by Richard Thayne

This article originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 1990 issue of Pioneer Magazine

Salt Lake City, September 7, 1990, the L.D.S. Museum of Church History and Art, brought together, unknowingly, two photographer lifetime acquaintances. They are the living preservers of the Photographic display.

Rel G. Francis, Eva Crandall, President Leo Crandall

This irreplaceable collection of Early Church History Photographs will be on display to be enjoyed by Church and nonmember visitors alike from all over the world.

This day was the grand opening of the showing of the valuable prints. As Richard Thayne finished taking a picture of the log cabin which stands between the Genealogy and Museum building, a voice from the door of the museum said, “Don’t I know you?” It was Rel G. Francis, famous Springville photographer and historian. As they renewed their acquaintance, he invited Mr. Thayne to meet the people who had helped him get the Anderson pictures President and Mrs. Crandall.

George Edward Anderson, Springville photographer between 1860 and 1928, created an estimated thirty thousand pictures of great historical value. People often said that the ground he walked on was hallowed.

Prior to the use of roll film, glass plates were coated with a light-sensitive emulsion. Using a primitive old camera, George Edward Anderson photographed the Mormon lands and people. As a boy he dreamed that “He was to preserve history with his camera.”

Mr. Anderson constructed and used a large tent. He used it to bend the sunlight to create portrait and creative lighting equal to the modern lighting of today. In the many years he took pictures, he photographed the Mormon surroundings and peoples in New York, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois and the Mormon trails to Utah and Springville, Utah.

In 1909, using his photographs, he wrote a book entitled “The Birth of Mormonism In Picture.” At the age of forty-five, he spent a year photographing the places he traveled and taught during his mission. His photographs are another evidence of the sacrifices and hardships people went through to preach the Gospel to the world, and another witness to the teachings of the Book of Mormon.

Four ton of these precious plates were microfilmed in S. L. C. and then the plates were thrown in the garbage.

A lovely woman employee of this Historical Society caught the spirit of George Edward Anderson’s dream, gathered up these plates each day and took them home with her. She realized the historical value of these pictures (1961). Accumulating four tons of glass plates makes a large coffee table for any house.

She called Pres. Leo Crandall and told him about the valuable pictures. The man on the right in the picture, hauled the four ton of glass plates and put them in the basement of a Springville, Utah store.

In 1970, Pres. Crandall told Historian and art teacher Rel Francis about this great find. Rel got from Leo ten thousand glass plates. Being an artist with a hobby of , Mr. Francis wrote a book on George Edward Anderson which he illustrated with his pictures. Mr. Francis printed the pictures by the thousands, all sizes on all different subjects. From Rel’s business “Heritage Prints”, these pictures found their way into restaurants, other businesses, homes, schools, scrapbooks and especially, into the hearts of people. Because of the efforts of these people, the prints will live forever.

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