When the Chamber of Commerce of Salt Lake City celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1952, tracing its beginnings to the formation of the Commercial Club in 1902, it was an evening to remember.
The black-tie “Jubilee” drew many national business leaders to the gathering of five hundred in the Lafayette Ballroom at the Hotel Utah. It was front-page news in local papers, particularly when the chairman of U.S. Steel attacked the U.S. government’s deficit spending during a keynote speech and leaders of two major western railroads announced multi-million dollar expansions while in town to attend the event.
“Clearly, [the government] must live within its income if it is not to undermine our entire economy…But clearly, it won’t live within its income unless it aroused citizens, regardless of political affiliations, compel it to do so through the democratic processes at their command,” Irving S. Olds, chairman of the board of United States Steel Corporation, said in his speech. His company had taken over post-war operation of Geneva Steel in Utah County.
President David O. McKay of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints lauded the values of the organization. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir gave a command performance, via a wire link, from the Salt Lake Tabernacle. Utah Governor J. Bracken Lee and Salt Lake Mayor Earl J. Glade also spoke.
After attendees dined on Utah trout and lamb, McKay said, “While achieving its commendable goals of expanding the economic conditions of the city, state, and surrounding area, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce has kept in mind a higher purpose, the fostering of social, cultural, and religious values of the community.”
Mayor Glade declared Utah possessed a high order of industrial leadership and he was “proud of the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce which is pointing the way for Salt Lake City in the future and holding to the traditions of the founders of Utah.”
Governor Lee paid tribute the organization’s leadership and urged the audience to choose elected officials carefully. “It is important to give a little time and attention to our government.”
An ornate program honored the fifty years of Chamber accomplishments.
“The men who organized the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce in 1902, and the many thousands since, have worked hard to make this community what it is today. They’ve campaigned successfully for better schools and medical facilities, to obtain industries to provide employment for Utah people so they would not be forced to go to other states for their livelihood–or to pursue their chosen profession, for a healthy business ‘climate’–in fact, for anything that would make our community a better place to live and work. And they’re justly proud of what they have done,” the program read, in part.
Chamber leaders also paid honor to the Chamber’s top staff executive, Gus Backman. Backman received a glowing tribute and a surprise–keys to a new 1952 car, a gift from his many admirers and friends. By 1952, Backman had been with the Chamber for twenty-two years.
Sources: “Steel Leader See Inflation as Enemy,” Deseret News, 22 February 1952. “The Rediscovery of Utah,” Deseret News, 21 February 1952. Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce Fiftieth Anniversary Dinner program, 21 February 1952, Salt Lake Chamber papers, Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah.