Taylor vs Taylor: The Salt Lake City Embalmer War

We would love to know the story behind these two competing ads for services from the 1892 Utah Gazeteer, when there were two different Joseph Taylor’s  competing for Salt Lake City’s embalming and undertaker business.  That seems to be the potential for an awkward (at best) or bitter (more likely) business rivalry.

 The first ad, below, promotes Joseph William Taylor as “Salt Lake’s Practical Undertaker and Embalmer,” while the second ad describes Joseph E. Taylor as the “Pioneer Undertaker of Utah”, and the “only casket and coffin factory between the Missouri River and the Pacific Coast.”

If you know anything about the either of these Joseph Taylors that sheds light on this business competition, please add to the comments on this page!

Joseph William Taylor: "Salt Lake's Practical Undertaker and Embalmer"

At the end of the day, you don’t want an impractical embalmer, do you?

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Joseph William Taylor (1855-1931)

Son of Joseph Edward Taylor and Louisa Rebecca Capener

Married Margaret Littlefair, 15 Apr 1880, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah

The family were in comfortable circumstances, and Joseph William Taylor, who was one of several children, received a good education, principally if not entirely in the common schools of his native place. In the intervals of and after completing his school life, he followed the undertaking business as an assistant to his father, from 1864 until 1876. In December of the latter year he left Salt Lake City to fulfill a mission in Europe as an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As a passenger from New York on the steamship “Wyoming,” he landed at Liverpool on the 6th of January, 1877. He was set apart by President Albert Carrington, then at the head of the European mission, to labor as a traveling Elder in South Wales, where he served as a missionary until the 17th of September, the same year, when he returned to Liverpool and was appointed to labor in the Newcastle conference. There he remained until October, 1878, when he was honorably released from his mission and forthwith returned home.

From November, 1878, until September, 1879, he worked with his father in the undertaking business, and then left home, having accepted employment as Pacific Express messenger and train baggage man on the Utah Southern Railroad, running between Juab and Milford. While thus engaged he married on April 15, 1880, Miss Margaret Littlefair, of Stockton-on-Tees, County of Durham, England, the marriage ceremony being performed by President Joseph F. Smith in the Endowment House at Salt Lake City. In April, 1881, Mr. Taylor, still in the employ of the railroad, was transferred from Juab to Ogden, working on the Utah Northern during its construction, as Pacific Express messenger and train baggage man, and running as far as Butte, Montana. This employment continued until September, 1882.

He then left Ogden and came back to Salt Lake City. Here he purchased ground, erected a two-story building, and on January 16, 1883, began business for himself as an undertaker. He soon became popular, and consequently prospered. In March, 1892, he took down his two-story building and erected another of four stories, with basement, known as the Taylor Block, 21–23–25, West Temple Street. The same year he began the study of embalming, and in due time became proficient in that science. He holds diplomas from three different colleges, and two state licenses, and was widely known as a leading undertaker and licensed embalmer.

In April, 1902, Mr. Taylor having purchased that valuable piece of residence property, known as the Carrington corner, on Main and North Temple Streets, began the erection of a handsome home.

As a boy of 15 years, Joseph William worked with his father. January 16th, 1882, he started in the undertaking business for himself. He had worked with his father, and had made a very complete study of the mortuary business. He had attended the University. He felt that he was qualified to establish his own place of business. This was at 21 South West Temple Street. He erected a one-story brick building, supervising the construction himself. In 1892, the building was enlarged to four stories. In 1911 he added a three-story building addition at the rear.

In the late 90’s, Mr. Taylor went East to one of the first embalming schools. He was one of the first men from the State of Utah to attend a school of this kind. He then finished his studies and did Post Graduate work.

In 1927, after years of planning, he built the present mortuary at 125 North Main Street. It is of reinforced concrete, brick, and the 42 rooms of the establishment were built to best carry on the services. He devoted his life to the interest and advancement of the profession and doing his utmost to keep it at the highest standard. He made what is known to the profession as a semi- and non-hardening fluid, but, because his idea in developing this fluid was to help the profession and not make personal money gains, he gave this formula to a well-known manufacturing fluid company and today it is extensively used throughout the country.

Joseph Edward Taylor: "Pioneer Undertaker of Utah"

He has a lower phone number (70!) than his competition, so he wants you to know that he is the original John Taylor, Undertaker! Plus, he keeps everything in stock, unlike the new kid on the block.

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Joseph Edward Taylor (1830-1913)

According to the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 1, p. 296, Joseph Edward Taylor, was first counselor to Angus M. Cannon, president of the Salt Lake Stake of Zion, is the son of George Edward Grove Taylor and Ann Hicks, and was born Dec. 11, 1830, in the town of Horsham, county of Sussex, England. He was baptized by Elder Henry Beecroft at Hull, Yorkshire, Aug. 11, 1848, being then only seventeen years old. He was ordained to the office of a Priest Oct. 4, 1848, and was called at that time to travel in the Lincolnshire conference.

After being ordained an Elder, Oct. 1, 1849, he continued to travel in the same conference (besides visiting others at times) until released in January, 1851. During a period of two years and three months he walked to fill appointments 3,693 miles, and rode during that time (mostly by railway) 3,166 miles, preached 247 regular discourses, besides delivering nearly 200 exhortations, held 27 discussions, presided at 52 Sacrament meetings, baptized nearly two hundred persons who had been convinced of the truth under his testimony, and assisted at the baptism of a great many more. He organized several branches of the Church and received during that time from the Saints in voluntary gifts of money $65.05 and about $300 from strangers.

During the summers of 1849 and 1850 he often held five meetings in one or more large towns or cities on Sabbath days, sometimes two outdoor and three indoor and vice versa, in many instances doing all the preaching and praying himself, besides leading the singing at each meeting, no other Elder or Priest being associated with him in opening up a great deal of new ground. He often worked with his hands on weekdays, to obtain money to help pay for hall rents and defray other necessary expenses, and says he seldom felt weary in body or mind.

He took passage on board the ship “Ellen,” which left Liverpool Jan. 8, 1851, James W. Cummings being the president of the company, and arrived in St. Louis, Mo., in the latter part of March. He remained in that city until the spring of 1852, having been prostrated by sickness nine months of the time; left Winter Quarters June 12th, in company No. 4 (Captain Joseph Outhouse) and arrived in Great Salt Lake valley Sept. 6th of that year. Feb. 17, 1853, he was ordained to the office of a Seventy and became identified with the 31st Quorum; received his endowments Aug. 24, 1854, was ordained a High Priest Sept. 12, 1854, and set apart to act as counselor to Bishop John Lytle of the Eleventh Ward, Salt Lake City. He continued to act in that capacity until August, 1856, at which time Bishop Lytle was sent to Carson valley on a mission. Jan. 25, 1857, he was called to act as counselor to Alexander McRae who had been appointed to fill the vacancy occasioned by Bishop Lytle’s removal. Elder Taylor continued to act as counselor to Bishop McRae until 1868, having previously removed to the Thirteenth Ward.

Dec. 22, 1875, he was called by Pres. Brigham Young to go on a mission to the States of Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois, to labor among the Josephites and others who had suceeded from the Church. He was accompanied on this mission by Elder Claudius V. Spencer, of Salt Lake City, who had been appointed at the same time; they were joined by Elder Isaac Bullock, of Provo, at Council Bluffs upon his return from the East. As the result of this mission 36 persons were baptized, three branches organized, eight children blessed and one couple married; meetings were held nearly every night; 24 of the 36 baptized emigrated to the Valley in less than one year.

While upon this mission Elder Taylor paid a personal visit to Emma Smith, widow of the Prophet Joseph Smith, who was residing in the Mansion house in Nauvoo at that time with her husband, Lewis C. Bidaman, to whom she was married some time after Joseph’s death. Elder Taylor’s object in making this visit was to learn from Emma’s own lips some things in relation to the “Reorganized church,” which was presided over by her oldest son Joseph.

Among other things he propounded this question, “Why did you use your influence to have your son Joseph installed as the president of the Re-organization, knowing, as you must have done, that the men who would confer upon him this authority were apostates and some of them had been cut off from the Church?” To which she replied somewhat evasively, but from her remarks he discovered her intense dislike for Pres. Brigham Young, whom she accused of entirely ignoring Joseph’s family. She claimed that the family had a right to not only recognition but to representation. For this reason and her utter distaste of the man from other causes had led her to do as she had done.

Brother Taylor replied by taking out of his pocket a photograph of Pres. Young, and showing it to her, remarking: “After all, Emma, he appears to be pretty well preserved personally, and the Church has not lost any of its strength either numerically or otherwise from the opposition which I think you have very unwisely aided and abetted.” At this point the conversation ended.

Elder Taylor returned home April 7, 1876, and on the following day (April 8th), in general conference, he was called to act as second counselor to Angus M. Cannon, who was called at the same time to preside over the Salt Lake Stake of Zion. Oct. 18, 1884, he was set apart under the hands of the late Pres. John Taylor, George Q. Cannon and Angus M. Cannon, to act as first counselor to the latter, Brother David O. Calder, who had heretofore filled that position, having died a short time previous. Elder Taylor still occupies the latter position.

He has always been prominent in sustaining the institutions in Zion, which have for their object the advancement of the people. This has been exhibited by him in a very marked manner in relation to Church schools and especially in regard to the L. D. S. University, formerly the L. D. S. College, in Salt Lake City. When it seemed impossible to longer maintain the college, he personally undertook the task of raising means for its support, for he had expressed himself as believing that the Lord would be displeased with the Saints if they discontinued it. In his effort he was eminently successful.

Liberal donations were made by a great many of the citizens, prominent among whom was Elder Taylor himself. President Snow expressed himself as highly pleased with the successful effort made, and nobly responded with the gift in behalf of the Church of one quarter of the block east of the Temple, upon which a very creditable building has recently been erected and is now fully occupied with students. Following this, Sister M. Barratt’s gift of money sufficient to erect upon this ground the “Barratt Memorial Building” for school purposes, and the transfer of real estate by the heirs of President Young to the University, will furnish enough means to erect a third building. The gift of $1,000 for library purposes by Ezra T. Clark and other prospects in view give additional promise of perpetual success to this institution of learning, in which Elder Taylor has taken so much interest.


2 thoughts on “Taylor vs Taylor: The Salt Lake City Embalmer War

  1. Joseph Edward Taylor is the father of Joseph William Taylor with his first wife Louisa Rebecca Capener. Louisa’s sister Jane is Joseph Edward Taylor’s second wife. The two wives and their children lived at “The Big House” which was the funeral home. When Joseph Edward decided to marry a third wife, a 36 year old spinster school teacher named Lisadore Williams, the literal sister wives said that if Joseph Edward married Lisadore, they would leave him. He went ahead and married Lisadore, and true to their word, the Capener sisters left. At the time of his marriage to Lisadore, Joseph William Taylor was 21 and had learned the trade in part from his father. I assume that some of the resentment his mother had when her husband took a new wife may have been also been felt by her son. Or perhaps the father was also resentful and didn’t want his oldest son to work for him because of his first wife’s attitude. All we know is that there was competition between the father and son in the funeral business. Joseph Edward’s son with Lisadore, Samuel Moore Taylor, took over his father’s business and ran it until 1942 when he moved to Los Angeles to run a funeral home there. Joseph Edward Taylor was the first mortician in the Salt Lake Valley, so he definitely was more experienced than his son. There is record that he and his son Samuel prepared more than 30,000 bodies for burial. But, of course, being a descendant of Samuel Moore Taylor, I would take my ancestors’ side in this feud.

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