Highlights with Heidi: Research Archivist at Utah State Archives & Records Service

Highlights with Heidi: Centennial Dresses

Heidi Stringham History, News and Events

Look what Heidi found for Pioneer Day! These elaborate hand drawn dress designs were created for the Centennial Coronation in 1947. Margaret Whitney Essex, a prominent dressmaker and descendant of pioneer Orson F. Whitney, made the velvet pioneer dresses. In the drawing, the red dress features seagulls, the white dress is decorated in gold wagons, and the blue dress is adorned with beehives! The lucky lady who wore the white gown was Calleen Robinson, an 18-year-old from American Fork. After being named Utah Centennial Queen, she spent the entire year of 1947 traveling the state, attending celebratory events, and riding in parades. She, along with her two attendants, rode in 63 parades and appeared at thirteen rodeos over the year! Calleen was a speech and theater major at the University of Utah and had previously been named Utah Celery Queen, University of Utah Freshman Queen, and “Dream Girl of Pi Kappa Alpha.”

Drawing from Series 11963 – Utah Centennial Commission News Clipping Scrapbooks and photo of 1947 Utah State royalty from the Frank Asahel Beckwith Family Collection at  J. Willard Marriott Library. Left to right: Marie Burnett with red hair and a blue dress, Calleen Robinson a brunette wearing a while dress from American Fork, Utah, Mary Louise Gardner Jessell a blonde dressed in red.

The drawings, along with newspaper articles below, are found in Series 11963 – Utah Centennial Commission News Clipping Scrapbooks. Created in 1939 by the Utah Legislature, the Centennial Commission was charged “to commemorate the advent of the pioneers into Salt Lake Valley, to portray fittingly the natural resources and scenic wonders of Utah, the prehistoric culture of the west, the development of irrigation, farming, mining, forestry, transportation, culture and the arts.”