The Lost Class of 1899

During the commencement ceremonies held last week, 6,297 degrees were awarded for those graduating in December 2017 and April 2018. This makes up a significant portion of the approximately 8,500 students that graduate each year. On the other side of the spectrum, however, is the Class of 1899–a lost graduating class caused by shifting university program requirements.

Following the inauguration of President Benjamin Cluff, Brigham Young Academy began strengthening its requirements for granting degrees, while expanding its curriculum. At the time the Church Normal Training School was established in 1891, incoming students had to be high school graduates of at least age 14 and were required to complete a four-year course of study to qualify for a Bachelor of Didactics diploma. Both of these requirements changed in 1894/1895, with the admission age raised to a minimum of 16, and successful completion of a comprehensive examination. Graduation requirements were also adjusted, moving from a four-year to a six-year program. When the Collegiate Department was formed in 1896, graduation requirements changed again, returning to “four years’ work, beginning with the twelfth grade. This includes the Normal Training School of three years’ work.”

At the time of the requirements change in 1894/1895, those that had been previously enrolled were allowed to complete their degree according to the old requirements, if they could graduate before the end of the 1898 school year. Due to these shifting requirements, only one student graduated in 1899 with a bachelor’s degree–John M. Mills. Mills had first entered the Academy around 1886, and was allowed to complete his program in 1899. However, the Utah County Democrat reported that “there was no graduating class this year.” This aberration was changed the following year with full commencement exercises for the “Century Class” of 1900.

For more information about graduating classes, see the commencement programs and student newspapers available on the BYU History digital collections page.

New Exhibit: The Relief Society Bazaar

Special Collection’s newest small exhibit is ““Handicrafts & Heritage: LDS Relief Society Bazaars,” a look at the 20th century phenomenon of Relief Society fundraising fairs. Relief Society sisters from all around the world participated in bazaars, selling handmade crafts and foods to raise money for their Relief Society budgets. The exhibit features photos and crafts from bazaars held from Provo to French Polynesia, in conjunction with the larger exhibit on level one of the library, “Welcome to Our Charity Bazaars,” which tells the story of fundraising bazaars’ origin in Victorian England. The exhibit will be on display through the month of May.

Victorian Leisure: Games

Special Collections has just digitized a set of books of games from Victorian England. From charades and riddles to group party games and homemade toys, these books illustrate the types of home-based entertainment which were popular among children and adults in the 19th century. Find and try a game your ancestor might have played, or at least learn what characters from your favorite 19th century English or American novel were doing when they were playing games like “forfeits.” You can find the scanned items at the library’s Victorian Collection on the Internet Archive.



New arrivals: French literature

A collection of 18th century editions of French poetry and drama has recently been added to Special Collections. From major authors like Voltaire and Molière to collections of obscure playwrights, there are plenty of resources now available for scholars of French literature. Books from this collection can be found in the library catalog by searching for individual titles and authors or by using genre terms like “poetry — French,” “French drama,” or “French drama (comedy).”

Theodore McKean family record book

Theodore McKean (1829-1897)

L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a new digitized collection: Theodore McKean family record book (MSS SC 1990). This item is a handwritten record book that documents the genealogy of the McKean family. It also includes a short autobiography of Theodore McKean. He describes his youth, his conversion to the Mormon faith, and his various business affairs.

The LDS Church History Library also holds papers related to Theodore McKean, all of which have also been digitized.

Theodore McKean (1829-1897) was a Mormon businessman, politician, and militia leader who lived in Salt Lake City, Utah. McKean was born on October 26, 1829, in Ocean Township, New Jersey, to Washington McKean and Margaret Wallin Ivins. On April 12, 1847, he married Mary Page Gulick, and together they had eight children. On November 27, 1851, he was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In 1853, Theodore traveled alone in the Anthony Ivins Company to Utah. In 1857, he returned to New Jersey to pick up his family and bring them to Utah. Theodore and Margaret began their journey across the plains on June 1 at Westport, Missouri, in a mule-drawn carriage. Theodore was named a captain of a single-family company, consisting of his wife and three children: Sarah (8), Mary (5), and Theodore (1). The McKean’s arrived in Utah on July 22, 1857, settling in Salt Lake City.  In Salt Lake City, McKean was a businessman and served as a Utah territorial marshal, city councilman, and counselor in the bishopric in the Salt Lake City Sixteenth Ward.

In 1869, Theodore was called on a proselytizing mission to the United States. On May 11, 1875, he took a second wife, Elizabeth Ann Emery, and together they had 14 children. That October, Theodore was called on another mission to the Southern States. In July 1891, at the age of 61, he was called once again on a mission to the British Mission.

Theodore McKean passed away in Salt Lake City, Utah, on July 9, 1897.

Native Souvenirs

When missionaries go to foreign missions, it is not uncommon to pick up some souvenirs that are made in the country. When senior missionaries and mission presidents go they have the ability to purchase more native art.  This material lore, which is not necessarily made by LDS artists, enhances their homes and brings back memories. This is a Ghanaian basket  made by local artists.




This is an altar with a carved depiction of the prophet Mormon made by a local member of the Church in Ghana. A missionary couple requested the piece of art be made for their misson president and his wife.







This artwork was purchased from a local artist and demonstrates the colors and movements of Ghanaian women.



Here are replicas of Ghanaian transportation. The buses are full of people and creatures and the boats are also jammed packed. These wooden pieces came from the market.  It is possible to find representative artwork from many countries and cultures.

The Wilson Folklore Archives have been lacking in representations of material culture. During the course of this year, we will be increasing the number of items in the collection and sharing them with you on the blog.


The Cuala Press

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting the work of one of the first female fine press printers, Elizabeth Corbet Yeats (1868-1940). Elizabeth was the sister of poet William Butler Yeats.

Elizabeth, known as “Lolly,” and her sister Susan, called “Lily,” were both involved in the Arts & Crafts movement in England and Ireland. Lily trained with May Morris at Morris & Co. and Lolly trained at the Women’s Printing Society in London. They were involved in a Dublin-area crafts guild, Dun Emer, Lolly overseeing a small press (Dun Emer Press) and Lily overseeing an embroidery workshop. In 1908 the Yeats sisters established their own enterprise, Cuala Industries, and Lolly changed her imprint to the Cuala Press. The press issued the work of many Irish Literary Revival authors, including William Butler Yeats.

Special Collections owns about two dozen examples of works from the Dun Emer and Cuala Presses as part of our Edwardian Literature Collection.


Minutes from excommunication of Orson Pratt, Jr.

L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a new digitized collection: Minutes from excommunication of Orson Pratt, Jr. (MSS 6954). This document describe the court proceedings in the trial of Orson Pratt, Jr., son of LDS Apostle Orson Pratt. His trial, held on September 18, 1864 was a public meeting held to determine whether Pratt should retain his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a result of the trial, Pratt was excommunicated. The single leaf of paper holds roughly ninety-nine lines of handwritten material from the trial. Dated 1864.

Orson Pratt, Sr. (1811-1881)

Orson Pratt (1837-1903) was a musician and music instructor in Salt Lake City, Utah. Pratt was born in Kirtland, Ohio on July 11th to Orson and Sarah Pratt. Pratt was excommunicated from the Latter-day Saint Church in 1864 after refusing Brigham Young’s request to serve a mission and publicly denouncing Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter-day Saint movement. He died on December 6, 1903 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Women’s History Month: The Remarkable Alice Louise Reynolds

March is Women’s History Month, and Special Collections is celebrating with an exhibit celebrating the life and legacy of one of the most influential women in the history of Brigham Young University, Alice Louise Reynolds. Reynolds taught literature (first at Brigham Young Academy, then Brigham Young University) from 1894 to 1938. She was responsible for growing the university’s library in its early years. Reynolds also served on the General Board of the Relief Society, was an editor of the Relief Society Magazine, and was active in political and educational associations in Utah.

“The Remarkable Alice Louise Reynolds” exhibit is drawn from the collection of her personal papers held in Special Collections and will be on display through mid-April 2018.

New Exhibit: Early Mormon Currency and Financial Records

We are pleased to announce a new exhibit now on display in L. Tom Perry Special Collections. It is titled “Mixing Money and Religion: Early Mormon Currency and Financial Records.” This exhibit showcases various types of rare currency created and issued by the LDS Church in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Currency on display includes: Kirtland Safety Society banknotes, Nauvoo House stock certificates, and “White Notes,” which are early Utah currency from the late 1840s. The rest of the display includes records related to raising money to fund the construction of the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples and other houses of worship,  and records related to co-operatives, including ZCMI, bishop’s storehouse, and the United Order.

This exhibit will be on display in the Reading Room in Special Collections until the end of April 2018. Come see this new exhibit and learn more about early Mormon economic history!

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