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Utah woman dives into and shares findings from SLC's rich history

Posted at 7:28 PM, Dec 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-28 01:36:22-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Rachel Quist started her Instagram page, @rachels_slc_history, with the intention of broadening people's perspective of Salt Lake City's history. She says it has a more complex story than most people realize.

"Salt Lake's history is a lot more diverse and interesting than what it's commonly portrayed as," Quist said.

Her interest in diving deep into the city's history was inspired after visiting the various historical sites scattered around the Salt Lake Valley.

"And that gave a very one-sided history," she added. "So then I decided to go out and find the stuff that I was interested in."

READ: Demolition of historic mansion in Holladay sparks debate on Utah history, preservation

What interests her is the people, places and events that often go overlooked in history books, or on the bronze plaques that can be found all over Salt Lake City.

"I'm interested in the everyday lives of people," she added. "Or little obscure stories that tell a larger tale."

Her page features stories on Salt Lake City's first black police officer, R. Bruce Johnson, sworn into the SLCPD in the fall of 1891.

She also highlights early business magnates like Italian immigrant Antonio Ferro, who moved to Salt Lake City in 1896 and created what she calls a "pasta empire" out of the Western Macaroni Manufacturing Company factory. The building it was housed in is still standing under the same name on 244 South and 500 West.

"Mostly what you're seeing on my Instagram page is my train of thought," Quist said.

She said modern events often shape what she is interested in researching.

"It's the things that I'm thinking about right now," she added. "I wonder, 'Well, how did people in the past think about it?'"

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, she began researching how the Spanish Flu impacted the city over 100 years ago.

On Sunday, she came across stories of people debating the use of masks and coming up with creative ways to deal with the virus. For instance, she found a story of confiscated whiskey that was ordered by Utah's then-governor, Simon Bamberger, to be distributed to the ill, despite the state being in the middle of prohibition.

READ: Utah's COVID-19 experience shares similarities to 1918 flu pandemic

And with the recent windstorm came research into previous storms that left 1940s and 50s Salt Lake City looking very similar to the scenes from September.

She encourages people to dig deeper into Utah's past to help reframe how they see the state today.

"Utah has had a great push on getting a lot of their history online," Quist said. "Utah Division of State History, Utah archives, Salt Lake County archives. There's a lot of different repositories that you can go look for that sort of thing."

Ultimately, Quist said she wants people who visit her page to be able to walk around Salt Lake City and see the endless stories that have shaped the city into what it is today.