June 9, 2016
Minerva Teichert (1888-1976), The Miracle of the Gulls, oil on canvas, c.1935, 69 5/8 x 57 5/8 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Flora Sundberg, 1936.
In 1848, the newly-settled Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley were enjoying a prosperous spring crop, eager about the harvest to come. However, in the late days of May, a mass of black crickets descended into the valley from the mountains and began consuming everything in sight. These crickets – as large as a man’s thumb – destroyed the settler’s crops, farms, and lands that they had worked so hard to cultivate in their new homeland. With a long, hot summer ahead, there would be no time to replant and start over…that is, if the crickets ever subsided.
On June 9, 1848, when it seemed that all hope was lost, these pioneers, who had already been through so much hardship as they left their homes and traveled across the barren Midwest and into the Rocky Mountains to settle the desert valley of Salt Lake, began to pray. They prayed that the locusts would leave and that their crops would be spared. Then came the gulls.
A cloud of seagulls flew in and devoured the crickets, saving the settlers’ crops and fields. The “Miracle of the Gulls” was recorded in several diaries of eyewitnesses, who mentioned that without the gulls, their crops would have been completely destroyed, making survival of these first pioneers less likely.
A few years later, the California gull was instated as the the state bird of Utah to commemorate the Miracle of the Gulls.