On this particular day, President George Albert Smith was dressed in a cream-colored suit with the brim of his hat slightly bowed to shade his eyes from the sun.
"This morning is the culmination of a great expectation," he began.It was July 24, 1947, and President Smith was standing in front of several oblong-shaped microphones to conduct the dedicatory services of "This Is the Place Monument."
"One hundred years ago today," he said, "there came out of this canyon a group of people, 143 men, three women, and two children of the original band. . . ."
The unveiling of the monument was a much anticipated event, drawing one of the largest crowds in the history of the state. Its erection and dedication was the
highlight of Utah's 1947 Centennial Celebration, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers into the Great Salt Lake Valley.
The weeks prior to the dedication were a flurry of activity as 1,000 tons of granite were set into place, and more than 30 tons of bronze sculptures were uncrated and hoisted onto the monument.
The three central figures of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Wilford Woodruff weighed eight tons and were 121/2-feet high. A crane lifted the statues atop the 48-foot center pylon.
After careful research to guarantee historical accuracy, renowned sculptor Mahroni Young, grandson of Brigham Young, posed his grandfather as the central figure with a stance of "dignity and power," according to Church News reports.
Among the other statues on the monument are Chief Washakie who was recognized for his refusal to harm the white man; and Jim Bridger, Kit Carson and Peter Skene Ogden, who President J. Reuben Clark, first counselor in the First Presidency, described as "intrepid, tireless explorers." They found trails and low passes which the settlers later used to ease their trek into the valley.
Another representation depicts Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow waving their hats in the air shouting hosanna after entering the valley. Still others represent great explorers like Captain Bonneville, Father DeSmet and General Fremont, as well as the Donner party.
On the western face of the monument, the figures memorialize the final steps in the Pioneers' 1,300 mile trek. What started as a trickle of immigrants ended 40 years later in a stream of 80,000 Saints completing the westward journey.
On the morning of the dedication, officials hoped to have attracted 200 seagulls at the monument as a means of remembering the role they played in early history. To condition the seagulls, stale bread was put out each morning at the site at 9:30 a.m. for several weeks prior to the dedication.