The fourth governor of the state, Simon Bamberger, was Utah’s first non-Mormon and only Jewish governor.
Ninety-two years ago, Simon Bamberger was elected governor of the state of Utah by more than 4,000 votes, leading what the Davis County Clipper called a statewide “Democratic landslide.” Bamberger was the state’s first non-Mormon and only Jewish governor. He served only one term, turning down the chance to run for re-election in 1920.
Born in Germany in 1846, Bamberger immigrated with his family to the United States at the age of 14. The Bambergers first settled in St. Louis where young Simon worked in the clothing industry. The family then moved to Utah around 1870 where the future governor made a fortune investing in mining, founded the Salt Lake and Ogden railway, and built the Lagoon resort.
Bamberger’s first political post was as a member of the Salt Lake City Board of Education, following that up with a seat in the state senate which he held until he was defeated in 1912. In 1916, he tested the idea of running for US Senate, but bowed out to run for the governor’s chair instead. Despite a dose of harsh anti-Semitic propaganda, Bamberger easily won the governorship and set about reforming the state. He called for an audit of state government that recovered a million taxpayer dollars. He also charged legislators with passing workers’ compensation and labor organization acts to protect the rights of workers, signed a prohibition bill, and established a state public health department. In 1919, Bamberger even supported a mine tax law despite his numerous mine holdings, and called a special legislative session to ratify the 19th amendment to the US constitution giving women across the country the right to vote.
Image: Governor Simon Bamberger at Desk at Capitol, August 4, 1917. Image Shows Governor Bamberger posing for a photo at his desk, he served as state governor from 1917-1921. Courtesy of Utah State Historical Society.
Davis County Clipper, 10 November 1916. Also see Miriam Murphy’s entry on Bamberger in the online Utah History Encyclopedia, as well as the entry on Bamberger on the Utah History Research Center’s website.