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Mahonri Young photographs, postcards, and other material

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS P 82

Scope and Contents note

Mahonri Mackintosh Young (1877 to 1957) was a notable american artist and sculptor. He was a grandson of Brigham Young and designed many of Utah's well-known monuments, including "The Seagull" and "This is the Place". The collection includes portraits of Young's family, Ida Smoot Dusenberry and family (also with friends, at home as well as on holiday in Italy), Emmeline B. Wells, etc.


  • approximately 1880-1950


Conditions Governing Access note

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

Conditions Governing Use note

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from the Mahonri Young photographs, postcards, and other material must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

Mahonri MacKintosh Young was born August 9, 1877, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was the firstborn son of Mahonri Moriancumer Young and Agnes MacKintosh Young, and the last grandchild born to Latter-day-Saint Prophet Brigham Young before his death. He spent the first years of his life in Parley's Canyon at the Deseret Woolen Mills, which his parents managed with "woefully insufficient capital." Hon's artistic inclinations were awakened at an early age by his father. When the boy was about five years old and recovering from an illness, his father amused him by carving objects out of wood. Later, the budding artist began to shape objects out of the clay taken from the cut banks near the factory.

Mahonri's father died when he was just seven years old. That unfortunate event made it necessary for his mother to move the family from the mill to a small home in Salt Lake City. There, Hon was entered in public school and attended up through the eighth grade. After attending just one day of high school, Mahonri refused to go back. He was ready to get on with his life, and by age eighteen was working at the Salt Lake Tribune as a sketch artist and photo engraver. Two years later, in the company of two boyhood friends, artists Alma B. Wright and Lee Greene Richards, he began taking art classes from James T. Harwood. Harwood had recently returned from art study in Paris. Mahonri was enchanted with the Paris Salon Catalogs brought back by his teacher. He was an eager student, devouring everything his teacher and any art books had to offer. Mahonri looked upon Harwood as his only real teacher.

The year of 1899 found Mahonri attending classes at the Art Students League in New York under Kenyon Cox. One year later he was back at the Salt Lake Herald, working as a photo engraver to earn enough money to study art in Paris. By 1901 Mahonri was in Paris where he undertook a two-year course of work at the Julian, Colarossi, and Delecluse academies. Soon he began a serious independent study of etching at his own Paris studio, as well as engaging in sculpting and painting.

Mahonri returned to New York in 1905 where he accepted a position as an instructor at the American School of Sculpture. After about a year in New York, Mahonri returned to Salt Lake City where, on February 19, 1907, he married Cecilia Sharp, daughter of Bishop John Sharp. She was a talented pianist as well as very beautiful. The following year, Mahonri's first child and only daughter was born. She was named Cecilia Agnes Young.

The same year, the young father landed his first commission to create sculpture in Utah. H. J. Faust commissioned him to sculpt a woman in butter for the Fox Creameries to be exhibited at the Utah State Fair. Unfortunately, someone failed to properly monitor the refrigeration for the display and the butter woman began to melt, but not before she was noted and well received. It was this unlikely piece of work that established Mahonri as a serious artist.

In 1912 Mahonri was elected as an associate member to the National Academy of Design. Near the same time he completed the sculptures for the Seagull Monument which stands on the grounds of Temple Square in Salt Lake City for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to Mahonri's son, it was the Seagull Monument that gave his father his first real break and was the foundation for all that followed. As a result of that success, Mahonri became established as a sculptor. Over the next few years he participated in notable exhibits, such as the Armory Show of 1913 in New York City, and he kept busy with many important commissions. In 1915 he completed another bas-relief panel, eight-by-thirty-five feet, portraying creative labor. It was placed over the entrance to the manufacturers' building at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition by San Francisco's Golden Gate. He was awarded a Silver Medal for Sculpture in recognition of that work. By 1916 he had created an Apache Group for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. That same year he was invited to serve on the faculty of the Art Students League in New York. He taught print-making, painting, and illustration as well as sculpture intermittently at that facility until 1943.

In 1917, just ten years after their marriage, Cecilia Sharp Young died at Leonia, New Jersey. Mahonri was left a widower with two small children. For the next five years, little is recorded of his personal activities. In 1925 Mahonri took his two children (Agnes was seventeen years old and Bill was fourteen) to Paris for a stay of two and a-half years. It was also during this time that his correspondence with Mary Lightfoot Tarleton began. Their friendship developed into a May/December romance. Mahonri was forty-eight years old in 1925, and Mary was twenty-one. Mary was an aspiring sculptor and had great admiration for the older man. Much of their five-year-long friendship is documented in letters found in this collection. They shared a common interest in art, travel, books, and their work. Mahonri's son, Bill, later remembered the time in Paris as one of the most fruitful periods of his father's life. He wrote, "he was freed from teaching and from the pressure of commissions, and he had again the great advantage of working in an atmosphere where art was important and natural."

On February 17, 1931, Mahonri took a wife. He married artist Dorothy Weir, the daughter and granddaughter of artists J. Alden Weir and Robert Weir, respectively. Mahonri had been acquainted with J. Alden Weir for many years. The elder artist had been the president of the National Academy when Mahonri was a young man, and had been a longtime supporter of his work. The new Mr. and Mrs. Young made their home in Branchville, Connecticut, where he worked in a wonderful sculptor's studio. They also maintained an apartment on Grammercy Park in New York. Dorothy was a wonderful and supportive companion. She helped create an environment so that Mahonri's last years would continue to be successful.

In 1932 he won first prize for sculpture at the Los Angeles Olympic Games Exhibition with a piece entitled, 'The Knockdown.' His etching, 'Pont Neuf,' was included in Fine Prints of the Year, 1933. In 1935 he was honored with an exhibition of his complete etching collection at the Krausbaar Galleries in New York City. On February 28, 1939, Governor Henry H. Blood and the Twenty-Third Legislative Assembly of the state of Utah approved Mahonri's design for the 'This is the Place' Monument. It was the greatest commission of his career. His competitor for the honor was none other than noted sculptor Dr. Avard Fairbanks, also a descendant of 1847 pioneers and head of the Department of Sculpture at the University of Michigan.

On May 28, 1947, Mahonri was widowed for the second time. Dorothy died just a few months before the dedication and unveiling of 'This is the Place' Monument at the mouth of Emigration Canyon in Salt Lake City. It was sad for Mahonri that she was not able to share in the special moment which she had so willingly supported. The monument was dedicated Thursday, July 24, 1947 before a crowd of more than twenty-three thousand persons. Appropriately, Mahonri's last major work was the marble statue of his paternal grandfather, LDS Prophet Brigham Young. The work was carved at the American Academy in Rome. On June 1, 1950, the statue was unveiled in the rotunda of the Nation's Capitol in Washington, D. C. It was a proud moment for the artist, for Utah, and for the Church.

Mahonri spent his remaining years actively engaged in social life that centered around the home he and Dorothy had shared in Connecticut and the apartment on Grammercy Park in New York. He kept busy finishing up projects and getting his house in order. In 1955 he took part in a Commemorative Exhibition of the Armory Show in New York City. On November 2, 1957, Mahonri MacKintosh Young died peacefully in a hospital at Norwalk, Connecticut. He was eighty years old.


1 item

10 box (5 linear ft.)

1 oversize box

Language of Materials



Mahonri Mackintosh Young (1877 to 1957) was a notable american artist and sculptor. He was a grandson of Brigham Young and designed many of Utah's well-known monuments, including "The Seagull" and "This is the Place".

Custodial History note


Immediate Source of Acquisition note


Appraisal note

Photographs (Photograph Archives).

Processing Information note

Processed; Nathan Everett; 2007.

Register of the Mahonri Young photographs, postcards, and other material
Nathan Everett
2007 October 11
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 Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States