It was February 11, 1927, and the Commercial Club was bustling with 350 “fortunate ones” who got seats in the Chamber’s silver anniversary. Along with “rejoicing and celebration” the evening was filled with “burlesque and a satire and a good dinner and a genial feeling of good fellowship.”
The event had been dubbed the “Pig Iron Fest,” probably because of Utah’s entrance into pig iron production with the opening of the Columbia Steel plant at Ironton, near Provo, in 1925. It was the first such plants in the United States to be established west of Colorado and had a large economic impact on the state.
Described as “cavorting in caricature,” the leading business leaders of the day held a mock meeting of the Chamber’s board of governors. Every conceivable subject was acted upon. Resolutions were passed on the “baby vice” situation and an entirely new set of regulations for road houses was adopted. The Colorado River situation and the Salt Lake water supply were settled by a resolution that the Colorado “stream” be diverted into City Creek Canyon.
The controversial Redd Racing Act, it was decided, should not be decided on morals, but on a purely financial basis. (The act allowed pari-mutuel horse racing in Utah for a short period in the early 1900s). A motion was made to refer the matter to the Rotary Club or the Alta Club.
During the mock meeting, an actor portraying a war veteran appeared several times. Officials referred him to the city’s different banks and after he was unable to collect his compensation appeared at the meeting clad only in his BVDs. It was decided he should earn his way by lecturing at the University of Utah as a proponent of Sovietism.
In another skit, a Salt Lake automobile association official was depicted as routing tourists bound for Provo through Echo Canyon and via the Uintah Basin. Skits also poked fun at earlier presidents and a long-forgotten visiting evangelist. Another speaker recounted a facetious version of Utah’s mining history and a menu card played on inside jokes about Chamber officers.
On a serious note, Chamber President Malcolm A. Keyser read a telegram from U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and other prominent national officials and passed out souvenir paper knives to chamber members. (One of the knives still exists in a wall hanging in the renovated Commercial Club building.)
“My congratulations on the silver anniversary of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce. Please present my greetings and best wishes to your members,” Coolidge wrote.
Sources: “Gay Business Men Frolic at ‘Pigiron’ Fest,” The Salt Lake Tribune, 12 February 1927. “Steel in Utah Seen Part of Modern Epoch,” Deseret News, 21 February 1952.