75th Aniversary 2024
SAVE THE DATES
November 6th – 10th, 2024
The Directors of the Death Valley ’49ers are already working on the 75th Anniversary Celebration. We look forward to input on what type of celebration you would like to see, acquiring stories, historic photos and documents from our past and current members that have attended encampments. You can send a message under the Contact Us tab so that we can get in touch with you.
About the Centennial Celebration
From 1948 through 1950, Californians held a birthday party for their state. Through cavalcades, exhibitions, parades and festivals, they celebrated the centennials of the gold discovery, Gold Rush, and statehood. By far, the most ambitious event was a star-studded pageant in the heart of Death Valley. This dusty re-enactment of the Manly Party’s 1849 crossing drew thousands of spectators, and led to Death Valley’s first, and probably only, traffic jam. In addition to sponsoring many local events, the State of California launched a traveling museum containing historical artifacts and documents in two converted buses. This program ensured that all parts of California could join in the centennial celebrations.
The Death Valley Suite is a short symphonic suite written by Ferde Grofé in 1949, depicting the westward travels of pioneers through the ‘harsh lands’ of Death Valley in California. Grofe was commissioned by the Death Valley 49ers, a non profit organization devoted to preserving the pioneering and mining history of the Death Valley region (consisting of Death Valley National Park and surrounding area). The composition and music was part of a pageant celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 49ers who came by way of Death Valley in search of gold and other riches and celebration of the California state centennial (1850-1950).
The original performance was conducted by Grofe with the Hollywood Bowl Symphony on December 3, 1949 in the Desolation Canyon area of Death Valley National Monument (now Death Valley National Park). The music was used in the background as a procession of covered wagons entered the area. Actor James Stewart narrated the pageant celebration. The 1949 pageant was attended by 65,000 people.
The movements are titled:
I. Funeral Mountains – a strange atonal movement in 5/4 time
II. ’49er Emigrant Train – features colorful musical depictions of an Indian attack and a wagon train
III. Desert Water Hole – a medley mixing Oh! Susannah and the main theme of the piece.
IV. Sand Storm – another atonal movement featuring a wind machine with a final coda recapitulating the main dramatic theme.