SALT LAKE CITY — On Monday, Utah celebrated the 125th anniversary of becoming the 45th state of the United States of America.
On January 4, 1896, Utah achieved statehood.
Archive photos from that day show an American flag draped on the Salt Lake Temple, patriotic decorations around downtown and residents celebrating in the streets.
To mark the 125th anniversary, fireworks displays were held simultaneously in each of the state’s 29 counties.
“I think it’s important to celebrate any anniversary,” said Michael Reed of Clearfield.
Reed watched the fireworks with his family from inside the cab of his truck.
The COVID-19 pandemic prevented large gatherings, but the virus did not stop residents from honoring the qualities that shape Utah.
“I just think the culture, the freedoms that we have,” responded Jason Bowles when asked what makes Utah special.
The path to statehood was a long and divisive battle for the state’s early settlers.
“Utahns worked to achieve statehood,” said Holly George, the co-editor of the Utah Historical Quarterly. “They tried for almost 50 years and seven attempts.”
Leaders at the federal level had reservations about the role of religion in the state’s way of life.
It wasn’t until compromises were made that helped Utah come together and move from a territory to a state.
“It meant a lot more local governance and lot more economic possibilities,” George said. “After 1896, they talk about the Americanization of Utah and how Utahns wanted to be seen as Americans and very good citizens.”
Utah overcame the divisions it faced in its early history.
Now in 2021, new issues are causing turmoil. That’s why some who are celebrating this historic day are looking to the lessons of the past to help guide the future.
“I am kind of tired of the divisiveness we have in our country today,” Reed said. “It’s time for everybody to come together. It’s a new year. Let’s put 2020 behind us. Let’s get on with life.”