Monday, March 1, 2021

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Beehive

Behind the Beehive

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They’re everywhere-on the state highway signs, on the Capitol building, on the state flag, on manhole covers. Dozens of Salt Lake businesses begin their name with “beehive:” Beehive Bail Bonds, Beehive Tea Room (now sadly long closed), Beehive Auto, Beehive Elementary School, Beehive Credit Union, Beehive Title Insurance, Beehive Glass. Insurance companies, scooter sellers, clothing stores-all use the logo of a beehive, which is actually a coiled straw dome, called a skep, that hasn’t been used to house bees for over 100 years.

There’s a beehive fountain in front of the Brigham Young Academy; the Beehive Society is the oldest honor society on the University of Utah campus.

No wonder visitors ask, “Where are the bees?”

But I’m surprised how few native and resident Utahns even know the reason Utah is called “The Beehive State.” It has nothing to do with a proliferation of Apis mellifera, the scientific name for the western honey bee. The state ranks 24th in the U.S. for honey production.

Ancient symbolism— “The beehive has been used as a symbol for thousands of years,” according to historian Mark Staker, an expert on early Mormon anthropology at the LDS Church’s Family History Center. “The Bible refers to the ‘Promised Land’ as ‘the land of milk and honey.'”

Of course, there were no honeybees in the ancient Middle East.

“The European monks whose scriptoria kept The Bible in print before Gutenberg came along had no way of knowing that Biblical honey was most likely date honey and had nothing to do with bees. So, they incorporated bees and the cooperative life of the hive into early Christian symbolism,” explains Staker.

Freemasons also used the bee and beehive as symbols of cooperative work, and the images are found in early American art and literature. “Many of the founding fathers were Masons, and America had become the new ‘promised land’ of opportunity,” says Staker. Many early Mormons were also Masons, including one particularly important Mason/Mormon: Joseph Smith.

The Book of Ether in The Book of Mormon (books within books) tells the story of the Jaredites, a tribe that lived at the time of the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament. According to The Book of Mormon, the Jaredites made a miraculous 344-day voyage across the ocean to North America. They brought with them the “deseret” which means “honey bee” in the nomenclature of The Book of Mormon.

The State of the Hive — When Brigham Young and the Latter-day Saints arrived in Salt Lake Valley in July of 1847, Young chose the name “Deseret” for their new home, and the beehive as its emblem, symbolizing the kind of cooperative work that would be required to make the desert bloom. Images of bees and beehives—the traditional skep, five of which the Mormons brought with them on their trek—were used in much early church construction embellishments. Notably, on the interior and exterior of the Salt Lake Temple and, famously, on Brigham Young’s own Beehive House, which is crowned with a carved bee skep. Newell posts, doorknobs, windows and all bore the emblem of a beehive.

Mark Twain commented on the Utah beehive symbol in his book on the 1860s American West, Roughing It, saying, “The Mormon crest was easy. And it was simple, unostentatious and it fitted like a glove. It was a representation of a Golden Beehive, with all the bees at work.” On October 11, 1881 an article in The Deseret News explained the symbolism: “The hive and honey bees form our communal coat of arms. … It is a significant representation of the industry, harmony, order and frugality of the people, and of the sweet results of their toil, union and intelligent cooperation.”

Of course, you can’t go too far with the etymological comparison or you raise awkward implications. What about drones? What about the queen bee?

“The meaning of the beehive shifted a little as Brigham Young’s Deseret became a territory, then a state,” says Staker. “It lost some of its religious connections but the community connotations continued.” The beehive still serves as the logo of some Church-related organizations, but it’s come to symbolize the whole state of Utah.

When Utah territory became a state in 1896, it retained the beehive symbol in its state seal and on its flag. The state adopted the beehive as its official symbol in 1959, designated the honeybee as the state insect, and even named the “beehive cluster” as the state’s astronomical symbol. Utah is known as “The Beehive State,” and businesses continue to name themselves after the antique skep, many of them without knowing what a bee skep is, or where the bees are. But even without them knowing it, the beehive has become an everyday icon that links present-day Utahns-Mormons and non-Mormons- with their pioneer past.

See all of our community and history coverage here.

Even in the exploration boom of the 1800s, nobody dared to explore the terrain flowing through the Green and the Colorado Rivers.⁠

That is, nobody until Major John W. Powell said the 19th Century equivalent of “Hey man, hold my beer while I try this.”⁠

Read more about his dangerous expedition at the link in our bio!⁠

Photo of Powell’s expedition courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division⁠
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A brand new issue of Salt Lake magazine is coming your way! ⁠

We can't wait to share these stories with you. This issue includes our annual Blue Plate Awards celebrating those surviving and thriving in the restaurant biz. Plus, we take a road trip to Wyoming and ask why the only Utah passenger on the Titanic didn’t survive her journey.⁠

A note from our editor Jeremy Pugh, including beautiful tributes to Mary Brown Malouf from our friends in the community, is online now. Read more at the link in our bio ❤️⁠

Subscribers: Look for this issue in your mailbox soon. The magazine will be on newsstands March 1! 📬
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Today, we are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2021 Blue Plate Awards! ⁠🎉⁠

These prizes honor the growers, food evangelists, grocers, servers, bakers, chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs who do more than put good food on the table—they make our community a better place to live. This year, just surviving as a local business deserves an award, but each of our Blue Plate winners did more than that. They made us grateful for every person involved in the essential act of feeding us.⁠ 🍽⁠

At the link in our bio, we have the full list of winners, a celebration of feats of COVID creativity and a tribute to restaurants we lost this year. If you’re hungry for more, pick up a copy on newsstands March 1! Plus, check out our Instagram for spotlights on some of the Blue Plate winners. ⁠

This year’s Blue Plate Awards are the first without our beloved Executive Editor Mary Brown Malouf. We dedicate them to her, our town’s biggest food fan, critic and champion. xoxomm⁠ 💙
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2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @ricobrandut for Staying in Beansness⁠

Last summer, it seemed that Rico would be another victim of rapid gentrification in Salt Lake. Luckily, Rico was able to find a new home in Poplar Grove and now plans to add even more employees. It’s a last-minute happy ending for a community leader who literally wears his mission on his sleeve, courtesy a tattoo in bright red block letters: “pay it forward.” 💙⁠
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2021 Blue Plate Award Winner: @spicekitchenincubator for Keeping the Spice Flowing⁠

This year Spice Kitchen Incubator, already an essential resource for refugees, became, well, even more essential. 💙⁠
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2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @thestore_utah for Special Deliveries ⁠

As grocery delivery becomes the new norm, The Store offers a personal touch that only an independent grocer can provide. Last March, high-risk and elderly customers began calling in their grocery lists over the phone, and The Store’s general managers personally delivered food to their homes. 💙⁠
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2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @cucinaslc for Preserving Neighborhood Connection⁠

Cucina’s outdoor spaces became a place where the neighborhood could gather safely. Owner Dean Pierose offered free coffee in the mornings and encouraged his regulars to linger and commiserate together, preserving a semblance of society during a socially distanced time. 💙⁠
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2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @oquirrhslc for Betting the Bottom Dollar⁠

When COVID-19 hit Salt Lake City, Oquirrh co-owners Andrew and Angelena Fullers' dream was seriously damaged. But the Fullers keep trying to follow the rules. 💙⁠
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2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @hearth_and_hill for Opening Doors⁠

As the pandemic ravages independent restaurants, Hearth and Hill has reaffirmed its commitment to small businesses in Park City and used its large dining room as an informal gathering space for the city. 💙⁠
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2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @fisherbrewing for Creative Canning⁠

This year, Fisher found ways to utilize their beer, taproom space and canning capabilities for good. They created special lines of limited edition beers in custom cans to help raise funds for local businesses struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic. 💙⁠
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A wind storm #tbt for your feed today. 🌬️🛹⁠

2020 was a long, long, loooong year, so we asked local photographers to share what the new normal looked like through their eyes. The link is in our bio!
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Just hours after being sworn in, President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling for a review of the boundaries for Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. The monuments—designated by Barack Obama in 2016 and Bill Clinton in 1996—were reduced by roughly 2 million acres by former president Donald Trump, and the executive order is seen as move towards restoring the original boundaries.⁠

Read the full story through the link in bio.⁠


📸Bears Ears National Monument: Courtesy of Utah Office of Tourism
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What’s your favorite park in Utah? ...

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