OGDEN -- Between March 1917 and the end of 1928, someone at the Ogden Police Department cut all the crime stories out of the daily papers and pasted them in scrapbooks.
Those books, six massive ledgers, reveal a picture of crime in Top of Utah that makes the gang violence of today look relatively tame. There were home-invasion murders, bank robberies, safes blown up, bootleg gin mills, gambling house raids and a wave of arson that did millions in damage and had people talking about troops to protect the city.
When World War I started, someone even tried to blow up the water main feeding the city's reservoirs.
The scrapbooks are now in Weber State University's Special Collections library, which houses a vast store of Top of Utah history and documentation. Curator Sarah Langsdon said there is no indication of who kept the scrapbooks or who decided the police department should get rid of them.
"They were originally at Utah State University, but they sent them to us when they saw what they contained," she said.
The scrapbooks have been used by students and historians researching Ogden history, particularly 25th Street, which had a reputation of being a center of crime.
The public can view them, but you have to ask. They can't be checked out.
The books have one disadvantage: They are not indexed, nor do they follow any plan or layout. Stories were clipped, dated and pasted in as events occurred.
So reading the books is a random thing. Much that is not crime was also included, probably because whoever made the collection just thought the stories were interesting.
Some examples from the ledgers:
* The United States entered World War I in 1917 and people were on edge. On Aug. 13, 1917, six sticks of dynamite were found with a lit fuse on the 36-inch pipeline feeding the city's reservoirs.
"Community saved from disaster that would have included cutting off water supply, destruction of reservoir and flooding of city's residence district," said the Evening Standard.
The Morning Examiner (the two papers merged in 1920) said the bomb caused "intense excitement" in the city, and "gave reason for the belief ... that an agent of a foreign government is working in Ogden."
An article on Aug. 31, 1919, warns that counterfeit nickels are being passed in Ogden. This was when a nickel would buy about what a dollar buys in 2011 and so was worth faking. The U.S. Mint now spends 6 cents to make a nickel.
* In 1919 a wave of arson hit Ogden, destroying ice houses, warehouses, factories and other structures. Between May and August more than $152,000 -- which equals more than $2 million today -- was lost.
On Aug. 6, 1919, five mammoth ice houses used by the railroad were torched, lighting up the sky west of Ogden and bringing calls for troops to protect the city. A vigilance committee was formed and citizens demanded that the police and county sheriff take more action.
The sheriff and police chief responded, according to one story, "with the announced purpose of ridding Ogden and Weber County of all undesirables, agitators, ultra-radicals and others of that type with the hope of catching and punishing the 'firebugs.' "
Despite all that, on Sept. 18 someone tried to burn down the Ogden Tabernacle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Whoever collected the news clips did not cut one out saying the firebugs were caught.
* Speaking of bugs, in July of 1921 the Standard-Examiner carried a story saying a tourist had told his hometown paper, the Napa Register, that he had not found one single housefly anywhere in Ogden.
"I walked the main streets trying to find a fly, a house-fly. I walked by vegetable and fruit stands exposed to the sidewalk. I looked in show windows and everywhere ... but none could I find."
* President Woodrow Wilson visited Ogden on Sept. 23, 1919. He was passing through, but his train stopped long enough for him to make a speech, tour the city and get several full pages of coverage.
* On Aug. 23, 1923, a massive rainstorm hit the Wasatch Front which, at that time, did not have flood control measures built in the canyons above Willard or Farmington.
Willard was under several feet of water. A farmer driving past Farmington had his car swept away with him still in it. A. L. Glasmann, publisher of the Standard-Examiner (the two papers had merged) went to Willard and sent telegraph dispatches back, a 1923 version of blogging.
"Earl Ward, whose wife Agnes Ward is missing, was washed out of his car as he dashed toward his home when he realized the fierceness of the storm. As he struggled in the water he was stunned by a log floating past him. Upon recovering he found his house had been swept away."
Two pages of pictures show the devastation, with water flowing halfway up the sides of cars and homes sitting amid a sea of water.
Glasmann ends by saying, probably unnecessarily, "the district is a picture of desolation. It seems that steps must be taken to provide relief for those whose property has been lost."
During the Depression, federal work programs built massive flood controls in the mountains above Willard and Farmington.