Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints witnessed momentous events that directly affected them in 1893. Along with other Americans, the Latter-day Saints in the western United States experienced the terrible effects of the Panic of 1893, one of the worst financial depressions in the nation’s history.1 The early signs of the economic decline appeared in February 1893 when receivers were appointed for the debt-ridden Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. Soon thereafter, stock prices plummeted, more than fifteen thousand businesses failed, people walked away from their farms and homes unable to pay their mortgages, unemployment rates hit as high as 43 percent in some states, and by the end of the year more than four thousand banks had closed.2 Despite the economic crisis that gripped the nation, 1893 was a year of celebration for Church members as they dedicated the Salt Lake temple, built a resort at Saltair on the Great Salt Lake, and participated in the Chicago World’s Fair. Finally, by the end of 1893, the way began to open for Utah Territory to become a state. Each of these events made 1893 a significant year in the history of the Church, which was undergoing a cultural shift after the 1890 Manifesto.
Photographs in this article highlight one day in one of these events: April 6, 1893, the day of the temple dedication, when the First Presidency had portraits taken in Salt Lake City (fig. 1). These historic photos became scattered; some have never been published, and the collection has never been published together. This article will briefly review the events of 1893 and then discuss April 6 and the photo session in detail.
Construction of the temple foundation and walls took thirty-nine years, culminating in a capstone-laying ceremony in 1892 (fig. 2). This lengthy endeavor was followed by a year of tireless work and significant financial expense to complete the interior. The First Presidency, consisting of Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith, were ready to dedicate the edifice in April 1893. This temple was the sixth to be dedicated and the fourth in Utah, but because of its significance at Church headquarters, the First Presidency scheduled a first-ever temple open house for about a thousand non–Latter-day Saints on Wednesday, April 5, the evening before the first dedication session. President Woodruff entered the temple on the last day of the Church’s annual general conference, Thursday, April 6, 1893, for the dedication ceremony.3 To accommodate all those seeking to participate in the longed-for celebration, the First Presidency scheduled an unprecedented thirty-one sessions in the grand assembly hall in the upper floor of the temple, including an evening session and five children’s sessions, from April 6 to April 24 (fig. 3).4
The Saltair resort came about as Church leaders, anxious to help the Saints with employment and to provide wholesome recreation, financed two interrelated projects: the construction of the Saltair resort (fig. 4), located on the south shore of the Great Salt Lake, about sixteen miles from downtown Salt Lake City, and the Saltair Railway, which connected the resort with the city.5 Saltair opened to the public on Memorial Day, May 30, 1893, but was officially dedicated on Thursday, June 8, by Woodruff in the presence of ten thousand people.6
The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, known officially as the World’s Columbian Exposition, celebrated the four-hundred-year anniversary of Columbus’s voyage to the Western Hemisphere. It opened in May 1893, and in September, 250 members of the Tabernacle Choir traveled nearly fourteen hundred miles to compete in an event that was part of the World’s Fair: a Welsh Eisteddfod, a musical competition (fig. 5). The Tabernacle Choir competed with some of the best choirs from Great Britain and the United States during the event. A second-place award catapulted the choir and the Church into the national spotlight in a most positive way.7
Finally, during the fall of 1893, the way opened for Utah to become a state, ending a nearly forty-year struggle to obtain home rule for the citizens of Utah. Joseph Rawlins, the Democratic territorial delegate to Congress, introduced the Enabling Act on Wednesday, September 6, 1893. It passed the House on Friday, December 15, 1893, and the Senate on Tuesday, July 10, 1894, and was signed by President Grover Cleveland on Monday, July 16, 1894, providing for Utah’s admission to the union.8
The Morning Temple Dedication Ceremony
At the end of the year 1893, Woodruff opined that the dedication of the Salt Lake temple was “the greatest Event of 1893. . . . The power of God was manifest in the dedication of this Temple.”9 From his perspective, the dedication of the Salt Lake temple was not only the “greatest Event” in 1893, it was also one of the most important days in his life. Woodruff believed that he had been foreordained to dedicate the sacred building and that the Lord had watched over him throughout his life to accomplish that task.10 Several years following the temple’s dedication, he reflected, “I was ordained to dedicate this Salt Lake Temple fifty years before it was dedicated. I knew I should live to dedicate that Temple. I did live to do it.”11
When the day finally arrived to celebrate the completion and dedication of the temple, there was great anticipation, excitement, expectation, and anxiety among the Church leaders and members. For example, George Q. Cannon recorded in his journal on the day of the dedication, “My sleep was interrupted a good deal last night through my anxiety to get moving early that we might not be behind in reaching the Temple.” Cannon did arrive at the temple in time for the first dedicatory session, scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. on April 6, 1893. He reflected, “We reached the east gate before eight o’clock and were arranged in the form of a procession, President Woodruff’s family leading and mine and Brother Smith’s and the families of the Twelve following[.] I had forty-five in number, not counting myself”12 (fig. 6).
Cannon continued his description of the morning events: “This morning it took a long time for the people to get into the [assembly] hall and get seated. A great many had to stand for want of room. There was a choir of three hundred voices under the direction of Brother Evan Stephens, and the singing was very delightful. In the stand of the First Presidency there were on the centre seat Presidents Woodruff, [Joseph F.] Smith and myself of the First Presidency and Brother Lorenzo Snow, president of the Twelve.” One of the distinguishing aspects of the dedication is that all members of the First Presidency and Twelve were present on this special occasion. The Twelve in that day had a variety of duties and obligations, including serving as mission presidents abroad, that they do not have today. Cannon observed, “There were four chairs placed in the stand in which Brothers F. D. Richards, Brigham Young [Jr.], Moses Thatcher and Patriarch John Smith sat, there not being room on the seat below for all the Twelve to sit. . . . All the Twelve were present, something which rarely happens.”13
Many witnesses of the dedicatory services in the large assembly hall, which takes up the entire top floor of the Salt Lake temple, left records of the proceedings that have been published in newspaper articles, magazine stories, and popular and academic articles and books.14 Anthon H. Lund, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, observed, “The Dedication was grand. Prest Woodruff Geo Q Cannon and Jos. F. Smith spoke. L Snow led in the Hosannahs. Jo F. melted every heart with his sweet speech on forgiveness.”15 Cannon himself provided a lengthy description of the morning session in his journal:
The hall presented a beautiful appearance this morning, and the congregation was exceedingly pleased with it. An anthem was sung by the choir, when President Woodruff arose and spoke beautifully for some little time. He then read the dedicatory prayer after which President Lorenzo Snow, at the request of President Woodruff, instructed the congregation as to the manner of crying “Hosannah, hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb. Amen, amen, amen,” and the hall resounded with the cry of the host that was present in following him in these words. It was a grand sight and one that is not soon to be forgotten to see the people standing on their feet and waving their handkerchiefs in unison at each cry and uttering a volume of sound which might be heard a long distance. After this, the choir sang the anthem “Hosannah” and the people joined in singing “The Spirit of God like a fire is burning.” When this was finished President Woodruff called upon me to speak, and when I did so my feelings almost choked me. My words were entirely too feeble to express my thoughts. After speaking a few minutes, however, I obtained control of myself. I touched upon a number of subjects which I thought needed mentioning. I felt to praise the Lord for the union He had given us and the results of the course which the First Presidency had taken in asking the people to fast and pray. I then related a little of our experience in counseling the people. The First Presidency knew by the Spirit of the Lord which He had revealed to them that the course they had taken was from Him, and that they had been guided by the revelations of Jesus in taking it. After I got through, President Woodruff spoke excellently, after which President Jos. F. Smith spoke with great power and under the influence of the Holy Ghost.16
The Historical Department office journal noted, “Dedication of the Temple Services at ten and two. Wind very rough during morning services. Tried to rain & snow several times. Very cold when congregation came out at noon. The wind this morning blew over a locust tree on the sidewalk in front of office lot, in the street.”17
Cannon provided an important detail about the events of the day: “After the meeting we went down to Sainsbury & Johnson’s art gallery and sat for a number of portraits.”18
Sainsbury and Johnson Photographers
By February 1891, Hyrum Sainsbury and Charles Ellis Johnson began a photographic partnership in Salt Lake City. Later, following the dedication of the Salt Lake temple, Sainsbury retired from the partnership, leaving Johnson as the sole photographer.19 Johnson continued operating a state-of-the-art photographic studio in the V.T.R. Building located at 54–56 South West Temple.20
Some of Sainsbury and Johnson’s photographs include information printed on the reverse side of the mounts. For example, one mount has printed on the back, “Sainsbury & Johnson. Artistic Photographers. Salt Lake City. Utah. Studio at 54 S. West Temple St. V.T.R. Building. Duplicates may be had at anytime. Special attention given to profession and character portraits. Professional portraits for sale. Gold Medal Award 91–92.” This printed information accompanied the Sainsbury and Johnson logo, a dark triangle with S.&J. highlighted. In some cases, another symbol, a crane standing on one leg, was also included.21
Photographic historian Nelson Wadsworth observes that Charles Ellis Johnson “was one of the most prolific and enterprising photographers on the Mormon scene. He photographed thousands of people in his modern, state-of-the-art studio in Salt Lake City.”22 Sainsbury and Johnson also made Utah landscapes and Salt Lake City views.23 Later, Johnson captured daily life in Jerusalem during the late Ottoman period while traveling in the Holy Land in 1903.24
Regarding Sainsbury and Johnson’s particular photographic practice and skills, Wadsworth observes, “Johnson liked to use large format cameras. Because photographers of that time worked primarily with albumen or bromide ‘printing-out papers,’ large negatives were required for large pictures. Negatives were contact-printed in large, wooden frames, the exposures made either in the sunlight or by bright, kerosene lamps called gaslights. Then the prints were gold-toned, fixed, washed, and mounted for display. Johnson’s modern, north-light studio with huge cameras capable of making negatives up to 18-by-24 inches was one of the best equipped in the state.”25
Copies of Sainsbury and Johnson’s work are found in many repositories and in private collections throughout the United States, but three libraries are the primary repositories of his work: the Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City; L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; and Special Collections and Archives, Merrill-Cazier Library, Utah State University, Logan.26
The Photo Session with the First Presidency
In March 1893, just days before the temple dedication, Sainsbury and Johnson invited the First Presidency to come to their gallery. In a letter, Sainsbury and Johnson explained why they hoped the First Presidency would accept the invitation: “We desire the privilege of making a picture of the First Presidency on the day on which the Temple will be dedicated (April 6th 1893.) The fact of its being taken on that date will cause the picture to be of great historical interest and value in all time.” They asked, “Would it be convenient for you to call at our gallery immediately after the morning service, or as soon thereafter as you can make it convenient, on April 6th? Should you grant us this favor we will not detain you longer than from fifteen to twenty minutes as we will have everything prepared to take the negatives without delay”27 (fig. 7).
Fortunately for the photographers and for us, the First Presidency consented and walked the short distance to the Sainsbury and Johnson gallery following the morning session. During this historic photographic session, the First Presidency posed for several group and individual photographs. The Church History Library preserves two views of the First Presidency with all three men standing but with slightly different poses (figs. 1 and 8). In both views, Joseph F. Smith places his right hand into his coat.28 Two views from this photo session show the First Presidency seated (figs. 9, 10).
In a stunning large-format photograph of the First Presidency measuring 42 × 54.5 cm on mount 52.1 × 60.8 cm (fig. 11), Sainsbury and Johnson added the exact time when the photograph was taken—1:55 p.m., April 6, 1893. By coincidence, there is also a source that provides the temperature in Salt Lake City at about the same time. The Historical Department office journal noted, “Therm. 54 at 1:45 pm. Cold wind, Spitting rain.”29 Individual portraits of Smith (fig. 12) and Woodruff (fig. 15) were also taken that day, and possibly other individual portraits (see discussion below).
The story of this historic collection of First Presidency photographs taken on April 6, 1893, five preserved in the Church History Library and one at the Utah State University library, is incomplete without further information provided by photograph historians. Charles Ellis Johnson left Utah for San Jose, California, in 1917 and took with him some of his original glass-plate negatives (those of his 1903 trip to the Holy Land). He left the majority of his negatives in Salt Lake City in the care of his younger brother Rufus. Because Johnson never returned to Utah, these negatives eventually passed into the hands of two of Rufus’s children. In their care, the negatives did not fare well. A great number of negatives were destroyed by vandals or exposure to the weather. Most of those that did survive suffered some water damage or were cracked, but that any survived at all is remarkable. The negatives Johnson took to California came into the possession of a relative, David Fox, and were donated to Brigham Young University in 1975. Prints were made of some of those negatives and were shown in an exhibition in 1977. At that exhibit, it was made known to Brigham Young University representatives that other glass-plate negatives still existed in Salt Lake City. These glass-plate negatives were later also donated to Brigham Young University.30 A careful examination of these negatives, the Johnson collection at Perry Special Collections at BYU, revealed what appear to be additional images taken during the photographic session on April 6, 1893, and others whose date cannot be determined but are likely also from the April 6, 1893, session.
We can propose dating for the images based on Cannon’s journal. He was a meticulous journal recorder, and his journal records his visits to photographers. According to Cannon, Johnson, as an individual photographer, took photographs of him and others on September 21, 1888, and September 8, 1898, and Cannon went to Sainsbury and Johnson on March 27, 1891; April 6, 1893; and May 27, 1896.31 Our examination of these images and comparison of the Sainsbury and Johnson photographs to the glass-plate negatives, looking at clothing, including jackets and overcoats (for example, Cannon wore a regular necktie while Woodruff wore a bowtie); furniture, including table, chairs, and props; and backdrops at the studio, suggest that several photographs (figs. 13/14, 15, 18) are clearly from the April 6, 1893, session, while the date of some plates (figs. 16, 17) remains less certain. The photos in figures 16 and 17 may have been taken on one of the other dates noted in Cannon’s journal. No date is provided on any of the glass-plate negatives. But it is certain that these photographs were taken by Sainsbury and Johnson.
The following photographs include a photograph of an original glass-plate negative for illustration (fig. 13) and modern prints made from the original glass-plate negatives (figs. 14–18). These glass-plate negatives are remarkably large, especially figure 13, measuring 55.88 × 45.72 cm. Even though it is water damaged, this glass-plate negative beautifully preserves a particular moment in time.
These plates include a view of the full presidency (fig. 13/14), individual portraits (figs. 15, 16, 18), and, in an unusual arrangement, Woodruff and Cannon seated together without Joseph F. Smith (fig. 17). Contemporary written sources reveal a close personal relationship between Woodruff and Cannon, which may explain the decision to have a portrait taken with just the two of them.32 Cannon was with Woodruff in San Francisco, California, when Woodruff died on September 2, 1898.33
Several other photographs from collections at Utah State University (figs. 19–22) and BYU’s Perry Special Collections (figs. 23–24) may also belong to the April 6, 1893, photography session. No dates are written or printed on these photographs. However, it is certain that these photographs were taken by Sainsbury and Johnson, and the subjects wear clothing similar to what they wore in photographs known to be taken on April 6, 1893.
The Afternoon Temple Dedication and Reflecting on the Day
After the photograph session, Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith left the studio and returned to the temple for the afternoon dedication meeting that began at 2:30 p.m. The second dedication session went as planned. Cannon noted, “In the afternoon the services commenced at half past two o’clock. The choir in this meeting was reduced to fifty, but did excellent service. The prayer was read by myself. After the Hosannah shout and the singing, President Woodruff called upon me to speak. I only occupied about ten minutes. He followed, and after him Brother Lorenzo Snow spoke. We all enjoyed the meeting very much.”34
Activities of the special day, April 6, 1893, were not over when the last amen was spoken in the closing prayer of the afternoon temple dedication session. Later, between 6 and 7 p.m., twenty-seven missionaries were set apart by Church leaders.35 Additionally, a special musical program called the “National Children’s Concert” was held in the Salt Lake Tabernacle for conference visitors. Some “1,200 took part,” and, as one observer noted, “it was very inspiring.”36
Reflecting on the events of the day, Cannon noted, “This has been a most delightful day for every Latter-day Saint who participated in these services.”37 Woodruff added, “The spirit & Power of God rested upon us. The spirit of Prophesy & revelation was upon us & the Hearts of the People were Melted and many things wer[e] unfolded to us . . . and we had a glorious time.”38
The events of the day the Salt Lake temple was dedicated were recorded, published, and preserved, including in a remarkable series of portrait photographs of the First Presidency taken between the morning and afternoon dedicatory sessions in a photographic studio located near the temple. These images, as Sainsbury and Johnson predicated, are “of great historical interest and value in all time.”39 We are most fortunate that these photographers captured this remarkable moment in a remarkable year of new opportunities for the Church.