This article may be of interest to those who are aware that Utah has just celebrated the birthday of its statehood. This is an article written by Margaret Derrick to record for her posterity her part in history.
This article has been written by the request of my children and grandchildren.
Many people now living have probably never heard this little bit of history when Utah became a State. I was then 20 years of age and took a small part in the making of this historical event.
The people of Utah had waited long and patiently to enter the Union. Now the time had arrived. On January 6, 1896* Utah was to become a State. There was a great deal of excitement in anticipating the coming of this event. Everyone seemed busy making ready for the big celebration that was to take place in the famous Tabernacle in Salt Lake City on Temple Square.
People traveled two or more days from all parts of Utah to attend. Some came in surries; some came in wagon boxes; some came on hay-racks partly filled with hay to feel their horse.
They parked their teams back of what was then the tithing office, which stood where the Hotel Utah now stands.
Committees were appointed to prepare for this long awaited event. One committee was headed by Hyrum B. Clawson, a Bishop of one of the Wards. He said, “We will make an American flag so the people of Utah will see for the first time the 45th star, the Utah star, placed on the blue ground of our beloved American flag.” This flag was marked and cut out by my brother David Glad and was made on the high powered machines in the Z.C.M.I. Clothing Factory. The flag was 160 feet long and 78 feet wide. The stripes were six feet in width. The stars were six feet from tip to tip. These dimensions were handed me by my brother on a little card that is now yellow with age.
Six women were asked to make this flag. I was the youngest of the group. The other five were considerably older than I. The flag was made of good bunting and every seam was felted to give it strength. Placing the stars on the blue ground was the hardest and most tedious work. The blue ground was cut in blocks. Each block was large enough to place on it a star; then the blocks were joined together. By this method we were able to do a better job of placing the stars. It took one week for us working eight to ten hours a day to make the flag. When it was finished it took eight strong men to lift it.
We who worked on the flag were not told where it was to be placed. We knew it could not be placed on a flag pole. We were soon to find out that it was to be placed in the Tabernacle forming a ceiling. The blue ground was placed near the large organ, that it, in the Northwest part of the Tabernacle. There was nine feet of space between the dome of the Tabernacle and the flag. When the air circulated through this space it caused the flag to ripple across the ceiling. WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SIGHT!
As I watched the flag as it rippled across the ceiling tears filled my eyes and a lump came in my throat. I felt this flag was saying, “Proudly I wave over you, home of the brave and land of the free.” Utah was certainly a home of the brave. Our brave pioneers suffered and came here to have freedom to worship.
It was now time for the ceremonies to begin. A large electric light had been placed back of the Utah Star. The audience was seated and attention given to the speaker. Now the light was turned on and the Utah Star shone out bright and beautiful. The people wept with joy and were filled with humility as they saw it take its place with the other 44 states of the Union. The dream of the people of Utah had come true. For the first time the Utah star took its place on the blue [back]ground of our beloved flag. Patience and hard work had been rewarded.
For many years this flag had the distinct honor of being the largest flag ever made. Not until recent years have we heard of one larger.
The flag stayed on the ceiling of the Tabernacle for one and one-half years. It was then taken down and placed on the South outside wall of the Temple. It covered the entire South wall. This was July 24th, 1897—celebrating 50 years since the coming of the first pioneers. We last saw the flag adorning the Temple. Many prominent people have tried to trace it but have not succeeded.
Sixty years ago there was no place to store such an immense thing. Families of five and six members were living in three small rooms. Wherever it could have been placed it would have deteriorated.
We can always say this beautiful flag served well the purpose for which it was made. Many hearts were filled with joy and happiness as they looked upon it.
As I write this I am the only one living today who helped to make this flag that was the first to carry the 45th star, the Utah Star. I hope my children will remember their grandmother sewed love into this famous flag.
Let us all remember as American citizens we are all makers of our beloved flag for it is the symbol of faith, courage, and the love of God and our Country in the hearts of each individual. May we always live up to these ideals.
Margaret Glade Derrick**
This flag is mentioned in O.F Whitney’s history of Utah, but no dimensions are given. Many elderly people living today will remember it.
*“Salt Lake City officials, wanting to be properly prepared for the occasion, postponed the official celebration until Monday, Jan. 6. On Jan. 6, 1896, the Salt Lake LDS Tabernacle hosted the state’s official celebration, a 45-star flag made for the occasion in the ZCMI overall and fabrics factory stretched 160 feet along the ceiling. It was the largest American flag at the time.” (Deseret News article, Jan 4, 2010)
**Margaret Derrick became the mother of Royden G. Derrick, who served in the Quorum of the Seventy from 1976-1989. This article was given to me by his wife, Allie Derrick.