Meet prominent socialite and millionaire Susanna Bransford, who built her fortune on the back of Utah’s mining boom.
Susanna Bransford – Park City’s infamous “Silver Queen” – epitomizes Utah’s glamorous Gilded Age. But Bransford didn’t just inherit her fortune. She was a smart, well-connected businesswoman with an eye for investments – who paid her own way through life.
In 1884, Susanna came to visit relatives in Park City, where she met her first husband, Albion Emery. Throughout their early years of marriage the two worked hard to “save every penny,” and in 1889 their diligence paid off. Albion and two friends had a chance to buy out three of the original stockholders of the Mayflower Mine in Park City. Within a few years, the Mayflower – now renamed the Silver King – boomed, and Albion and Susanna were suddenly millionaires.
Their newly acquired fortune allowed the couple to pay off debts and move into a large house in Salt Lake City. Susanna became an important fixture in the community and took on tasks such as representing Utah at the 1893 World Fair in Chicago. Tragedy struck, however, when Albion died with no will to clarify his business arrangements or settle his assets. Susanna found herself in the middle of a well-publicized court battle for her husband’s estate. Newspapers turned on the popular socialite, painting her as a greedy, ungrateful woman.
In truth, Susanna was a widow who knew she had to provide for herself. When she was awarded Albion’s estate and stock in the Silver King Mine, she became one of a handful of women in her day to control her own properties and finances. She worked with business partners to leverage her holdings in mines and real estate into an even greater fortune. Her investments allowed her to live a carefree life, full of travel, fashion, and extravagant parties. Susanna collected three more husbands, and lived in a succession of mansions – each more lavish than the last – including the glorious Gardo House in downtown Salt Lake.
Susanna Bransford is notable not just for her glamorous lifestyle, but as a rare businesswoman who controlled her own fate and considerable fortune until her death in 1942.
Mikee Ferran for Utah Humanities © 2017
Image: Susanna Bransford Emery Holmes Delitch Engalitcheff, c. 1910. Susanna Bransford was known for her exquisite clothing and beautiful houses. In this image she is sitting on the porch of her home, the glorious Gardo House in Salt Lake City. Courtesy of Utah State Historical Society.
See July Dykman and Colleen Whitley, The Silver Queen: Her Royal Highness Suzanne Bransford Emery Holmes Delitch Engalitcheff (Utah State University Press: Logan, 1998); “NEBO Utah Silver Queen w/ Pix,” Daily Herald, September 3, 2008; “Silver Queen: Susanna Bransford,” Salt Lake Magazine, February 27, 2015; Susan Lyman-Whitney, “Remembering the Silver Queen,” Deseret News, June 26, 1994; Utah Education Network, ”Susanna: the Silver Queen.”