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Giving context to Hotel Utah

Published: Thursday, Aug. 27 2015 8:53 p.m. MDT

The year was 1911 — sandwiched between the turn of the century and the Wright brothers taking flight on one side and World War I and flapper girls on the other.

William Taft served at the helm of the United States as its 27th president. Utah's third governor, William Spry, was in office and the Progressive Era was in full swing.

But those are just the basics. There were many other events, trends, advancements and discoveries that created the world in which the Hotel Utah was born on June 9, 1911.

The next day, the Saturday, June 10, 1911, edition of the Deseret Evening News carried the headline: "The Magnificent Hotel Utah Opens Its Doors."

Political affairs

Reform proved to be a driving force for politics around the world. In the year leading up to the opening of the hotel, China abolished slavery and South Africa declared its independence from the United Kingdom, according to BrainyHistory.com.

In Central and South America, many of the problems that existed when certain countries gained independence in the 1800s still remained 100 years later, according to Jeffrey Shumway, professor of Argentinean and Latin American history at BYU. "Many Central and South American countries were progressing economically, but there were underlying social problems in the midst of economic growth," he said.

Such social problems contributed to the Mexican Revolution, which broke out in November 1910. By that time a year later, the previous president was overthrown and Francisco Madero was elected.

The Socialist Party was gaining power and popularity in America, according to Brian Cannon, professor of modern and rural American history at BYU. On March 4, 1911, Victor Berger of Wisconsin became the first socialist U.S. congressman.

A fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. in New York on March 25, 1911, killed 146 people in 18 minutes, according to the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. This disaster fueled debates over working conditions across America.

Other political deliberations regarded topics such as Prohibition.

Other developments

Discoveries and inventions were also rampant around 1911 in many different fields.

Henry Ford introduced his "reasonably priced, reliable and efficient" Model T automobile in 1908, according to the Henry Ford website, hfmgv.com. Many, however, still relied on traditional forms of transportation.

"It's an interesting era in that way because you continue to have horse-drawn conveyances on the city streets, electric street cars and then automobiles all together at that point in time," Cannon said.

The field of exploration saw two major events. Hiram Bingham located the lost Incan city of Machu Picchu on July 24, 1911. Five months later, Roald Amundsen's expedition became the first to reach the South Pole.

Cultural phenomena

The cultural landscape at this time was full of distinctive trends, many of which can be seen in today's society.

"The Great Train Robbery" debuted as the first silent film in 1903, and by 1911, many people opted for the cinema over theater, Cannon said.

Baseball became increasingly popular with the establishment of the World Series in 1903. WhiteHouse.gov archives state that Taft symbolized the sport as "America's pastime" by being the first president to throw a first pitch at a baseball game in 1910, one year prior to the hotel's opening.

Ray Harroun won the first Indianapolis 500 car race on May 30, 1911, with a speed of 74.602 mph. This is 95.663 mph less than winner Dan Wheldon's speed of 170.265 mph in the 2011 race, according to IndianapolisMotorSpeedway.com.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company