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John B. Fairbanks photographs

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS P 9

Scope and Contents

Collection includes black and white photographs of Provo, Utah and some photographs of the Cluff Expedition to Mexico. Most of the photographs have a corresponding glass negative or nitrate negative. There are also acetate copy negatives for some photographs. Also includes two prints of paintings by John B. Fairbanks. Dated 1897-1902.


  • 1897-1902


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research. Items kept in cold storage; access requires 24 hours advance notice.

Negatives. Condition restricted; permission to use items must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to use material from this collection must be obtained from Reference Services at

Biographical / Historical

John B. Fairbanks (1855-1940) was the official photographer of the Benjamin Cluff Expedition to Mexico from 1901 to 1903. He also painted murals in the St. George, Salt Lake, and Mesa Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was the father of Avard T. Fairbanks. John B. Fairbanks was born in Payson, Utah, on December 27, 1855. His parents, John Boylston Fairbanks and Sarah Van Wagoner Fairbanks, crossed the plains with a Mormon wagon train in September of 1847. Because he and his father shared the same name, he was referred to as J. B. by his family. As a young boy, J. B.'s interest in art was apparent. His mother owned two pictures she prized a great deal. One was a steel engraving of Rosa Bonheur's Horse Fair and the other was a print of an old family home in Massachusetts. J. B.'s mother had the pictures stored safely in a trunk to preserve them. J. B. was so interested in the pictures that he took every opportunity to examine them. He handled them so often they began to show signs of wear. His mother finally decided to hang the pictures in their home so J. B. could view them as much as he wanted without touching them. One of the most important events in Utah art history occurred in 1890, when John Hafen and Lorus Pratt visited George Q. Cannon of the First Presidency of the LDS church to request funding to study art in France. The artists had been called to paint murals in the soon-to-be-completed Salt Lake Temple and wished to receive better training before beginning. The funding was granted and three artists were chosen to travel to France: John Hafen, Lorus Pratt, and J. B. Fairbanks. The three were given $1,800 and were set apart by the church as "missionaries with a special purpose." After the murals in the Salt Lake temple were completed, Fairbanks traveled to Arizona to assist with the murals in the Mesa temple. After the painting in the temples was completed, J.B. struggled for a time as an artist. He was a Tonal Impressionist who, more than any other Utah Paris-trained artist, felt the necessity of painting "The Farm." In spite of the relevance of his work to early Utah life, his exhibited paintings often were ignored or only faintly praised. Fairbanks was the official photographer of the Benjamin Cluff Expedition to Mexico from 1901 to 1903.


6 folders (0.5 linear ft.)

1 oversize box (0.7 linear ft.)

4 oversize folders (0.55 linear ft.)

1 box (0.5 linear ft.)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Materials were donated to the L. Tom Special Collections by Eugene Fairbanks, Mervin Fairbanks, and Virginia Fairbanks Johnson in 1973 and 1974.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Eugene Fairbanks, Mervin Fairbanks, and Virginia Fairbanks Johnson; 1973, 1974.


Photographs (Photograph Archives).


Prints from negatives. Provo, UT : Brigham Young University, 2015.

Processing Information

Processed; 2007.

Processing Information

Processed; Anne Ashton; June 2022. Updated finding aid for DACS compliance and accuracy. Rehoused photographs to plastic sleeves for preservation.

Register of John B. Fairbanks photographs
Under Revision
Rose Frank
2011 November 4
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States