Set in Stone, Fixed in Glass
by Nelson B. Wadsworth
C. W. CARTER
“Views—1,000 to Select From!”
C. W. SYMONS
“A Master at Portraiture”
[p.131] Among the commercial photographers at the capstone-laying ceremony for the Salt Lake temple in 1892 was an eccentric, sixty-year-old British Army veteran who had been photo-documenting Mormon life for nearly three decades. Charles William Carter had become interested in photography as a young soldier during the Crimean War (1853-56), shortly after the collodion or wet-plate process forced daguerreotypes into obsolescence.1
Carter was born on 4 August 1832 in London, England, to Richard Carter and Eliza Shadbolt.2 Not much is known of his parents and childhood. His forty-three-year-old father died of consumption on 24 October 1837 when Carter was only five. A year later his mother married James Deavill, a “licensed victualler” (a person who supplies groceries to ships). According to the 1841 [p.132] London census five members of the Deavill family were living in Francis Place, Pool Street, Tower Hamlets, St. Leonard Shoreditch, but Carter was not among them. One of his great-granddaughters speculated, “Perhaps he was apprenticed out to a gun-maker. He would have been age 9.”
Carter’s stepfather died on 28 June 1844 in London Hospital where he was suffering from “a fall from a window in a state of insanity.”3 Apparently he had been admitted—or perhaps committed—for an unspecified mental disorder and either fell or jumped from the hospital window. Carter was not quite twelve years old. A year and a half later his mother married Mark Woodall Spittle, a gun-maker, who probably continued to teach Carter the gunsmithing trade. Three years later Carter joined the Royal Artillery.
In 1854, when the British opened a military training complex at Aldershot Boroughs in Hampshire, Carter, by then a seasoned artilleryman, was among the first troops stationed there. More than thirty years later, after a fire swept through the barracks, Carter wrote to the Deseret Evening News, “I have always claimed that I was the first British soldier to occupy the same, viz., in June, 1854, as acting quartermaster sergeant. I took over the huts at that time for No. 3 company, 12th battalion, royal artillery, and remained there a short time, when the company of 200 strong embarked for the Crimea.
During the time I was at [p.135] Aldershot, there were not over 500 men there, all told. In 1857, when I was stationed there again as battery sergeant major, 8th battery, 5th brigade, royal artillery, at field days they could muster 40,000 men, cavalry, artillery and infantry.”4
Carter remained in the army after the war ended, serving on the island fortress of Gibraltar in the Mediterranean Sea. In early 1861 he was promoted to bombardier. He was occasionally listed as a “schoolmaster” but was discharged in mid-1862 at the age of thirty holding the rank of gunner.5 He then seems to have pursued photography as his primary vocation.
A year after his discharge Carter married Sarah Stockdale. Sarah, recently turned nineteen, along with others in her family, had been a member of the LDS faith for several years. No doubt she influenced Carter to investigate Mormonism and eventually to accept baptism. On his marriage certificate he listed his occupation as “Photographic Artist,” a craft in which he would be engaged for the remainder of his life. Carter was baptized a Mormon on 14 May 1862. Less than two years later, on 3 June 1864, Carter and his wife left England for Salt [p.136] Lake City on board the Hudson, accompanied by Sarah’s parents, a brother, and two sisters. Carter’s father-in-law paid for the passage.6
Among the hundreds of Latter-day Saints who boarded the Hudson with Carter were a nineteen-year-old Englishman and his mother. Like Carter, Charles William Symons would leave his own mark on western photography. “My father was opposed to our leaving,” Symons later wrote, “so we had to be very careful or our plans for emigration would have been thwarted and our fares, which were paid in advance, would have been lost.”7
The ship’s rations consisted mainly of salt beef, salt pork, potatoes, rice, split peas, flour, tea, salt, pepper, sugar, and “hard tack” or “ship’s biscuits.” The latter, Symons observed, “were not very enticing, it being necessary to break [p.137] them with a hammer.” Once broken open, however, “many jumpers or maggots rolled out of the crevices.” Still, “there were many heavy sighs,” Symons recalled, “and many a tear shed, when leaving the English Channel, for the last time, to take a glimpse of their native land, England, as it gradually faded from view to see no more land until reaching the shores of the United States.”8
The passage across the Atlantic was, in Symons’s words, “not very interesting.” The only break in monotony came about mid-ocean when the passengers were awakened at night by a flurry of activity on deck. Next morning they learned the ship had nearly collided with another boat. “We felt, upon hearing the news, surely the Lord was mindful of us, and that He protected us from dangers,” Symons wrote.9
More excitement developed as the ship neared the east coast of the United States. Early one morning a Confederate gunboat overtook the Hudson, hailed it to a standstill, and threatened to seize it as a spoil of war. Since the Civil War was at its peak, the Confederate Navy was attempting to block eastern seaports. [p.139] “After inquiries from our captain we were permitted to move on, for they ascertained that 1,100 British subjects were on board,” Symons said. “Consequently, they had no means of handling that many persons and the would-be prize was given up, the gunboat’s band playing a farewell.”10
Symons also recalled much sickness among the Saints aboard the Hudson, particularly an epidemic of measles which claimed the lives of children and necessitated burials at sea. “It was a custom that will always be remembered by us, and very sad to contemplate,” he said. “The corpse was wrapped in a blanket and then placed upon a plank, and at a certain part of the ceremony the plank was raised and the body fell into the watery grave.”11
The Carters and Symonses landed in New York City after forty-six days at sea. With the other emigrants, they were transported to Castle Gardens where they were given physical examinations and interviewed by customs officials. Once cleared, they traveled up the Hudson River to Albany, where they boarded [p.141] a train for the West. The journey took eleven days. Symons recalled, “Travel on cars was not very commodious and not very clean. It was also slow for bridges and railroad tracks were torn out by Confederate armies, and freight had to be carried across rivers and creeks where train crew awaited to convey us to our destination. At Saint Joe we were placed on a Missouri River boat which carried us to Wyoming, Nebraska, an outfitting point for our journey across the plains.”12
The party arrived at Wyoming, Nebraska Territory, on 2 August 1864. For two weeks some 900 emigrants lived in brush shelters as the wagon train was being outfitted for the western trek. Symons agreed to drive one of the teams in exchange for fare and board for him and his mother. “This was new work for me as I had never seen any oxen yoked before,” he recalled, “but by watching old teamsters it soon became easy…Mother rode in the front of the company and I with the rear guard, so she had a fire started an hour before I came into [p.142] camp at night and something hot ready for a meal. One night coming in I found no fire nor supper and found mother very ill. She said, ‘I am afraid I shall not live to get to Zion.’ I answered, ‘Yes, mother, you will live to get to Zion and will live for 20 years among the Saints,’ which promise was fulfilled.”13
Symons also reported that John Kay, president of the company of Saints on board the Hudson, died before reaching the Utah territory. He was placed in a hastily-crafted, crude, wooden box and buried along the trail. There were other deaths, Symons said, and he helped with each burial.14
Carter’s and Symon’s train arrived in Great Salt Lake City on 2 November 1864, the last company of that season before winter snows closed the mountain passes.15 According to Carter’s daughter, about twenty-five miles out of Fort Bridger the Carter wagon broke down. Carter, his relatives, and friends, like many other emigrants who crossed the plains by wagon, had to walk much of the rest of the way to Salt Lake City.16
Life was difficult for the new settlers. “Mother was engaged by a family… [p.143] to do housework at $1 a week with board and room,” Symons remembered. “I was engaged…at $15 a month, board and room, as a wagon repairer. After a month, when my clothes and shoes were worn out and I had received no pay, my employer said, ‘Thou hast eat thy wage.’ I never was paid and only the fact that mother was working for a shoemaker who made me a pair of boots, mother working ten weeks to pay for them, kept me from being barefooted.”17 Eventually, he began making adobe bricks. Then one day, sometime around 1865 or 1866, he answered an ad in the Salt Lake Daily Telegraph and was hired to deliver newspapers for $10 a week. He continued to make and sell the adobe bricks.18
Meanwhile, Carter entered the competitive field of wet-plate photography. His daughter remembered that he spent $200 for his first wet-plate cameras and other photographic equipment. She also recalled that the wealthy Walker Brothers put up the money to build his first gallery, sometime in the 1860s.19 Initially, however, Carter worked for C. R. Savage in the Savage & Ottinger Photographic Gallery between 1864 and 1867, after which he struck out on his own.20 As the Walker Brothers, William Godbe, Henry Lawrence, Horace S. Eldredge, William Jennings, and other entrepreneurs began building their commercial empires on Salt Lake City’s East Temple Street—sometimes known as “Whiskey Street” for its saloons—Carter put in his bid for his own gallery and borrowed the necessary money.
In mid-1867 Carter took over an existing gallery operated by Sutterley Bros. to establish his first “View Emporium.”21 Shortly afterwards his first advertisement appeared in the Salt Lake Daily Telegraph listing views he had taken along the Overland Stage route.22
Carter’s advertisement indicated that his gallery was located between Second and Third South, on the west side of the street, not between First and Second South, on the east side, as his daughter remembers and early photographs show. One explanation for this discrepancy might be that his first gallery was temporarily located in a different building, across the street and south, in the next block. Another explanation makes more sense and involves another photogra-[p.145]pher. It is known that Carter established his first gallery in 1867, but it may have been in a different location. Salt Lake City photographer J. B. Silvis may have taken over the Sutterley gallery briefly before Carter moved in. In 1868, Carter entered into a partnership with Silvis, and this may date his move to the Sutterley gallery, three doors south of the East Temple Telegraph Office and three doors north of the Salt Lake House, the city’s first hotel, all on the east side of the street. (It was also directly across the street from one of Carter’s chief competitors, Edward Martin.) The Carter & Silvis Gallery advertised briefly in the Salt Lake Daily Telegraph, from 13 February to 5 August 1868, along with Edward Martin and Savage & Ottinger. After this, Savage & Ottinger are listed alone until 1869.23 Carter apparently remained behind after Silvis left Salt Lake City to photograph construction of the transcontinental railroad.
William Henry Jackson, an Omaha photographer making pictures along the railroad in 1869, met Silvis and Andrew J. Russell, another Union Pacific [p.148] photographer, at a station in Echo Canyon early that fall. Jackson was trying to strengthen his silver baths when Russell came into his camp.
“Met Russel, the Union Pacific photographer, and made some tentative plans to accompany him on a journey into the Uinta Mountains next summer,” Jackson recalled. “Borrowed his evaporating dish for boiling down the bath and soon had it in good working order. A man named Silvis was doing portrait photography in a tent. His chemicals were not working well and I spent some time putting him to rights. One day we hired a team and drove over to the Needles, or Witches Rocks, about eight miles from town, and made several negatives.”24
Silvis apparently continued to work either for Union Pacific or on a concession contract along the Pacific Railroad through the mid-1870s, working out of a special “U.P.R.R. Photograph Car.” Painted on the side of the elaborately-built, caboose-like gallery were the words: “Stereoscopic & landscape views of notable [p.152] points on line of Pacific R.R. always on hand, J. B. Silvis, photographer.”25
By 1869 the photography trade in Salt Lake City was booming, and Carter had hired C. W. Symons as an assistant.26 “One day while delivering the paper at Charles W. Carter’s photographic studio,” Symons later wrote, “he called me into his office and asked me to work for him and learn the photograph business at a small wage. I agreed to do this, to be advanced in salary as I progressed in the work. Distributing the paper and adobe making kept me very busy, usually making 500 adobes in a day, and distributing the morning paper gave me plenty of exercise…but eventually photography became my life’s vocation and for years I was a pioneer photographer.”27 Symons worked for Carter until 1874, when he joined with artist Alexander Fox to build the successful Fox & Symons Studio, also on Main Street.
Less than two years after their arrival Charles and Sarah Carter were joined [p.153] “for time and all eternity.” Six years later, after the birth of their second son, Sarah died in the Carter home from “childbed fever.” The following August, Carter, then forty, married eighteen-year-old Annie Crawford, who had been working for the Carters as a nanny.28
Meanwhile C. W. Symons also took a bride, Arzella Whitaker, whose parents had arrived in the valley with the first pioneers in 1847. In fact, Arzella had been born in a wagon box while her parents were building their first home in the frontier settlement.29
Sometime between 1878 and 1880, Carter moved his East Temple Street gallery to a location near the corner of East Temple and Third South streets. He remained here only briefly, because two years later the Salt Lake City directory lists him at “93 Commercial Street, two doors south of Theatre Street.”30 Times [p.154] must have been difficult because the move was a step down. Fortunately, he was soon able to return to Third South and East Temple, where he stayed for another five years.31 Then on 15 October 1889 he built his final gallery at 207-209 West First South. His painted sign became a familiar sight to visitors: “Views! 1,000 to select from—Cabinet, stereographic & album. Views of Utah and Notabilities & Indian photographs. Cabinets $1.50, album size 75 cents per dozen. Instantaneous photographs of children a specialty. C. W. Carter, photographer, established 1865.”32
In the downstairs portion of his gallery Carter briefly operated a gun shop, then a grocery store and cigar and magazine stand from which he sold his souvenir views of Utah. The so-called “album size” photographs were actually cartes de visite pictures, thus putting into circulation thousands of historic views [p.155] of Utah and assuring their preservation. The term “album size” referred to specially-designed horizontally-shaped albums in which one could insert cartes de visite photographs, back to back, six to a page. The thick, velvet covers and gilded edges on the pages made elegant additions to the family parlor, where visitors could see who had come to the home before them and left their “photographic visiting cards.”
In his small studio and darkroom Carted used the same photographic techniques that other photographers had used before him: the collodion or wet-plate process. In fact, Carter was slow to adapt to dry plates which came into common use about 1881. Many of Carter’s negatives today dated as late as 1900 are in the collodion process. Carter also used these techniques to photocopy many of Marsena Cannon’s daguerreotypes. Some of Cannon’s pictures survive only in Carter’s collection.
[p.158] Two notebooks Carter kept reveal little about him. They consist primarily of captions for his pictures and are invaluable for identifying his negatives. For his pictures of the Salt Lake Theatre, he wrote: “Theatre—Corner of 1st East and 1st South dedicated March 6, ’62. It is granite finished. 172 ft. length from north to south, 80 ft. wide. Ceiling 40 ft. from floor. The auditorium is divided into parquet. Ist or dress circles and 2nd and 3rd circles. Will seat about 1,700 persons.” The entry continues with details about architecture, the stage, dressing rooms, and general characteristics.33
One clue to Carter’s sense of humor can be found in a poem scrawled in one of his notebooks: “Knows he who never took a pinch nosey!/ The pleasure thence which flows/ Knows he the titillating joys/ Which my nose knows/ Oh nose! I am as proud of thee/ As any mountain of its snows/ I gaze on thee, and feel what joy/ A Roman knows.”34
Almost immediately Carter’s techniques captured the imagination of city residents, and his services were always in demand. His prices were competitive, [p.161] and settlers no doubt appreciated cartes de visite at between 50 and 75 cents a dozen.
Brigham Young was among Carter’s first customers. One of his most memorable photographs is a portrait of Young taken near the prophet’s sixty-fourth birthday. About the same time Carter’s competitor, Savage, took a full-face portrait of Young, showing him standing with a cane in one hand and a stovepipe hat in the other. Both photos show the prophet with the same gray streak in his beard and the same unruly locks of hair over his ear. In the 1860s and 1870s Young seemed to divide his time between Carter and Savage, but in later years as Carter aged and Savage grew in popularity, Young gravitated toward Savage, whose fame as a photographer began spreading to the east.
[p.162] Carter also captured a memorable view of Salt Lake City about the time the tabernacle was completed in 1867. “Main Street looking north—showing the west side of Main Street,” he wrote as a caption. “You will recognize the different stores with the Tabernacle in the distance towering over all. You notice the Eagle Emporium, belonging to a self-made man of our times. The Kimball & Lawrence Store & Co. Each block has 10 acres. The streets are laid towards the cardinal points of the compass. Each street 132 feet wide. The houses were in the centre of the lot 20 feet from the front line and shade trees were ordered to be planted on all the sidewalks so as to be watered by creeks that run by the sidewalks.”35
Carter was fond of photographing native Americans. The day he took a picture of “Pahute Jim” and his wife, Carter made this telling notation: “I expect that this is the first time that the loving Jim ever had his arm around the neck of his lady love. As a general thing the Indians are not very loving, as the squaws [p.165] have to do all the hard work and the braves are too high bred to carry bundles through the streets, they are ‘heap big Indians.’ But I got Jim to sit for his ‘pigter’ as they call it. He looked so amiable sitting by the side of his spouse, that I could not resist the inclination of putting his arm around her neck. The picture was taken before he was aware he looked so loving.”36
Symon’s partner, Alexander Fox, died in 1882, and Symons kept the name Fox & Symons because Fox’s wife remained heir to her husband’s estate.37 In 1889 Symons was called on an LDS proselyting mission to England, leaving his oldest daughter, Sarah, then nineteen, to manage the gallery. “While he was gone,” Sarah later remembered, “a photographer started cutting prices and had them down to 50 cents a dozen cabinet size. We had to cut too, in order to keep trade, but I am ashamed of the work we turned out. It had to be inferior paper, mounts, and hurried finishing; but that’s all past and gone. When father was released, I went over to meet him.”38
Carter and Symons continued their work through the 1890s. While Symons concentrated on studio portraits, Carter took numerous photographs of the temple as it rose from its foundations. At the capstone-laying ceremonies, time and circumstances had caught up with Carter, however. Teetering on the brink of poverty, he was struggling with marital difficulties and a talented new photographer was taking over his business.
[p.166] A few months after Carter bought property on Second South, where he would build his last gallery, he sold a portion of the lot for $600. Then, two years later, the Salt Lake City directory listed his business as Faldmo & Company, M. Faldmo and Chas. W. Carter, photographers. Apparently, financial stresses had forced Carter to take a new partner. On 31 December 1894 Carter’s property at 207 West First South was sold at a tax sale for failure to pay property taxes. Carter’s former partner, Mikkael Faldmo, subsequently acquired the property.39
The city’s 1896 directory lists “Charles W. Carter, pictures, Grand Pacific Hotel.” That August Carter and his wife divorced, Annie suing on the grounds of non-support. The following year Carter tried his hand at writing booklets. The first was entitled, The Exodus of 1847. The second, The Life History of the Late President Brigham Young, was published three months later. The final one, The Organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their Beliefs, Also the Life and History of their Prophet, Seer and Revelator, Joseph Smith, was published 23 December 1897. Carter promised his booklets would be “full and interesting accounts of the thrilling experiences of the Latter-day Saints,” but they contained no photographs.
Estranged from his wife and family, Carter opened a small newsstand just outside Temple Square, where he sold pictures and other souvenirs. Finally on 13 March 1906, too old to take more pictures and too feeble to peddle prints and postcards from his stand, Carter sold his entire collection to the Bureau of Information on Temple Square. According to the bill of sale, the collection consisted of 1,500 to 2,000 negatives “more or less and contained in 21 boxes.” Additionally he sold “all photographs and views…all printing apparatus, appliances, materials, supplies, and appurtenances,” including copyrights. The photographer attached a notebook which he marked “Exhibit A” to the bill of sale. It contains a partial list of his negative collection. In return for the negatives and photographic equipment, the Bureau of Information gave $25 to Carter on [p.168] the tenth day of every month until the sum of $400 was paid.40
Carter lived another twelve years after the sale. He died in his sleep of a heart attack on 27 January 1918 at the home of a daughter, Mrs. George Smith, in Midvale, Utah. His obituary in the Deseret News eulogized him as “Pioneer Photographer.”41
Carter’s extensive negative collection was used by the Mormon church for a number of years in making prints for the Temple Square Bureau of Information. Eventually the negatives were filed away in boxes and forgotten. In 1963 the museum curator, Carl Jones, began an inventory of the museum’s holdings and discovered a wooden box containing about three hundred of Carter’s negatives under a pile of debris in the basement. Lorry Rytting, then working for the church’s Information Service and a photographer himself, recognized the worth of the negatives. He had them cleaned and filed in new envelopes, but much of the collection—probably a large share of the individual portraits—has been lost over the years. Nevertheless, many valuable historical scenes photographed by Carter have been preserved in the LDS church historical department.
C. W. Symons operated the Fox & Symons Studio until 31 December 1906, after which the property was sold and Symons, age sixty-one, retired. But he did not give up photography altogether. A granddaughter recalled he continued to shoot portraits of criminals for law enforcement agencies. “After he gave up his studio, I can remember as a young girl that he took pictures of men who were jailed,” she said. “These photos were taken on the long porch that led to the kitchen. At the end of the porch was a lattice which we could look through, but he would not allow us to come too near.”42
The day before Pioneer Day, 23 July 1934, Symons died at the age of eighty-nine. At his funeral, LDS apostle Reed Smoot, who had served with him in Great Britain, eulogized Symons as “one of God’s choicest.” The former Republican U.S. senator told the large crowd: “No one ever dealt with Brother Symons that ever would say anything against his honor and his integrity.”43
1. [p.169] That Carter served in Crimea during the war is attested by his son who reported that his father often took him as a child to Fort Douglas, a military installation adjacent to Salt Lake City. “Dad would easily get an audience of officers and men together as he told them of personal experiences in the Crimean War and later conferences with the local Indians with whom he often became good friends,” he wrote. “As a small boy, I remember eating with the officers and soldiers at the barracks. All of the personnel called him affectionately by his first name” (Ralph Charles Carter to Nelson B. Wadsworth, 15 Sept. 1962).
Coincidental with Carter’s interest in photography, Roger Fenton, secretary of the Photographic Society of London, was the first photographer to document the battlefields of war. About the time Carter took up the camera, Fenton traveled to the Crimea in 1855 with a wagon fitted out as a darkroom and photographed the conflict. His scenes included the cannon-ball-strewn battlefield over which the famous Light Brigade charged (James D. Horan, Timothy O’Sullivan—America’s Forgotten Photographer [Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966], 28). Carter and Fenton probably never met, but photo-documenting was proved the portability of the wet-plate process and influenced Carter’s later frontier camera techniques.
4. Deseret Evening News, 7 Apr. 1887. Carter’s statement hints but does not confirm that he “embarked for the Crimea” and saw action there between 1854 and 1856. But judging from statements by his son years later, it seems certain he served as an artilleryman on the Crimean battlefields during the height of the conflict.
7. Carley Budd Meredith and Dean Symons Anderson, The Family of Charles William Symons and Arzella Whitaker Symons, Their Ancestry and Descendants, 1845-1986 (Salt Lake City: Hillers Industries, 1986), 4-5.
8. Ibid. When Symons’s father, Charles Henry Symons, and a man to whom he had been apprenticed heard that he was leaving, they hurried to the dock. The ship had already weighed anchor. The two men followed in a tug boat, but the Hudson was already at sea. Finally, they gave up and returned to port (ibid.). Symons makes little mention of his father, but genealogical records indicate he did not live long after his wife and son departed for America. He died 10 December 1864, in London, a little more than six months later (ibid., pedigree charts, 131-32).
19. When the federal government abandoned Camp Floyd in 1861, the Walker Brothers, newly established as non-Mormon merchants in Salt Lake City, stocked their shelves with goods acquired as bargain prices at a forced camp auction sale. Although they were comparatively new to Utah, this fortunate accumulation of surplus government property catapulted the brothers into a position of commercial importance and laid the foundation for the family’s fortune. Army supplies and equipment worth $4 million were sold at the auction for approximately $100,000. See Orson F. Whitney, Popular History of Utah (Salt Lake City: Deseret News), 177.
20. Carter’s relationship with Savage may be glimpsed in Savage’s diaries. On 30 May 1869 Savage wrote, “Carter, my old employee, came up with his outfit for the purpose of taking views” (Archives and Manuscripts, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University). Another clue can be found in the first Salt Lake City Directory published in 1867: “C. W. Carter, photographer, at Savage and Ottinger, res. 6th Ward, n.s. 4th So. between 4th and 5th W” (G. Owens, Salt Lake City Directory, 1867).
26. One citywide directory for that year listed five “photographists,” including Carter, [p.171] Savage, Marsena Cannon, Edward Martin and John Olsen (see E. A. Sloan, comp., Salt Lake City Directory and Business Guide for 1869 [Salt Lake City: E. A. Sloan & Co., 1869], 167).
32. The photograph from which this is taken is a highly-retouched copy in the 80th anniversary of the Auerbach Department Store. An original print was found in the photographic collection at Pioneer Village after it relocated to the Lagoon Amusement Park.