A Monument of Civic Pride: The History of the Rock Springs Coal Arch (Part 2)

Train Crossing at elk and C Street. Park Hotel is on right. 1930-40. Photo courtesy of the Rock Springs Historical Museum.

People in Rock Springs back in 1929 thought their brand-spanking new Coal Sign was pretty impressive, judging from a July, 1929 article in the Union Pacific Employees’ Magazine, written by Southern Wyoming Coal Operators Association Executive Secretary L.W. Mitchell.

The article reads in part:

“(The sign) was completed and actually lighted at 5:26 o’clock…just one day before the beginning of the State Convention of Lions Clubs which was held in Rock Springs, June 7th and 8th.

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“The ‘birth of the idea’ of such a sign happened at a meeting of the Southern Wyoming Coal Operators Association during July 1928. At that meeting a committee was appointed, consisting of Mr. Arthur White, Mayor Bunning, Doctor Breihan and Mr. G.A. Knox to design, secure bids, and determine the proper location for such a sign. The sign as it now stands is the result of their efforts and the untiring efforts of many citizens, whose names are too numerous to mention here, who helped.

“The steel structure supporting the arch was purchased outright from, and erected by, the Frank M. Allen Company of Salt Lake City. The Neon sign proper is leased from the Electrical Products Corporation of Utah which will pay all taxes and insurance and will service and maintain the sign throughout the contracting period. The Southern Wyoming Electric Company will furnish free of charge the electricity required for the Neon illumination. The citizens of Rock Springs, through the Lions Club Committee, contributed nearly fifty percent of the total cost over a period of three years, [Sic] while the Southern Wyoming Coal Operators Association stood the other fifty percent, plus the entire rental cost after a three-year period.

“The advertising value of this sign is beyond computation. A more conspicuous place insofar as advertising value is concerned could hardly have been found than the present location. It spans Rock Springs’ main thoroughfare and the Lincoln Highway, one of the most important transcontinental automobile highways of the country…

The article goes on to say:

“Since the sign was erected, the writer [Mitchell], due to curiosity, has on several occasions stood near the rear ends of the Union Pacific east bound night passenger trains while they were stopped at the station, noting the passengers looking at this sign, and listening to the comments of those on the observation platforms. Needless to say, these comments have been nothing other than words of praise and surprise, such as: ‘So this is Rock Springs,’ and ‘What civic pride these people and the coal operators must have to display such a beautiful sign.’ One lady from Oakland, California, a city into which much of our coal is shipped was heard to remark to her husband: ‘Oh Fred, so this is where Rock Springs coal comes from. Mrs. Thompson (supposedly a neighbor) has been trying to get me to use Rock Springs coal, now I’m going to try it.’

“The comments from Rock Springs’ citizens indicate that they are proud of this sign of progress. They can well afford to be proud of it…(The sign) not only announces the Home of Rock Springs’ coal, but stands out as a monument to the civic pride of Rock Springs’ people and the Southern Wyoming Coal Operators Association.”

It still does today.

This is Part 2 of a four-part series on the history and evolution of the historical Rock Springs Coal Sign, with historic photos courtesy of Rock Springs Historical Museum. Articles quoted courtesy of Dick Blust, Sweetwater County Museum Assistant. Check out Part 1 of The History of the Rock Springs Coal Arch.