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Our Role in History

By the late 1800’s the territory known as Utah had a burgeoning economy. As a result several affluent groups formed out of the mining and smelting industry. One such group took it upon themselves to create a gentlemen’s social club modeled after the prestigious Union Club of San Francisco. A proposal outlining the clubs formation was mailed to prospective members.

Following recruitment the Alta Club was founded in 1883 by eighty-one charter members, thirteen years before Utah became a state. The club was organized as a social club "to present the comforts and luxuries of a home together with the attraction to its members of meeting each other in a pleasant and social way."

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    • Although it is widely believed that the founding members only allowed “Gentiles” or those who were not of the Mormon faith to join, that soon changed. Not long after the clubs formation, their resistance to those of the Mormon faith shifted. The first Mormon member was William Jennings, a former mayor of Salt Lake City, joining in 1885.

      The years of Prohibition brought new challenges to the club. Simon Bamberger, who joined the club in 1904, was one of the Eighteenth Amendments strongest proponents. Unfortunately, not everyone in the club shared his vision for a dry state. In the years since its repeal, rumors and stories surfaced telling of the various ways members got their hands on “hootch” and brought it into the club.

      The Great Depression was a difficult time for everyone, including the “rich man’s club.” At one point in 1933, our financial situation became so desperate that the Board decided to entirely waive initiation fees for 90 days, in hopes of encouraging people to join and pay monthly dues. In 1936 the Directors authorized the purchase of two slot machines. This controversial idea helped restore the Club to fiscal health.

      From the beginning, the Alta Club attracted the financial, industrial, cultural, and social leaders of the west. The face of membership has been ever changing. In 1987, the Alta Club repealed the provision which did not allow women to be members. That year, the club welcomed its first three female members, Deedee Corradini, Genevieve Atwood, and Annette P. Cumming.

      In 2002, Salt Lake was host to the Winter Olympics. The French delegation made the Alta Club their home during this time, occupying all of the guest rooms and private event rooms. The Club was truly their home away from home.

      Today, the Alta Club's membership comprises a broad range of professions, while reflecting the unique character of the Intermountain West. Members still represent ranching and natural resources industries, but also come from the legal, business, educational, financial, media, technology, medical, and cultural sectors.

      The Alta Club is regarded as a site of decision, leadership, and progress. Many political leaders host campaign events or speak at the club. There is no doubt that the connections made and meetings held here, shape the world out there.
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