Deseret Book Co. is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, but its route to the century-and-a-quarter mark has had several interesting twists and turns.
According to a history of Deseret Book compiled in 1976, it all began with George Q. Cannon in 1866 - a man who today seems a likely candidate for the title of "Father of Publishing and Printing" in Utah.Cannon, then a member of the Council of the Twelve of the LDS Church, had learned the printing and publishing business from his uncle, President John Taylor, and had already successfully translated and published the Book of Mormon in Hawaiian, edited a California newspaper and written numerous tracts and publications.
He had also founded the "Juvenile Instructor," which became the official organ of the Deseret Sunday School Union. All of this derived from Cannon's concern that the then 20-year-old Mormon community have an ample supply of good reading matter.
"A boy cannot be judged half so correctly by the company he keeps as by the books he reads," Cannon - who served two terms as editor of the Deseret News from 1867-73 and 1877-79 - is quoted as saying.
That belief led to the founding of George Q. Cannon and Sons Co., publisher and retail bookseller at No. 6 South Main, where it remained until Cannon's death in 1901, when it was purchased by the Deseret News and became the Deseret News Bookstore.
Meanwhile, the Deseret Sunday School Union had begun to publish lesson manuals and supplementary materials, which eventually grew into a full-fledged publishing venture with offices on the southeast corner of South Temple and Main. In 1904, it moved to a new building at 44 E. South Temple.
The Deseret News Bookstore and the Deseret Sunday School Union Bookstore continued separate and successful operations until 1919, when President Heber J. Grant and the Council of the Twelve began talking about a merger of the two. On Oct. 1, 1919, that consolidation was effected. T. Albert Hooper became the manager of the new company and James E. Talmage was named president.
On Jan. 7, 1920, it was decided to rename the merged firms Deseret Book Co., and on April 20 of that year the Deseret News carried the headline, "Deseret Book Stores to be brought under one roof." The roof covered an enlarged and remodeled facility in the former Sunday School Union store.
Through the Great Depression, the company was directed by T. Albert Hooper who, along with his employees, agreed to take salary cuts and even forego paychecks altogether for some months in order to keep the business going.
The bookstore operated as an appendage to the church from 1919 until April 21, 1932, when it became a Utah corporation. That structure still exists today and the organization operates as a tax-paying, profit-oriented business with all stock held by the church.
During the war years, the company was run by A. Hamer Reiser. In 1951, Alva H. Parry came on board. Parry felt the two-story facility at 44 East South Temple - unchanged from the 1920 remodeling - needed expanding and updating. In March 1956, that work, including addition of a third floor, was completed.
Under Parry, branch stores were opened in Ogden, the Cottonwood Mall and in Orange, Calif., the first out-of-state Deseret Book store. The wholesale end of the business was also expanded by Parry as agencies or dealerships were opened in various English-speaking areas by private parties who operated out of their homes or small storefronts.
In 1969, Parry was succeeded by Wm. James Mortimer, now publisher of the Deseret News, who oversaw even more expansion, into Granger, Orem, Northridge, Calif., Fashion Place Mall, Logan and others. Mortimer left in 1979 for a new assignment and Dr. Lowell M. Durhan Jr. was named president and general manager. Durham left in 1983 to join the ZCMI chain of department stores and he was replaced by Ronald A. Millett.
Meanwhile, in 1970, with plans being made to build the new ZCMI Center, it was determined that the existing Deseret Book store could not be incorporated into the new mall. The building was razed and temporary quarters were established in the Medical Arts Building at 60 East South Temple, as well as other facilities until, in April 1976, a new flagship store opened on South Temple that was connected to the ZCMI Center.
Deseret Book operated in that facility until last year, when a new store opened inside the mall in time for the holiday season. Deseret Book's corporate offices remain at 40 East South Temple, above the location of the old downtown store.