Utahns Divided Over Farnsworth Statue Replacement

SALT LAKE CITY—A decision to replace a statue of the father of television as a representative of the state of Utah in the U.S. Capitol has citizens of the Beehive state all abuzz.

At issue is a recent vote by the Utah Senate to remove a statue of Philo Farnsworth—who is credited with inventing the cathode ray tube—in the Capitol with a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon, the state’s first female senator. Supporters of the move wanted to use the occasion to mark the 2020 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote and mark 150 years since women in Utah were given the same right, according to the Cottonwood Holladay Journal.

Each state has two* statues in the U.S. Capitol’s visitor center representing a prominent figure from that particular state and the statues can be replaced anytime. Supporters of changing the statue note that Cannon will only occupy Farnsworth’s place until 2020, but that didn’t stop Farnsworth supporters from objecting.

[Read: The Farnsworth Invention]

“I don’t think the legislators realize what all Farnsworth did not only for our state but for the nation and the world,” Treva Barnson told the Journal. Barnson spoke on behalf of her husband Bruce, who led the campaign by elementary school students to have Farnsworth represent Utah in the Capitol 30 years ago. “We’re hoping that the Farnsworth statue will be placed in the Smithsonian and that in 10 years, he can rotate back to the Capitol.”

Choosing Cannon to replace Farnsworth wasn’t unanimous either, noted Salt Lake City Recorder Adam Gardiner, who introduced the bill a year ago. In addition to her role as an early suffragist, she was also a polygamous wife. There was “a lot of uproar,” Gardner told the Journal. “I got more phone calls, hate mail, some love mail, on this bill than any other.”

Barnson hopes that legislators will reconsider their decision.

"If you’re going to remove a statue from the U.S. Capitol, take Brigham Young down,” Barnson said. “Farnsworth was a scientist and inventor who inspires so many students.” 


Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.