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#1-11, At San Juan Teotihuacan, Mexico, 12 Sept. 1935

 Sub-Series — Box: 6, Folder: 6850-60
Identifier: MSS P 340 Series 5 Sub-Series 3

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

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


  • Other: 12 Sept. 1935


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

From the Collection:

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.


From the Collection: 27 boxes (13.5 linear ft.)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

Item-level inventory available online.

Repository Details

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

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo UT 84602 US