Editor's note:This article is a part of a series reviewing Utah and U.S. history for KSL.com's Historic section.SALT LAKE CITY — News that rapper Post Malone recently purchased a $3 million “apocalypse” home in Cottonwood Heights and that he also used Big Cottonwood Canyon for a new music video taps into a tradition that has been in Utah for quite some time.
It’s easy to find stories of actors, musicians, comedians or socialites visiting Utah for its skiing, hunting or gorgeous views. But one story may just take the cake when it comes to celebrity interaction in Utah. It's about a chair that you can find at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources office in Salt Lake City.
It's not just any chair; its arms and legs are made from deer and elk antlers collected by legendary actor Clark Gable — perhaps best known for starring in "Gone With the Wind" in 1939 — during a successful hunt sometime decades ago, according to Division of Wildlife Resources officials.
As the story goes, Newell Cook served as Utah’s Fish and Game commissioner during the 1930s and would host annual hunting trips for notable guests. One such trip included “The King of Hollywood" himself: Gable. Following the hunt, Gable took elk and deer antlers back to California, where the chair was made. When he returned the following year he gave the chair to Cook as a gift.
So, who was Cook? He officially became the fish and game commissioner on March 15, 1931, and he liked to use motion pictures, as well — just in a different way. As noted in a paper about the history of Utah Fish and Game, by Edwin Rawley and LeeAnn Rawley, Cook used motion pictures to disseminate lectures about the department to schools, scouting groups and others. It’s believed that nearly 100,000 people had seen these lecture videos by 1934 — nearly one in five Utahns at the time.
Of course, this was the same time period as the Great Depression. In working with the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration, state wildlife officials built fish and game resources well before it was believed they could be completed. In addition, a new board was created to better define boundaries and game numbers during this era.
Cook served as the commissioner until 1940, and he died in 1961. The chair Gable gifted him remained a Cook family heirloom after his death. It was donated to the Division of Wildlife Resources two years ago. Anyone who visits the division's main office in Salt Lake City can check it out.