Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Governors: Simon Bamberger

In 1916 Utah voters elected Governor Simon Bamberger, a Jewish Democrat, making him the second Jewish governor in the nation. Bamberger was born in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany and immigrated to the United States at the beginning of the Civil War. He later became involved in the mining and railroad industries. Bamberger opened Lagoon, a local amusement park, in 1896 as a stop on his railway between Salt Lake City and Ogden.

Bamberger’s career in public service included serving on the Salt Lake City Board of Education and in the state Senate. Bamberger had a reputation as a philanthropist who bought flour and coal for those in need and offered free days at Lagoon for disadvantaged groups. He was publicly supported by prominent citizens when he announced his intention to run for governor in 1916.

Bamberger ran on a very progressive ticket, and he fully supported Prohibition, which was considered part of the progressive movement. In his message to the Legislature in 1917, Bamberger urged strict economy and more efficient government. By the time he left office three years later (declining to run for a second term), the state’s budget deficit of nearly half a million dollars had been eliminated.


John Willard “Will” Clawson (1858–1936) was a nationally known portrait painter. He studied locally with George Ottinger and in Europe with Impressionist masters Edouard Manet and Claude Monet. Clawson painted the portraits of many society figures of his day, including a portrait of his grandfather Brigham Young and three other Utah governors: Wells, Cutler, and Dern.

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