Hair Museum!


Salt Lake City proper doesn’t have many museums but the few we do have are pretty great. There’s the fabulous Natural History Museum by Red Butte Garden at the University of Utah, the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA), the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and the LDS Church History Museum (closed for updating). You may have been to most of those swell buildings and seen the collections and displays, but I’ll bet you a buck you’ve never been to the Pioneer HAIR Museum. I’m the only person that calls the Pioneer Memorial Museum at 300 N. Main Street by that name. I came up with it long ago when I lived across the street from the place and took friends and family over to visit fairly regularly. It’s free and it’s funky.

        Way back in 1901 in the capitol city a group of 46 women were invited to the house of Annie Taylor Hyde (daughter of LDS Church President John Taylor). You can imagine the gathering of ladies who probably looked much like the distaff cast of Downton Abbey, with long skirts that brushed the floor (often with trains), shirtwaists and high collars. They met and formed a new group called the Daughters of Utah Pioneers (“DUP”). All of them were descendants of Utah pioneer stock and their goal was “to perpetuate the names and achievements of the men, women and children who were the pioneers in founding this commonwealth by preserving old landmarks, marking historical places, collecting artifacts and histories, establish a library of historical matter and securing manuscripts, photographs, maps and all such data as shall aid in perfecting a record of the Utah pioneers.” They collected so much stuff they built a museum next door to the Capitol which opened in 1950.

        Back to the hair. The Museum is free and open Monday-Saturday 9 am to 5 pm and on Wednesday nights until 8 pm. When you walk into the building your nostrils will take in that musty dusty smell you probably get when you have to go to your grandmother’s house to help fetch her something out of her two year supply. For those of you who have an even better developed nose you’ll detect another layer of scent that you probably won’t identify until you’re reading one of the display cards next to a lovely dried flower arrangement under glass. Yes, those flowers are made of good ol’ pioneer hair. You see, in the old days a woman couldn’t run to Smiths and pick up a bouquet to brighten her home. There weren’t flower shops until electricity and refrigeration were more common. Women who were handy with needlework learned to weave their own hair, the hair of their husbands and kids and the hair of the departed into flowers. It was an ancient tradition to keep mementos and the hair of the dead. The designs are crazy good and intricate and smell like, well, old hair.

        Check it out next time you’re walking around the capitol lawns. They’ve got an original ZCMI chandelier, fantastic old Valentines cards and love letters, and newspapers made not from paper but from rags when the Deseret News ran out of paper and had to use old shirts, pants and dresses to print the news on until supplies arrived.

Hooker’s in SLC?


We live in the ‘red dirt’ district of downtown SLC. Before paved roads, there was packed red dirt on 200 South on the west side by the Gateway. When men went down to visit the shady ladies of the whore houses in this area of Greek Town, they’d get the red dirt in the cuffs of their pants. If they were married men, their wives would know exactly where they had been and there would be big trouble.

       Sex workers have been in this state since the first brothels were established down by Camp Floyd, a short-lived U.S. Army post near Fairfield, Utah (@ 40 miles southwest of SLC). Women have followed military troops throughout centuries all over the world and Utah isn’t without sin. There was a state statute written in 1876 that prohibited the ‘keep of, residing in, or resorting to houses of ill-fame for the purpose of prostitution or lewdness.’ That didn’t stop men from wanting sex or women selling it.

        – The first hooker anyone knew about in the state was Ada Carroll. She was brought to Utah by W.W. Drummond, as associate justice of the Supreme Court of Utah as his paid concubine. He had been married with children but left his family in favor of this shady lady;

        – In 1886 the Deseret News reported that “There are now in the city some six brothels, forty tap rooms, a number of gambling houses, pool tables and other disreputable concerns all run by non-Mormons”.

        – In 1897 the JUNIOR Brigham Young resigned from the Brigham Young Trust Co. because it was discovered that property owned by the firm was being used as brothel on Commercial Street. However, church controlled real estate in the city leased to houses of prostitution up until @1941 when the First Presidency ordered such leases stopped.

        -Salt Lake City officials recruited Ogden’s most famous madam, Belle London to open up and run prostitutes in the Red Dirt District. She had up to 100 women working in cribs for about four years before she was run out of town and the building ripped down.

        Over a hundred years later, Salt Lake City is redoing one of the most famous naughty streets here into a swell place for art, brews and food to open in conjunction with the new Eccles Theater opening downtown in the spring of 2016.  Regent Street is between State and Main Street between 100 and 200 South behind the Broadway show venue.  It was originally known as “Commercial” and there were cribs (think the size of a modern day work cubicle) rented out nightly to the soiled doves who would sit at the top of the stairs and coo down at prospective clients to come on up for some fun.