Mormon Missionary Diaries
About the Collection
George Edward Anderson
by Jeffrey S. Hardy
George Edward “Ed” Anderson was born on 28 October 1860 in Salt Lake City, Utah, to George Anderson and Mary Ann Thorne. He was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on 6 January 1869. As a boy George began his education in Salt Lake City, where during the winter he studied under the tutelage of Karl G. Maeser and in the summer helped his father herd cattle. However, he soon discovered a passion for photography and begun to learn this trade from the esteemed photographer Charles R. Savage. At the age of seventeen he opened his own studio in Salt Lake City, and at the Territorial Fair held there in 1879 his photograph portfolio won first prize. For the next several years he continued to work in Salt Lake City, and also journeyed throughout Utah as a traveling photographer producing chiefly commissioned portraits. In 1886 he moved his practice to Manti, Utah, and opened a studio called the Temple Bazaar.
On 30 May 1888 Ed married Olive Lowry of Manti, Utah, in the Manti Temple. At the time of their marriage she was teaching school in Ephraim, Utah. She bore him three children, Eva, Edda, and Lowry. In search of a wider customer base, Anderson moved his business and family to Springville, Utah County, Utah, where he built a portrait studio. However, financial difficulties forced him to resume his traveling practice while his family lived and worked in the Springville studio. In February 1900 he paid off his final debts, recording in his journal: “It is a great load lifted from our shoulders and I feel to rejoice and give thanks to my Heavenly Father for He has greatly blest us.” 1 The next day, on 18 February 1900, Anderson was called to serve as bishop of the Springville 2nd Ward, a calling he held until 1904. During this time he directed the building of the 2nd Ward meetinghouse. Upon his release George established the new G. E. Anderson Art Bazaar, but poor business forced Olive to become the primary provider for their family. She, with a few friends, founded a small cannery and managed to earn enough for food and clothing.
In 1906 Ed received a call to serve a mission in Great Britain. Accordingly he departed in April 1907 for the East Coast. However, a desire to photograph the historic sites of the church in Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, New York, and New England detained him for over a year. This delay was encouraged by the church hierarchy, notably apostle George Albert Smith, who encouraged him to “keep on with the work.” 2 Anderson demonstrated his intense work schedule in his diary, a usual entry reading: “Rose 5:45 a.m….It was after 12:00 midnight, nearly 1:00 a.m., when we got to bed.” 3 The pictures from these travels were later published by the church under the title, The Birth of Mormonism in Picture. Anderson finally arrived in Liverpool, England, on 27 April 1908, and was assigned to labor in the London Conference.
In England Ed funded his living expenses by taking portraits of fellow missionaries and church members and by producing proselytizing aids for the missionaries, but his main occupation was preaching the gospel and strengthening the members of the church branches in and around London. His dedication to the missionary cause and his good work ethic helped him to be a successful proselytizer and his success in converting others to the church led to an extension of his mission. Ed’s optimism and inherent belief in people also contributed to his success; on one occasion after a conversation with an investigator he recorded: “I think he will enjoy the gospel and will eventually be united with us. I think he is a natural latter-day saint.” 4 Anderson himself often “thank[ed] God for the Gospel as it has been revealed in these days and as taught by the Saviour [sic].” 5 In 1911 Elder Anderson was finally released to return home. However, after the transatlantic passage he instead decided to spend an additional two years in New England, photographing more church historical sites.
After arriving home in November 1913 Ed resumed his practice and continued to serve in various church callings. However, his relationship with Olive became severely strained, exacerbated, no doubt, by his seven-year absence. In 1923 he traveled to Cardston, Alberta, to document the completion of the Alberta temple. This completed, however, he found no reason to return home, and consequently remained there for two years. Another church history trip was undertaken in 1926, this time photographing the pioneer trail from Illinois to Utah.
Despite failing health, Ed embarked on a final photographic journey in 1928 to document another temple in Mesa, Arizona. During the return trip home he became very ill with dropsy and never recovered. George Edward Anderson passed away on 12 May 1928. After his death a fellow photographer eulogized that although most people of their trade “were in the business for money; Anderson was in it for art and history.” 6 He died in poverty, but left behind a legacy of love for his fellow man and his religious heritage.
1 Rell G Francis, The Utah Photographs of George Edward Anderson (Lincoln, Nebraska: The University of Nebraska Press, 1979), 3.
2 Holzapfel, Richard Neitzel, T. Jeffery Cottle, and Ted D. Stoddard, eds., Church History in Black and White: George Edward Anderson’s Photographic Mission to Latter-day Saint Historical Sites (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center of Brigham Young University, 1995), 3.
3 Ibid., 39.
4 George Edward Anderson, “Diary, 1908–1909,” MSS 1477, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
5 Anderson, “Diary, 1909,” MSS 1477, LTPSC.
6 Francis, 3.
Anderson, George Edward. “Diaries, 1895–1928” MSS 1477, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.
Bitton, Davis. Guide to Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1977.
Carter, Kate B., ed. Our Pioneer Heritage. Vol. 18. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958.
Francis, Rell G. The Utah Photographs of George Edward Anderson. Lincoln, Nebraska: The University of Nebraska Press, 1979.
Holzapfel, Richard Neitzel, T. Jeffery Cottle, and Ted D. Stoddard, eds. Church History in Black and White: George Edward Anderson’s Photographic Mission to Latter-day Saint Historical Sites. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center of Brigham Young University, 1995.
Jenson, Andrew. Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, v. 4. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Co., 1901–1936.
Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003. 31 October 2003 available from http://www.lds.org/churchhistory/library/pioneercompanysearch/.
Warrum, Noble. Utah Since Statehood: Historical and Biographical. Vol. 3. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1919.