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Country: United States
City: Provo City, Utah
Issues of this title available in Elephind: 139
Items (articles and/or pages) from this title available in Elephind: 738
Earliest Date: 31 August 1898
Latest Date: 26 December 1908
Early in the twenty-first century, Utah County’s political reputation makes it one of the “reddest” places in America. That is, the county’s voters overwhelmingly elect Republicans to local, state, and national offices. In fact, in many parts of the county, which covers some 1.4 million acres in central Utah, Democrats regularly fail to field a candidate for the state legislature.
But Utah County’s political affiliations have not always been so one-sided. During the late nineteenth century, changes within the Mormon Church and Utah’s struggle for statehood created a more balanced, and volatile, political environment. The Democratic Party thrived in Utah County, as did its local mouthpiece in Provo, the Utah County Democrat--at least for a decade or so.
Since Brigham Young and his Mormon followers first settled in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847, politics in Utah tended to fall along religious lines. Nineteenth-century elections usually pit the Mormon People’s Party against the Gentile Liberal Party (in Utah, non-Mormons are often described as “gentiles”). State politics slowly reorganized in the 1890s, when the Mormon Church formally abandoned plural marriage and Utah sought to become a state. Republicans and Democrats formed local parties, and following statehood in 1896 it appeared that Utah favored the latter. In its first presidential contest as a state, Utah Democrats drew more than 80 percent of the presidential vote for William Jennings Bryan. Two years later, Democrats elected Brigham Henry Roberts to Congress (he was not allowed to serve because of his practice of polygamy).
During this “blue” period in Utah County, the Democrat made its debut. On August 31, 1898, the newspaper issued its first edition and proclaimed: “The Utah County Democrat is not a campaign venture, but is designed to be a permanent institution.” Nevertheless, the newspaper, published three times a week in Provo, Utah County’s capital city, could always be counted on to castigate Republicans. In its coverage of a fall primary election shortly after the turn of the century, the Democrat opined: “The ‘charmed circle’ rule was evident at the Republican primaries last evening. It’s a pity that some people have eyes, and can’t see.”
Still, the newspaper was more than simply a political soapbox. The Democrat thrived for more than 10 years by offering Utah County readers news that mattered to them, including coverage of local government, and the latest from the agricultural and mining industries.
In February 1909, the Democrat, whose ownership had changed hands many times, gave up its political affiliation and became independent. To mark the transformation it changed its name too, rechristened as the Provo Herald. A version of that newspaper exists today, thriving in the Republican-dominated Utah County of the twenty-first century.
Provided by: University of Utah, Marriott Library