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My father stood in manhood prime
At the door of death on the shore of time
The latch was raised by an unseen hand
And he passed within the better land
— David Hyrum Smith
Albumen Carte-de-Visite PHOTOGRAPH OF DAVID HYRUM SMITH, youngest son of Joseph and Emma Smith. No photographer's imprint. Illinois or Iowa? ca. 1860-62?
David Hyrum SMITH (1844-1904) married Clara Charlotte Hartshorn (1851-1926) in 1870. An artist, musician and writer, young David was particularly admired by his family and eventually served in the RLDS first presidency and as a missionary. He began to show signs of mental instability after visiting Utah and beginning to believe that his father Joseph Smith had indeed practiced polygamy. He spent his later life in an institution. Clara remained true to David, raised Elbert Aoriul, and eventually died at Elbert's home in Independence. According to Joseph III's reminiscences, "she always said, 'He may recover. If he does, he will find me his wife, as I was when he left me. His leaving was the result of misfortune for which neither of us was responsible, so far as my knowledge goes, and I wish to remain faithful to him.'" (Joseph Smith III and the Restoration, p. 273)
9.2 X 5.4 cm. (approximately 3 5/8 X 2 1/8 inches) on a slightly larger plain card mount. Verso blank but for simple pencil notation, "David Smith," in an unidentified hand. In very good condition.
For some years, I have considered this to be one of the most striking photographs which exists of any member of the immediate Joseph Smith Family, surpassed perhaps only by the Daguerreotype of the bereaved Emma holding the same subject as a baby, born five months after the martyrdom.
I am aware of only one other copy of this photographic treasure, preserved by the Community of Christ (RLDS Church, Independence Missouri). That example was reproduced by Buddy Youngreen in Reflections of Emma (Orem, Utah: Grandin Book Co., 1982), p. , and reproduced in reverse-image by Valeen Tippetts Avery in From Mission to Madness; last Son of the Mormon Prophet (Urbana & Chicago: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1998), between pp. 19 and 21.
The price above is the amount I committed myself to pay, if necessary, when I obtained this item. It went virtually unnoticed by most other bidders, however, so this now becomes my retail price. Here is David Hyrum at about 16-18 years of age (judging from his appearance in several later pictures taken through his twenties). He is still a gangly boy, and I wonder if the velvet cape belonged to the photographer - thrown over David's narrow shoulders, perhaps, to add a sense of bulk. David's only sister apparently never had a copy of this picture; it is not present in the Julia Album. It is not reproduced in the classic illustrated genealogical history of the Ancestry and Posterity of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale written by David's niece and Joseph III's daughter Mary Audentia Smith Anderson (Independence, 1929).
ABOUT THE TIME this picture was taken, Brigham Young, in Utah, reportedly hoped that David would convert to the Utah Church and eventually become the Mormon President. ". . . speculation in Utah concerning David's leadership surfaced," explains Valeen Tippetts Avery,
. . . in May 1861. The newly founded RLDS True Latter Day Saints' Herald reported Brigham Young had commented that David would someday lead the Utah church. The Herald, under Joseph [III]'s editorial control, reported the remarks with a sense of mild irritation that the Utahns could be so oblivious to David's real loyalties. While Brigham Young showed no hesitation in bringing up the subject of David's leading the Utah church, David was too far removed by youth and geography to pose a threat to his presidency. Brigham believed that one of Joseph Smith Jr.'s sons would be a visionary leader, and he was certain Joseph III had chosen the wrong church. As for David, who had no attraction to Utah and did not yet share Joseph's zeal for building any Mormon church, a professional life as an artist seemed far more attractive. [From Mission to Madness, p. 49]
Readers may have seen the famous, rather primitive rendition of Nauvoo, from the river bank, which David painted. He was also appreciated for his verse. The example quoted at the head of this page, for example, was written in empathy for a child of his brother Frederick who died at age twenty five (ibid., p. 52, there reading ". . . on the share [sic] of time . . .")
detail, greatly enlarged,
showing the features preserved in this photograph
- the final combined genes of Joseph Smith and Emma Hale -
"David's poetry caught the imagination
of the [RLDS] church leaders," adds Dr. Avery,
who saw his potential in writing religious literature. Fondly, affectionately, they nicknamed him the "Sweet Singer of Israel" for his fine voice and fluent pen. The earliest reference occurred in RLDS missionary Charles Derry's journal entry of December 22, 1862. Eager to meet the prophet's family, Derry and his companions visited Nauvoo. In David they saw a tall, slender youth of eighteen, "a very intelligent young man" in Derry's opinion. His light complexion and blue eyes, together with "a warm temperament" and quick-witted powers of perception, impressed them. David entertained them with songs and compositions. "He is all of life," Derry confided afterward in his journal, "full of poetry, of a very sensitive nature, but I notice that he studies his mother's wish in all things," a quality Derry commented about several times in journal entries. He found David impulsive, kind, generous, and enthusiastic, a gifted "natural poet" who was "truely entitled to the epithet of 'Sweet Singer of Israel.' " [From Mission to Madness, p. 52]
To see David's handwriting and to catch a hint of his relationship with Emma, see a letter which he wrote to her while concealing his tears from Joseph Smith III in 1869.
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