George Wanning was a prominent member of Park City in the 1900s, owning a saloon on Main Street and populating several fraternal organizations in town. One of those, the Bohemian Club (no relation to the infamous northern California club), he formed himself.
Members of the club were given royal or royal-adjacent titles – Wanning himself, as head of the club, was referred to as the King of Denmark. The club mostly existed for him to get together with his friends and throw a grand banquet once a year in the summer. However, Wanning apparently made an event of the holiday season by sending his friends flowers and ferns to decorate their homes for Christmas.
But in 1911, “unprecedented cold” threw a wrench into Wanning’s usual Christmas shipments of flowers. According to the Royal Secretary of the Bohemian Club, “the entire crop of roses, pansies, carnations, and ferns in the imperial garden… were destroyed by reason of the carelessness of the Royal Gardener, whose name is withheld on account of his family,” (there was no Royal Gardener listed in the guest list at the annual party just a few months earlier, so the person remains unknown).
After learning of the lack of flowers to send from his own garden in Peaceful Valley, just east of present-day Jordanelle Reservoir, Wanning set out to acquire a new batch. He first took the train down to Salt Lake City, but the city was apparently devoid of almost all flowers “on account of the immense demand for flowers for the unexecuted murderers in the state prison.”
Wanning then turned to friends in the Duchesne area, about 80 miles southeast of Park City along present-day U.S. Route 40 (which did not exist in 1911). His friends, the McQueency Brothers, were apparently in the business of growing flowers. Wanning sent them a wireless message, which was replied to immediately. The brothers shipped off 600 roses with “accompanying ferns and greens” right away.
But the flowers still had a long way to go. According to the Royal Secretary, “the first stage of the journey was by ox team, but owing to the deep snows on the divide, they were abandoned, and an aeroplane was used to carry the same to Woodland, from whence they were transferred by wireless to Park City,” arriving at midnight – just in time to be distributed to Wanning’s friends on Christmas.
While not impossible, as airplanes existed by 1911, it is improbable that one would have been so readily available for such a trivial event at the time. It is likely that the story of finding new flowers was embellished in order to add to the grandeur of the Bohemian Club.
It was a lot of effort for Wanning to distribute the flowers, but ‘tis the season of giving, after all. Learn more about saloons, social organizations, and past Parkites by visiting the Park City Museum, its Hal Compton Research Library, and other history articles on the Way We Were.
Happy holidays everyone!
Source: Lenningham. “Where Wanning Got His Flowers,” Park Record. December 30, 1911.