The Brigham Young Monument (Pioneer Monument)

Write-up by: Seth Noon

Placed By: It was originally unveiled in Chicago at the 1893 World’s Fair, created by Cyrus Edwin Dallin and commissioned by Wilford Woodruff. Shortly after that, it was moved to Salt Lake City, still unfinished, under the orders of Wilford Woodruff.

The GPS coordinates of the Brigham Young Monument.

40°46’10.4″N 111°53’27.9″W

40.769560, -111.891090

Historical Marker text (1)

The Names of the Pioneers Who Arrived in this Valley, July 24, 1847,

* Signifies Those Now Living. The Unmarked Ones Are All Deceased

Column One: Brigham Young • Clara Decker Young • Heber C. Kimball • Ellen S. Kimball • * Wilford Woodruff • George A. Smith • Amasa M. Lyman • Ezra T. Benson • Erastus Snow • Shadrach Roundy • Albert P. Rockwood • John Pack • Albert Carrington • Orrin P. Rockwell • William Clayton • Thomas Bullock • John S. Fowler • Jacob Burnham • * Joseph Egbert • John M. Freeman • Marcus B. Thorp • * George Wardle • Thomas Grover • Barnabus L. Adams

Column Two: Roswell Stevens • Sterling Driggs • * George W. Brown • Jesse c. Little • Phineas H. Young • John W. Green • Thomas Tanner • Addison Everett • Truman O. Angell • Lorenzo D. Young • Harriet Page Young • * Isaac Perry Decker • * Lorenzo Sobieski • Young • John Holman • Edmund Ellsworth • Alvarus Hanks • George R. Grant • Millen Atwood • Samuel Fox • Tunis Rappleyee • Eli H. Pierce • William Dykes • Jacob Weiler * Steven H. Goddard • Burr Frost

Column Three: Tarelton Lewis • Henry G. Sherwood • Zebedee Coltrin • Sylvester H. Earl • John Dixon • Samuel H. Marble • George Scholes • William Henrie • William A. Empey • * Charles Shumway • * Andrew Shumway • Thomas Woolsey • Chauncey Loveland • James Craig • William Wordsworth • * William P. Vance • Simeon Howd • Seeley Owen • James Case • Artemas Johnson • * William C.A. Smoot • * Benjamin Dewey • William Carter • Franklin G. Losee • Datus Ensign

Column Four: Franklin B. Stewart • Monroe Frink • Eric Clines • * Ozro Eastman • Seth Taft * Horace T. Thornton • Horace K. Whitney • Orson K. Whitney • * Stephen Kelsey • John S. Eldredge • Charles D. Barnum • Alma L. Williams • Rufus Allen • Robert T. Thomas • James W. Stewart • Elijah Newman • * Levi N. Kendall • Francis Boggs • David Grant • Howard Egan • William A. King • * Thomas B. Cloward • Hosea Cushing • Robert Byard • George Billings

Column Five: Edson Whipple • Philo Johnson • Appleton M. Harmon • Carlos Murray • Nathaniel T. Brown • Jackson R. Redden • Francis M. Pomeroy • * Aaron F. Farr • Nathaniel Fairbanks • John S. Higbee • John Wheeler • Soloman Chamberlain • * Conrad Kleinman • Jospeh Rooker • Perry Fitzgerald • John H. Tippetts • James Davenport • * Henson Walker • Benjamin Rolfe • Norton Jacob • * Charles A. Harper • Stephen Markham • * George Woodward • Lewis Barney • George Mills

Column Six: Andrew Gibbons • Joseph Hancock • * John W. Norton • Hans C. Hanson • Levi Jackman • * Lyman Curtis • John Brown • David Powers • Matthew Ivory • Jospeh Matthews • * John S. Gleason • Gilberd Summe • Charles Burke • Alexander P. Chessley • Rodney Badger • * Norman Taylor • Briant Stringam • Orson Pratt • Willart Richards • Joseph S. Scofield • Luke Johnson {Colored Servants: * Green Flake • Hark Lay • Oscar Crosby}

Historical Marker Transcript Text (2)

Photo of one of the plaques on the monument, signifying its dedication of the monument to Brigham Young and the original Pioneers. Taken 1940, March 16th. (1)

Extended Research

The Brigham Young Monument that is in downtown Salt Lake City has a fascinating and mildly dramatic past, filled with petty propaganda and annoyed citizens. The statue is 10 feet tall and was cut in stone but cast in bronze. It was originally designed to be cut with stone, with a 35-foot wide, 25-foot-tall base, but due to a combination of size and location, the 35-foot base was shortened significantly. It used to stand at the center of the intersection formed by Main Street and South Temple but was moved 82 feet north onto Temple Square in 1993. While the monument is often associated with Salt Lake City because it is of Brigham Young, and currently resides in Salt Lake City, the statue was actually completed in and originated from Chicago.

Cyrus Edward Dallin sculpted the now famous marble bust of Brigham Young and unveiled it in Chicago at the 1893 world’s fair. The LDS church had commissioned Dallin previously to create a statue of the angel Moroni (a Book of Mormon prophet) which now stands atop the Salt Lake City Temple. Dallin also sculpted busts of the first presidents of the LDS church, including Wilford Woodruff, who commissioned Dallin to design and sculpt a statue of Brigham Young. However due to a lack of funds, the statue remained unfinished. When the LDS church sought to complete the monument by ignoring Dallin’s initial vision, Dallin wrote to the church, saying “while I am most heartily in sympathy with your wishes and desires, I cannot allow these changes in my design. To put the single figure of President Young upon a large unadorned pedestal, as you design, would be manifestly inappropriate and would not only hurt me, but might seriously endanger the final completion” (3). The LDS church ignored Dallin’s opinions and even stopped paying him what they owed. Dallin wrote the church another letter in response to the Salt Lake City unveiling, explaining that “since the unveiling of the Brigham Young Statue in July 1897, (against my protestation) the monthly payments due me have ceased (in fact before then) and I wish to call your attention to the fact that you have broken your contract with me. It is now six months since I received the last word from you…. I am a poor man and am dependent on my work for my livelihood” (3). Dallin returned to Salt Lake City, and through his own effort, and after some threats, the church paid him to continue to work on the monument’s base.

Unveiling of the Brigham Young Monument in Salt Lake City (2)

The statue’s base was officially completed in 1900, three years after being unveiled in Salt Lake City, and seven years after being unveiled in Chicago. Dallin was still not satisfied with his work due to the changes that were forced upon it despite his contract. He made one last attempt to influence the design of the monument but was once again rebuffed. The monument was temporarily located on the Southeast corner of Temple Square. In 1900 the monument was moved to the center of the intersection of South Temple and Main Street. This was done so that it was in a more open and public area, with lots of traffic so that it could be viewed without obstruction.

Below is an image depicting where the monument was moved to and stayed for 93 years. Some people, however, lobbied for its relocation as time progressed.  Its location was originally not of concern or controversy because traffic mostly consisted of people, carriages, wagons and people on horseback. They did not foresee how technology would advance, and as the 20th century progressed, the car became more popular and common. The intersection began to service thousands of cars daily, and became an obstacle to drivers, especially those trying to make a left turn. As the growth of the city persisted, and cars became more prevalent, accidents rose and led to more strife aimed towards the monument. However, many different groups had different opinions and ideas as to how to remedy the situation.

In 1929, the Salt Lake City Rotary Club requested the monument’s removal from the intersection; Governor George H. Dern wanted to move it to Capitol Hill and surround it with flowers. The Brigham Young Family Association and the Daughters of Utah Pioneers each had different ideas, and so both met separately to discuss the monument. The Brigham Young Family Association voted to “vigorously oppose” the relocation, and Daughters of Utah Pioneers “unanimously protested” the relocation. Eventually the debate was settled when “George P. Parker, state attorney general . . . concluded that the site had been dedicated for the monument and it could not be legally moved without a majority vote of the people” (3). The debate rested until 1951, when Salt Lake City’s Traffic Commission made the mistake of trying to move the monument, which was met with an even more intense opposition.

Painting of Brigham Young Monument (4)

The mayor of Salt Lake City at the time, Earl J. Glade, said the monument was “a large part of the trademark” of the city, and that if “you take away that monument out of the intersection, and you take away a large part of Salt Lake City.” (3) The president of the American Pioneer Trails Association, Howard R. Driggs, said “It’s absurd—plain ridiculous, to think of moving the Brigham Young Monument.” (3) The president of the National Sons of Utah Pioneers, Fred E. Curtis, said “We feel they already have destroyed too much of pioneer history in this city and state”. (3) The Church also made its opinion known through the LDS-owned Deseret News, which had said in an editorial about the monument’s relocation, “one of the most shocking notions that has ever been born of an excess of zeal is the shortsighted proposal which has been informally launched by some of the members of Salt Lake City’s Advisory Traffic Commission.” (3) The Traffic Commission reversed course, and they didn’t dare to try and move it again. In 1955, there was a compromise, and 14 feet was shaved off the base of the statue and paved around it. This made traffic better and did not anger the LDS church or historical societies like the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.

In 1973, the Environmental Protection Agency mandated that Salt Lake City reduce pollution and congestion in downtown. Among the plans for improving congestion and pollution was one to renovate main street and make it more friendly to pedestrians. Renovating and expanding the base around the monument was a part of this effort. The monument had seen its base get significantly increased. And under this new effort by the city, fountains were installed on the east and west sides of the monument, extending out completely as to not allow through traffic, going north and south. These additions were complete by 1975 but were short lived. This in theory would reduce traffic in the region, but it did not, as more businesses moved into the newly revitalized main street.

Brigham Young Statue with added fountains (5)

Because the statue became more accessible, another controversy over the statue began. The wide base with fountains attracted people, and people noticed that there was a plaque on the pedestal that listed the names of the original pioneers. Three of the names however, were labeled as “colored servants.” This sparked a small debate over the language, with some like Salt Lake City Commissioner Stephen M. Harmsen, calling it “an embarrassment to our city” in a city council meeting in April of 1975. Others like Bertha Udell, argued that changing the language would be an attempt at trying to rewrite/hide the true history of the pioneers. The monument serves to preserve history and help us remember it, and while it was intended to remember Brigham Young and the Pioneers, it also preserves the way in which these men were seen and labeled. They were not seen as pioneers and instead called servants. Hark Lay was one of the three enslaved men listed above. He was freed after being taken to California and changed his name to Hark Wales, yet the monument remembered him by his former enslaver’s last name instead of his own. The same was true for Oscar Smith who was included on the monument as Oscar Crosby, the surname of his enslaver. Green Flake was the third enslaved man listed on the monument. Flake continued to use his enslaver’s last name after Brigham Young freed him in 1852. The monument preserved more than just Brigham Young’s legacy, it also preserved the racism that was present in Utah in the 19th century.

            In 1978, the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce proposed relocating the Monument from its spot at the intersection to the front of the temple, along Main Street, with a park being built around it. Some citizens supported the move, citing traffic and pollution as concerns. Others were in favor of the move, simply because the statue had Brigham’s hand pointing to Zions bank and his back towards the Temple. A jingle of unknown origin emerged amongst the locals: “There stands Brigham High on his perch, With his hand to the bank and his back to the church.” (3) There were also many citizens who opposed it because moving the statue would involve destroying the $130,000 base that had been constructed only 3 years prior. The debate raged on, with the church itself largely conflicted: some wanted the statue to be in front of the temple, and some members of the church did not want the view of the temple to be obstructed and suggested that it be moved somewhere else within Temple Square. Historical Societies like the Brigham Young Family Association opposed the move, because they were not consulted. Some citizens favored the idea of moving the statue to a prestigious location like Capitol Hill, so they could save face, and not appear to just be moving the monument because it was in the way. The matter of the statue’s location became ever more public with citizens proposing ideas on how to remedy the controversy. News reporters asked citizens what they thought: One man suggested mounting the monument on wheels so it could be moved about without a fuss. Another suggested relocating it to the corner of the intersection and making Brigham’s arms moveable so he could direct traffic”. (3) The City ended up voting to not move the statue as it did not want to “sacrifice” the monument for the sake of easing traffic. In 1980, the city was able to quietly remove the fountains and massive base they had added in 1975, and in 1992, Salt Lake City elected Deedee Corradini as Mayor and she initiated change.

Deedee Corradini was by most accounts a very competent mayor: she balanced the city’s budget, helped plan the Ball Park stadium downtown, as well became a champion of Trax and the 2002 Olympics. She was presented with an Olympic flag, the first female mayor to receive that honor, and she was also the first female elected mayor of Salt Lake City. When she took office, she began to quietly plan the movement of the Brigham Young Monument. Corradini and the LDS church began talks on where to move the monument in late 1992. The Brigham Young Family Association were eventually brought into the talks as well, ensuring all three major parties had input on the relocation of the monument. They used common sense, and moved the statue 82 feet north, so that it was no longer in the street, and instead along the sidewalk. Former Mayor Ted Wilson who was involved in the 1978 debate over the monument said “I think [moving the statue eighty-two feet north] was a brilliant solution.”(3) Carl Kates, a Deseret News editorial writer, said this after the monument had been taken down to be refurnished and then relocated: “No public protest ensued; indeed, almost nobody cared.” (3)

The Brigham Young Monument appears to be a relatively normal statue, but its history is anything but normal. It is gloriously abstract, from its construction to its endless and needlessly heated debates about its location in the middle of two prominent streets in downtown Salt Lake City. The statue may look like a statue to most, but to a very influential and important few it was coveted and treated as almost sacred as evident by the actions of several governors, mayors, LDS presidents, and groups like the Brigham Young Family Association. Its present location is a compromise of the desires of all the parties involved. The monument was moved onto Temple Square, pleasing the church; it was out of the street, pleasing the city; and it was still in the center of downtown, pleasing the Brigham Young Family Association. Just as the statue commemorates and reifies stories of enslaved and free pioneers, its stillness hides the tensions of its movement. The most accurate yet brief statement about the monument is that it took 93 years to move it 82 feet and out of a street.

For Further Reference

Photos and images

(1) Content pulled from the University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriot Digital Library

(2) Content pulled from the Brigham young University Scholars Archive

(3) Hunter, J. Michael. “The Monument to Brigham Young and the Pioneers: One Hundred Years of Controversy.” Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume 68, Number 4, (2000).

(4) Painting by the Deseret Book Company

(5) picture provided is a Plastichrome by Colorpicture, postcard

(6) Photo by Lindsay Aikman/Michael Priest Photography

(7) Photo taken by Rick Egan, of AP Photo/The Salt Lake Tribune.

Primary Sources

Parry, Joseph Hyrum. The “Mormon” Metropolis. an Illustrated Guide to Salt Lake City and Its Environs, Containing Illustrations and Descriptions of Principal Places of Interest to Tourists. Also Interesting Information and Historical Data with Regard to Utah and Its People. Salt Lake City: J.H. Parry & Co., 1887.

“Round-up: 1897-07-09: Brigham Young Monument.” Utah Digital Newspapers. Accessed February 2, 2022. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=9335395.


Secondary Sources

Hunter, J. Michael. “The Monument to Brigham Young and the Pioneers: One Hundred Years of Controversy.” Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume 68, Number 4, (2000).

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