Culture Clash and Accommodation
Frederick S. Buchanan
“The Dawn of a New Revolution”
The Administrations of Jesse F. Millspaugh, 1890-98,
and Frank B. Cooper, 1899-1901
Jesse F. Millspaugh, 1890-98
[p.25]In 1891 the president of the board of education, George M. Scott (who also served as Mayor of Salt Lake City), described the potential difficulty of “welding” twenty-two ward schools into a “non-sectarian” public school system. This task required sensitivity, since at least sixty percent of the pupils in 1891 were children of Mormon parents. Scott’s anxiety is understandable, given Utah’s political, economic, and social controversies; the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887 effectively disenfranchised Mormon men and women, turned local elections over to the federally appointed Utah Commission, disincorporated the LDS church, and put its assets into the hands of a receiver. The anti-polygamy legislation also promoted free public schools by abolishing the office of territorial superintendent of schools (an elected post held by L. John Nuttall, son-in-law of the Mormon president, John Taylor). In his place the Utah Supreme Court appointed a federally approved commissioner of schools.
On 24 September 1890, Taylor’s successor as church president, Wilford Woodruff, issued a manifesto that publicly disavowed the practice of plural marriage, allowing the Mormon church to survive institutionally. About ten days before this major turning-point, the city’s first free public schools opened their doors, a symbolic reflection of the changes being forced on Utah and the Mormon church by the federal government.1
Integrating the Mormon ward schools into a public system was accomplished, in Scott’s words, with “less friction than might have been expected,”2 although, of course, tensions did surface from time to time. This chapter illustrates how, over the next decade, the Mormons worked with their gentile neighbors to build a school system based on elected trustees; to accommodate the large numbers of new “converts” to public schooling; to hire competent (even if “outside”) teachers; and to initiate a graded system radically different from the traditional “one size fits all” approach to schooling.
Portent for the Future: The Election of July 1890
[p.26]Under the provisions of the new public school law, the first elections for the new school board were held 15 July 1890. The contest was straight-forward, putting candidates from the Liberal (non-Mormon) Party against those from the Mormon-sponsored People’s Party, although newspapers simply listed the contestants as “Mormons” or “Gentiles.” The major theme was the polarization of politics between Mormons and non-Mormons, and few educational issues were dealt with. A leader in the fight against the Mormon control was C. E. Allen, the gentile legislator who had forced the Mormon legislature to accept a free school bill less than six months before. Allen and his cohorts in the Liberal Party were convinced that the Mormons might end up controlling the public board of education in the same way as they had controlled the city’s three-man boards of the district/ward schools. The trustees of these twenty-one schools were for the most part LDS, although in some wards token gentiles were elected from time to time.
Mormon claims that the schools were non-partisan, even if dominated by Latter-day Saints, rang hollow with non-Mormons. Such schools were among the most exclusive on earth, the Salt Lake Tribune averted. Only Mormons were allowed to teach, and the standards required of the teachers was, accordingly, abysmally low. Nor were schools free and available to those who could not pay tuition. Why, the opposition wondered, had so much community resources gone into building the Salt Lake Temple and Mormon meeting houses while “a little, small, uncomfortable, dreadful den, built of adobes, and without one single enlightened attachment [an outhouse?] such as ought to belong to a school house, has been deemed good enough” for the city’s schools. Mormons, in gentiles’ minds, could not be trusted to build the new public system. Echoing the principal of the Salt Lake Collegiate Institute (later Westminster College), Dr. Jesse F. Millspaugh, gentile critics wanted to overhaul the entire system, and only the non-Mormons could do it to reflect “American ideas.”3 It was the obligation of the “Liberal Grand Army of Freedom” to “benefit the poor, blind dupes who are too steeped in mossbackism and reverence for counsel [from church leaders] to be able to help themselves.”4
In a sermon preached in the Salt Lake Tabernacle the Sunday before the election, the church’s most prominent intellectual, Elder B. H. Roberts, denied the charge that Mormons only flourished where ignorance reigned. He criticized Protestant attempts to wean children away from their parents’ faith through the subterfuge of alternative schools. Roberts quoted Mormonism’s founder, Joseph Smith, that humans cannot be saved in ignorance, and that Mormons believed that whatever knowledge was gained on earth would be continued in the after life. Gaining an education was part and parcel of being a Mormon, Roberts seemed to be saying. In spite of being refused public lands funds, the Mormons had provided schools for themselves and others without federal assistance.5
Frank B. Cooper, 1899-1901
[p.28]On the same day that Roberts spoke in the Tabernacle, the Tribune sent a corps of reporters to visit twelve Mormon ward meetings. They reported that in some wards, speakers “harangued” the congregations about the elections; some made no mention of it and others announced that special “secret meetings” would be held after the regular worship service. In one ward, campaign material for one of the Mormon candidates was reportedly distributed. Expressing satisfaction that there was apparently no official church directives on how to vote, the Tribune concluded that “every meeting was conducted according to [the] political zeal or lack of it” in the ward bishop. Still, the paper warned, the only thing that would stem a Mormon tide at the polls would be the “sheer force of numbers” organized by the gentiles.6
On election day, each side determined to “get out the vote” with offers of free rides to the polls and the usual hoopla of electioneering. The Liberal Party had wagons on which were emblazoned such slogans as “Free Schools for Free Men” and “Education is the Fall of Superstition.” One large “bus” drawn by six horses and carrying sixty five “prettily dressed” school children tugged at voters’ hearts and minds with “We Appeal to You Today” The Tribune interspersed its partisan commentary with slogans such as “See to it Gentiles, that everyone of you votes, and see that your neighbor votes too” and “Will all Gentiles be sure to see that they vote early today?”
In all likelihood, a significant degree of chicanery was evident in the voting, although neither side would admit to such. As Edward L. Lyman points out in his detailed analysis of politics in Utah during the 1890s, in the municipal elections held the previous February there was widespread importation of voters by both sides. The paving of Salt Lake City sidewalks and developing the public water supply in City Creek Canyon were indeed public works project initiated by the Mormon City council to increase their voting rolls by 200 to 400 men brought in from the outlying areas “until after the election.” Some people were even “called” to come and live in Salt Lake City by their church leaders so that they could vote for the People’s Party The importation of miners and other “transients” from Park City helped swell the rolls on the Liberal side.7
The same kind of tactics were apparently used in the school election of July 1890. Mormons accused Liberals of paying off their imported voters with whisky, cigars, and “sometimes even women.” A “horde of Liberals” was apparently brought into the Second Ward by the railroad. Not needed in that ward, they were shipped to the Twentieth Ward polls. The only ward in which no fraud was detected was the Fifth; no fraud was needed because this municipal ward was seventy-five percent gentile.8
The Liberal Party swept to victory. Only three Mormons were elected: George D. Pyper, a Scottish emigrant living in the Fourth Ward, by only 15 [p.29]votes; William J. Newman, an English emigrant, and John N. Pike, in the Third Precinct. With the exception of George Snow, who apparently had some Mormon roots, all the other board members were non-Mormon, giving the Liberal Party a majority of seven votes on the new board. Of the gentiles elected, two were in the mining industry, one was an engineer, one a grain merchant, one an attorney and one (William Nelson) was actually the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune. Four of them were also members of the Scottish Rite Free Masons, beginning a pattern of Masonic representation that endured until the middle of the twentieth century.
The three Mormon People’s Party members on the first board were a judge, a retail shoe salesman, and a clerk in the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company.9 Clearly the Liberals had an edge in terms of socio-economic power. They saw the election as part of the capitalist transformation of Salt Lake City, a shift away from the Mormons’ cooperative focus. Not even fasting and praying for divine help in overcoming their opponents, which President Wilford Woodruff pleaded for, could compensate for failure at the polls.10
When the voting was tallied the Tribune exulted: “THE VICTORIOUS LIBERALS! … EDUCATION IN THE HANDS OF FRIENDS” and claimed “[t]he contest was for a free and progressive school system [supported] by the Liberals, against a reactionary and unfriendly feeling towards free schools on the part of the Mormons.” The Tribune attributed the gentile success to the fact that many of the Mormons who had been brought in to vote in the February municipal elections had decided to leave so that they could tend their crops in Cache Valley Another reason for the Liberal victory was that “decent and respectable Mormons” had realized that forty years of Church control of education had not produced the good schools “that every American child is entitled to.” Gentile victory would, it was claimed, accrue to the “educational, moral and business interests of the city.”11
Predictably, the Mormons saw the Liberal victory as nothing less than outright fraud. Commenting in his journal, Mormon Apostle Abraham H. Cannon wrote that the non-Mormon “control of school funds and general educational matters … had been brought about by [a] great many frauds … perpetrated by the ‘outsiders’ in today’s proceedings.”12 Many of the People’s Party decided it was no use fighting the Liberal hammerlock, but the News urged Mormons not to give up; in the next election they would challenge the “party of chicanery, dishonesty and fraud.” Failure to do so would simply give “aid and comfort to our foes.” 13
[p.30]The Mormons rightly feared the damage from a low turnout: 25 percent fewer People’s Party votes were cast in July than in February and out of a total of 4,759 the Liberals garnered 2,893 to the People’s Party’s 1,866. In almost all wards the Liberal vote increased and the People’s decreased. The margin of victory was bolstered by the fact that practicing polygamists were disenfranchised by federal law. Some who had lived at the same address for 20 to 30 years were actually stricken from the rolls. Not to be ignored in explaining the failure at the polls is the reality that Mormons did not always obey their leaders’ every whim. For example, a few years earlier there had been considerable resistance to Church demands that all Mormon communities establish academies.14 The 1890s were difficult, economically, for Utahns. Poor families probably were not enthusiastic for more taxes and the luxury of an expanded school system.
Following the election the board continued working to keep Mormons out of power. At its first meeting on 19 July 1890, three names were placed in nomination for the office of superintendent: Dr. Jesse F. Millspaugh, and two other non-Mormons, E. M. Collins of Salt Lake City and George P. Beard of Vermont. The board decided that to be considered a person must be a registered voter of Salt Lake City, and the meeting adjourned without taking action. Four days later a new slate of candidates was considered and voted on: E. M. Collins received one vote; Professor William M. Stewart (who had beaten Millspaugh in the last election for the superintendency of Salt Lake County) received three, and Millspaugh, with six, was elected. The vote reflected the split along party lines with the Mormon People’s Party voting for the only Mormon, Stewart, and the Liberals for Millspaugh and Collins. However, in a show of symbolic public unity, Mormon board member George D. Pyper moved that the choice be made unanimous and Mormons and gentiles gave the new superintendent their endorsement.15
In the aftermath of the election, Mormons challenged the seating of one gentile, Parley L. Williams, because some of the votes cast for the People’s Party candidate were not counted, and his margin of victory was a mere two votes. The court upheld the challenge and in September, Williams (formerly the federally appointed Commissioner of Territorial Common Schools) was displaced by Richard W. Young, giving the non-Mormons six votes and the Mormons four.16
While the words sometimes changed, variations on the first election persisted well into the twentieth century. Much of the conflict over school elections in Salt Lake City can be viewed as a struggle between those who wanted the schools to express the local culture and those who wanted them to reflect national “republican values.” It pitted a centralist perspective against a localist perspective, cooperation against competition, and religious community against an increasingly secular society.
[p.31]Free Masons and Free Schools
Mormons were to be disappointed time and time again as Salt Lake City impaneled boards that reflected “the world” rather than “Zion.” One example was the Free Masons, who, given their small numbers, had an inordinately preeminent representation for decades. Next to the Mormons themselves, the Masons were the most cohesive group and could act as a countervailing influence on the board, representing the powerful economic interests of the gentile community.17
With fewer than six hundred members in Utah during this period, the fact that the Masons held over 30 percent of the seats gives a sense of how disproportionately strong they were. Masonic involvement was probably tied to their self-perception as defenders of the separation of church and state, and their conviction that free public schools were necessary for the maintenance of that separation. Apparently many voters in Salt Lake City accepted the Masonic perception of the need for an effective bloc to counter Mormon hegemony In addition, the Masons refused Mormons admission to Masonic lodges because of polygamy, and their suspicion that the Mormons had adapted Masonic ceremonies for use in the LDS temples, exacerbating some of the rivalry between the two groups.18
During the 1890s Masons feared that the Mormons would dismantle the free school system or use the public schools to promote Mormon beliefs through the Religion Class movement. This general fear permeated many of the elections in later years, but it was not until the 1940s, when the Masons had enjoyed a long period of dominating the board (15-20 years), that the specific issue of released time seminary became the specific focus of attention in Salt Lake City. But, as will be discussed in Chapter Six, by that time it was too late to fend off what many non-Mormons perceived to be an attack on the principle of separation of church and state: in 1943 the Mormons held an insurmountable majority of 7-3 on the board. The Mormon majority used it then to promote Mormon religious interests, just as the non-Mormons had used their majority in Millspaugh’s time to block what they perceived to be Mormon incursions on the integrity of the free public schools.
Mormons as “Friends of Education”
In spite of their opposition, Mormon leaders were faced with the reality of a free public school system, and rather than boycott it, as some had thought they would, they immediately engaged in a struggle for control of the schools’ government. Abraham Cannon reported that at a meeting of the Mormon Quorum of [p.32]Twelve Apostles, the majority, given the newly passed school law, “thought [it] best to go a little further and prepare the very best school law possible and then submit it to the [Legislative] Council. The establishment of free schools by our people it is thought will have a good effect among the people of this nation in proving that we are friends of education. Free schools therefore will be established.”19
As part of this unabashed public opinion campaign, the Church board of education invited a number of prominent American educators to visit Utah in 1892. Among them was Charles Eliot, president of Harvard University. Seven thousand people converged on the Mormon Tabernacle in March 1892 to hear Eliot discourse on religious liberty. He praised the stalwart Mormon pioneers and drew numerous parallels between them and the original religious colonies of New England. Eliot commended the Mormons for their “interest in the rising generation in education” and of having “already the beginning of two universities” in the state. Referring to Utah as “this most successful of American colonies,” Eliot focused on the desirability of “liberty of education by any religious community which desires to bring up its children in its own faith.” Identifying three levels of education in America as public, denominational, and private, Eliot hoped that in Utah all of these types would be “amply protected” because “there is room for all, there is work for all.” Mormon Church President Wilford Woodruff responded to Eliot’s comments saying he was glad he had lived long enough to hear “such gentlemen from abroad express such sentiments.” He hoped that they day would soon arrive when Utah, like Massachusetts, would enjoy all the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution.20
Even such a prestigious figure as President Eliot could not, however, convince local gentiles that Mormons were “loyal Americans.” While the News characterized Eliot’s comments as “American to the core[.] … [H]is utterances breathe the air of liberty and the spirit of education and progress,” the Tribune denounced Eliot as the “[m]ost profound crank among all the cranks of New England,” adding that he had “very little common sense,” was “stuffed,” and that “a mistake was made when he was given an education at all.” When informed of the Tribune’s tirade against him, Eliot dismissed it as “untrustworthy.” He insisted that given the abandonment of polygamy, Mormonism should be treated as equal to other religions.21 Included among the platform of “friends and promoters of education in Utah” at Eliot’s speech had been numerous Mormon church leaders, Brigham Young Academy’s Karl Maeser, James E. Talmage, Rev. Dr. David Utter of the Unitarian church, and Superintendent Jesse Millspaugh. If the Tribune’s vitri-[p.33]olic attack is evidence of continued hostility toward the Mormons, certainly the presence of Utter and Millspaugh on the Tabernacle stand is some evidence of an increased degree of tolerance on both sides—a necessary condition if public schools were to succeed.
Another guest of the Mormon “outreach” campaign in 1892 was Colonel Francis W. Parker, principal of Cook County Normal School in Chicago. Although most of his visit was spent conducting a summer institute for teachers at Brigham Young Academy in Provo, where he “inspired the teachers to a high pitch of enthusiasm,” he was also invited to speak in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake. Mormon Apostle Abraham H. Cannon liked what Parker had to say about the care of children and the role that religion and parents should play in developing the “highest interests” of their children. Appealing to the Mormon sense of practical education, Cannon reported that Parker “urged the teaching of children to work, even in preference to the training of the mind.” It was all, of course, part and parcel of the “New Education” in which consideration of children’s “nature” supplanted the traditional notion of education as dispensing subject matter. One observer, Charles Ellis, claimed that Parker found more sympathy in Utah with his child-centered pedagogy than in many Eastern communities, because “Mormons are in some things a reformatory people, more so in the past perhaps than now. But they have always been full of solicitude for their children. It is a great mistake to accuse them of opposition to education, as has been done for years.”22 Ellis’s comments suggest that the Mormons’ attempt to cast off their label as anti-education was taking root. If gentiles at home were not convinced by Mormon friendliness to outside educators, some national journalists were seeing them in a more positive light.
“In Harmony with American Sentiment and Progress”
Understanding the culture surrounding the formation of Salt Lake City’s schools requires recognizing the efforts of professional educators who were made responsible for organizing the new district. Most notable among these was the new superintendent, Dr. Jesse Fonda Millspaugh, a long-time Utah resident and member of the Congregational church.
The new superintendent was born in New York, reared in Michigan, received a BA from the University of Michigan in 1879, served as principal of a high school in Frankfort, Indiana, for two years, and in 1883 received an MD from the University of Pennsylvania. That year he was appointed principal of the Presbyterian church’s Salt Lake Collegiate Institute; he became its superintendent in 1885.23 He was well-enough known in 1888 to run as a candidate for the position of superintendent of schools of Salt Lake County, garnering a respectable 2,556 votes against 3,305 cast for a popular Mormon educator, Professor Will-[p.34]iam Stewart of the University of Deseret.24 When he took the head of the new public school system in Salt Lake City he was, therefore, no stranger to Utah and was regarded by many as the territory’s best educator.25
Appointed by the Liberal vote, but with the eventual support of the entire board, Millspaugh set about bringing order out of the seeming chaos of the old LDS ward school systems. Central control, not local autonomy, was the by-word among educators such as Millspaugh. Centralization of school administration was a keystone in building the much-praised “one best system” of public schooling, mirroring the emerging corporate model of business efficiency Mormon Utah’s cooperativism in the nineteenth century was viewed as the antithesis of the new model.26 In 1887 Millspaugh blasted the old Mormon-controlled system, saying that rather than attempting to rebuild it “we would do more wisely to congratulate ourselves that there is in it so little whose complete annihilation need be lamented.” It was not possible to build on top of what was there, he claimed: “Only the complete demotion of the entire fabric and the building upon its ruins of a system that is in harmony with American progress and sentiment” would give Utah the schools it needed.27
It would have been impossible for Millspaugh to acknowledge that parts of the old system actually met the local community’s needs and may not have been as blighted or as anarchic as his professional eyes viewed it. Millspaugh, a typical progressive administrator of his day, cringed at old community education. The unitary system reflected what progressives perceived to be “best” for a nation increasingly shaped by small committees of “successful men” who made up the boards of directors of modern business corporations. As David Tyack so aptly describes them: “Their social perspective tended to be cosmopolitan yet paternalistic, self-consciously ‘modern’ in its deference to the expert and its quest for rational efficiency yet at times evangelical in its rhetorical tone.”28 Millspaugh fits perfectly into Tyack’s profile; the Mormon community’s gradual embrace of new schooling is testimony to his effectiveness as an administrator.
No documentary evidence indicates that Millspaugh openly criticized the “local culture” while superintendent. However, his highly competent supervisor of primary schools, Miss M. Adelaide Holton, ventured during her first few years to comment publicly on the city’s schools. In a letter to the new national journal, Primary Education, Holton described education in Salt Lake prior to the establishment of public schools. Only a small number of children “received even the rudiments of an education,” she wrote, giving educators the opportunity to es-[p.35]tablish ideal schools “because there were no old ideas to overthrow.” The Deseret News took issue with Holton’s vision of a once “virgin wilderness” that was “lo, now, an educational paradise.” In Holton’s view, teachers were eager to come to Salt Lake because, in addition to higher wages, they found the children, both Mormon and non-Mormon, so “deprived of the advantages of public schools” as to be eager and anxious to learn: “all craving mental food.” The News claimed that the schools prior to 1890 were not, as she made them out to be, so “hopelessly pitiful.” (Not, it should be added, words that Holton used in her letter.) Holton, the paper concluded, simply did not have enough knowledge about the past to make such an assessment. A few days later the Mormon newspaper published another editorial which gave an account of a meeting with Holton. Holton thought the News had misinterpreted her comments, which were not motivated by any prejudice on her part. Indeed, a reading of her letter a century later gives one the impression that her evaluation of the Salt Lake schools was, for a non-Mormon, restrained and relatively objective.29
The incident is less significant in content than symbolic of a new willingness on the part of the Mormons to allow a rejoinder to their criticisms. This type of maturity made the work of Millspaugh and Holton possible. More of this kind of dialogue undoubtedly went on between community members and the professional staff. Unfortunately the tendency was for the board conflicts to grab headlines, while the quiet work of educational diplomacy went unnoticed.
“The New Order of Things”
Those who for many years had supported the concept of free public schools no doubt agreed with the Tribune’s comment that 15 September 1890 was a “day among days” and would be remembered as “the dawn of a new revolution for Utah.” Even the Deseret News recognized the significance of “the new order of things.”30 In any case, the nostalgic “little red school house” nestled in a green meadow may owe more to Currier and Ives lithography than to history or geography Most early-nineteenth-century, one-room schools were unpainted and situated in the least desirable land in the community Horace Mann, in his famous Second Annual Report of 1838, lamented the fact that in many Massachusetts communities the “children must continue to breathe poisonous air, to sit upon seats, threatening structural derangement, until parents become satisfied that a little money may well be expended to secure to their offspring the blessings of sound health, a good conformation, and a strong, quick-working mind.”31 The connection between an appropriate physical plant and learning was a tenet of what would be known as “Progressive Education.” However, in Salt Lake City in [p.36]1890 the most immediate problem facing Superintendent Millspaugh was the need for any buildings at all.
When schools opened in September 1890, 8,818 children of school age had to fit into 2,728 seats. Fortunately, only 2,862 appeared for school on the first day.32 In the Nineteenth Ward school house, 345 pupils were enrolled, but there were only 200 seats; in the Sixteenth Ward, one hundred students were crowded into a single room. The overcrowding was vividly portrayed in the Salt Lake Tribune: “[T]he new primary school building is already so crowded that the teacher has her desk in the fireplace, while the children are roosting in the windows and up the chimney.”33
Things could have been worse: if all students who were enrolled in the schools had actually attended school in 1891, the teaching load for primary teachers would have been 81.5; intermediate, 57.4; and grammar, 21.2, making an average load of 63.6 per classroom. Fortunately for the teachers, the low attendance lessened the load to only 56.2 for primary, 43.1 for intermediate, and 15.7 for grammar, with an actual average classroom load of 45.2.34
A number of measures were taken to remedy the problem. The school board negotiated with five LDS wards for use of their church facilities as school rooms. So pressing was the situation that the board agreed to rent the Twenty-First Ward meeting house, even though the school had to be vacated on Thursday morning from ten o’clock until noon so that the Mormons could hold their weekly “fast and testimony” meeting. Hammond Hall, a school established by the Congregational church’s New West Education Commission, was also used. Sarah Husband rented her private home for school use at $90 per year and the Lutheran church leased its facilities for $50 to accommodate part of the high school.35 The Tribune and the Deseret News put aside their differences and supported a $600,000 bond issue for the construction of needed public school buildings. In the June 1891 referendum on the bond issue, 1,102 citizens voted “Yes” and only 82 voted “No.”36
As a result of the bond issue, in the next few years the district was able to build new schools—nine being constructed in the 1892-93 school year alone. By the middle of the Salt Lake City School District’s first decade of existence, “Eastern observers” praised its buildings, which were “superior to [those of] any city of like population.” Given the long struggle antedating the establishment of the public school system, the board can be forgiven its self-congratulatory declaration: “We believe it can now be truly said that the great majority of Salt Lake school children are as well-housed, as well taught and are making as good [p.37]progress as any children in the whole country.”37
The system’s persistent growth was celebrated by William Nelson, president of the board of education, in 1894. By that year 89 percent of the school-aged population was enrolled and 72 percent were actually attending. Between 1891 and 1893 the school population had increased by 12.5 percent, but enrollment had gone up 58 percent and attendance 109 percent. A 28 percent increase in the school age population was outdone by a 129 percent increase in enrollment and a 170 percent increase in attendance. Nelson summed up the developments with a single word: “Astonishing.”38
Hiring “Proper Teachers”
With a Liberal majority in control of the board, it should not be surprising that 89 of the 101 teachers hired in 1890 were non-Mormon. Some among the Mormon People’s Party worried the board of education would choose teachers to promote its own agenda, namely “to get control of the education of Mormon children [and] turn the public schools into missionary establishments to labor the advancement of the liberal party.” The Salt Lake Tribune, of course, rejoiced in the hiring of a new corps of teachers, because they were not required to pass “an examination on the cardinal points of the golden plates.”39
Perhaps Mormon worries were rightly founded, but the new teachers were also competent professionals. Superintendent Millspaugh’s main concern was to have a well-trained cadre of teachers in the public school system—Mormon or non-Mormon. During his administration the percentage of Mormon teachers fluctuated from around 12 to 40 percent. In reality, Utah’s native teaching corps was simply too small to supply all the teachers required, but in time this changed to the extent that the charge was made in later years that Mormons had flooded the market with their own teachers.
Lack of experience and training also probably accounts for the difference in salaries paid to Mormon and non-Mormon teachers during the first decade. For example, in 1890-91 non-Mormon male teachers were paid an average salary of seventy-eight dollars per month, compared to sixty-eight dollars paid to their Mormon peers. Non-Mormon females received fifty-one dollars compared to Mormon women, who received forty-six. Two years later, Mormon women had achieved parity (sixty-nine dollars) with non-Mormons, but the males received ninety-seven dollars compared to the non-Mormon men, who received one hundred twenty-two. Reflecting a traditional pattern, even Mormon men received significantly more than either Mormon or non-Mormon females.40
Perhaps the new teachers were not aware of previous struggles over denominational influence in the schools. In 1891 the Deseret News complained that [p.38]some Protestant teachers included more doctrine in their moral instruction than was warranted by the law. The News was adamant in asserting that common schools ought not to be made denominational, although the paper had supported such schools before the passage of the Free School Law.41 If Mormons couldn’t teach their religious beliefs in public school, neither could non-Mormons.
The charge teachers were given the first year sums up the broad moral basis from which they were supposed to operate. Teachers were “on all proper occasions to impress upon the minds of their pupils the principles of morality and virtue, a sacred regard for truth, love of God, love to man, love of country, sobriety, industry and frugality.”42 This was to be done, of course, “apart from the use of any denominational influence.” Here was a platform for moral education on which even theologically disparate elements of the community could unite—and they did. Both sides eventually agreed with non-Mormon Professor G. M. Marshall of the University of Utah, that a non-sectarian orientation in public schools was not the equivalent (as Cannon had suggested in 1886) of being irreligious or “Godless.”43
The roster of teachers during the first decade included men and women from Illinois, Missouri, New York, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, and from Germany, France, and Scotland. Most had been prepared to teach by non-Utah institutions—88 percent in the first year were “outsiders.” By 1892 the dependence on outside teachers dropped to 65 percent; by 1894 fully half were graduates of Utah institutions. In reporting this change Millspaugh said it represented an increase “in the numbers of teachers whose interests are most closely identified with the city in which they labor.” This, he said, was not brought about by lowering standards, but because the Territorial Normal School at the University of Utah was doing better work in preparing new teachers.44 In 1895, however, the percentage of local teachers fell to 28 percent, a fact which illustrates the rather unpredictable nature of the early profession, as does the data on the variety of institutions in which the teachers received their own education. In 1893, for example, 11 percent of all teachers in Salt Lake Schools had a “Common School” (elementary) education; 28 percent, high school; 7 percent, seminary and academy; 33 percent, Normal School and 19 percent had graduated from a college or university. The fact that almost all of the city’s teachers at this early date had some high school preparation speaks well for the commitment to the academic preparation of teachers which the Salt Lake City schools were making.45
Notwithstanding this effort, in 1894 Superintendent Millspaugh Complained about the lack of stability in the teacher corps citing the fact that 40 percent of the teachers were actually new to the district that year. This turnover he blamed [p.39]on the lack of certainty of tenure arising out of the practice of hiring teachers for only one year at a time. Pointing to the example of Germany (“whose schools are the best in the world”) he urged that tenure should be granted to all teachers who are not proved incompetent. He also faulted the legal requirement that all Utah teachers must be trained at “our own university” and those from “outside” must submit themselves to regular re-examination at the University This yearly examination was an “undeserved humiliation” he said, and “drives away those who are well-fitted” by nature and qualification. Even those who had been trained in some of the country’s best institutions had to take the prescribed examination.46 Eventually the legislature dropped the requirement and the new law of 1896 granted lifetime certificates to graduates of the Normal School at the University of Utah and five-year certificates gained by examination.47
By 1899, of 217 teachers and principals employed by the District, 44 percent had been trained in Utah institutions, principally at the University of Utah and Utah State Normal School in Logan, with a sprinkling from the Salt Lake High School, Hammond Hall, Rowland Hall, and St. Marks. Only one of the high school teachers (Horace Cummings, who later became a major influence in Mormon educational circles) had been trained locally and all of the principles were trained elsewhere, most of them in the East and Mid-west. The trend, however, leaned toward eliminating the predominance of “outsiders.” Certainly Millspaugh acknowledged this when he commented: “As never before, the people of the city have come to realize that the schools are theirs and that their interests in the school are vital.”48 The percentage of locals increased during the early years of the twentieth century so much so that by 1914 Ellwood Cubberley of Stanford University criticized the city’s schools for being too provincial.
This same evolutionary development had, of course, been replicated in countless American communities in the 19th century. Centralization of teacher preparation and the standardization of normal schools’ curriculum was a national phenomenon. So too was the conflict over whether the local schools should reflect the beliefs of the religious communities that spawned them, or whether they were supposed to reflect the larger system of values known as “the American way of life.”
The Establishment of Graded Schools
Ungraded schools, in which children aged five to late teens shared the same classroom, were the rule in America for much of the nineteenth century, especially in rural areas. Mid-century reformers, however, perceived the lack of a systematic approach to education. As the nation industrialized, urban communities pioneered schools organized around students’ ages. Ever seeking ways to make the system more efficient for large numbers of students and increased cultural diversity, school leaders were anxious for some system of categorization. Age [p.40]seemed the most logical division. As Karl Kaestle has observed:
Reformers believed that graded schools were not only a great pedagogical invention, consistent with principles of efficiency and division of labor, but that they spurred industry and were therefore morally sound. Furthermore, they believed they were an essential expression of democracy in education.49
This “credo” dominated non-Mormon perceptions of the pre-1890 schools in Salt Lake City One school singled out in 1885 was described as the “Black Hole of Calcutta.” The same observer also reported “constant disorder and a total absence of those little refinements which are among the most essential rudiments of education … scarcely elbow room on desks and benches of the crudest form.” The pupils “were bright and promising little people, who, with proper school room, plenty of air to breathe, an atmosphere regulated on scientific principles, and a graded course of instruction … could not fail to become more useful members of society than can possibly be the case under the present deplorable system.”50 Just as the national reformers perceived the future of the Republic at stake in the ungraded schools, this highly charged description of a “Mormon School” makes the (gentile) reform of Mormon society dependent on graded schools.
By the time Dr. Jesse Millspaugh was installed as Salt Lake City’s educational leader in 1890, the movement towards graded schools had almost become part of the conventional wisdom in the United States. Dr. John R. Park, President of the University of Deseret, and Dr. Obadiah Riggs, Territorial Superintendent of Common Schools, had endorsed the notion in the 1870s, but without any widespread effect. The ungraded schools, according to Millspaugh, betrayed a “lack of definite purpose and goal which in all the classes of graded schools constantly present themselves before the pupil to arouse his ambition and lend stimulus to his exertions.”51
In the first year of the Salt Lake City Public Schools, educators put great effort into classifying students, preparatory to implementing a graded system. According to Millspaugh some resistance to the graded system “as being strange and arbitrary” was expressed by many school patrons, but in time the change from the ungraded to the graded system was accepted as satisfactory.52 When John R. Park advocated a similar graded system to the Mormon school trustees during a tour of northern Utah schools, he also took care to distinguish it from “the procrustean plan of classification, that is an arbitrary grouping of pupils” with no thought given to how different students are in “capacity, taste, or disposition.”53
While no mass protest to the graded system seems to have developed among [p.41]the Mormon people, initial, subdued objection to the new arrangement may reflect the feeling among Mormons that the co-operative spirit of the ungraded schools was more in accord with Mormon social egalitarianism. The systematic classifying and ordering of how people should live, work, or be educated according to some agreed-upon criteria—in this case age—is based on an assumption of inequality.
In his first report Millspaugh referred to the graded system’s perceived “defects and limitations”: the assumption that “pupils who are classified together are really equal in natural ability and preparation for the work at hand.” Such a defect could be removed and the graded system more easily accepted if people would simply recognize that all pupils are “not physically and mentally of the same mould and fibre” and that this fact leads to the need for “sifting and adjustment” of grades. The new system would do this by sorting pupils on the basis of age, but would also provide opportunities in which children with “brighter abilities” would sit “side by side with pupils of duller intellects.”54
Of course, reorganization of classrooms along graded rather than ungraded lines was promoted because it was more economical in “multiplying the teacher’s efficiency many fold” and also because it allowed for better teaching opportunities. No reports mentioned the hidden agenda of the dominant capitalist values which were prevalent in the industrial United States. Accepting such a radical restructuring of schools in Salt Lake City was part of accommodating to the competitive American way Millspaugh rationalized graded schools by pointing to “wholesome emulation” in which students are urged to “equal or surpass” each other. Furthermore the system was “merely the employment in school administration of the principles of division of labor” which had made American industry so productive.
It would be unfair to Millspaugh to leave the impression that he was no more than a technocrat. He was interested in more than establishing a system for its own sake; he was deeply interested in the child. Millspaugh held that the history of education had been stifling the “childish instinct to force helpless little ones to attend to those things which are devoid alike of enjoyment and interest to them, to compel infant sight to see truth as mature vision beholds it, and to do all in the midst of unattractive surroundings, with the accompaniment of threats and blows.” He praised Friedrich Froebel (the initiator of the kindergarten movement) for his emphasis upon enjoyment as a part of learning: “I believe I am clearly within the truth when I say that interest and enjoyment, as a general rule, characterize the work of the school.”55
Even if all the classrooms did not always reflect the needs of children, Millspaugh was at least trying to go beyond the traditional subject-centered curriculum. And even if the schools were moving away from Mormon cooperative values, the Mormon community itself was changing to accommodate to the economic and social realities of twentieth-century America.
“Sentiments of Gall and Worm Wood”: The Election of 1898
[p.42]As late as 1898 elections still reflected the divisiveness of 1890. Like many others, this election was heralded as a non-partisan event, and the nomination of a Jewish Democrat, Simon Bamberger, by Republican C. E. Allen in the Fifth Ward gave it that aura. As in the past, partisan politics and sectarian differences once again played the decisive role in choosing board members. Still, diversity increased among those running: in addition to Bamberger’s membership in Salt Lake City’s Jewish community, W. B. LaVielle claimed to represent “the laboring element in the city” and came within a few votes of defeating banker M. H. Walker at the nominating convention. Miss Rachel Edwards, nominated by the Democratic Women’s Club, was the first woman to make an attempt (unsuccessfully) at gaining a nomination to the board.56
However, the persistent division between Mormon and non-Mormon is evident in the last-minute candidature of Mormon C. W. Symons against non-Mormon Critchlow in the First Precinct, after the nominating convention had chosen Critchlow as the non-partisan candidate. Similarly, English born, ex-Mormon M. H. Walker found himself opposed by an English Mormon emigrant, John C. Cutler, in the Second Precinct, while the non-partisan choice in the Fourth Precinct, Brigham S. Young, was opposed by non-Mormon H. G. McMillan. Only Mormon Newman in the Third Precinct and Jewish “Gentile” Bamberger in the Fifth were unopposed. In spite of efforts to the contrary, the politics of the Salt Lake board election process could not be channelled into a simple non-partisan, non-sectarian event.
The LDS church did not take official positions at every election. Enough unanimity existed in the culture that individual Mormons usually ended up expressing a Mormon if not the Mormon perspective. In the opinion of LDS First Presidency member George Q. Cannon, the gentiles would only get what the Mormons allowed them to have. Mormons vigorously resisted Gentile encroachment whenever the occasion warranted it. Sometimes they may have done so because “the Brethren” wanted it done, but frequently they were not acting as much for the Mormon church as for Mormon culture. The lay nature of Mormon ecclesiastical leadership enhanced the perception that every Mormon was carrying out “Church” policies. The Tribune may have been overly sensitive to Mormon influence in the elections, but when they reported that former board member, Bishop M. S. Woolley, exhorted his flock to attend the convention and see to it that one of “our people” was nominated, there is no reason to doubt that such a direct appeal to LDS loyalties was made. However, the directive to do so may not have originated with the Quorum of the Twelve. Indeed, given the history of the relationships between Mormons and non-Mormons in Salt Lake City politics it would have been more surprising if no appeal had been made to such cultural and religious loyalty.
[p.43]According to the Deseret News, more votes were cast in the 1898 election than in any previous, and in both precincts the non-Mormons were victorious by a very narrow margin—Critchlow by 62 votes out of almost 2,000 cast and Walker by 95 votes out of over 1,700.57 The election returned two Mormons and three non-Mormons to the board, maintaining its six non-Mormon, four Mormon composition. It was still 7–3 for board members who were identified as Democrats and Republicans.
The Tribune interpreted the 1898 contest as a replay of past years: “a fight of Mormons against gentiles for control of the board of education” with LDS bishops and their councilors in the First and Second Precincts “laboring unceasingly in the interest of [Mormons] Symons and Cutler.” According to the Tribune, “the class of Mormons known as ‘block teachers’ also turned out and spared no pains looking toward polling the full strength of their people.” Cutler’s forces were charged with conducting a smear campaign, spreading rumors that Walker had been nominated by the “saloon element” in the city After his defeat Symons was reported to have told his opponents that “We [Mormons] will fight you from this on,” suggesting that future school elections would see more of the Mormon vs. gentile struggle. In return a gentile was quoted as telling Symons’s supporters, “You are laying up wrath for yourself; there are other elections and we will remember you.” Although Gentile Critchlow won, after the contest he complained of the role the Mormon church had played in opposing him and sought an official investigation of church and state affairs being united contrary to the Utah Constitution. One observer of the scene, Judge O. W. Powers, noted that he “found the line drawn between Mormons and Gentiles as closely as ever … We are drifting back into the old conditions. In one precinct the Mormons get up and fight the Gentiles. In another the Gentiles inaugurate the trouble.”58
The Mormon newspaper denied any “Mormon attempt to overpower the non-Mormons.” With Mormon voters making up a majority in three of the five municipal wards, if the Mormons had wished to draw an ecclesiastical line they could have done so. As it was, three non-Mormons were elected. This fact, in the eyes of the News, demolished the claim that the church had organized a defeat of the gentiles. What the News does not say, however, is that in two of the precincts (Third and Fourth) in which Mormons held a majority, Mormon candidates were elected; in only one precinct out of five could it really be said that the Mormon majority may have gone to a non-Mormon. In the Second Precinct, which probably had a majority of Mormon voters, the Mormon candidate said he lost because many of the people he had counted on (presumably LDS members) simply did not vote for him. The local situation seems to resist the influence Mormon culture might have wanted to exert. The News was both correct and mistaken in its assessment: correct in denying any overall church role in defeating non-Mormons, but mistaken when it ignores the personal Mormon vs non-Mormon na-[p.44]ture of the campaign. It did claim, however, that Walker may have received a larger Mormon vote if his supporters had not resorted to injecting anti-Mormon “sentiments of gall and wormwood into the campaign.”59 In explaining the defeat of Symons in the First Precinct, the News claimed that the results would have been different had the practice of assessing teachers and principals for campaign contributions been made public before the election. Superintendent Millspaugh denied that he or the board had used any intimidation in assessing any of the school personnel, although he admitted that some probably did make contributions to what they viewed as a righteous cause, their prerogative as citizens.60
The fact that Millspaugh was repeatedly elected unanimously by the Mormons and non-Mormons on the board is another indication that the Mormons were anxious to portray themselves as pluralistic at a time when to be otherwise may have jeopardized the efforts to gain statehood for Utah. Any hint that the hierarchy controlled the political life of the territory was to be shunned. Having a superintendent who was a member of the Congregational church was no-doubt seen as an important element in counteracting the perception (and perhaps the reality) that Mormon power permeated every aspect of public life in Utah.
Salt Lake High School: “The Light of Opportunity”
Most of the growth in school buildings and in enrollment and attendance during the 1890s can be attributed to the development of elementary schools. Not until the second decade of the twentieth century did the secondary school show signs of significant growth in Utah or in the nation. The first public high school in Utah was housed in the Fourteenth Ward Schoolhouse at 153 South 200 West, later known as the Fremont School. One part of the high school was also organized in September 1890 in the basement of the Scandinavian Lutheran Church at 400 East and 200 South. These two units were consolidated into one unit in January 1892 at the Fourteenth Ward building, with a total of fifty students; the high school classes met there until W. R. Malone requested a separate building for the high school. In June 1892 the board leased the second and third floors of the Clayton Building (an unused furniture store) on South Temple for use as a high school beginning in September 1894.61
The first graduation for the Salt Lake High School was held at the Salt Lake Theater on 9 June 1893, with six girls and four boys receiving diplomas. In 1895 the principal again complained that the high school needed its own building; students were coming from some of the new schools which are “unsurpassed in attractiveness and sanitary provisions” and were disappointed when they came to high school.62 In 1897 the high school moved to a building on Pierpoint Street where twenty-two classes were conducted in competition with the noise of the [p.45]nearby factory. In 1901 this facility was destroyed by fire. The lack until 1914 of a building fully devoted to the high school indicates that the secondary curriculum was less of a priority during these early years.
Some of the latent opposition to maintaining and expanding the high school surfaced in the election for the school board in December 1897. As in the past, the Tribune and the News were fully at odds. The Tribune and the Herald favored expanding the high school and both criticized the News for not being active in supporting the idea. The News in response said it did not want to take a position on the issue, but would leave it to the voters. Their editorial claimed that Mormons favored “true education,” but wondered if the people should be taxed to support the proposed expansion.63 In the process of nominating candidates for the school board, the issue of whether candidates would or would not support the high school became a major criteria for gaining support of the “non-partisans,” as the faction favoring the high school was designated. Rumors abounded that the high school would be shortened by two years; would be incorporated into the University of Utah Preparatory School, or would be abolished—all because of a shortage of funds and too great a tax burden. According to the Herald, the majority of people wanted the elementary schools and the high school to remain, but wanted the school system to be managed more economically.64
Two weeks before the election, the Tribune charged Elder B. H. Roberts with attacking the city’s public school system in a sermon delivered at the LDS College. Roberts responded in the next issue that the article was a “perversion of half-quoted sentences.” While admitting that his comments had been misleading, he vigorously denied that he had attacked the public schools. He added that if he lived in Salt Lake City he would “vote to sustain” the city’s schools at their “present high level of good work.”65 Given his standing intellectually, one might expect Roberts to support the high school. Although the News appears reticent to campaign for high school supporters, no institutional church campaign against expanding the high school seems to have occurred.
There is no doubt, however, that individual leaders, especially at the local level, were not immune to using their church position to influence local elections. At the general level, however, there were no statements indicating the “church” as a whole either opposed or supported the high school’s expansion. Indeed, on the eve of the election Apostle John Henry Smith, when asked his opinion, said he favored the board as constituted, which implied his support of those who wished to maintain the high school.66
[p.46]Individual members of the LDS community did, of course, speak out against the secular schools from time to time. For example, at the beginning of the 1897 election campaign two of Brigham Young’s sons, Brigham Jr. and Willard, engaged in a public discussion at a taxpayers’ meeting prior to the nominating convention in the Fourth Municipal Ward. The candidates for the board expressed their support of the high school “with economy,” but both Youngs spoke in opposition to using taxes for high school support. Brigham Jr., a senior member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles, claimed that his taxes were so high that they threatened to drive him out of his home just as he had been by Illinois mobs in 1846. He said he favored high standards of education, but there was a great need to practice economy and, he reportedly said, “I want to begin economizing by lopping off the high school.”
His brother Willard did a reductio ad absurdum on the idea of having a free high school by saying that perhaps the community should also have a free university and a free law school. Willard felt the majority of people in the Fourth Ward were opposed to the free high school and that Latter-day Saints would prefer to maintain their own LDS College. He proposed that after the eighth grade students should attend the denominational schools in the city Probably because of the Youngs’ influence, both candidates, J. B. Toronto and M. S. Woolley, were defeated at the nominating convention.67
Other Mormons expressed anti-high school sentiments in the church meetings, which probably gave the comments a degree of legitimacy For instance, the Tribune reported one sermon under the headline “Opposes Free Schools—David McKenzie’s Startling Utterance.” This Scottish immigrant’s theme was that “Education is Right, but Free Schools Wrong,” a position based on Brigham Young’s views. McKenzie was opposed to a tax-supported school system when many (the Mormons) would “prefer to use the money thus diverted in sending their children to some other school.”68 While there may have been religious reasons for opposing the high school, Salt Lake City was sharing in the national economic depression and the Mormons were supporting a private high school and also paying taxes to support the public schools. Undoubtedly some of the opposition in the 1897 election had its roots in these circumstances.
Notwithstanding increasing Mormon diversity, non-Mormons continued to fear that church members wanted to return to church-governed schools. For example, on the same day McKenzie gave his sermon opposing tax-supported schools, the Reverend Adelbert Hudson delivered an impassioned plea at Unity Hall on behalf of the free school system, with special emphasis on the need for a good high school. He linked the availability of high schools to good citizenship and self-government, suggesting that Salt Lake City should consider abolishing the city council and other “expensive luxuries” rather than reducing the high school—”the sheet anchor of the Nation’s safety” In a not-so-veiled reference to the “religious motives” that had entered the debate, the Reverend Hudson as-[p.47]serted that if “any ecclesiastical authority” should attack the free school system it would be resisted by the people as an attack on self-government by “the interfering of secret councils and all the subtle plottings of ecclesiastical bigotry.”69
On election day, 2 December, those who opposed the high school expansion distributed a flyer in the Fifth Municipal Ward. It urged the employment of Utah teachers in Utah schools and stated that “Common School Furnish Substantial Mental Food All Should Receive It Free.” This was followed by the downside: “High School Furnish Luxuries for all who CAN AFFORD IT.” The flyer proclaimed “Necessaries First—Luxuries Afterwards,” a fair indication that the issues were probably more economic than ideological, although the bounds between these two are difficult to determine.70
In spite of a vigorous attempt to unseat the incumbent board members on 2 December, the Tribune proclaimed “High School Victory.” The Herald exulted “Was a Splendid Victory” followed by “The little red school house wiped the earth with the opposition today” In contrast the News gave the election a muted headline of “The New School Board” and made no mention of the high school issue whatsoever. Nor did the News make any mention of the Mormon-Gentile composition of the board, although it did note that five new members of the board were lawyers. The other newspapers pointed out that the bitter contest had reminded some of the earlier 1890s when Mormons ran against gentiles regularly and openly—”a straight Gentile and Mormon fight,” as the Tribune described the contest in the First Ward, adding that “Gentile women were strictly in evidence, and they just about stood off the Mormon ladies.” It was acknowledged, however, that in some wards the Gentile candidates were elected by Mormons honoring the pledge to support the “non-partisan” candidates elected at the mass meetings, all of whom supported the maintenance of the high school. One of those doing so, James C. Bowen, was disciplined by his ward bishop for having opposed the “Right Ticket.” In any event, the high school was saved and the board consisted of six gentiles and four Mormons. It was claimed that one Mormon candidate had been defeated by friends of Superintendent Millspaugh when he proposed replacing Millspaugh after the election with Dr. James E. Talmage of the University of Utah.71
Some of the opposition to the high school in the 1897 election may have been a residual from the perception that it was an elitist institution—a perception not lacking in substance. Nationally, high schools in the early 1890s were an uncoordinated melange of Greek and Latin classical studies designed to prepare students (mainly males) for admission to universities and colleges. The wide diversity of quality in the high schools meant, however, that universities were being confronted with little uniformity in student preparation. To correct this the [p.48]National Education Association invited Charles W. Eliot, President of Harvard, to head a committee (the 1892 Committee of Ten) to propose a reorganization of the nation’s high schools. This report ultimately led to standardized high school curriculum, parity for modern languages, and a focus on modern scientific subjects. The other major objective, and perhaps the primary purpose, of Eliot’s committee was to make the high school the avenue for non-college bound students to acquire knowledge which would help prepare them for life. Here was an extreme departure from the traditional notion of the high school serving the elite citizenry; American education still grapples with the impact of this radical shift.72
In spite of some opposition, the high school grew steadily, if slowly In 1890-91 there was a minuscule average of 26 students in attendance at the high school: a year later the number had tripled and by 1892-93 had reached 153—a six-fold increase. By the end of the Millspaugh era an average of 492 students attended high school. High school enrollment grew much faster than the total school enrollment. As a percentage of the total school population, the high school students went from making up a mere 0.7 percent of the total attending in 1890 to a little over 5 percent of the total in 1898. Much of this increase may be accounted for by the changes occurring in the high school curriculum and by the economy’s inability to “absorb” the large numbers of young people as workers. In 1894 Millspaugh cited the Committee of Ten in a discussion of arithmetic teaching, concluding that the teaching of “cube root, duodecimals,” and other unnecessary aspects of arithmetic “serve no useful purpose at the present time” and should be postponed until students are taught algebra. Millspaugh also quoted the U.S. Commissioner of Education as saying the committee’s report was the “most important educational document” ever to appear in the United States. It was, of course, only the first of many national reform proposals that would shape how Salt Lake City went about the business of educating its children.73
According to W. R. Malone, the principal of Salt Lake High, the publicity surrounding the Committee of Ten had helped bring the high school into public focus. The committee’s proposals had been discussed by local teachers and the Salt Lake City High School was judged to be more in line with the report than deviating from it. Malone went even so far as to claim that what was being done in Salt Lake City was even better than what Eliot’s committee proposed.74
The reports submitted by high school principals during the 1890s claimed the high school was the apex of the public school system. In addition to providing the traditional preparation for the few who wished to attend a university, it also served a wider populous. This broader social purpose was to help those “born to humbler walks of life … see the light of opportunity” even though they “may not have the possibilities of profound scholarship or attain to distinction—most men do not.” Nevertheless, the very availability of the high school was proposed as a means of helping “every poor boy and girl” widen his or her spheres [p.49]of life and usefulness by providing “a fair chance in life.” The high school appears in this view not only to be the apex of the public school system, but a crucial gateway of American meritocracy and a necessary adjunct to the “safety and prosperity of the State.”75
“Steady Movement in the Direction of Higher Ideals”
Although Millspaugh came out of a private, denominational school system to head the Salt Lake City schools, there are no indications either in the official minutes or in newspaper accounts that he failed to discharge his responsibilities in other than a “professional” and relatively unbiased manner. In 1894 the Deseret News even included Millspaugh in a series of vignettes about local educators and praised him for the work he had done in crystallizing “into one system” the varied schools of the city He had done so, the News said, “with superior skill and characteristic fidelity.”76
In 1892 and 1894 Millspaugh was re-elected to the superintendency by the unanimous vote of the board, but in 1896 his salary of $3,000 was cut as part of a retrenchment policy in wake of economic depression. When he was considered for re-election in 1898 a charge was brought against him of “negligence of duty” The board heard the charge, brought by a woman who claimed to have been accepted as a teacher but never called in by the superintendent. In addition she charged that Millspaugh had acceded to a parental demand that a child be promoted when it was not warranted. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Millspaugh “proved himself above all the pettiness of the accusation” and was given the full support of the board, which dismissed the charges. Millspaugh himself said that he had been “placed at a disadvantage in having to fight a woman and the task was a most disagreeable one. I am very glad it is all over.”77
With the board attempting to reduce his salary and community members picking at his performance as superintendent, Millspaugh began to wonder if he should not move on to other challenges. The next attempt to reduce his salary still further, this time to $2,400 from $2,500, was voted down 5 to 2. Shortly thereafter he was unanimously elected to another two-year term. During this time, reports circulated that while the Salt Lake board was considering his reelection he was actually in Chicago looking at other professional opportunities. On his return to the city he confirmed rumors that Dayton, Ohio, had been interested in him. He also revealed that the year before he had been elected to the superintendency of the New Haven, Connecticut, schools at a salary of $3,500, but had declined for health reasons. In connection with his trip to the East, Millspaugh mentioned that Salt Lake’s schools were regarded there as being [p.50]among the best in the United States. He added, in words that seem to have a contemporary ring, that the Dayton schools had not learned to economize: with only a few more students than Salt Lake City they employed 350 more teachers.78 Millspaugh also let it be known that he would accept the board’s election for another two-year term, but added that he reserved the right to resign before his new term expired “if conditions and circumstances” warranted it.
In his 1898 report, Millspaugh mentioned the progress made since 1890: better discipline, better health of students, more attractive surroundings, increased cooperation between home and school, higher standards of scholarship; enrollments and attendance increased so that for “every 100 pupils enrolled during the year, more than 79 were in actual daily attendance.” This he compared to the 57 in actual daily attendance in 1890-91. Of course, the endemic complaints of lack of funds, too many students, and too many absences because of infectious illnesses also appeared in his report. He also complained about the neglect of school work because students had been distracted by the patriotic enthusiasm over the training and departure of troops from Fort Douglas for the Spanish-American War. Millspaugh concluded that there was a “steady movement in the direction of higher ideals. … It is not by a single leap that higher standards may be attained. Progress in this direction may be slow; most healthful development is evolutionary, not revolutionary. If no retrogression takes place; if no stagnation is permitted; if advancement along all lines remains the watchword, the future of education in this city is assured.”79
Within only a few months of his election to another two-year term, the superintendent used his escape clause. In December of 1898 he announced that he had accepted the presidency of Winona State Normal School at Winona, Minnesota, which he assumed on 4 January 1899. Because of legal enactments, an attitude of accommodation on the part of the Mormon majority (what one observer has characterized as “clever politics”), rising expectations of parents, the efforts of sensitive and capable “gentile” educational leaders, the increasing commitment of the teachers themselves, and the apparent willingness of students to attend school with minimal coercion, it was obvious by 1898 that public schools in Salt Lake City would be a fixed part of the community as the twentieth century began. Much of the credit for this achievement must go to the Protestant educator, Jesse F. Millspaugh, who led Salt Lake City schools from being a congeries of parochial institutions to becoming a system that received considerable national attention as a showcase of the American public school. In a retrospective assessment of Millspaugh’s contributions, D. H. Christensen credited Millspaugh with the adoption of the “new education” espoused by such luminaries as Johann Pestalozzi and Francis Parker; the successful passing of bonds for new school buildings; the increase in attendance figures; and the issuance of free books and supplies. Most importantly he promoted the needs of children for whom the old [p.51]system of ungraded classes was “an instrument of torture.” Millspaugh attracted to the district “a surprisingly large number of well trained and efficient people, despite the fact that salaries were low.” While care must be used in accepting all these plaudits uncritically, yet at a purely descriptive level and given the norms of successful schools of the day, Millspaugh had, in the words of one of his early coworkers, Lizbeth Qualtrough, indeed left Salt Lake a legacy reflecting “his zeal, his faith and his power to inspire.” Even those who wanted an insider at the helm, conceded that Millspaugh had laid a foundation for future growth and development.80
After leaving Utah, Jesse Millspaugh served as president of Winona State Normal School in Minnesota until 1904 when he became president of Los Angeles State Normal School (later the University of California, Los Angeles). He served in this capacity for thirteen years and died in Los Angeles in 1919 at the age of sixty-four.81
“No Utah Man Need Apply”
Because Millspaugh left before the expiration of his term, the board of education asked Adelaide Holton, Supervisor of the Primary Schools, to act as superintendent (in consultation with Millspaugh’s secretary Miss. Cox) until a successor could be chosen. As far as can be determined no women applied for the position and Holton served until Millspaugh’s successor had been named about six months later. For this she received extra pay of $350.82 Millspaugh’s departure raised the question of whether a local person or an outsider should be appointed to replace him. This in turn reintroduced the religious factionalism that had dominated earlier school politics.
The board of education, in 1898, was evenly balanced for the first time. The following year, though, four seats were held by members of the LDS church and six by non-Mormons. It was this split board of 1899 which had the task of selecting a successor to Millspaugh and prior to the selection there was considerable discussion in the newspapers over the issue of whether a Utah person would even be considered.83
As might be expected, the Tribune feared that the schools might again come under “sectarian” control. This elicited a response from “A Citizen” in the Deseret News who stated that “the Mormon people are not so blind to the fact, that as long as there are Gentile residents there will be Gentile teachers.” Admitting that Mormons were partial, the correspondent averred that so too were the Gentiles, [p.52]”there being this difference, the latter hang on like grim death.” The writer went on to claim that Eastern educators were not all they claimed to be and “have not always covered themselves with glory in the Salt Lake City schools.”84
The News was highly critical of the manner in which the sub-committee had gone about its business and asserted that two or three of the board “who proclaim their ability to dictate terms” had already decided that they must look beyond the local scene for a suitable candidate. The entire board had not even met to discuss the issue, but already it was apparent that a banner had been hung proclaiming: “No Utah Man Need Apply” As far as can be ascertained only two of the five member sub-committee charged with winnowing down the number of applicants were non-Mormons—E. B. Critchlow and H. P Henderson—so it is entirely possible that some Mormons on the committee also favored an outsider.
The need to consider a local product was the subject of a formal Deseret News editorial in its first comments on Millspaugh’s resignation. There the idea was expressed that while scholarship was a necessary quality of a new superintendent “a man may be a scholar and be a villain still.” The News hoped that the majority on the board would give due consideration to “home applicants” concluding that otherwise “it will be difficult to persuade the public that the motive is not some other than a desire to fill the place with the best ability obtainable.”85
The sub-committee of the board eventually published a list of qualifications which would have inhibited all but the most persistent of the forty people who applied for the position. The person sought must, the committee said, be intelligent, a trained leader, respected by business, teachers and community with a reputation beyond the community, be between 33 and 50 years of age, in good health, “a man of culture and refinement, of broad scholarship, of proved administrative ability and well trained in modern educational methods.” The future superintendent should be endowed with much common sense and business judgement, a man of ideas and resources who can lead the schools of Salt Lake City to higher achievement, but not through experimentation. “Other things being equal,” it would be best if he were from “our own neighborhood, or from the western or middle states” and be willing to make Salt Lake City his permanent home and identify with the people of the city.86
In spite of what appeared to be a great deal of sentiment in favor of a local person, at its meeting of 11 April 1899 the board elected an “outsider,” Frank Cooper of Iowa, over a prominent Utah educator, Professor Joshua H. Paul, who had served as President of Brigham Young College in Logan. Jere Frank Bower Cooper was born in 1855 in Mount Morris, Illinois, attended Cornell University for a year in the late 1870s, and served as superintendent of schools at LeMars, Iowa, from 1883 to 1890. After a year as a professor of pedagogy at the State University of Iowa he spent eight years as superintendent of schools at Des [p.53]Moines, Iowa, the position he held at the time of his election to head the schools in Salt Lake City, While his religious affiliation was not mentioned during his bid for the superintendency, he appears to have been a member of the Congregational church. Prior to coming to Utah he had joined the Masonic Order in Iowa, but there is no evidence that he was active in the Masonic fraternity while living in Utah.87 Frank Cooper’s Masonic affiliations may have served as a recommendation to the four members of the Masonic order who were on the board when he was appointed—Edward B. Critchlow, Simon Bamberger, H. P Henderson and M. H. Walker. Such factors, however, never became a matter of public discussion.
The religious overtones surrounding Cooper’s appointment are stark reminders that the same old suspicions were still alive under diplomatic facades. In the eyes of one national education journal, Cooper’s task was to continue the work begun by Millspaugh of civilizing Mormons through the development of public schools. Salt Lake City, the article said, was “a good place for a superintendent with a missionary zeal [who] is willing to suffer crucifixion if need be.” The work of “converting the Mormons” would be no bed of roses for the new superintendent, the article predicted, “or, if it is, the roses will have their thorns.”88
The board was split on Cooper’s appointment, even to the extent that the Mormon minority simply refused to make the vote unanimous after he had been elected by a vote of six to four. The Deseret News openly criticized Cooper’s appointment as an example of the board’s desire to keep Mormons from having a voice in school affairs. Members of the board had “freely declared that ‘Mormon’ control of school affairs must and shall be prevented.” Great effort had been made to keep Mormons in a minority on the board “and to continue the appointing power in that board, instead of vesting in the people where it belonged.” The much touted “non-partisanship” of board elections, the News declared, was in fact a screen to block Mormons from gaining influence on the board. As far as the Mormon newspaper was concerned, “[t]he only reason Joshua H. Paul was rejected by the six majority as superintendent of schools was because he is a ‘Mormon.'” The News derided the title of “Dr.” given to Cooper by his supporters and denied that he had graduated from Cornell or had even taught at Iowa State University, The acerbic editorial ended with the accusation that the main reason Cooper had been appointed was because he had been recommended by ex-superintendent Jesse Millspaugh and the acting superintendent Adelaide Holton. The implication was that the board was still dominated by anti-Mormon sentiment. The “indignation” aroused by Cooper’s appointment, the News hoped, would lead to action that would “settle the matter at the first lawful opportunity”—referring probably to the Mormon desire to have the [p.54]superintendent elected by popular vote of a majority of the people.89 The issue of popular election of superintendents was not confined to Salt Lake City schools. In many urban centers throughout the nation progressive reformers campaigned energetically to remove the “people” (often members of minority groups) from direct participation in school politics. The reformers believed that the community was best served if the choice was made by the small boards usually elected at large across the cities rather than allow the masses to meddle in school affairs.
While Cooper was being considered for the Salt Lake superintendency, Representative Alice Smith Horne, a Mormon teacher and legislator from Salt Lake City, introduced legislation that would have permitted the direct election of superintendents in Salt Lake City and Ogden. The ensuing debate on the bill’s merits raised the old arguments about the “‘Mormon plot’ to capture the schools and return them to the chaotic level of pre-1890.” On the other side were charges that school personnel were being hired because they were anti-Mormons.90 The boards in Salt Lake and Ogden asked the legislature to drop the bill after bitter exchange. Eventually it was dropped from consideration; the next election finally brought a Mormon majority to the board and the need to elect a Mormon superintendent through a popular vote became moot.
In spite of the initial criticism Cooper suffered, the Council of Women’s Clubs organized a “brilliant reception” for Cooper at the Kenyon Hotel, at which “all classes without regard to sect or party” tendered the community’s greetings to “Professor Cooper.” Mormon musician Evan Stephens composed a special song of welcome and Mrs. A. V. Taylor, President of the Council, gave an address on the hopes of Salt Lake City mothers that the new superintendent would help their children to “live nobly in the positions of life in which God has placed them: that they shall live their own lives unselfishly, sincerely, joyously.”
The president of the board, W. A. Nelden, spoke as a businessman in welcoming the new superintendent. Reflecting the zeitgeist at the turn of the century, he described the schools as a “business proposition” that “should be conducted upon the same principles that every business man conducts his business”—that is, as an investment. Salt Lake City had invested millions of dollars in the system, resulting in “a better class of people” being attracted to the city Professor William Stewart of the University of Utah said the board had chosen Cooper wisely and anticipated an expanded curriculum that would include kindergarten, industrial education, and manual training. In response, the new superintendent underscored his main objective as superintendent: “I stand unalterably for the inalienable rights of children and will protest against any interference with these rights, either from within or without.” He viewed his appointment as the launching of a “little argosy of hope for public schools” and prayed that it would return to the citizens “full freighted, bearing a burden of blessing for the children of Salt Lake [p.55]City.”91
Following the reception, Cooper was interviewed for the Deseret News by Joseph H. Paul, whom he had defeated in the contest for the superintendency Cooper elaborated manual training as a necessary aspect in the education of the whole individual, from kindergarten through the higher grades. He expressed admiration for Utah’s “progressive spirit” and, with respect to the “new education,” he laid out his educational philosophy: “Today has demands all its own, heightened and glorified by the excellence of the yesterdays, and the educational system which might have been suitable for a departed day is unworthy of the present because the present is new and contains new issues and new requirements.”92
Copper continued his progressive tenor in his first talk to the teachers. In Deweyan terms he asserted that school should be a “miniature world in which [the child] can enjoy himself, in which he can improve himself, in which he can enlarge himself and so he can be living” instead of preparing for living. Teachers should assist and serve children, and the superintendent should serve teachers.93 In time the new superintendent made friends on both sides of the cultural spectrum and when he come up for election to a two year term on 13 June 1900 he received a unanimous appointment.94
Unfortunately, Cooper did not get much of a chance to implement his new educational perspectives in Salt Lake City. Although the reception at the Kenyon Hotel had made much of the close co-operation between home and school, after Cooper had been in Salt Lake a year he complained of too much parental indifference, a lack of enforced compulsory school laws, and a decline in attendance.95 Cooper’s principal difficulty, however, was smallpox, which closed schools for thirty days. This epidemic precipitated a fracas over whether children who had not been vaccinated against smallpox should be allowed to attend school. The board originally voted to exclude un-vaccinated children in December 1900, but when the Mormon majority was seated on the board they rescinded the decision and allowed un-vaccinated children—40 percent of the students—to attend school.
Predictably, this issue pitted the Deseret News against the Tribune. The News took the position that the Board of Health had no legal right to interfere in school affairs and that vaccination against smallpox had not proved to deter the spread of the disease. The Tribune disagreed on all counts. For refusing to heed the Board of Health’s order six members of the Board of Education were taken to court. Eventually the Utah Supreme Court ruled in favor of excluding un-vaccinated students, but the issue was made moot by the state legislature’s passage of the McMillan Bill, making it legal for parents to refuse vaccination for their children.
[p.56]During the heated debate over the vaccination issue, Superintendent Cooper was caught between the contradictory mandates of two legal entities—the Board of Health and the Board of Education. In February, when the superintendent expressed a desire to address the board concerning which board the teachers should obey, Oscar W. Moyle invoked the “gag” rule preventing Cooper from speaking without the unanimous vote of the board. “If we have a superintendent who cannot comprehend our order I am opposed to hearing him,” said Moyle. Cooper responded that it was the first time he had ever sat on a board and had not been allowed to ask a question “and I hope never to again.” To this Moyle replied, “You might not have the opportunity.”96
Within a few weeks, Cooper was ‘appointed superintendent of Seattle schools and resigned from his Salt Lake position. He claimed that Seattle had lobbied him throughout the past year, but that he had wanted to stay in Salt Lake for two years. He must also have been aware of the rumors in the press (all denied, of course) that the board’s new Mormon majority intended to remove him; Moyle’s comment that Cooper “might not have the opportunity” to make any statements to the board was certainly not an empty threat. In the spring of 1901 Salt Lake City was looking for its third superintendent of public schools while Frank Cooper began to make his mark on the public school system of Seattle, Washington, where he left a twenty-nine year legacy of “good schools.”97
Within a few months, Oscar Moyle invited a young Mormon educator, D. H. Christensen (then in Illinois preparing to enter the University of Chicago’s doctoral program) to interview for the superintendency In June 1901 Christensen became the first of a series of Mormons to direct the development of public schools in Salt Lake City, ending a decade of gentile leadership of the city’s schools.
[p.25]1. Edward Leo Lyman, Political Deliverance: The Mormon Quest for Utah Statehood (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986). The legislation creating the public school system in Utah was entitled “An Act to Provide for a Uniform System of Free Schools,” It was passed by the territorial legislature on 13 March 1890. Laws of the Territory of Utah: 29th Session of the Legislative Assembly, 1890-92.
10. According to Lyman, Mormon leaders recognized in the late 1880s and early 1890s that some things were outside of their control and they asked the members of the church to fast and pray so that “the Lord may interpose in behalf of his people and preserve them from their enemies.” Lyman, Political Deliverance, 120.
18. Michael Homer, “Masonry and Mormonism in Utah, 1847-1984,” Journal of Mormon History 18 (Fall 1992): 57-74. Homer deals with charges that the Mormon temple ritual was a plagiarized version of the Masonic ritual in his article, “‘Similarity of Priesthood in Masonry’: The Relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 27 (Fall 1994): 1-113. For background on Masoric promotion of free public schooling, see Henry Wilson Coil, Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia (New York: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., 1961), 489-90; also Carl E Kaestle, Pillars of the Republic: Common Schools and American Society 1780-1860 (New York: Hill & Wang, 1983), 167-71.
20. “President Eliot’s Address,” Deseret News 17 Mar. 1892, as cited in Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 16 Mar. 1892, hereafter cited as Journal History. The original is in the LDS Historical Library, Salt Lake City A microfilm copy is available at the University of Utah.
21. “An Assault on President Eliot,” Deseret News, 18 Mar. 1892, in Journal History of date. See also Salt Lake Tribune, 18 Mar. 1892, and citation from the Boston Advertizer in “President Eliot Replies,” Deseret News, 26 Mar. 1892, in Journal History of date.
[p.33]22. “Colonel Parker’s Visit to Utah the Theme of an Interesting Correspondence,” Deseret News, 22 Aug. 1892, citing an article by Charles Ellis in the Boston Transcript, 10 Aug. 1892. See also Cannon, Journal, 7 Aug. 1892.
[p.35]29. “We Live and Learn,” Deseret News 30 Jan. 1894; “Explanations All Around,” Deseret News 31 Jan. 1894, in Journal History of date; Holton, “The Public Schools of Salt Lake City,” Primary Education, Jan. 1894, 30-31.
36. “The Board’s Address,” Salt Lake Tribune, 23 May 1891; “The School Bonds,” Deseret News, 5 June 1891. Some legal reservations on the issuance of bonds were expressed in “The School Bond Question,” Deseret News, 28 May 1891.
64. “Will Represent All. Citizens Plan of a Comprehensive School Ticket,” Salt Lake Tribune, 17 Nov. 1897; “The Political Arena. Many Discussions Heard Regarding the Coming School Elections,” Salt Lake Herald, 17 Nov. 1897.
65. “Latter-Day Saint College… Lecture by Elder B. H. Roberts on Education,” Deseret News, 15 Nov. 1897; “Roberts’ Attack on Public Schools,” Salt Lake Tribune, 16 Nov. 1897; “Note from Mr. Roberts,” Salt Lake Tribune, 17 Nov. 1897.
71. “Altogether Satisfactory,” Salt Lake Tribune, 2 Dec. 1897; “Bowen is Expelled. Driven from His Teacher’s Quorum for Supporting Critchlow,” Salt Lake Tribune, 4 Dec. 1897; “New Tickets in Fifth,” Salt Lake Herald, 1 Dec. 1897; “Was Splendid Victory,” Salt Lake Herald, 2 Dec. 1897; “The New School Board,” Deseret News, 2 Dec. 1897.
76. “Local Educators,” Deseret News, 30 June 1894. In this series Millspaugh was singled out for praise along with such local worthies as James E. Talmage of the University of Utah; J. H. Paul of the Agricultural College in Logan; and W. S. Kerr of Brigham Young College.
82. Board of Education, Minutes, 30 Dec. 1898; 23 May 1899. Holton graduated from the Oswego Normal School in New York in 1882 and came to Salt Lake City in 1892. She left Salt Lake District in 1901 to become primary supervisor in Des Moines, Iowa. She authored a number of educational textbooks and is listed in Who’s Who in America, vol. 9 (Chicago: Marquis and Co., 1916).
97. For an insightful appraisal of Cooper’s role in the development of progressive schools in Seattle, see Bryce E. Nelson, Good Schools: The Seattle Public Schools, 1901-1930 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988).