Averell Harriman Sends Steve Hannagan to Sun Valley

In the mid-1930s, Averell Harriman, President of the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) sought a location for a ski resort in the mountainous west to spur passenger traffic. Harriman found a location for a resort outside of Ketchum, Idaho and hired Steve Hannagan to do for Sun Valley what he had done for Miami Beach – turn the ski resort into a nationally recognized vacation destination.

Hannagan agreed to work with Harriman, even though Hannagan lived by the mantra on his Times Square billboard that – “When it is winter in New York it is summer in Miami.” He believed that bitter cold blasts of winter were either to be avoided or leavened by the warmth of good Irish whisky while enjoying a convivial conversation with his friends in the Stork Club. When Hannagan rode into the snow-covered mountain valley, he was surprised to find that the valley that did not live up to his fear that it would be wind swept arctic desert. Here is how he described his mid-winter arrival into the mountain valley soon to be known as ‘Sun Valley’.

“All I had on was a light tweed suit; I was used to the sun down in Miami Beach, and it was colder than hell. So we got out and looked around and all I could see [was] just a goddam field of snow … This is strictly ridiculous; … but we walked around some more with my shoes full of snow, and then the sun came out. It began to feel pretty good, so I opened my coat. Then I took it off. Pretty soon, I opened my vest. Then I began to sweat. You know the temperature got up to 97 degrees there in the sun and the snow still doesn’t melt. When you think of winter sports, you usually think of the cold don’t you? “[1]

http://skiresorts.com/assets/upload/4/63jg7lf0lc53792b.jpg

Looking from the Future Site of the Ski Resort Lodge toward Bald Mountain [2]

Steve – Did He Name Sun Valley?

Steve Hannagan told the story that his trip into the mountain valley was the genesis for the name of the Harriman resort. Although the winter temperature in the snow-covered valley averaged 17.5 degrees F, the warmth of the sun convinced Hannagan that he could sell Harriman’s resort as a place for “Winter sports under a summer sun.”[3] From this creative insight came the valley’s evocative name “Sun Valley.”

The locals in the nearby time of Ketchum, Idaho were not keen about using the name Sun Valley instead of Ketchum. Steve “told them that there might be a few names less sexy, but he couldn’t think of any.”[4] Besides the name was vulnerable to wiseacres who could call it “Ketchum & Fleece-um!

Before the Sun Valley resort came to town, the only excitement in Ketchum was a rustic Casino whose main customers were rough cowboys looking for weekend gambling, drinking, and women. Travelers dropping into the Ketchum Casino did so either because they were lost or wanted to rough with local rough necks.

Ketchum Casino[5]

The following photo of UP passenger trains parked at the Ketchum depot depicts Harriman’s business goal for Ketchum – a starting point for passengers headed to Sun Valley. Nevertheless, many visitors to Sun Valley returned to Ketchum looking for excitement around the gaming tables at the casino rather than spending a sedate evening looking at flames in fireplace.

https://sunvalleymag.com/content/uploads/2016/05/Screen%20shot%202013-12-12%20at%2010_54_51%20AM.png

What Harriman Wanted at Sun Valley Union Pacific Passenger Trains[6]

End Notes

  1. Ogibene, Peter J. (December 1, 1984); “At the first ski spa, stars outshone the sun and snow”; Smithsonian; p. 112.
  2. Photograph of Sun Valley and Bald Mountain (retrieved January 19, 2014); Ski Resorts. Com; http://skiresorts.com/sun-valley
  3. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 2.
  4. Cutlip, Scott (1994); The Unseen Power; Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers; Hillsdale, New Jersey; p. 264.
  5. Photography of Ketchum Casino (Retrieved August 22, 2017); https://www.google.com/search?q=ketchum+idaho+old+casino+photographs&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjgycmOpezVAhWD5SYKHRZMBW0QsAQIJQ&biw=1366&bih=662#imgdii=xGkbQK-SQXAwyM:&imgrc=uQtx480R53PjiM:
  6. Photo of Union Pacific Rail Station at Sun Valley Railway (Retrieved August 21, 2017); https://sunvalleymag.com/content/uploads/2016/05/Screen%20shot%202013-12-12%20at%2010_54_51%20AM.png

Steve Hannagan’s Vision for Sun Valley

 

As Steve Hannagan’s passed through Ketchum after his trip to the future Sun Valley, he realized that Averell Harriman could not depend on a run-down mountain town to entertain his guests. [1] Hannagan told Harriman that he should build a resort with world class amenities to serve the celebrities and monied crowd that he wanted to attract to Sun Valley.[2]

Harriman’s first goal was to site the resort so that “the last rays of winter sunshine as the sun [set] behind Baldy Mountain would shine through the ski lodge’s picture windows.”[3] This scene, like the winter beach in Miami, would become the archetypical scene in Hannagan’s publicity campaign for Sun Valley.

C:\Users\Michael\Documents\MKT files\Publications\Hannagan Project\Sun Valley\Hannagan & Harriman.jpg

Averill Harriman and Steve Hannagan Overlooking Construction of the Sun Valley Resort[4]

Image result for Sun Valley Lodge

The Sun Valley Lodge Rises[5]

During Hannagan’s return trip to New York, he wrote a ‘remarkably visionary two-page memo’ telling Harriman what he would have to do to make the resort a success and an unforgettable experience for its guests. [6] The lead for Hannagan‘s memorandum said –

That the “resort had to rise above the perception of being just another ski mountain like those in New Hampshire or Vermont or Massachusetts. It had to have European cachet.”[7]

In the memorandum, Hannagan pressed Harriman to incorporate the following concepts into his plans:

  • “There should be an ice skating rink.”[8]
  • “There should be a glass walled but open ceiling hot water pool … Imagine swimming pictures and diving pictures with snowcapped mountains as background [shades of Miami Beach promotions].”[9]
  • “People like to leave the hotel. Nearby there might be a billiard parlor and a bowling alley.”[10] [Bowling and billiards harkened back to his promotions for Brunswick-Balke-Callender; he never gave up on promoting old or new clients.]
  • “… and certainly a motion picture show [a place where entertainment stars can go to admire themselves].”[11]
  • “Mechanical devices must be installed to take people to the top of the mountain.[12]

Importing the success of Hannagan’s Miami Beach bathing beauties campaign to a wintery Idaho proved a highly successful, if surprising, ploy.

Harriman Built Hannagan’s Indoor-Swimming Pool[13]

Harriman, though feeling overwhelmed by Hannagan’s rush of ideas, eventually used most of his suggestions. Steve Hannagan had insisted that Sun Valley be the ‘best of the best’; and fortunately Harriman had the money to convert Steve’s grandiose ideas into reality. The close relationship between Harriman and Hannagan during the Sun Valley project worked well and was responsible for its on-going success as a leading ski resorts in the world.

End Notes

  1. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 15.
  2. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 16.
  3. Taylor, Dorice (1980); Sun Valley; Ex Libris Sun Valley; pp. 31-32.
  4. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; p. 13.
  5. Photograph of the construction of the Sun Valley Lodge (Retrieved August 25, 2017); http://www.adelheimer.com/history/
  6. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 16.
  7. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 15.
  8. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 16.
  9. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guid;; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 16.
  10. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 16
  11. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 16.
  12. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 16.
  13. Photograph of Two Women in Pool Regalia (Retrieved August 25, 2017); https://www.pinterest.com/pin/117797346479306341

Sun Valley Opens with a Bang!

As the Sun Valley Lodge neared completion, Averell Harriman and Steve Hannagan planned a gala grand opening to introduce the resort to the press. They wanted newspaper coverage to show that Sun Valley was the most elegant ski resort outside of Austria and Switzerland.

Harriman scheduled the grand opening for December 21, 1936 and Hannagan rounded up stars from Hollywood and social elite from the East coast. Their stay was free.[1] Unlike today, there were no payments to attend a promotional event. In return, all Hannagan wanted was a picture of these honored guests for publicity photos. From Steve’s perspective, the big deal was not skiing it was the selling of the Sun Valley experience.

December 21st – The Resort’s Grand Opening Was a Knockout!

There was one climatic problem at the Grand Opening of the Sun Valley Ski Resort. For the first time in fifty-four years there was no snow. All the guests saw was “dry, dusty ski runs and acres of banal sage brush.”[2] Some of the paying guests called the resort the “Ketchum Con.”[3]

The 21st of December was looking like a publicity bust with no snow and only the low-key murmurings of the stars, socialites, and their consorts as they wended their way to the dining room. However, the guests were soon to experience one of the more exciting events in ‘grand opening promotions.’

The Grand Opening dinner, carried by radio station KSL of Salt Lake City, fit the royal expectations of the swells brought in by Hannagan.. The menu included sophisticated French dishes: Brioche au Caviar, Supreme [de] Sole au Champagne, and Tournedos Sauté Chatelaine served with wine, champagne, and liquor flowing freely for all.[4] Even though there was no snow, rich food, good booze, and passion produced the main event of the evening, and also Hannagan’s headline for the event.

As the sumptuous meal ended and the dance bands began enticing guests to the dance floor, a small altercation over the Hollywood star Claudette Colbert turned the pleasant soiree into an evening at the fights. Some guests described the evening as the Dempsey-Tunney fight with tuxedos, gowns, and bejeweled stars and foolish men.

The altercation started when Charles F. Gore, an investment banker from Chicago, barged into the David Selznick’s, who were entertaining, Joan Bennett, Claudette Colbert, and their spouses.[5] Given the tenuous hold that Gore had on his sobriety, he insisted that Colbert take the dance floor with him.[6] Selznick who was notorious for his short fuse, jumped to the star’s defense and decked Gore with a shot to his eye.[7] Management was horrified seeing their elegant evening turning into a honky-tonk bar scene.

Gone With the Wind producer David O. Selznick helped launch Sun Valley.

David O. Selznick[8]

Larry Smits, Hannagan’s top assistant assigned to Sun Valley, immediately telephoned Hannagan in New York and told him about the disastrous evening. Hannagan response was classic Steve “What do you mean your party’s ruined? Hannagan shouted. Not an editor in the country can resist this story.”[9] Steve quickly rapped out on his typewriter the following lead that became the memorable party’s headline for the ages: ‘Sun Valley Opens with a Bang.”[10]

The St. Stephen’s Day Snow

Hannagan had the Hollywood stars, the swells, the elegant dinner, and his big headline. Now, he needed snow to fall on Sun Valley. Five days after the grand opening on December 26th, the first major winter snowfall arrived in Sun Valley. As the blizzard built in intensity, Steve cranked up the phone and called his Hollywood Associate, Paul Snell, telling him “We’re having the god-damnest snow storm here – – thank god!” [11] Steve told Snell to call Associated Press, United Press, and International News Services in Los Angeles and to tip-off the wire services and to contact their bureaus in Salt Lake City about the storm.[12]

By the way, the snow fell on the day honoring Hannagan’s namesake saint, St. Stephen. He was an early martyr, stoned by a raging crowd whom he denounced for being ‘stiff-necked’ for rejecting salvation.[13] Hannagan’s namesake was a bit of irony for a publicist. Fortunately for him, he never ended up like his patron saint.

Related image

Winter at Sun Valley[14]

Now that Sun Valley had its snow, Steve collected another trainload of stars and starlets from Hollywood for a glamour trip to Sun Valley. To publicize the trip, Steve hired a former news photographer to ride with the Hollywood glamour to Sun Valley. To Steve’s chagrin, the photographer, a notorious drunk, was too soused to take pictures. Even if he wanted to take pictures, he could not because he had pawned the camera to buy another bottle of booze. At the station, Hannagan found a UP employee who had taken several candid shots with his little Kodak camera. These Brownie photos were sent to national papers. They may not have been professional photographs, but they did the trick for Hannagan. He was a happy publicist by hitting a publicity trifecta – congeries of stars at the Grand Opening, a fight and headline, and finally photos of beautiful people to show off the sun and fun at Sun Valley.

End Notes

  1. In 1936, Hollywood stars could be bought for a pittance unlike today, when stars sell themselves like nuggets of gold.
  2. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 18.
  3. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 18..
  4. Ogibene, Peter J. (December 1, 1984); “ At the First Ski Spa, Stars Outshone the Sun and Snow”; Smithsonian; pp. 112-113.
  5. Taylor, Dorice (1980); Sun Valley; Ex Libris Sun Valley; p. 45.
  6. Taylor, Dorice (1980); Sun Valley; Ex Libris Sun Valley; p. 45.
  7. Taylor, Dorice (1980); Sun Valley; Ex Libris Sun Valley; p. 45.
  8. Photograph of David O. Selznick (Retrieved August 25, 2017); Los Angeles Times; Hollywood Starwalk; http://projects.latimes.com/hollywood/star-walk/david-o-selznick/.
  9. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 15.
  10. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 15.
  11. Ross, Edward Ellis; Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 172.
  12. Ross, Edward Ellis; Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 172.
  13. Saint Stephen (Retrieved October 19, 2017); Wikipedia; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Stephen
  14. Photograph of Sun Valley Lodge in Winter (Retrieved August 25, 2017); http://www.inidaho.com/official_hotel_motel.asp?ID=60

Sun Valley & Hollywood

Hollywood and Hannagan’s Publicity Machine

Steve Hannagan plugged Sun Valley by convincing Hollywood producers to use Sun Valley as a setting for their movies. It was product placement writ large. His first success was Wesley Ruggles’ movie “I Met Him in Paris” with Sun Valley as a substitute for the Alps. Although Sun Valley is not mentioned in the film, press releases for the movie and the popular press said that it was filmed at the resort.[1]

http://www.mpb.auction/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/mpb2016_1369.jpg

Lobby Card for ‘I Met Him in Paris’[2]

By the time Steve passed from the scene in 1953, a baker’s dozen of movies were filmed with Sun Valley as the background. Two films starred three-time Olympic winter sports champion: Sonja Henie – Everything Happens at Night with Ray Milland and Robert Cummings in 1938 and Sun Valley Serenade 1941 by Daryl Zanuck[3]

http://8mm16mmfilmscollectibles.com/everythinghappensatnight1a.jpg

Lobby Card for ‘Everything Happens at Night’[4]

Sun Valley Serenade Shines On | Sun Valley

Lobby Card for ‘Sun Valley Serenade’[5]

Sun Valley was a backdrop for many other movies that needed mountains in the background. For instance, Daryl Zanuck’s 1939 adventure film “Stanley and Livingstone” the mountains of Sun Valley stood-in for African mountains.[6] In the 1940 film, “the Mortal Storm,” Sun Valley’s mountains took a bow as the Austrian Alps[7] and “Northern Pursuit” a World War II film, saw Sun Valley treated as an Artic Mountain Range.[8] Sun Valley was even a setting for an Esther Williams, the swimming queen of Hollywood, in the ‘Duchess of Idaho’.[9]

https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-JLHvET5eLnU/V04OeLNxpuI/AAAAAAAA7FA/kbbA9kzJmyw48fXPml6JZCBYOeQCNvyIACLcB/s1600/DuchessofIdahoLobby.jpg

Esther Williams Uses Hannagan’s Pool[10]

Another movie that employed the vistas of Sun Valley was “How to Marry a Millionaire” filmed in 1953 starring three of the Queens of Hollywood at the time: Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, and Betty Grable. In this film, Sun Valley was a substitute for Maine.[11] Sun Valley provided directors with easily accessible backdrops for mountain and wintry scenery because it was close to Hollywood.

[ HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE POSTER ]

Three Queens of Hollywood in Sun Valley[12]

Hannagan’s Relentless Sun Valley Publicity Machine

Hannagan and his associates pumped press releases, pictures, and events about Sun Valley to newspapers, movie news services, radio, and major magazines. Sun Valley fame was carried by society columnists, gossip mongers, advertisers and editors looking for stories of the rich and famous. Here are just a few story lines printed by the press about the resort and in several instances publicized Steve Hannagan:

  • Walter Winchell wrote: “Steve Hannagan’s got the town (New York City) in a song, Moon over Sun Valley, – what a press agent.”[13]
  • John Wannamaker’s store (located in downtown Philadelphia) carried this ad: “America will play at home … under the brilliant blue skies of Wyoming’ Sun Valley”[14] (Steve telegrammed the advertising manager telling him that Sun Valley was in Idaho not Wyoming.)
  • Lucius Beebe’s column needled Hannagan, noting that the Sun Valley icon was “naked to the waist and sweating” but his shoes were “cased in the Idaho snow.”[15]
  • The New York Mirror’s movie critic commented that Steve Hannagan somehow induced Darryl Zanuck to turn Sonja Henie’s Sun Valley Serenade into “an unadulterated sales plug for a commercial account (Sun Valley) [that] ever [came] out of … Hollywood “[16]
  • Variety said flatly, “Steve Hannagan’s campaign in Sun Valley, with film tied in, has made skiing the most publicized winter sport”[17]

Three months after the Grand Opening, there was a massive six-page spread in Life Magazine’s March 8, 1937 issue, featuring the Eastern social elite playing at the new Sun Valley Resort. However, the pictures on the article’s last page would give pause to any sensible person planning a skiing holiday at any resort because it showed novice skiers and ski instructors recovering from spinal injuries, broken legs, and sprained wrists.[18]

End Notes

  1. Taylor, Dorice (1980); Sun Valley; Ex Libris Sun Valley; p. 48.
  2. Lobby Card ‘I Met Him in Paris (Retrieved August 24, 2017); mbp.auction.com; http://www.mpb.auction/product/i-met-him-in-paris-paramount-1937-8-lobby-cards/
  3. “Sun Valley Movie History: The perfect location” (retrieved April 2, 2014); The Valley Sun; http://blog.sunvalley.com/2013/03/sun-valley-movie-history-the-hollywood-connection/.
  4. Lobby Card “Everything Happens at Night’ (Retrieved August 25, 2017); MoviesPictures.Org.
  5. Lobby Card ‘Sun Valley Serenade’ (Retrieved August 25, 2017); https://www.pinterest.com/pin/144818944243839276.
  6. “Stanley and Livingston”; Wikipedia (retrieved February 22, 2015); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_and_Livingstone.
  7. “Mortal Storm”; IMBd (retrieved February 22, 2015); http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032811/locations.
  8. “Northern Pursuit”; IMBd (retrieved February 22, 2015); http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0036218/locations.
  9. “Esther Williams”; Wikipedia (Retrieved February 22, 2015); http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esther_Williams.
  10. ‘Duchess of Idaho’ Lobby Card (Retrieved August 26, 2017); Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings; May 31, 2016; http://laurasmiscmusings.blogspot.com/2016/05/tcm-in-june-highlights.html.
  11. “How to Marry a Millionaire”; IMBd (retrieved February 22, 2015) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045891/locations.
  12. ‘How to Marry a Millionaire’ Lobby Card (Retrieved August 26, 2017); movieposter.com; http://www.movieposter.com/poster/MPW-28539/How_to_marry_a_millionaire.html.
  13. Ross, Edward Ellis; Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 176.
  14. Ross, Edward Ellis; Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 176.
  15. Ross, Edward Ellis; Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 177.
  16. Ross, Edward Ellis; Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 178.
  17. Ross, Edward Ellis; Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 178.
  18. “East Goes West to Idaho’s Sun Valley, Society’s Newest Winter Playground” (March 8, 1937); Life; Vol2, No.10; p. 27.

Steve Hannagan Invents the Ski Chair

Steve Hannagan was the impetus behind the invention of the modern ski chair lift. After mulling over the rigors of reaching the top of a ski slope, Hannagan suggested to Averell Harriman that Sun Valley needed a “mechanical device” to take people up the mountain. Hannagan believed that the crowd coming to Sun Valley wanted the joy of skiing and not the wear and tear of climbing to the top of a ski slope or being drug up the mountain on a tow line. Both forms of travel Hannagan saw as an undignified form of travel.

Harriman immediately assigned Jim Curran, a bridge engineer for Union Pacific to design a ski chair. Curran turned to his experience with unloading boats from Honduran as the model for the ski chair and lift.[1] His ski chair apparatus was based on this simple model. The following picture depicts a test run of the chair at Union Pacific’s Omaha Operations Center.

Image result for Sun Valley Lodge 1936 construction photos

Testing the Mechanics of the Ski Chair[2]

After Omaha tested the ski chair for reliability, Curran took his team to Sun Valley to oversee its the location of the lift, construction of the tramway and installation of the ski chairs. An early press release by Hannagan even gave the chair its original name: “chair-type lifts”, which was eventually shortened to chair lift.[3]

1939 Sun Valley Single Chairlift

Original Ski Chair[4]

Initially, skiers sat perpendicular to the direction of travel. As the following picture shows, skiers waiting for a ride sat on a snow bank. Waiting on a cold snow bank did not seem to meet Hannagan’s goal of a comfortable ride to the top. Sun Valley crews had to maintain a snow free channel and constant removal of new snow so that skiers could board the chair and be lifted above the snow.

the first chair lift built in sun valley idaho - Google Search

Tramway for the Ski Chairs[5]

http://www.svguide.com/w11/w11pics/svhannagan-lift.jpg

Steve Hannagan on the Ski Lift[6]

 

Worlds First Ski Lift - Proctor Mountain Sun Valley Idaho

Abandoned Ski Lift at Sun Valley[7]

The simple idea that Steve had about a ski lift has subsequently become the standard for the ski industry. Not a bad result for a press agent with no engineering skills.

End Notes

  1. Monkey, Moon (May 8, 2013); “Bananas and the World’s First Chair Lift” (retrieved January 24, 2014); Snow Brains.
  2. Photograph of Test of Ski Chair Using a Truck; Union Pacific Railroad Invention Still Takes Skiers to the Top: (Retrieved January 24, 2014); UP Building America; http://www.uprr.com/newsinfo/releases/heritage_and_steam/2010/1129_sunvalley-chairlift.shtml p 1
  3. Taylor, Dorice (1980); Sun Valley; Ex Libris Sun Valley; p 36.
  4. Photograph of an Original Ski Chair (Retrieved January 24, 2014) http://www.vintagesnow.net/Original-Sun-Valley-Single-Chairlift-p/chairlift1.htm
  5. Photograph of the catenary system (Retrieved August 23, 2017); https://www.pinterest.com/pin/86694361555047308.
  6. Photograph of Steve Hannagan on the ski lift (Retrieved August 21, 2017); http://www.svguide.com/w11/w11pics/svhannagan-lift.jpg.
  7. Photograph of an abandoned ski lift at Sun Valley (Retrieved August 25, 2017); https://photorator.com/photo/28588/worlds-first-ski-lift-proctor-mountain-sun-valley-idaho-.

Steve Hannagan and the Sun Valley Skier Icon

 

Steve Hannagan is credited not only with naming Sun Valley, he also had his team develop the famous skiing icon used in advertisements about the resort.

C:\Users\Michael\Documents\MKT files\Publications\Hannagan Project\Picture Files\icon skiing (2) (253x199).jpg

Steve Hannagan’s Sun Valley Icon[1]

Peter Ogibene in a Smithsonian article noted that Steve’s iconic theme for Sun Valley would not involve bathing beauties. Instead, Steve chose beefcake by photographing a ”handsome young man on skis, stripped to the waist … [while] mopping the perspiration from his brow.”[2] The photograph looked like the real McCoy, but it was taken in New York. Not only was the location a fake, the sweat came from a tub of Vaseline and a white sheet stood in for the snow.[3]

Sun Valley Lodge

How the Sun Valley Icon Was Used in an Advertisement[4]

Steve placed the photograph on the cover of the first edition of the Sun Valley Guide published in 1936. In 2010, the Sun Valley Guide reported that Steve’s iconic photograph of the “sophisticated, handsome man in a place of beauty, surrounded by snow, yet warm enough to savor the midday sun” quickly became the face of Sun Valley.”[5] The ski icon has entered the advertising lexicon and now is used in advertisements for other settings besides Sun Valley.

End Notes

  1. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 14.
  2. Ogibene, Peter J. (December 1, 1984); “At the first ski spa, stars outshone the sun and snow”; Smithsonian; p. 112.
  3. Tuohy, Jennifer (winter 2010/11); “From the Editor;” Sun Valley Guide; (retrieved April 4, 201); http://www.svguide.com/w11/index.html.
  4. Sun Valley Advertisement (Retrieved August 24, 2017); https://www.pinterest.com/pin/566116615637783435
  5. Sauter, Van Gordon and Jennifer Tuohy (Winter 2010/11); “It Happened to Sun Valley”; Sun Valley Guide; http://www.svguide.com/w11/sunvalley.html (retrieved April 1, 2011); p. 14.

Hannagan and Hemingway

The Hollywood and social celebrities that Steve Hannagan enticed to Sun Valley paled in comparison to arranging for Ernest Hemingway’s visit at the resort. In the fall of 1939, Hannagan heard that Hemingway was in Montana on a hunting trip, Hannagan immediately sent, Gene Van Guilder, his resident associate at Sun Valley, to find Hemingway and offer him gratis room and services at the Resort lodge.

Guilder successfully found Hemingway and checked him into Suite 206, a choice corner suite. At the lodge, Hemingway and his family found that they could sign for anything with no expectation of payment. His son, Jack, said that signing for something “was sort of a sinister thing.”[1] Martha Gellhorn, a world-famed journalist in her own right joined Hemingway at Sun Valley while she auditioned for the part of the newest Mrs. Hemingway.

Ernest Hemingway and his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, at the Sun Valley Lodge in Idaho.

Hemingway and Gellhorn at Sun Valley[2]

Hemingway remained at Sun Valley from early fall of 1939 until December 9th, editing his latest novel, For Whom the Bells Toll, his story of the Spanish Civil War. The next year, Hemingway returned to Sun Valley to meet Gary Cooper, who would play the lead in the movie version of the novel.[3]

Related image

Gary Cooper, For Whom the Bells Toll[4]

Despite his reputation as a heavy drinker, Hemingway avoided alcohol while working on a novel and kept to a strict early morning regimen of writing, editing, and rereading drafts. In the afternoons, he and Gellhorn frequently traveled to Shoshone for upland pheasant and dove hunting and to Silver Creek for duck and goose hunting.[5]

http://media.spokesman.com/photos/2006/06/11/HAWKING_HEMINGWAY_06-11-2006_F97PH2G.jpg

Ernest Hemingway[6]

During Hemingway’s stay at the lodge, his publicity photos began to reach the national press carrying the dateline Sun Valley. The nearby picture of Hemingway working on his novel captures all that can be said of a well-staged publicity shot. Showing him editing a chapter with the mountains as a trope for his iconic features as a writer and a man’s man. Steve Hannagan got something else of inestimable, historic value from Hemingway’s free room and board – a line about Sun Valley in For Whom the Bells Toll.

Hemingway and the Death of Hannagan’s Chief Publicist for Sun Valley

Hemingway’s love of bird hunting involved him in the sad ending of Gene Van Guilder, who accidentally shot himself while hunting ducks. It happened when another hunter in the boat fired his gun and the recoil upset Van Guilder’s balance. Van Guilder’s gun accidentally fired and was fatally wounded.[7] Nothing could have been done because Van Guilder’s wound was too deep, and they were too far from help.

Related image

Ernest Hemingway with Gene Van Guilder[8]

Although Hemingway was not on the hunting trip, he accepted the grim duty of telling Hannagan that Van Guilder had died from a hunting accident. Hemingway also wrote the eulogy for Van Guilder’s funeral, which included the poignant phrase; “Best of all he loved the fall.”[9] There is a statue of a young Hemingway at his home in Ketchum that bears his tribute to Van Guilder.

According to Edward Ross’s research on Hannagan, Hemingway and Hannagan regularly corresponded until his death in the early fifties. Hemingway’s letters were “studded with four-letter words and anatomical references that [made Margaret Ray, Hannagan’s Executive Assistant blush].” [10] However, Hemingway’s usually wrote chatty letters about his work. For instance, the following quote is from a letter in 1950 written by Hemingway from his finca outside Havana.

“Dear Steve: Glad to hear from you kid … Have done two sets of galleys and now [we] are waiting for the page proofs [He was completing Across the River and into the Trees.] Have worked on it 18 months and gone over it about 200 times and I swear to Christ that when it is finished I will not go around reading passages from it to my friends at the Stork [Club].

Hemingway penned a side note on the letter to Hannagan saying “This book is very good. Don’t let someone knock you off.” [11] Steve treasured all his letters from Hemingway and was proud to correspond with an author considered at the time to be America’s greatest living novelist. Sadly, nearly all the correspondence between the two disappeared after Hannagan’s death when a custodian mistakenly carried his files to an incinerator rather than to storage.

End Notes

  1. Oppenheimer, Doug and Jim Poore (1976); Sun Valley; Beatty Books; Boise, Idaho; p. 147.
  2. Corrigan, Maureen (May 5, 2014); Photograph of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn at Sun Valley (Retrieved September 12, 2017); “In ‘Hotel Florida’ Three Couples Chronicle the Spanish Civil War”; WUNC; http://wunc.org/post/hotel-florida-three-couples-chronicle-spanish-civil-war#stream/0.
  3. The Editors of American Heritage (November 1998; Volume 49, Issue 7; Near Perfect Conditions”; American Heritage Magazine; (Retrieved March 31, 2011);http://www.americanheritage.com/content/near-perfect-conditions.
  4. Photograph of Gary Cooper, “For Whom the Bells Toll” (Retrieved September 13, 2017); http://www.doctormacro.com/Movie%20Summaries/F/For%20Whom%20the%20Bell%20Tolls.htm.
  5. Foley, Gregory (Fall 2005); “Best of all he loved the fall;” Sun Valley Guide (retrieved April 23, 2014); sunvalleyguide.com; http://www.svguide.com/svg_hem.htm.
  6. Photograph of Ernest Hemingway at His Typewriter; (June 11, 2006); (Retrieved September 13, 2017); “Hemingway Business Still Brisk at Sun Valley Lodge”; The Spokesman-Review; http://media.spokesman.com/photos/2006/06/11/HAWKING_HEMINGWAY_06-11-2006_F97PH2G.jpg.
  7. Arnold, Lloyd (1977); Hemingway High on the Wild; Grosset & Dunlap Publishers; New York; p. 26.
  8. Bossick, Karen (September 16, 2016); Photograph of Ernest Hemingway with Gene Van Guilder (Retrieved September 13, 2017); “Ernest Hemingway – A Conflicted ‘Rogue Male?’”; Eye on Sun Valley; http://www.eyeonsunvalley.com/Story_Reader/3057/Ernest-Hemingway%E2%80%94A-Conflicted-%27Rogue-Male?%27-/.
  9. Arnold, Lloyd (1977); Hemingway High on the Wild; Grosset & Dunlap Publishers; New York; p. 29.
  10. Ross, Edward Ellis;Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 179.
  11. Ross, Edward Ellis;Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 180.

Sun Valley – Steve Hannagan’s on Top of His Game

Steve Hannagan’s career was at full throttle in Sun Valley. Prior to Sun Valley’s existence and Hannagan’s publicity campaign most people associated with potatoes and timber not luxurious ski resorts.

In Sun Valley, Hannagan became part of the story and his fame was acknowledged in Life, Look, and by national news columnists. Although Hannagan claimed that he did not seek out press coverage, it was to his advantage to get it as it led to new business for his firm. Hannagan had entered the golden cycle of marketing, where fame begat fame.

http://www.mountainliving.com/images/cache/cache_8/cache_2/cache_5/sunvalleylodge-23f1e528.jpeg?ver=1469153162&aspectratio=2.755905511811

Sun Valley Lodge Today[1]

At Sun Valley, Hannagan perfected his technique of structuring and using pictures and events to create an image that convinced the target market that they needed what he was selling. As Hannagan had done for Miami Beach, he used free publicity about social, business, and celebrity elites and reported by national columnists to expand the reach of his publicity campaign.

http://www.mountainliving.com/poollodge.jpg

The Poolside View of Sun Valley Lodge[2]

If there was one factor that jumps out at each turn in Hannagan’s career, it was his ability to take bad news and turn it to his advantage. In Miami, it was bad weather; with Samuel Insull, it was his reputation as a greedy mogul; and in Sun Valley, it was a fight at the Grand Opening Gala between a Hollywood and a Chicago. His ability to turn a bad hand into a winning hand was a valuable commodity for a press agent, to paraphrase Steve; “Any news is good news.”

Even though Sun Valley has changed ownership many times and the elegance of the 1930s and 1940s has faded into the leisurely styles of the 21st century, Sun Valley remains imbued with Averill Harriman’s and Steve Hannagan’s spirit and joyfulness.

End Notes

  1. Johnson, Michelle; Photograph of Sun Valley Lodge (Retrieved September 13, 2017); Mountain Living; “The Luxurious New Lodging Options in Sun Valley”; http://www.mountainliving.com/Destinations/The-Luxurious-New-Lodging-Options-in-Sun-Valley/
  2. Johnson, Michelle; Photograph of Sun Valley Lodge (Retrieved September 13, 2017); Mountain Living; “The Luxurious New Lodging Options in Sun Valley”; http://www.mountainliving.com/Destinations/The-Luxurious-New-Lodging-Options-in-Sun-Valley/