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George Edward Anderson photographs of the Alberta Temple

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 3238

Scope and Contents note

Collection contains forty nitrocellulose and gelatin dry plate negatives created by Anderson in Cardston, Alberta between 1923 and 1924. These include twenty-five images of the Alberta Temple, with an additional fifteen portraits of families and individuals from the Cardston area. Also includes a photograph of Heber J. Grant, who dedicated the temple. Collection also contains silver gelatin prints of the negatives.


  • approximately 1923-1924


Conditions Governing Access note

Condition restricted; permission to use negatives must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services. Items kept in cold storage; access requires 24 hours advance notice. Patrons should use prints.

Conditions Governing Use note

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from George Edward Anderson photographs of the Alberta Temple must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

George Edward Anderson (1860-1928) was a Mormon photographer.

George Edward Anderson (Ed, as he was called) was born October 28, 1860 in Salt Lake City to George A. Anderson and Mary Ann Thorn, and was the oldest of nine children. He was apprenticed as a teenager under the renowned photographer, Charles R. Savage. It was at Savage's Temple Bazaar that he became friends with fellow apprentices John Hafen and John F. Bennett. Hafen was later to become an accomplished artist and Bennett was to become instrumental in preserving Anderson’s collection of glass plate negatives.

At the age of seventeen, Anderson established his own photography studio in Salt Lake City with his brothers, Stanley and Adam. He subsequently established a studio in Manti, Utah in 1886. In the fall of 1888 he moved his studio to Springville, Utah, with his bride, Olive Lowry. He is perhaps best known for his traveling tent studio, set up in small towns throughout central, eastern, and southern Utah, where he captured the lives of the residents. These studios thrived throughout the years 1884-1907.

Although today we might think of Ed Anderson as a portrait photographer, his clear and artistic studio portraits are complemented by thousands of documentary portraits taken near homes, barns, and businesses. They document not only families but also small town Utah history. He documented, among other things, railroad history, mining history including the Scofield mine disaster, and the building of temples by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Pure landscape photographs were never his interest, but to many Church members, his 1907-1908 photographs of Church history sites are their only acquaintance with Anderson’s photography. He photographed these sites while traveling across the country to begin his LDS Church mission in England from 1909-1911. The Deseret Sunday School Union of the Church published some of the views, as Anderson called them, in a booklet entitled The Birth of Mormonism in Picture.

Upon the completion of his mission, Anderson returned to South Royalton, Vermont, and set up a photography studio near the birthplace of the prophet Joseph Smith. He added a number of Church history site photographs, as well as portraits of Church members and local residents to his growing collection. Finally, in November 1913 he returned to his family and home in Springville, Utah.

After a seven year absence his photographic business was unhealthy and his family life was strained. But business and money were never the motivating forces of Ed Anderson's life—art and religion were his driving forces. Continuing to experience financial and marital strains, Anderson tried to revive his traveling tent studio but was met with little success. He was, however, able to earn some money from the sale of The Birth of Mormonism booklet.

The later years of Ed Anderson's life were spent in documenting families and life in Utah Valley and traveling to newly constructed temples. In 1923, he traveled to Cardston, Alberta, Canada with Church authorities for the dedication of that city's temple. He was to spend two years in Canada, thus returning to Springville in 1925. Though ill in the fall of 1927 and despite his wife's urging not to go, Anderson went once again with Church officials to document the dedication of another temple, this time in Mesa, Arizona. It was to be his last trip. He died of heart failure on May 9, 1928 after being brought home to Springville.

Essentially unsung as a photographer during his lifetime, only in the last thirty years has Anderson been recognized for the consummate photographic artist that he was. Primarily, the work of Rell G. Francis along with the work of Nelson Wadsworth and Richard Holzapfel, has brought Anderson's exquisite work to the attention of this generation.

Charles Reynolds, picture editor of the magazine Popular Photography, commented at a Brigham Young University photo seminar on December 11, 1973 about his introduction to Anderson's photographs. After attending an exhibition at the Springville Museum of Art, arranged by Rell Francis, he had this to say: "I go to shows several times a week in New York City ... and I have rarely seen anything as impressive as those photographs. ... it is awfully hard to astonish me. ... the George Anderson pictures that I saw today weren't sensationalized pictures in any way. They were very sweet, beautiful, lovely pictures ... "


3 boxes (1.5 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



The photograph collection, originally consisting of 39 nitrocellulose negatives and 14 gelatin dry plate negatives, totaling 53 negatives, now consists of only 27 nitrocellulose and 13 gelatin dry place negatives, totaling 40 negatives. Due to severe emulsion damage, these 40 negatives were salvaged from the collection, and many of them still have considerable emulsion damage. 25 of the photographs are images of the Alberta Temple, with 15 portraits of families and individuals in the Cardston, Alberta, Canada area.

Custodial History note

The original fifty-three negatives were donated by David S. Brandley, Ogden, Utah, a grandson of George Edward Anderson, in February 2003. Apparently these negatives were not a part of the almost 19,000 negatives which were sold to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1930 by Anderson's widow, Olive, as they were not included in their microfilm inventory completed in the 1960s. That original large collection was dispersed to a number of individuals and many negatives were destroyed.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Donated; David S. Brandley; February 2003.

Appraisal note

Photographs (Photograph Archives).

Related Archival Materials note

See also the George Edward Anderson photograph collection (MSS P 1), the Clifford McKinney collection of George Edward Anderson photographs (MSS P 647), the Robert W. Edwards collection of George Edward Anderson photographs (MSS 3156), and the James L. Ozment collection of George Edward Anderson photographs (MSS 3156).


Digital reproductions available in the repository.

Processing Information note

Processed; Lindsey Olson, student processor; Thomas R. Wells, curator, Photographic Archives; and Susan L. Fales, curator, Digital Historical Collections; May 2007.

The collection originally consisted of thirty-nine nitrocellulose negatives and fourteen gelatin dry plate negatives, for a total of fifty-three negatives. Due to severe emulsion damage, only forty negatives were able to be salvaged (and many of these still have considerable emulsion damage). Gelatin silver proof images were created by the archives from the negatives, and are included in the collection.

Register of George Edward Anderson photographs of the Alberta Temple
Christianne Holbrook
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