A Superlative Image: An Original Daguerreotype of Brigham Young

In July 2005, the Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City published a story with the punning headline “Old Young Photo donated to BYU.” Even though Mark and Suzanne Richards had donated the rare 1850s daguerreotype of Brigham Young to BYU in December 2004, the donation did not draw media attention until just days before the July 24 pioneer holiday in Utah. For historians, especially photographic historians, the story was compelling—one of those rare moments when something thought to have vanished suddenly reappears. It was known that this particular precious daguerreotype has been created because a later photographic copy of it existed and had been printed in 1936. However, researchers feared that the original had been lost—a victim of the ravage of time. The numerous news stories provided the public, the large extended Young family, and historians a sense of satisfaction that this priceless treasure from the past had found its way into an institutional repository where professional preservation methods could ensure its longevity.

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