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Franklin Stewart Harris photographs

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS P 340

Scope and Contents

Collection includes photographs taken by Harris while on multiple trips around the world and in the western United States between 1910 and 1954.


  • 1910-1954


Conditions Governing Access

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

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from the Franklin Stewart Harris photographs must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

Franklin Stewart Harris (1884-1960) was a professor of agronomy and and university administrator in Utah. He served as president of Brigham Young University from 1921 to 1945, and as president of Utah State Agricultural College 1945 to 1950.

Franklin Stewart Harris was born in Benjamin, Utah on August 29, 1884, and criss-crossed the world many times before his death. His parents, Dennison Emer Harris and Eunice Polly Stewart, were both educators, and Harris's early years were spent in Payson, Utah, where his father was principal of schools. Because they had entered into polygamy, they took their family to the Mormon colonies in Mexico when Harris was six years old. Harris was raised mostly in Colonia Juarez, going through his father's school and helping in the family store and ranching operations. The influence of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was strong in the community, and in 1903, at the age of nineteen, he graduated with the first four-year class to graduate from the Church-owned Juarez Stake Academy.

That fall Harris and his older brother set out for Provo, Utah, where they continued their education at Brigham Young Academy, which became Brigham Young University that very year. He received his high school diploma in 1904, returned to the Juarez Stake Academy to teach for a year, and then came back to Provo to do his college work at BYU. It was during this time that he first worked with John A. Widtsoe, who became his mentor and friend for life. He received his bachelor's degree in 1907 and followed Widtsoe, now president of the Agricultural College of Utah (AC), to Logan where he worked as an assistant at the Experiment Station and taught chemistry. On June 18, 1908 he married Frankie Estella Spilsbury of Toquerville, Utah, whom he had met and courted at BYU. Harris's father had moved his family to a ranch in Alberta, Canada, so Harris and Estelle spent a few weeks there on their way to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. For three years Harris worked on a Ph.D. degree in soils with minors in plant physiology and chemistry. He also worked as an assistant in the soil technology lab of the Experiment Station and taught a class in fertilizers and manures. Their first child, Arlene, was born in Ithaca.

Before Harris was even finished with his schooling, Widtsoe offered him a position as professor of agronomy. During the next ten years at the AC, Harris taught courses, did research, served as head of the Department of Agronomy, director of the School of Agricultural Engineering, and director of the Experiment Station. He was a popular teacher and efficient administrator, as well as prolific in his research and his publications. As a part of his work he traveled throughout the state of Utah. During these years he also became involved in many professional organizations and added five more children to his family: Franklin Stewart Jr., Chauncy, Helen, Leah Dorothy, and Mildred.

In 1921 Harris was appointed president of Brigham Young University, where he spent the next twenty-four years. He enjoyed great popularity with both students and faculty and did much to turn the small high school and normal school into a real university. He expanded the school by creating more colleges and departments, buying more land, constructing more buildings, and increasing enrollment by eight hundred percent. He inaugurated the Alpine Summer School at Aspen Grove and Leadership Week which evolved into Education Week. He was able to get BYU accredited by important associations, the culmination being the Association of American Universities in 1928. And he did all this on a shoestring budget.

During his BYU years, Harris's interests were not restricted to BYU. He did a great deal of agricultural consulting both at home and abroad. In 1926-1927 he took a trip around the world, one product of which was over 700 photographs which are now in his collection. In 1929 he headed a commission to Siberia to investigate the possibilities of colonization in that area for Russian Jews. From 1939-1940 he was in Iran, reorganizing their Department of Agriculture. He traveled extensively throughout the country. He also made several trips to Mexico in the 1930's.

In between trips he consulted extensively for Utah Copper Company, American Smelting and Refining Company, the Salt Lake Water Exchange, and Utah Power and Light Company, as well as others. He also found time to serve the community as a Boy Scout executive, an active member of the Provo Chamber of Commerce, and on the Provo Metropolitan Water Board. He was president of the founding board of directors that brought Utah Valley Hospital into being and was instrumental in bringing Geneva Steel to Utah County. These few involvements were only the tip of the iceberg of his professional and community activities.

In 1945 Harris left BYU to become the president of Utah State Agricultural College in Logan. He was there for five years, but took several months in 1946 to serve as chairman of a mission to the Middle East, sponsored by the U.S. Departments of State and Agriculture. The mission gave input on agricultural development and solutions to agricultural problems.

As if he were not busy enough, in 1938 Harris ran on the Republican ticket for United States senator from Utah and in 1948 for governor of Utah. In the Senate campaign he lost in the New Deal Democratic landslide, and he did not make it past the primaries in the campaign for governor. During these years he and Estelle also raised a niece, Nancy Becraft.

After retiring from the presidency of Utah State Agricultural College, in 1950, Harris went on a two-year U.S. State Department mission to Iran, this time as technical director of the Iranian-United States Joint Commission for Rural Improvement. This was in fact the beginning of the Point Four program (a program of U.S. aid to developing countries), which he basically set up in Iran.

His last major consulting project was for Ernest L. Wilkinson in his Indian lands cases, in 1946-1947 and again in 1953-1954.

Early in his life Harris's church activity revolved around Sunday School and Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association work. His main area of church service during his years at BYU was as a member of the Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association General Board, where he served for twenty-three years. He was Teheran Branch President while in Iran the second time, and taught the High Priests Quorum when he returned.

During his life he published six books, several Mutual Improvement Association manuals, and hundreds of professional and popular articles. He was in demand as a public speaker and gave hundreds of addresses.

Incapacitated by a stroke for the last five years of his life, Harris died in Salt Lake City on April 18, 1960 and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.


27 boxes (13.5 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



Photographs taken on multiple trips around the world and in the western United States.


Arranged in six series: 1. Photographs of Utah, the western United States, and Canada. 2. Photographs from Brigham Young University. 3. Travel photographs. 4. Photographs. 5. Photograph albums. 6. Lantern slides and negatives.

Other Finding Aids

Item-level inventory available online.


Photographs (Photograph Archives).


I. Description

The images in this collection were mostly produced by Franklin S. Harris from 1910 to 1954. He used many of them as illustrations in books and articles that he published. For many years they were a part of his manuscript collection, MSS 340, comprising containers 22-35 and 38-49 of that collection. In the 1980s the photographs, negatives, and lantern slides were moved to the Photographic Archives and a beginning attempt was made to process them. This attempt involved removing many of the photographs from their original albums. The original albums for these (probably five) have unfortunately disappeared, although nine albums still remain. The photographs separated from their albums are now in plastic sleeves and boxed. The extant albums have interleaving sheets added and are boxed. The lantern slides are boxed. The negatives are in buffered envelopes and boxed. The number to use for retrieval of an image is the bolded number in the first column.

II. Identification

Harris did a fairly thorough job of identification on his photographs. Many of the earlier larger photographs have identifications written on the back, usually in Harris's handwriting. Some of these photographs have printing instructions for his books or for other purposes, and this is usually not in his handwriting. In some cases a better condition or quality duplicate photograph has replaced the one originally taken out of the album. Some of these have identifications written by a later Photographic Archives processor. These also usually have the old P-333 collection number written on the back. Many photographs have only the Harris identification number written on the back. This Harris number was written by a Photographic Archives processor when the photographs were taken out of the albums. As some of them have this same number on the front, probably in Harris’s handwriting, it is assumed that these numbers were transferred from the albums. It should be noted that in the register some Harris numbers are missing. They were missing in the albums. In 1998 the Photographic Archives number was also written, in brackets, on the back of each loose photograph and under the photograph in the albums.

In addition to the identification and numbers on the photographs themselves, many of the negative envelopes (supplied during 1980s processing) had identifications, either typed or handwritten. These identifications were probably taken from the now-missing albums, or possibly from some kind of list made by Harris but not now extant. The original register for MSS 340 indicates that identifications for this first set of photographs is in the negative boxes. Where there is an identification both on the back of the photograph and on a negative envelope, the wording is not always the same. Where there is an actual conflict the most likely identification is given, followed by the other in parentheses: (or - - - - ). In some cases lantern slides had a different or fuller identification than the original photograph. This additional information is added in brackets to the photograph identification.

Identifications in the photograph albums are written on the pages in Harris's handwriting as are his numbers which are written either on the pages or on the actual 35 mm print strips. The Photographic Archives numbers (in brackets) were added to the pages in pencil by the processor in 1999.

Information added to the identifications by the processor, whether additions or corrections, has been enclosed in brackets. Some examples:

a) In some cases a more precise date for an image can be determined from Harris's diary or from other images, occasionally differing from the date he assigned to the image.

b) Unless otherwise indicated, the images were taken in Utah. For those that were not, a state or country has often been added to the identification.

c) In group photographs, especially family photographs, Harris has not often identified individuals. These identifications have been added. When he does identify them, it is not always in standard left to right order.

III. Arrangement

Although Harris's identification of the photographs ranges from excellent to adequate, he seems to have made no attempt to arrange the photographs in chronological order. The first set of photographs is in miscellaneous order, neither chronological nor geographical. They have been left in the order Harris numbered them. Possibly the order was for use in teaching. Or possibly they became scattered for different uses and he didn't take the time to re-order them. Or perhaps he liked the variety of a mixed order.

In the albums, a strip of 35 mm photographs will naturally be in order on one strip, and generally all the strips for a specific trip or set of photographs will be in order. But often a page of photographs taken on 21 Aug., for example, will be on a page preceding those taken on 19 Aug. Or photographs from a trip in Dec. 1935 will be on pages before those taken in Aug. 1935.

IV. Standardization in register

Capitalization has been standardized and made consistent, and punctuation has been added for consistency and clarification.

All dates have been put in the form: 2 Aug. 1935.

Standardized spelling of place names, especially those in foreign countries using other alphabets, has been included in brackets: Hingan [or Khingan]. Most standardized spellings were taken from the U.S. Board on Geographic Names gazetteers, or The Times Atlas of the World. Some could not be found and are left as Harris spelled them, either in his identifications or in his diary.

V. Abbreviations

Abbreviations have been spelled out in brackets, except for some commonly used abbreviations which are listed here.

AC: Agricultural College; See also UAC and USAC

agr: agriculture, agricultural

bldg: building

BYU: Brigham Young University

Co.: County, Company

Dept.: Department

E.: East

Exp., Expt.: Experiment, Experimental

Mt., Mtn.: Mount, Mountain

N., No.: North

N.E.: Northeast

N.W.: Northwest

R.R.: Railroad (unless otherwise spelled out)

S., So.: South

S.E.: Southeast

S.L., S. Lake: Salt Lake

Sta.: Station

S.W.: Southwest

UAC: Utah Agricultural College (also known as Agricultural College of Utah); See also AC and USAC

USAC: Utah State Agricultural College; See also AC and UAC

W.: West

Standard state abbreviations have been used for states in the United States.

VI. Negatives

The collection includes many original nitrate negatives, probably for about a quarter of the photographs in the collection. The negatives extant are for Series 1-3, where each photograph has a separate negative (containers 31-35 in original MSS 340 collection). Later photographs, taken on 35 mm film, were stored in film cans (containers 22-26 in original MSS 340 collection). When these were opened in about 1982, it was found that most of the film had deteriorated to powder and the rest were in bad condition. At least 38 rolls of "Europe & Russia" and probably all the rest were discarded for safety reasons.

VII. Exhibit

In 1985 an exhibit of selected Harris photographs was mounted, titled "Setting Sail." Photographs from Series 1-3 were used. The prints made for the exhibit, whether actually exhibited or not, are in a separate exhibit collection. Appendix 1 in this register lists the photographs that were used in the exhibit.

Processing Information

Processed; Janet Jenson & Thomas R. Wells; January 2001.

Register of the Franklin Stewart Harris photographs
In Progress
Thomas R. Wells and Janet Jenson
January 2001
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.
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections. University Archives Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo UT 84602 US