The City of Joseph in Focus: The Use and Abuse of Historic Photographs

Careful documentation and publication of Nauvoo photographs will enhance Latter-day Saint historical scholarship by permitting researchers and authors to use these materials accurately as primary sources for studies of old Mormon Nauvoo.

Just over one hundred and fifty years ago, in September 1839, the first American photographers made the earliest images on metal plates called daguerreotypes. Within a short time of its introduction in the United States, the daguerreotype was brought to Nauvoo by Lucian Foster, a New York convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He set up his daguerrean gallery at the corner of Parley and Hyde streets and produced the first photographic images of Nauvoo and its citizens (1844–46). His work began a process that eventually created thousands of photographic views of Nauvoo. Only a few of Foster’s views exist today, among them the famous “Temple on the Hill,” sometimes known as the “Temple over the Outhouse.”

Besides Foster, other photographers to capture the city include Thomas Easterly, a St. Louis photographer (1846–47); B. H. Roberts, Church leader and historian (1885); F. Goulty, a local photographer and businessman (1890–1900); James Ricalton, a professional photographer from the firm of Underwood & Underwood (1904); George Edward Anderson, a Utah portrait and landscape photographer (1907); and Harold Allen, an architectural photographer at the Chicago Art Institute (1940–60). The early views of Nauvoo produced by these photographers, along with many other photographs housed in private and public repositories throughout the United States, make up part of the documentary sources upon which modern historical research and publication are based.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 32:1-2
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