The Definitive Resource Of Oscar Wilde's Visits To America

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Salt Lake City


Salt Lake City Theatre

Monday, April 10, 1882

The Decorative Arts


Newspaper report

The Salt Lake Daily Herald, April 11, 1882, p. 1

The report of Wilde's lecture ran to more than two full page columns of the newspaper's front page. An interview with him appeared the following day.


Salt Lake City Theatre (aka The Theatre)

Northeast corner of First South and State Streets, Salt Lake City, UT

Built: 1861-2 (Hiram B. Clawson) [1]

Foundation laid: July 1861

Completed: March 1862

Seating capacity: 1500

Demolished: 1926

Replaced by: a commercial office building

[1] Clawson had a total of four wives and forty-two children. Two of his wives were daughters (by different mothers) of Brigham Young, the former leader of the Latter Day Saint movement, who was the building's principal sponsor.


BYU Archive: Religious Studies Center


Walker House

246 Main Street between Second and Third South, Salt Lake City, UT

Built: 1872 (Walker brothers)

Demolished: c. 1900-1902 

Replaced by: the David Keith Building, built 1902


The Salt Lake Daily Herald, April 4 and 5, 1882

Below are notices published on consecutive days for Wilde's lecture—note the postponement of other scheduled events.

The notices are similar but both are shown to illustrate a rare quirk—the correction in the second advertisement of a typographical error in the first.

The Mormon City

Wilde Visits John Taylor

On the afternoon of his lecture, Wilde was taken on a tour of Salt Lake City by the then Mormon president, John Taylor. The tour included Taylor's own residence, Gardo House, one of the finest homes in the valley.

Gardo House

70 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City, UT

Built: 1873—? (Joseph Ridges and William H. Folsom)

Completed/opening reception: January 2, 1882

Purpose: official residence of the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS)

Dedicated: February 22, 1883

Demolished: November 26, 1921


Wilde referred sarcastically to the Mormon practice of polygamy. He wrote from Kansas City on April 17:

'I have lectured to the Mormons. The Opera House at Salt Lake is an enormous affair about the size of Covent Garden, and holds with ease fourteen families. They sit like this and are very, very ugly. The President, a nice old man, sat with five wives in the stage box.' [1]

Still on the subject of multiple wives, Wilde later told an interviewer that Salt Lake interested him because it was "the first city that ever gave a chance to ugly women." [2]

[1] Letters, 161. Wilde's illustration.

[2] Denver Tribune, April 13, 1882, 8.

Soup Kettle

In his Impressions of America, Oscar Wilde said that, "Salt Lake City contains only two buildings of note, the chief being the Tabernacle, which is in the shape of a soup-kettle." He had originally said this in newspaper interviewers in America: for instance in the Denver Tribune [1] where he added that the tabernacle was the most purely dreadful building he ever saw.

[1] Denver Tribune, April 13, 1882, 8.

Oscar Wilde In America | © John Cooper, 2024