History Department

Special Lecture and Reception

A History of Utah Radicalism: Startling, Socialist and Decidedly Revolutionary

By John McCormick and John Sillito

Utah State University Press

In their recently published book, McCormick and Sillito explore Utah radicalism since the late 19th Century focusing on those movements “that have challenged the fundamental principles on which society has been established and have offered alternative visions of how to live and organize life.” Especially important is the Socialist Party which sunk deep roots in Utah, electing over 100 individuals to office, and gaining support among various segments of the Utah population. This is a little-known story worth a closer look.

 John McCormick has a Ph. D. from the University of Iowa, and is currently the Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Salt Lake Community College. John Sillito is Professor Emeritus of Libraries, and an adjunct in the WSU History Dept. McCormick and Sillito are also the editors of A World We Thought We Knew: Readings in Utah History.

Thursday, November 17, 2011, 1:30 p.m.

Stewart Library, Hetzel-Hoellein Room


Light refreshments will be served and books will be available for purchase.





Dr. Mark Harvey,  Professor of History, North Dakota State University, will lecture on “John Muir and the Call of the Wild” on Friday, November 11, 10:30 a.m. in the Stewart Library - Hetzel-Hoellein Room. The event is sponsored by the WSU History Dept and WSU Honors Dept.

 A graduate of the University of Wyoming, Harvey is the author of Wilderness Forever: Howard Zahniser and the Path to the Wilderness Act (2005) and A Symbol of Wilderness: Echo Park and the American Conservation Movement ( 2000), both published by the University of Washington. The recipients of many grants and awards,  Harvey teaches Environmental History, Western American History, and Public History.

Please join us and extend an invitation to your students to be there as well.




Ellen Litwicki, Professor of History

State University of New York at Fredonia

“Be a SPUG”: The History of

Useless Gift Giving”

In 1912 a coalition of wealthy and working-class women in New York created an organization they dubbed the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving, which became more popularly known by its acronym of SPUG. The initial goal of this characteristically progressive cross-class alliance was to abolish the custom that coerced workers in shops and factories into contributing money for Christmas presents for their supervisors. The group soon added the larger mission of ending all perfunctory Christmas gift exchanges. SPUG received massive publicity, in part because the novelty of its name and goals caught the nation’s fancy, and in part because of the status of some of its proponents, who included Anne Morgan (daughter of financier J. P.), Margaret Woodrow Wilson (daughter of the president), and Theodore Roosevelt, who became the first male SPUG. Some commentators ridiculed the movement; others praised it. Supporters formed local clubs, while critics satirized SPUG in poetry, cartoons, and stories. Stores even advertised “useful” Christmas presents suitable for SPUGs. Although it was short-lived (like so many other progressive-era reforms, the onset of the First World War precipitated its decline) and its long-term impact was decidedly mixed, SPUG nevertheless holds a historical place as a peculiarly progressive effort to reform the excesses of Christmas gifting.