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Salt Lake Democrat
In its very first edition, published on March 2, 1885, the Salt Lake Democrat made clear exactly the sort of relationship the newspaper planned to have with the Mormon Church, the dominant power in Utah, which at the time was still a U.S. territory. “As to this paper,” wrote the editor in that first issue, “we believe that neither the dominant local church, nor other church or combination, should direct the affairs of this Commonwealth; but that rather the people, combining upon the basis of democratic principles, should bring Utah in line with the age in which we live.” For the next two and a half years, the short-lived, yet vibrant, Democrat would fill the role of anti-establishment newspaper in Salt Lake City, while offering a mouthpiece for the local Democratic Party, which was then, as now, a minority voice in Utah politics.
Despite the function of the Democrat as a foil of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one of the newspaper’s earliest editors was Alfales Young, a son of the Mormon Prophet Brigham Young, the longtime de facto political ruler of Utah, who had fathered nearly sixty children and personally established the Mormon newspaper Deseret News in 1850. Alfales Young had left the Mormon Church years earlier and promised to keep the influence of his father’s church out of the newspaper. In the Democrat of April 3, 1885, Young wrote concerning himself: “The editor of this paper knows fully the power of the Mormon Church over its members and humbly begs to say that he is free from it.”
The Democrat was originally published as a daily paper, and it also produced a semiweekly edition, as well as a short-lived edition published in Ogden, a lively railroad town in northern Utah with a large non-Mormon population. The Democrat featured strong local news content with a mixture of interesting national and international items. But because of its anti-Mormon bent, the Democrat also focused on the most controversial issue then roiling Utah and the Mormon Church--plural marriage--and could rarely resist the opportunity to editorialize against the practice.
Although the Democrat boasted one of the liveliest telegraphic news agencies in Salt Lake City and received advertising patronage from many local businesses, Salt Lake City was a crowded newspaper market in the 1880s. Thus, the Democrat competed not only against the dominant political force in Utah, but also against a number of other newspapers. The paper found itself in financial straits in 1887, but its editors remained defiant, pronouncing in July of that year: “One day our Mormon friend has us busted, the next day sold…and still the Democrat is the Democrat and is likely to continue.” It was not to be, however; for less than a month later, the Democrat had disappeared, purchased and absorbed by the largest anti-Mormon newspaper in the state, the Salt Lake Tribune.
Unfortunately, the Daily Commercial failed to reach its third birthday. Because the publisher was not willing to go into debt to keep the paper up and running, in December 1891 all the property of Commercial Publishing Co. was sold in foreclosure for $7,500. Newspapers would continue to come and go in the bustling railway city of Ogden, but it was the end of the line for the Daily Commercial.
Provided by: University of Utah, Marriott Library