Utah (S4.06)

S04E06 Utah Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be talking about Utah, the Beehive State. Named for the Ute people, a Native American tribe that has occupied for area for hundreds of years, Utah became the 45th state admitted to the U.S. on January 4, 1896, after the territory was won in the Mexican-American War in 1848.


With a total land area of 82,144 sq mi (212,761 km), Utah is a shade larger than Uganda, and just smaller than Romania. The state is bordered by Colorado to the east, Wyoming to the northeast, Idaho to the north, Arizona to the south, and Nevada to the west. It also touches a corner of New Mexico in the southeast, where the famous ‘four corners’ monument can be found. The state is currently home to around 3.2 million people, 62% of whom are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or LDS, known to most people as Mormons. The LDS church migrated there in 1847, while it was still Mexican territory, to escape persecution, but it soon became part of the United States. Utah has the second highest birth rate of any US state, and it is the only state to have a majority of its population belonging to a single church.

This episode, just like all of our recent ones, is supported by our Patreon backers. If you want to help out the show, you can help out by joining us over on www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast to give us whatever you can in terms of financial support and avail of all the lovely awards and extras that entitles you to. If you’re unable to support us financially, you can always leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts from.


Salt Lake City, Utah

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Ireland. Our guest in this episode is Prof. Greg Jackson from the podcast History That Doesn’t Suck. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella)

Some further reading:

  • For more on the early history of Utah’s native settlers, see A History of Utah’s American Indians by Forrest Cuch.
  • The Fremont Culture discussed in this episode is detailed further in this whitepaper from the National Parks Service.
  • ThoughtCo discusses the Puebloans here.
  • The website of Hovenweep National Park, which Joe mentioned in this episode can be found here.
  • National Geographic’s discussion of “The Lost World Of The Old Ones” reveals more on the cliffside granaries used by the Puebloans.
  • For the more visually-minded, this YouTube documentary discusses the tragic fate of the Donner Party.
  • Prof. Greg Jackson’s History That Doesn’t Suck podcast also has an episode on the Donner Party
  • Joe touched on the design of Utah’s city blocks, which is elaborated on in this episode of the design podcast 99% Invisible.
  • The History Channel has a documentary on The Utah War, a clip of which is used in this episode.
  • David Roberts’ article on the same topic, entitled “The Brink of War” on Smithsonian.com is also worth reading.
  • Hubert Howe Bancroft’s History of Utah is also referenced in this episode.
  • The joining of the coasts by telegraph is detailed online by the Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History Museum.
  • Joe also quotes from Beehive History, Vol. 8, which can be found here.

Music that might interest listeners:

Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (S2.10)

Birobidzhan Audio Link

In this episode of 80 Days: An Exploration Podcast, we’ll be discussing the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (JAO), a somewhat independent region in the Russian Far East wedged between Siberia and Northern China. Its capital is the city of Birobidzhan, and with 75,000 inhabitants it is by far the most populated part of the region. For that reason, the name Birobidzhan is often used to refer to the whole area.

Officially founded in 1934 as an attempt to create a Jewish state within Russian borders, the territory was the world’s first attempt at a Jewish national homeland in modern times, and today is Russia’s only autonomous oblast. Aside from Israel, it is the world’s only officially Jewish territory. As of the 2010 Census, JAO’s population was 176,558 people, or 0.1% of the total population of Russia. Judaism is practiced by only 0.2% of the population of the JAO.


This special episode was commissioned by one our very generous Kickstarter backers, Ian Prince from New York (who does terrible things with food on Instagram). Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle)


The somewhat familiar-looking flag of Birobidzhan


Some sources and further reading for this episode;

  • Masha Gessen’s Where The Jews Aren’t was the basis for this commissioned episode, you can find it on Amazon here, or listen to the author talk about it on NPR’s Fresh Air here
  • We also relied heavily on this excellent multimedia gallery from Swarthmore College, entitled Stalin’s Forgotten Zion.
  • An interview from People’s World with Masha Gessen provides some solid background on the region.
  • We mentioned the RT profile of Birobidzhan in this episode, you can find that here on YouTube.
  • The New York Times profiled Birobidzhan back in 2012. It’s worth a read.
  • The book Jews and Jewish Life in Russia and the Soviet Union by Yaacov Ro’i has some interesting info on the JAO and wider context surrounding Jewish communities in Russia.
  • If you’re interesting in learning more about Stalin in particular, you can check out our episode from earlier this season on Georgia, birthplace of “Joe Steel”.
  • Michigan State University has a good article on the history of the region, as well as some visual essays here.

Thanks to Louise Ireson, John Killeen, Simon Greene for your support on Kickstarter. Thanks too to Rabbi Eliyahu Riss in Birobidzhan for interviewing with us.

We also need to thank our sponsor for the season Hairy Baby, who in addition to making the funniest Irish-themed t-shirts, have also produced the official 80 Days shirt for our supporters. Find it by clicking here. You can get 10% off anything on www.hairybaby.com by using our promo code “80DAYS”.

This will be the final episode for this season, but never fear, we’ll be back with more obscure goodness soon. We’re extremely grateful to everyone who’s supported us over the past year and a bit of podcasting, and if you want to hear more stay subscribed to the feed and keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We’ll see you soon!