Chugging, Screeching, Rumbling, and Billowing :

Utah's Industrial Revolution through Photographs

Chugging, screeching, rumbling, billowing - words to describe the machinery replacing human and animal power in late 19th and early 20th century Utah. Steam shovels pitting and scraping mountains for minerals, buzzing airplanes rushing letters and packages back and forth, and the rhythmic humming of moving assembly lines mass producing goods for public consumption, all of these were thanks to the rapid technological advancements of the time. Those Utahns living during the Industrial Revolution at the turn of the 20th century helped to usher in the modern industrial fabric of our state with the growth of factories, large-scale public works, electrification, and mining and smelting on a grand scale. At its core, “Industrial Revolution” means the arrival of coal, iron, and steam into people’s everyday lives making them more productive because of newly powered machinery.

Photography, while arriving in the mid-19th century, was a popular tool to capture the scale and grandeur of the modern industrial world. In black and white tones, photographers framed the essence of these machines and their relationships to people.

There are thousands of stories to share about the role the Industrial Revolution played in changing the lives of Utahns. The photographs and engineering drawings in this exhibit illustrate how things we may take for granted today were new technologies at one point, and how machinery transformed transportation, mining, industry, infrastructure, and agriculture.

Technology moves at an amazing pace. Where people’s lives were transformed during the turn of the 20th century, how do you see your life being changed now and in the future? What other technological revolutions will the next fifty, or even a hundred years witness?

Image credit: With the completion of the State Capitol, Utah emerged as a social and economic powerhouse. For such a large construction project, steam power supplied the energy to move tens of tons of soil and gravel to make way for the iconic building. Salt Lake City, 1916 Utah Historical Society Shipler Collection no. 16714


2024-2025 Traveling Schedule

Schedule will be posted June 2024