Provo Once Had a Silk Industry.
As early as 1856, Brigham Young and other Utah leaders considered raising silk worms and manufacturing silk cloth in Utah to be a necessary step toward self-sufficiency. Making silk locally would also help reduce the flow of cash out of the territory. Young sent to France for mulberry seeds and planted 25 acres of mulberry trees. The leaves from these trees later provided food for silk worms that manufactured the silk thread used to manufacture cloth.
Growth of the silk industry in Provo did not begin until shortly after Brigham Young’s death in 1877. Late that year, Daniel Graves, a Provo horticulturist, began to urge the local Relief Society sister to follow the counsel of the late Mormon president and manufacture silk. Those who were interested in the silk business established the Silk Association of Utah County. They planted over 3000 mulberry trees and raised silk worms. That year Graves collected enough silk thread to manufacture 25 yards of cloth.
Members renamed the organization the Utah Stake Silk Association in 1879. They bought a loom, and an English weaver brought some silk frames to Provo when he immigrated to Utah. Daniel Graves collected enough silk thread of Northern Utah that year to weave 750 yards of cloth. He made and sold dress goods and handkerchiefs from the material.
By 1882 a silk factory in Salt Lake City provided an outlet for Provo’s surplus silk thread.
The high point of the silk industry in Provo came when Sarah Saunders wove silk cloth and created a large American flag that won first prize at the Columbia Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Interest in silk manufacturing gradually decreased when it became apparent that silk could be imported from Japan and China cheaper than it could be made in Utah, and the silk association was dissolved in 1906. For many years afterward, mulberry trees remained a common sight in Provo.
This plaque is #56 in this series and is located in Footprinter Park in Provo.
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