Bonneville Salt Flats. This speedway has a vibrant history that predates the sonic era by a half-century, however, and the authors begin there. Even then, when top speeds were not much faster than 1-80 motorists zip past the speedway exit today, the thrills were incredible. Throughout the years as new records continued to fill the books—sometimes in quantum leaps—Bonneville grew in fame. Then suddenly, environmental and economic issues took control of the track and set its course in a different direction. Will the glory years ever return? The final paragraphs take us right to the present and tantalize us with some intriguing developments.
If images of bullet-shaped cars streaking across the salt flats have disappeared from the tourist literature of Utah, those of winter sports enthusiasts and snow-covered landscapes have compensated for the loss. The tourist promotion angle is of recent origin, but winter sports are not new here, as three articles in this collection reveal. Ski jumping leaped into the local consciousness in the 1940s, stimulated by business promoters and Scandinavian athletes. Becker Hill, and its incredible Gatsby-like tragedy, is illustrative of that colorful development. Then comes a look at unorganized community fun in Utah Valley of a time when toboggans, skates, and gerry-built sleds brought heart-pounding fun, occasional frightening spills, and memories to last a lifetime. The winter sports trilogy concludes with a compelling reminiscence of a winter hike to majestic Mount Timpanogos by two adventurous, if not foolhardy, souls.
In the final chapter, we are taken to sports afield with a sketch of Joe, the Fish Lake guide. Biographies seldom work well when penned by an admiring daughter or son, but when they do, they are marvelous. This charming reminiscence can be read and appreciated on many levels. Love of family, discovery of nature’s beauty, appreciation for sport and recreation, an eye for adventure, and the joys of coming of age—timeless elements for any storyteller—are woven together in a natural and engaging way.
The fourteen articles that follow should offer year-round fare for readers of any age or interest. Along with other basketball fans, I lament the fact that in its seventy years of publication, the Utah Historical Quarterly has not attracted a single article on that particular sport—a puzzling gap given Utah’s great love for and success with that game. Consider this an opportunity and a call to historians of the upcoming generation. But now, repair to your favorite reading place—that familiar sofa in the den, that swinging chair under the apple tree, that special corner of the library—and turn to any chapter to dive in. The betting line says that my favorites will be your favorites as well.
* * * * *
Utah’s Gamble with Pari-mutuel Betting in the Early Twentieth Century
Bruce N. Westergren
Horse racing is perhaps one of the most ancient sports. Popular in Europe during the Middle Ages, its history extends at least as far as the Roman Empire.1 Spanish conquistadors, French traders, and British settlers brought horse racing to North America during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the sport accompanied American pioneers on their westward trek across the continent.2
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, horse racing not only grew and spread in range and popularity, it also went through some important changes in organization and administration. Instead of one-heat matches between local favorites, the sport became more organized and formal. In place of competitions through town streets or open meadowland, backers financed the construction of a number of large, permanent, oval tracks, built according to an agreed-upon pattern and standardized length and capable of fielding a number of horses for a single race. Uniform contest rules were established as well.
With the sport’s increasing standardization and formality, there emerged a professional class of track officials and employees. Starters, judges, jockeys, and stable hands, once chosen from among local townspeople, now became full-time professionals, trained and certified by professional, occupational associations according to established requirements. Each racing official sought to ensure the highest level of integrity in each match, protect the public from unscrupulous bookmakers and bunco artists, and make sure that spectators saw competition of the highest order.
In spite of these efforts to guarantee honest competition, social reformers of the early twentieth century repeatedly attacked the standards of the racing associations and the morality of the sport.3 These crusaders saw the track as the epitome of the evils of gambling and its devastating impact on society.
Stung by these criticisms, the professional racing associations sought to maintain even stricter discipline among their members and enforce sanctions against the wayward. This self-enforcement, along with the publicity it received, demonstrated the groups’ abilities to police themselves and saved racing from extinction under government probes and legislation introduced by Progressive elements in the early 1900s.4
In many ways racing in Utah paralleled the national scene. It enjoyed a large following both before and after statehood. Local races were fairly common during Utah’s territorial period. By 1909, however, professionals were organizing and supervising races on a regular basis and adopting the same standard rules and procedures used elsewhere in the country. These meets, usually held from late May through the end of September or early October, were principally staged at three tracks—the Utah State Fairgrounds in Salt Lake City, the Lagoon track near Farmington in Davis County, and the Buena Vista track at the Weber County Fairgrounds outside of Ogden.5 Races were held elsewhere in the state, but usually at the county fairgrounds in conjunction with a county fair.
In spite of the Progressive movement’s penchant for lobbying for state control of such enterprises, by 1910 Utah still had no state agency to regulate and monitor horse racing and the bookmaking that inevitably accompanied it. Bookmakers, in fact, were hired and licensed by the tracks themselves to handle most of the betting.6
The perception of dishonesty associated with racing, particularly the presence of bookies at the tracks to handle wagering, generated a great deal of opposition to the sport among the reform elements in the state as it had elsewhere. From 1910 through 1913, two of the major Salt Lake City newspapers, the Salt Lake Herald and the Deseret News, published a lengthy series of editorials describing the misery and mischief they believed were caused by racing, and each argued in favor of banning the sport from the state. Their reasons included the “fixing” of races by dishonest horse owners and jockeys who they believed “fleeced the public” rather than providing good, honest sport; the loss of spectators’ money in wagering, depriving honest local merchants of sales and profits; the rise in crime that generally accompanied the meets; and the moral impact of horse gambling on individuals and families.7
The ultimate result of this editorial campaign was a law signed by Governor William Spry on February 17, 1913, that completely banned the sport from the state. The bill was introduced in the state legislature by Charles R. Mabey and passed after a month of acrimonious debate.8
The ban was finally overturned twelve years later. The challenge came on February 19, 1925, from Rep. Charles Redd of San Juan County. Redd introduced a bill in the House that would reestablish horse racing with oversight from a state regulatory commission and included a pari-mutuel system of track betting.9
The proposal was favorably received by both the House and Senate. The House passed the bill on March 7, 1925, by a vote of 41 to 4, with ten members absent.10 Senate action quickly followed, the bill winning approval on March 11 by a vote of 12 to 5, with three members absent.11 Governor George Dern signed the bill on March 14, 1925, and the law went into effect May 12, 1925.12
Those who voted for the 1925 measure did so because they believed that horse racing had become a clean and respectable sport; that it would encourage local breeders to sire faster, stronger horses; that racing would bring new sources of revenue into the state; and that the sport would give local businesses a shot in the arm. Those who opposed the measure used many of the arguments from a decade earlier. They believed that race track gambling was immoral and a menace to the community. The claim was again made that this was the “most vicious form of gambling” and would bring back the undesirable riffraff that had forced elimination of the sport in 1913.13
After its passage, the state moved quickly to implement the law. Redd had recommended three candidates for the racing commission: Brigham F. Grant, J. Will Knight, and John C. Lynch.14 The governor chose a somewhat different slate, agreeing to name Brigham. F. Grant—then general manager of the Deseret News and a brother of LDS church president Heber J. Grant—as chairman, but with Gage B. Rodman, and James H. Waters as secretary.15
The new law not only created the commission and defined its powers, it also carried stipulations concerning the licensing and scheduling of meets. These conditions limited racing in any one county to two meets per calendar year, neither of which could last for more than thirty racing days from date of commencement, and outlawed all private betting and bookmaking on and off the track. In its place the statute substituted pari-mutuel or cooperative betting.16
The pari-mutuel system had several advantages over bookmaking. First, the odds in a race could not be fixed ahead of time by a bookie, horse owner, or jockey. Under the pari-mutuel system, the odds were based on the total money collected from wagers placed at the track. As a result, the bettors were really wagering among themselves rather than against a bookie with fixed, arbitrary odds. Under the pari-mutuel system, after a percentage had been paid to the state, to the track owners to cover their operating expenses, and to the winner of the race, the remaining cash pool created from the wagers was divided among those who held winning tickets. The more money bet, the larger the cash pool for the race and the more favorable the odds and the payoff from the contest.17
Bets were placed by depositing money into a machine that issued the bettor a validated claim. The minimum wager was $2.00, but the machine dispensed tickets in larger sums for big spenders. The machines recorded the number of tickets sold on each horse and kept a running total for the field as a whole.
The machines sold three types of tickets: “straight” (win), “place,” and “show” (first, second, and third places, respectively). This system was universally used at all tracks where the pari-mutuel system was functioning. The rules placed no limit on the number of tickets a bettor could buy. A person could put money down on every horse in a race if they chose. However, payoff came only if a horse finished in one of the first three positions.
Support for the 1925 measure came from several quarters. Editorial opinion, unlike a decade earlier, viewed the new law quite favorably;18 even the Mormon-owned Deseret News assumed a moderate stance on the issue.19 One notable exception was an editorial by Edward H. Anderson that appeared in the August 1925 issue of the premier LDS magazine, the Improvement Era. Anderson blasted the Redd Act as a “grave, not to say criminal, moral mistake,” and recommended righting the wrong by voting out the entire legislature in the next election.20
Businessmen in towns where race tracks were located strongly supported the new law and merchants in other areas of the state supported efforts to bring the sport to their communities. The Ogden Chamber of Commerce appointed a committee to work with the new State Racing Commission to obtain a permit for the city.21 Hotel operators in Salt Lake City, optimistic about the benefits the racing would bring them, circulated petitions of support.22
The widespread interest in horse racing is also shown by the number of applications the commission received from all over the state. Many of the applications were filed between the day the law was signed by Dern in March and the day the commission officially opened for business on May 12.23 After the commission met with petitioners in informal hearings, almost all of the applications were approved. One exception was that of George O. Relf, manager of the Hotel Utah, who for some reason called James H. Waters a “Dirty Damn Liar” and was ejected from the meeting.24
Although local horses were entered in the races at the state fairgrounds and Lagoon, sponsorship of the meets at these locations fell into the hands of two out-of-state syndicates: the Utah Agricultural and Racing Association25 and the Utah Horse Breeding and Racing Association.26 Although both were incorporated in the state of Utah, they were completely owned and controlled by out-of-state interests; surprisingly, although these companies had a virtual monopoly on racing at the state fairgrounds and the Lagoon track, local interests never filed a complaint. Ultimately, the backing of out-of-state interests worked to Utah’s advantage since they brought in a large amount of outside capital. This additional influx did a great deal to improve the local economies of Salt Lake City and Davis County.
Attendance at the opening race of the season, held at the state fairgrounds on July 2, 1925—the first run under the auspices of the Redd Act—confirmed the optimistic outlook. Seating at the track was filled almost to capacity, with crowd estimates running between 3,500 and 10,000. Local newspapers pronounced the event a complete success.27 The same articles also noted the attendance of President Heber J. Grant, other LDS church authorities, Governor George H. Dern, and Salt Lake City Mayor C. Clarence Neslen and their parties.28
Financially, the races were extremely successful. A review of the commission’s financial records by the state auditor’s office in February 1927 covered the first year and a half of the commission’s existence from May 12,1925, through the end of the calendar year 1926. The report estimated that horse racing had brought the state additional revenue totaling $129,646.05.29
Because of the revenues brought in and because of the broad community support and spectator turnouts, horse racing seemed destined to become a permanent part of Utah’s sport scene. But clouds were gathering on the horizon. Increasing public concern over the moral impact of the sport; eventual loss of support from the business community; and, most important, charges of corruption against the state racing commissioners eventually led to a second legislative ban in 1927.
The assault began September 16, 1925, when the Utah State Fair Association and the State Racing Commission filed a suit against the Salt Lake City Commission in Third District Court. The dispute concerned a city ordinance that declared pari-mutuel betting a form of gambling and therefore banned within the city limits. This had a direct impact on horse racing since the state fairgrounds were inside the corporate limits of Salt Lake City.30 The district court found for the defendants, but the plaintiffs appealed to the Utah State Supreme Court. The higher court reversed the lower court’s decision, ruling that horse racing was not a game of chance and that it therefore did not constitute gambling. Their decision, announced August 6, 1926, put an end to the judicial attack on horse racing.31
A few months later, Redd himself dealt what eventually became the deathblow to the sport by announcing during his reelection campaign in late 1926 that he would seek repeal of the law during the 1927 session of the legislature.32 He reaffirmed this position in a letter to D. W. Parratt, secretary of the Utah Education Association, and he also accused the State Racing Commission of failure to enforce the statute properly.33 Redd had received information from George Relf and a few others that William P. Kyne had paid commissioners between $25,000 and $50,000 to secure the racing concession at the state fairgrounds; that commissioners were employed and paid by Kyne as track officials to supervise the races; and that commission officials were benefitting heavily from bookmaking. In addition, an illegal telegraph wire had been installed at the track to send race results to the west coast before they were officially announced.34
On January 13, 1927, Redd made good on his promise, introducing HB 4, a proposal to abolish both horse racing and the pari-mutuel system of gambling.35 The bill was referred to the House Livestock Committee, which Redd once again chaired, for hearings and recommendation. Over a three-day period from January 19 through January 21, the hearing room was jammed with spectators36 as a number of people testified before the committee. On the first day, W. H. Folland, Salt Lake City attorney, claimed that crime had increased substantially since passage of the Redd Act and that an increased law enforcement burden had resulted.37 Others who appeared in favor of total repeal included D. W. Parratt, secretary of the Utah Education Association, and the Reverend William T. Scott representing the Salt Lake Ministerial Association. Both argued that racing had a horrible moral impact on the community, particularly on children.
Businessmen who appeared before the Redd committee were divided on the issue. Some, such as W. T. Denn, a local jeweler, and H. R. Vowles of the Paris Department Store, were unalterably opposed to racing, claiming it both hurt business and destroyed families. Others, such as Fred Baliff, a local manufacturer, and O. D. Coughlin of Walker Brothers Dry Goods Company favored continuation but suggested limiting the meets to fewer days. Others, such as Wayne Decker of the Decker Jewelry Company, firmly supported the sport, believing it would bring millions of dollars into the state.38 The most vigorous defenders were two members of the State Fair Board, H. L. Mulliner and E. S. Holmes, who pointed to the increased state revenues.
Editorial support, however, quickly deteriorated. The Deseret News retreated from its more supportive 1925 stand and published a number of editorials demanding repeal of the law.39 It also cited moral and economic reasons.
Redd’s proposal was reported out of committee on January 24, but not with a unanimous vote. Three members of the committee—Redd, N. F. Bullen, and J. G. Pace—filed a majority report favoring the repeal bill, while two others—H. H. Crouch and W. A. Crane—filed a minority report opposing it.40 The minority report was adopted after a great deal of debate, and HB 4 was then placed on the calendar for final consideration.
There were other racing bills to consider, but Redd’s was the only measure advocating total repeal. Four other House proposals would have amended the law, but each would have allowed racing to remain, correcting only what were seen to be some of the more objectionable practices.41
The closest contender to Redd’s bill was one introduced by William J. Holther on January 17, 1927.42 His measure would have limited racing to one twenty-five-day meet once each year in conjunction with the Utah State Fair. The proposal was sent to the Committee on Corporations for consideration.
The Holther measure came out of committee on January 22 but, like Redd’s bill, without unanimous support.43 Four of the committee signed a majority report favoring the bill but recommended amendments. Two members filed a minority report opposing the bill, and one member, Mrs. H. S. Tanner of Salt Lake City, refused to sign either report. In the heated debate and political maneuvering that followed on the House floor, both reports were killed and the bill went to the calendar without recommendation.
It came up for final consideration on January 25, 1927. After another stormy debate and more maneuvering, a proposal to amend the Redd Act lost by one vote.44 However, proponents managed to muster the necessary twenty-eight votes to get the Holther bill up for re-consideration again the next day.45 In the maneuvering that followed, both the Holther and Redd bills were referred back to the Livestock Committee in the hope that some sort of a compromise could be worked out.46
Both proposals came out of committee again on February 2, but this time without a recommendation for either one.47 Final consideration for the Holther measure came on February 8 after another heated debate. During the arguments over the bill, both Redd and Elias S. Woodruff, a representative from Salt Lake City, made charges against both the State Racing Commission and the State Fair Board, accusing various members of accepting bribes. The Holther bill went down to defeat by a vote of 24 in favor, 28 opposed.48
On February 10 the Redd bill to repeal horse racing altogether finally came up for final consideration. After another lengthy debate, the measure passed the House by a vote of 34 yeas, 20 nays, and 1 absent.49
Action in the Senate was quick in coming. The bill was introduced the same day, referred to the Committee on Revenue and Taxation, and reported out of committee favorably within an hour.50 Final action came on February 17 when the bill was passed by a vote of 16 yeas to 2 nays, with 1 absent.51 Governor Dern signed the act into law on February 24, 1927.52
Although the law that had allowed horse racing and betting had been repealed, the issue was not yet settled. There remained the charges Redd had made against the State Racing Commission and members of the State Fair Board. Beginning on February 12, Governor Dem, James H. Waters, Brigham F. Grant, William P. Kyne, and the executive committee of the Utah State Fair Association began demanding a full, open, and honest investigation into the allegations made by Redd and others in the press and on the floor of the House.53
On February 14 the House acceded and the Speaker appointed a five-man committee to head the probe.54 Hearings began on the evening of February 24 at the Chamber of Commerce building in Salt Lake City. Among the first witnesses were Charles Redd, George Relf, and Brigham F. Grant. It became apparent that Redd had acted on second-hand information given to him by Relf and had no personal knowledge of wrongdoing on the part of any of the commissioners or member of the State Fair Board. The only testimony offered by Relf was a belief that he had been double-crossed by the Racing Commission in applying for a racing permit; he had no first-hand information to support any of his allegations.55
On March 10 the committee made a formal preliminary report to the House. It concluded that although members of the Racing Commission were indeed in the employ of the Kyne syndicate as track officials in addition to their employment by the state, and that this was unethical but not necessarily illegal, there was no evidence to substantiate any of the allegations Redd had made concerning book-making and bribery. However, the committee had not yet had the opportunity to question Kyne who was too ill to travel from California to Utah to testify or James H. Waters who was hospitalized and under strict doctor’s orders not to be disturbed. Since they did not wish to issue a final report until they had interviewed these two key witnesses,56 the House voted to continue the probe until Waters and Kyne had testified.57
The opportunity to obtain Waters’s testimony never came: he died shortly after the preliminary report was issued. The investigating committee therefore felt it appropriate to close the books on the matter.58 The bribery and bookmaking charges had been discredited and the ethical question of the commissioners’ employment at the track had been substantiated, although not fully resolved. Still, with the repeal on the books and the hearings at an impasse after Waters’s death, the matter was permanently dropped.
The horse racing issue reveals some interesting aspects of the relationship between the LDS church and Utah state government during this period. First, church leaders did not attempt to lobby actively for passage of either the Mabey bill in 1913 or Redd’s repeal bill in 1927, although the Salt Lake Tribune and the Salt Lake Herald-Republican both accused the church of such efforts.59 In fact, both Mormon and non-Mormon legislators vigorously denied that the church had ever contacted them on any matter related to the horse racing issue and bitterly resented charges made by the press of collusion with church authorities. The only apparent efforts by the LDS church to secure abolition of the sport were the editorials that ran in the Deseret News.
The fact that Mormons participated on both sides of this issue also shows a lack of direct church involvement. At no time during the heated debates on abolition in 1913 or 1927 did the church’s First Presidency issue an official statement to encourage compliance from faithful Mormons, nor was this issue discussed at any general meetings of the church. Instead, we find Brigham Grant, a brother of the church president and general manager of the Deseret News, serving as the first chairman of the racing commission and President Grant attending the opening meet of 1925 with Governor Dern and other notables.
Remarks made by LDS legislators in 1927 lend further support. In explaining their vote for or against Redd’s repeal bill, a number of representatives stated that although they were members of the Mormon church, which had adopted an antiracing position, they felt their greatest responsibility was to the people of Utah as a whole, not just to one segment of it. Religious considerations took second place.60 In their collective opinion, the supposed corruption of the horse racing commission, the loss of support from the business community, and what were seen as detrimental effects of pari-mutuel betting on the community justified the abolition of the sport.
1. Teresa McLean, The English at Play in the Middle Ages (Berkshire, England: Kensal Press, n.d.), 18-23.
2. Stephen Longstreet, Win or Lose (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1977), 29-30, 34-35, 186-87; John M. Findlay, People of Chance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), 20-24, 36-39.
3. For a general history of the Progressive reform movement during this period, see Robert H. Weibe, The Search for Order, 1877-1920 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1967); and Robert M. Crunden, Ministers of Reform (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1982; Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984).
4. See Melvin L. Adelman, A Sporting Time (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 27-89; and Bryan Field, “Horse Racing,” in Sports’ Golden Age, ed. Allison Danzig and Peter Brandwein (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1948), 86-110.
5. See “Interest in Ogden Race Horse Meeting” and “Seven Stakes for Horsemen,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 15, 1910, 23; “Big Entry List is Assured for Races,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 17, 1910, 10; “Fixing Race Track for the Gallopers,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 19, 1910, 10; “Prominent Horseman Arrives with News,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 20, 1910, 12; and “Horsemen Coming to Salt Lake City,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 29, 1910, 26. Crowds at the opening of the Ogden track were so large that the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and Oregon Short Line ran special trains between Salt Lake and Ogden for the events (“Horses Begin to Arrive for Races,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 20, 1910, 12; “Large Crowd Attends Races,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 26, 1910, 10, 11; and “Horse Races Feature Event at Junction City,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 30, 1910, 9). An antiracing editorial in the Salt Lake Herald on June 2, 1909, put the number of spectators at the races in Ogden on Memorial Day at 7,000 and the number of bookies handling the wagers at fifteen.
6. “Interest in Ogden Race Horse Meeting,” 23; and “Horsemen Coming,” 26.
7. “Evil of Gambling,” Deseret News, June 4, 1909, 4; “It Does Not Pay,” Deseret News, June 23, 1909, 4; “Kill the Kriebel Bill” and “Why This Delay?” Deseret News, February 1, 1913, 4; “The Argument for Gambling,” Deseret News, February 3, 1913, 4. The Salt Lake Herald-Republican accused some of the Utah House of Representatives who supported a more moderate stance of being in league with the horse racing interests and accepting bribes in exchange for favorable laws (“Davis County Men and Women to Act against Gambling,” Salt Lake Herald-Republican, February 2, 1913; and “House Passes Bill against Pool-Selling,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 6, 1913, 1, 8). None of these allegations were ever proved.
8. The House passed the bill on February 5, 1913 by a vote of 44-0 and the Senate on February 7, 1913, by a vote of 17-1 (“House Passes Bill against Pool-Selling,” 1, 8; “Anti-Pool Selling Bill Passes Senate,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 8, 1913, 9; “Race Betting Bill Signed by Spry,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 18, 1913, 9). In final form, the Utah law made various types of bookmaking and track gambling a felony punishable by a fine up to $2,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year (Chapter 9, Laws of Utah, 1913).
9. House Journal, 1925, 290; “House and Senate Sessions in Brief,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 20, 1925, 11.
According to the Deseret News, there were at least two previous attempts to reestablish racing in the state, one in the 1921 session and the other in the 1923 session (“Budget Bill Due to Reach House Monday,” March 9, 1925, sec. 2, p. 1). Although no contemporary record can be found for 1921, in 1923 Representative George J. Constantine of Grand County introduced a bill similar to Redd’s. The measure was favorably reported out of committee on February 26, but it was killed by the House on March 8 (House Journal, 1923, 297, 381-382, 552).
Redd himself was a lifelong enthusiast of the sport. One of his cousins, John Redd, recalled that when Charles was a youth in Bluff, Utah, he had a pony named Ted that he used to ride around town, trying to find someone to race against him. According to Johns recollections, Charles was almost unbeatable on that horse (Oral history interview with John Redd by Gregory Maynard, July 27, 1973, transcript. Archives and Manuscripts, Harold B. Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 1-2).
10. House Journal, 1925, 514; “Bill to Allow Racing at State Fair Is Passed by Lower Legislative Body,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 8, 1925, 10; “Budget Bill Due to Reach House Monday,” sec. 2, p. 1.
11. “Horse Racing Bill Passes in Senate and Goes to Dern,” Deseret News, March 12, 1925, 5; “Race Bill Is Now up to Dern,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 12, 1925, 14.
12. “Dern Approves Eighteen Bills,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 15, 1925,18.
13. See “Horse Racing Bill Passes in Senate and Goes to Dern,” Deseret News, March 12, 1925, 5; “Race Bill Now Is up to Dern,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 12, 1925, 14; and “Horse Racing to Open in S. L. Last of May,” Deseret News, April 7, 1925, sec. 2, p. 1.
14. “Bill to Allow Racing at State Fair Is Passed by Lower Legislative House,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 8, 1925, 10.
15. “Horse Racing to Open,” 7. Copies of the original letters of appointment are found in Correspondence, State Departments—Racing Commission Utah State, 1925-1928; Correspondence, George H. Dern Papers, Utah State Archives, Salt Lake City. Each commissioner was appointed for a two-year term.
16. For text of the Redd Act, see chapter 77, Laws of Utah, 1925. The pari-mutuel system was not new; Utah had tried it at least twice before 1913, both times unsuccessfully, and it had saved the sport in other states, including Kentucky. Redd therefore believed it was worth another try (see the Salt Lake Tribune: “Two Bills against Horse Race Wagers,” January 25, 1913, 3; “Race Meets Depend on Fate of Bills,” January 27, 1913, 8; and for the Kentucky experience, “Iron Bookmakers Save Racing Game,” February 9, 1913, sporting section, 1, 2).
17. M. A. Merrill, “Betting Board Is Explained,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 28, 1925, 21; “Horse Racing to Start Today,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 2, 1925, 24; and “Lizette Creates Sensation in Splendid Run at Races,” Salt Lake Tribune, July 3, 1925, 11. For a detailed discussion of the math involved in calculating returns to winning bettors, see Fred S. Buck, Horse Race Betting, rev. ed. (New York: Arco Publishing Company, 1971), 96-107.
18. See the Salt Lake Tribune: “The ‘Sport of Kings,'” March 18, 1925, 6; “Horse Racing in Utah,” June 28, 1925, sec. 2, p. 2; and “Racing Season Here,” July 2, 1925, 6.
19. See the Deseret News: “The Sixteenth Legislature” and “Legislature Devotes Greatest Efforts to Clarifying Statutes,” March 13, 1925, 4; sec. 2, p. 1; and “Horse Racing,” May 22, 1925, 4. In the May 22, article, the Deseret News extolled the positive aspects of legalized horse racing:
The all-important thing in the revival of horse racing in Utah, after careful supervision of a special commission, is to encourage the breeding of better horses. To many, … there is nothing finer … than a superior, well bred horse. …
Not only will the new law encourage the raising of fine horses for the race track and the exhibition ring, but all breeds and classes of horses in the state will be improved. … This will be a great asset to the state from an economic as well as other points of view, and its beneficial results will reach to every phase of the livestock industry. Particularly will this be true if races are held in connection with county fairs and local horses are bred to participate in them. …
The law has been so carefully framed that the welfare of the people and the community as a whole will be safeguarded, and those evils which in the past have attended horse racing in some localities will be kept to a minimum. … The people of the state should give their hearty co-operation and assistance in establishing and maintaining this high standard. If they will do this, then good and not evil will come out of this revival of the “sport of kings.”
It is possible that the turnaround in the newspaper’s attitude was due to the appointment of Brigham F. Grant, general manager of the Deseret News, as first chairman of the commission. Redd may have had the potential church opposition in mind when he recommended Grant. While the evidence necessary to decide the point is lacking. Grant’s presence on the commission did seem to reduce tensions between the state and the church and allowed the commissioners the room they needed to do their job.
20. Edward H. Anderson, “Betting on Horse Races,” Improvement Era 28 (August 1925): 1001-2. Anderson is listed in the magazine as co-editor with Heber J. Grant. The extent of Grant’s participation in writing the monthly editorials is not known. It seems likely, in light of subsequent events, that Anderson was responsible for the day-to-day operations while Grant acted in an advisory capacity and would not have screened or approved articles before publication. He may not have seen Anderson’s comments until they were in print.
21. “Ogden Chamber Plans to Ask for Race Meet,” Deseret News, April 7, 1925, 6. It was originally thought that the races could be held at an old track west of the city near the old Globe mills. Although deteriorated from years of disuse, the chamber felt the facility could be refurbished. But when a permit was finally obtained, it was decided instead to utilize the county fairgrounds east of town.
22. George O. Relf, manager of the Hotel Utah in Salt Lake City, estimated that the hotel lost 2,000 customers in 1913, compared with the number of race spectators registered at his hotel the previous year (“Race Meets Depend on Fate of Bills,” 8). In a letter to the commission dated April 16, 1925, six operators of major hotels in the Salt Lake City area showed their support (Fred J. Leonard, et al., to the Utah State Racing Commission, April 16, 1925, Administrative Correspondence, Utah State Racing Commission Papers, Utah State Archives, Salt Lake City). Revenue played a pivotal role in the decision of the Farmington City Council, expressed to the commission in a memo dated May 7, 1925, to endorse Leo Dandurand’s and his associates’ plans to hold meets at Lagoon in 1925.
23. In an informal meeting of the commission held April 21, 1925, those present included the Executive Committee and Grand Stand Committee from the Utah State Fair Association who wanted a license for the fairgrounds; agents for Leo Dandurand and a Montreal syndicate represented by Messrs. Dewer, Boyle, Irvine, and Decker who wanted to stage races at Lagoon; Mr. W. J. Parker representing Weber County for races in Ogden; delegates from Spanish Fork and Provo for races to be held in Provo; and a representative from Cache County for races to be held during their county fair (Minutes of the Utah State Racing Commission, April 21, 1925, Administrative Correspondence, Utah State Racing Commission papers, Utah State Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah). In a meeting held later that same day, the commission voted unanimously to grant a permit to the Utah State Fair Association but refused to issue licenses to Lagoon or Weber County at that time. However, the commission told the two applicants that if they applied for racing in 1926, their requests would be granted (Minute Book of the Utah State Racing Commission, April 21, 1925, 2; May 11, 1925, 3-8, Utah State Racing Commission Papers). However, a meeting held on May 19 overturned the decision about Lagoon and a license for the 1925 season was granted (Minute Book, May 19, 1925, 12).
24. “Application of George O. Relf,” Administrative Correspondence, Utah State Racing Commission Papers; Minute Book of the Utah State Racing Commission, May 13, 1925, 11.
25. The Utah Agricultural and Racing Association was incorporated in Utah on June 18, 1925, with corporate headquarters in Salt Lake City; it was occasionally referred to as the Utah State Racing Association (“Race Men Rush Work at Track,” Salt Lake Tribune, June 24, 1925, 15; “Horse Racing to Start Today,” 24; Minute Book of the Utah State Racing Commission, June 24, 1925, 14-15). Fred Dahnken and William P. Kyne, both of San Francisco, controlled the majority of the outstanding common stock, each with 250 shares. The remaining stockholders and their shares were W. J. Parker, Ogden, Utah (15 shares); Harry Nolan, Denver, Colorado (1 share), and Sol Tichner, San Francisco (1 share). Corporate officers at this time were Harry Nolan, president and director; W. J. Parker, vice president and director; and William P. Kyne, secretary-treasurer and director. The company’s main purpose was “racing, breeding and improving the breed horses, and conducting races and contests of speed”; to that end, their intent was to own, control, lease, and deal in livestock, real estate, and securities (“Articles of Incorporation of Utah Agricultural and Racing Association,” Articles of Incorporation, Secretary of State’s Office, Utah State Archives). The organization, as part of its license agreement with the State Racing Commission and the Utah State Fair Association, spent well over $50,000 in repairing the horse track and building new grandstands.
26. The Utah Horse Breeding and Racing Association was incorporated in Utah in 1925, with corporate headquarters in Salt Lake City. It had an authorized capital stock of $50,000. As part of its agreement with the Utah State Racing Commission, it spent over $40,000 rebuilding and equipping the horse track at Lagoon for racing. The association maintained a monopoly at Lagoon throughout the existence of the Redd Act (Minute Book of the Utah State Racing Commission, February 20, 1926, 21). The majority stockholder was Leo Dandurand, a Chicago resident. Information on other stockholders and the number of shares owned is not available.
27. “Rebuilt Track, New Stand to Greet Patrons,” Deseret News, July 2, 1925, 21; “Lizette Creates Sensation,” 11.
28. The story in the Salt Lake Tribune the next day featured a photograph of President Grant and Governor Dern in a box seat near the track.
29. Leon D. Garrett, “Report of Audit: Utah State Racing Commission, 1925-1926,” 5, Audits and Financial Reports, Utah State Racing Commission Papers. This figure included $115,018 paid to the State Fair Association for the meets it sponsored and the income it derived from issuing racing permits of its own after receiving its license from the commission. The commission itself showed a profit of $14,628 for this period.
30. “Racing System Case Is Opened,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 16, 1925, 22. City Attorney Will H. Folland, representing the defendants, argued that the state’s law was invalid for three reasons: horse racing was a game of chance, not skill, and was therefore gambling; the wording in the title of the law itself covered more than one subject, rendering the act illegal; and it was special legislation, which favored the racing interests over the rest of the state’s population, that gave the racers control over the operation of the pari-mutuel machines. Counsel for the plaintiffs H. L. Mulliner maintained that horse racing was a game of skill, not chance, and therefore was not gambling; that based on a number of authorities, related subjects may be contained in the same act; and that the pari-mutuel machines were open to anyone who wished to place a wager on the race and were not restricted to a privileged few. “Argument to End Today in Suit on Racing,” Deseret News, September 17, 1925, sec. 2, p. l.
31. “Gaming Part of Race Law Upheld,” Deseret News, August 8, 1926, sec. 2, p. 1; and “The Supreme Court on Horse Racing,” Salt Lake Telegram, August 6, 1926, 5. For the complete text of the State Supreme Court’s decision, see Utah State Fair Association et al. v. Green et al., 68 Utah 251 (1926).
32. “Racing Law’s Repeal Asked,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 14, 1927,13.
33. “Author of Racing Law to Ask Repeal by Legislature,” Deseret News, December 15, 1926, sec. 2, p. 1.
34. “House Kills Racing Law; Danger Scented in Call for Vote by Track Friends,” Deseret News, February 10, 1927, 1; “Accused Holds Charges False,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 13, 1927, 22. See also “Racing Probe Started; Redd First Witness,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 25, 1927, 1, 13, 17; and “Racing Board Probe Is Opened; Three Take Stand,” Deseret News, February 25, 1927, 1, 2.
35. House Journal, 1927, 78; “Redd Asks Repeal of Utah Racing Law,” Deseret News, January 13, 1927, 1; and “Racing Law’s Repeal Asked,” 13. It is interesting to note that while the News made the story its banner headline for that day, the Tribune buried the item halfway back.
36. “Races Increase Crime Declares City Prosecutor,” Deseret News, January 19, 1927, sec. 2, p. 1; “Hearing on Racing Bill Draws Many Spectators,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 20, 1927, 11; “People Divided on Effects of Horse Race Law,” Deseret News, January 20, 1927, sec. 2, p. 1; “Divergent Views Given on Horse Racing Measure,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 21, 1927, 11; “Asks Consideration for Race Track Investors,” Deseret News, January 21, 1927, sec. 2, p. 1.
37. Folland’s claims had little merit. Statistics compiled by the Salt Lake City Police Department for 1925 and 1926, presented below, showed an overall drop in every category except two:
(“Crime Figures for S. L. Given,” Salt Lake Tribune, December 26, 1926, 22.)
38. Business opposition to the sport had become widespread. A Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce poll found its members opposed to racing by a margin of 2 to 1, and the Salt Lake Commercial Club unanimously voted to send a petition to the legislature supporting repeal. “Races Increase Crime,” sec. 2, p. 1; “Seek Repeal of Racing Law,” Deseret News, February 8, 1927, 2.
39. See the Deseret News: “Horse Racing Must Go,” January 14, 1927, 4; “KU1 Horse Racing,” January 21, 1927, 4; “Does Utah Want Horse Race Gambling?” February 5, 1927, 1; “Wake Up!” February 5, 1927, 4; “Kill Horse Race Gambling,” February 7, 1927, 1; “Repeal the Racing Law!” February 8, 1927, 1; “Finish the Job!” February 9, 1927, 1; “A Triumph for Right,” February 11, 1927, 4. The News went so far as to run a full-page editorial in an advertising format to get its message across (“Kill Horse Racing!” February 5, 1927, 3).
40. House Journal, 1927, 100; “Horse Racing Act Produces House Storm,” Salt Lake Tribune, January 25, 1927, 1, 9.
41. See the Salt Lake Tribune: “Bill to Retain Racing Devised,” January 17, 1927, 3; “Racing Act Now in Committee,” January 19, 1927, 8; and “Soloris Fight for Decisions on Racing Bill,” January 22, 1927, 1, 10; also “Divergent Views Given,” 11.
42. “House Waits for Pact Repealing Bill,” Deseret News, January 18, 1927, 3.
43. “Solons Fight for Decisions,” 1, 10.
44. “House Refuses Amendments to Utah Racing Law,” Deseret News, January 26, 1927, 3. The final vote was 27-25. Twenty-eight votes were necessary to secure passage.
45. “Both Race Bills Recommitted as House Votes Nay,” Deseret News, January 27, 1927, 3.
46. Ibid.; “Utah Assembly Work Is Slowed by Committees,” Deseret News, January 28, 1927, 3.
47. “Horse Race Bills Put at Head of House Calendar,” Deseret News, February 2, 1927, 3.
48. “House Rejects Racing Compromise; Fight to Amend Horse Track Law Fails 28 to 24,” Deseret News, February 9, 1927, 1, 3; “Death Dealt Racing Bill in Lower House,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 9, 1927, 1,10.
49. House Journal, 1927, 191; “House Kills Racing Law,” 1; “Senate Committee Votes to End Racing; Upper House to Strike Act off Books Forecast,” Deseret News, February 11, 1927, 1.
50. Senate Journal, 1927, 249; “Senate Committee Votes,” 1.
51. Senate Journal, 1927, 314.
52. “Governor Dern Gives Rebuke, Delay in Racing Probe Is Cause,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 25, 1927, 1, 17; “Governor Signs Racing Repeal Bill, Dern Again Asks Probe as He Puts End to Gambling,” Deseret News, February 24, 1927, 1; sec. 1, p. 2.
53. “Accused Holds Charges False,” 22; “Dern Asks Probe of Race Board Attack; Extra Message to House Seeks Truth of Charge,” Deseret News, February 14, 1927, 1, 3; House Journal, 1927, 213-14. Dern, feeling the House was dragging its heels on the matter, repeated his request on February 24 (“Governor Dern Signs Racing Repeal Bill; Dern Again Asks Probe as He Puts End to Gambling,” Deseret News, February 24, 1927, 1; sec. 2, p. 1; House Journal, 1927, 325-27; and “Governor Dern Gives Rebuke,” 1, 17.)
54. “Probe of Racing Board Ordered by Lower House,” Deseret News, February 15, 1927, 2. The committee consisted of H. H. Crouch, chairman; L. J. Holther; George H. Ryan; A. W. Hansen; and Byron D. Anderson.
55. “Racing Probe Started,” 1, 13, 17; “Racing Board Probe Is Opened,” 1, 2.
56. House Journal, 1927, 565-70.
57. “House Votes to Continue Probe of Racing Board,” Deseret News, March 11, 1927, 2.
58. Special Committee to Governor George H. Dem, April 2, 1927, Correspondence, State Departments—Racing Commission, Utah State, 1925-1928; Correspondence, George H. Dern Papers.
59. “Unjustifiable Influences,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 8, 1913, 6; and “Horse Racing Act Produces House Storm,” 1, 9. In 1913 the Tribune accused the LDS First Presidency and Sunday School general board of organizing a lobbying effort with church members throughout the state; in 1927 the Salt Lake Herald-Republican accused the First Presidency of commissioning legislative lobbyists to ensure passage of the repeal. Neither allegation was ever proved.
It is interesting to contrast the relative political detachment of Mormon church leadership in the 1920s with Brigham Young’s firm hand in directing the affairs of Utah Territory. Although Young delegated a great deal of authority to others, he had a vision about the purpose and ultimate destiny of the territory. He believed that God’s hand had led the Mormon people and that the Great Basin was God’s designated asylum against the evils of the world. Consequently, Young believed that, as God’s prophet, he must be involved in politics in order to accomplish these designs.
The difficulties of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, however, showed LDS leaders that it was futile to try to maintain an isolationist policy. The arrival of the railroad in 1869 and the mining boom in the late 1800s brought thousands of non-Mormon immigrants, many seeking their fortunes in the mines and others on farms and ranches. Whether church leaders liked it or not, Utah was hooked into the vast commercial network of the United States. Given this situation, it was desirable for the church to move into the mainstream where possible, and this included a hands-off policy when it came to politics, except for matters the First Presidency considered grave moral issues. See Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985), 223-49; and Thomas G. Alexander, Mormonism in Transition (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 16-59.
60. “Horse Racing Act Produces House Storm,” 1, 9.