Orson Hyde, Member of the First Morman Quorum of Twelve, As Seen (Twice) by Francis Henry Grice

The horizontally flipped left image (1844) is from the Grice Collection in the Library of Congress Daguerreotype #1381: [Unidentified man, half-length portrait, facing front] – color film copy transparency | Library of Congress (loc.gov); The right image (ca 1852) is from Orson Hyde – Biography (josephsmithpapers.org). Both images have been cropped from the sources given. The original left image is half-length and the right full-length (standing). Daguerrean cameras, lens, and plates improved over the approximately 15 years from 1839 to 1855 when it was the only widely used technique.

Distortion in data selection can be purposeful when the practice is deemed “cherry-picking,” or distortion can come from well-meaning but misguided attempts at objectivity. Of the various cognitive forms of bias, apophenia (the human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns within random data) is both the most euphonious and most ubiquitous in both history and medicine. A medical mentor was heard to mutter when a colleague supported his own strong opinion by citing his long experience: “You have repeatedly made the same mistake for 40 years and now dignify it as experience.”[1]

Of the 51 images returned from a search for the word “Grice” in the LOC Daguerreotype Collection, 27 depict an adult male either alone (21) or with a woman(6). This small sample size of 27 presents both some protections from the pitfalls of apophenia and some susceptibilities.

The Grice 27 images seem to have been made with the same technique, probably with the same camera/lens and very similar if not a single “batch” of plates. Lighting was ambient indoors and thus variable depending on weather, time of day, etc. Lenses (originally mirrors) needed to have wide apertures which limited the depth of field that was in focus and introduced distortions.

Fifteen of the 27 images were made on 82 x 70 mm (sixth plate format), silvered copper. However, two images (#1524 & 1382) were 140 x 104 mm (half plate format). Three images were in quarter plate format. Six images were 65 x 50 mm (ninth plate format). The larger plates produced better images.

Bromide vapors were introduced that increased light sensitivity and reduced exposure time. Lenses also improved. So, the task of matching the ~1844 identity of a subject based on images gathered a decade or more later is confounded by differing perspectives/poses, improvements in technique, and the aging of the subjects.

Orson Hyde (1807-1878) was 37 years old in 1844 which seems consistent with his appearance in Daguerreotype #1381. A much heavier Orson Hyde is depicted in the image on the right.

Some will quickly point to the absence of the chin cleft in the gaunt youthful picture. However, Orson had been seriously ill for much of 1839 with “fever and ague” – i.e., malaria, which was endemic in the swamps of Nauvoo. He was emaciated and unable to travel. Howard Barron included a sketch of Hyde dated ca1839 on page 20 of his 1977 biography. He credited Prof. Lamar C. Berrett as the source of the illustrations.

This sketch looks like it could have been drawn from the Grice Daguerreotype, which came to the Library of Congress 22 years after Barron’s book was published. Barron, H. H. Orson Hyde: missionary, apostle, colonizer. Bountiful, Utah, Horizon Publishers, 1977, p20,107.
Orson Hyde’s Grice Daguerreotype (not horizontally flipped)
Marinda Nancy Johnson and Orson Hyde in the Spring or Summer of 1844 from Grice Dag #1354

Thus far in this series identities have been proposed for the following Grice Daguerreotypes:

  1. #1336 Unitarian Minister Augustus Conant and Betsy Kelsey Conant [Unidentified man and woman, seated, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov) https://www.loc.gov/item/2004664531/
  2. #1346 Unitarian Minister Arthur Buckminster Fuller [Unidentified man, three-quarters length portrait] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
  3. #1352 Second Scribe Oliver Cowdery [Unidentified man with beard, half-length portrait, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
  4. #1516 Mormon member of the Quorum of Twelve Charles Coulson Rich [Unidentified man with beard, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
  5. #1501 Morman member of the Quorum of Twelve Wilford Woodruff [Unidentified man, half-length portrait, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
  6. #1353 First Scribe Martin Harris [Unidentified man, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing slightly right] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
  7. #1368 Prophet, First President of LDS Joseph Smith, Jr., and Emma Hale Smith [Unidentified man and woman, three-quarters length portrait, seated] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
  8. #1381 Mormon member First Quorum of Twelve Orson Hyde [Unidentified man, half-length portrait, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
  9. #1518 Morman Member First Quorum of Twelve Orson Pratt [Unidentified man, half-length portrait, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)
  10. #1520 Second President of LDS Brigham Young [Unidentified young man, half-length portrait, facing front] | Library of Congress (loc.gov)

[1] RBN, Jr., M.D., personal communication. The informant based his statement upon Hippocrates’ dictum: “Life is short and Art long; the crisis fleeting; experience perilous, and decision difficult.”

3 thoughts on “Orson Hyde, Member of the First Morman Quorum of Twelve, As Seen (Twice) by Francis Henry Grice

  1. The elder image of 1852 Orson Hyde looks to me to be too great an age disparity for ten years beyond 1844. Also, the lips do not match, unless, of course, the older man was pursing his lips.for the delayed exposure.

    There is no cleft in the chin of the Grice young man, nor is there one in the sketch, but there is a mark or “shadow” below the lip and above the chin in both images, but I see none in the 1852 image. And the older man appears to have wider nostrils.

    I will “buy” the Grice image as Orson Hyde, but require more proof, more provenance to agree that the stouter man is Orson Hyde.

    “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” – Sherlock Holmes.

    Heber Kimball spent much time prior to 1844 in England, as a missionary. Was he in Nauvoo in mid-1844? Inquiring minds want to know.

    KIMBALL,Heber C. PRESIDENT HEBER C. KIMBALL’S JOURNAL. Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1882. 2d, Enlarged. shelfrubbed brown cloth, soiled; ex libris Carle Weeks. 16mo.
    “… the first of what might be termed Mormon ‘faith-promoting literature.’ It contains an account of the beginnings of the British mission inaugurated by Heber Kimball, Orson Hyde, and five others in the summer of 1837 -NOTABLE MORMON BOOKS 1830-1857, no.15.” [Howes T202; Graff 2323; Jones 1036]. “Very Scarce –auction sale catalog of Charles J. Barnes in 1920”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You Sherlockian antiquarian bookmen are over-the-moon on provenance. But then you never got burned by Mark H. I have not tried to contact Barboza or Maillet who sold the Grices in two separate tranches to LOC. A Mormon scholar, Patrick Bishop, tried Barboza but got a “do not remember” answer.
    The cleft chin discrepancy is simply a matter of subcutaneous fat “to bulge” out around the incomplete embryologic midline fusion of the mandible. Clearly, Orson overcompensated some. You recall, no doubt, my interest in the grave robber, Dr. C.D. Dagget, from Burlington, Vermont, and later Joliet and Elgin, Illinois. He 49ered to near Genoa, Nevada, where Dagget’s Pass takes one on a vertical stroll over to Placerville. Orson Hyde was found frozen in a snowbank by the good doctor in the Pass in 1855, I think. He somehow maneuvered the corpulent Judge Hyde over to Daggett’s Creek where he “warmed” the feet and lower legs in the ice water. He then had a house guest for a few weeks but never had to amputate. This was said to have been the first professional medical treatment ever rendered in what became Nevada. If you run across the physician’s fee invoice, I’d be interested, depending on provenance. BTW, Daggett was also the first State’s Attorney in Nevada Territory. I’m thinking he never lost a case in Hyde’s Court. My St. Charles buddy Lewis Adelbert Norton also practiced law in Hyde’s Court.
    I agree the Hyde pic looks like an older guy than late 40’s.
    I have taken Holmes’ advice will look more to Thomas Bayes for advice on probabilities!
    I always enjoy my role as Watson, being an elementary kind of guy.


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