Images: Woman’s Bondage, The Cave of Despair, and The Twin Relic

By January 6, 2015

In today’s post I will look at three images published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in the early 1880s that focus on the alleged plight of female converts to Mormonism from rural Europe. [1] All three are familiar to modern scholarship. To avoid going on too long, I will put the detailed descriptions in the footnotes and mention a few key points in the main post.

The 1882 February image, “Mormonism In Utah — The Cave of Despair,” is among the most aggressively anti-Mormon images I’ve encountered from the late nineteenth century. There is no humor, no satire, no whimsical caricature: defeated-looking women in European provincial dress trudge into a giant skull under armed guard, surrounded by deserts, mountains, and corpses. Most have “sealed” written somewhere on their clothes or baggage. [2]

MormonismInUtahTheCaveOfDespair FrankLesliesIllustratedNewspaper1882 Feb 04 v53n1376p1cover

I think the artist intended the viewer to associate the dome of the skull with the smooth, curved roof of the Salt Lake Tabernacle.

The English convert’s labels have some characters reversed. Her “Sealed” patch has a backwards “s”; her “England” patch has a backwards “n.” Perhaps the inversions are meant to communicate the women’s illiteracy.

The 1882 March image, “Woman’s Bondage in Utah,” depicts events before and after the entrance to Utah. First the Mormon agent deceives young adult women. Then the women are married to a Mormon male who forces the women to work as slaves on his farm. [3]

WomansBondageInUtah FrankLesliesIllustratedNewspaper 1882Mar11 v54n1381p1 Cropped

The Salt Lake Tabernacle is disproportionately prominent relative to the city’s actual geography. The trap’s shape is conspicuously similar to that of the Tabernacle; perhaps the intended visual logic is to equate the Tabernacle and the trap.

The freedman is probably meant to invoke the unfinished part of the “Twin Relics” rhetoric and to emphasize that the women were (allegedly) not merely suffering from polygamy but also from a more traditional form of labor-exploiting slavery.

The “sealed” ball-and-chain (and the “sealed” labels in the February image) remind us that while to many Mormons the doctrine of “sealing” conveyed comfort and security, to others, within and without the institution, the idea was (and is) sinister, confining, and degrading.

The third image, “The Twin Relic of Barbarism,” from 1883 December, comes twenty-one months after the second. It shows female European converts at the debarkation port at Castle Garden, New York, and, unlike the other two images, has no political cartoon “cues”—no giant skulls or metaphoric traps or freedmen carrying a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation—to suggest that the image is anything other than a re-creation from life, like so many other of the illustrations that were the staple of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Magazine.

TheTwinRelicOfBarbarism FrankLesliesIllustratedNewspaper 1883Dec15 v57n1473p264t265 HiRes

Below is an alternate partial version without the binding-gutter losses.

TheTwinRelicOfBarbarism FrankLesliesIllustratedNewspaper 1883Dec15 v57n1473p264t265 Angled detail

The caption reads: “The wolves and the lambs—Arrival of Scandinavian converts in charge of Mormon missionaries at Castle Garden, en route for Salt Lake City.—See page 269.” On page 269 we find two paragraphs on “The Mormon Invasion,” which asserts that converts are “induced to come to the New World by exaggerated representations of its attractions and advantages.” [4]  Furthermore:

Our illustration gives a good idea of the [illegible: personnel?] of the female “converts” arriving here from Sweden, Norway, and other countries whence the Mormon missionaries draw their chief supplies. Robust and accustomed to hardships and privations, with no ambition beyond the satisfaction of the demands of the physical nature, they are just the sort of recruits needed for the reinforcement of the polygamous abomination.

I have no direct evidence to suggest that the illustration is not a faithful reproduction of an actual scene. However, the brazen, smirking evil of the Mormon “wolf” fits the anti-Mormon narrative a little too perfectly for me to be completely confident. Also: the evil Mormon agent looks remarkably like the agent in the 1882 March image above.

The three images discussed above were not the only times writers for Leslie media expressed concern about or interest in Mormon immigration. For examples: De Witt Talmage complained in 1883 August about the arrival at Castle Garden of “800 captives of Mormonism.” [5] He then predicted/proposed military violence against Mormons. An 1878 edition of the Illustrated Newspaper had an article about Mormon immigration and seven images (five shown below with links to the other two in the footnote; note, at top right, “The ‘Switzer-Girl’ who wanted to be a Mormon”). [6]

TheOldWorldPopulatingTheNew FrankLesliesIllusNewspaper 1878Nov23 Suppl v47n1208p207

Frank Leslie founded multiple magazines and newspapers, including Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. He died in 1880 whereupon his wife, Miriam Leslie, assumed control of the various organs.

————

[1] No illustrator listed, “Mormonism In Utah — The Cave of Despair,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 53.1376 (1882 Feb 04): 1 (cover). No illustrator listed, “Woman’s Bondage in Utah,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 54.1381, New York City, NY, 1882 Mar 11, p 1. No illustrator listed, signed [illegible: “CAD”?], “The Twin Relic of Barbarism,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 57.1473 (1883 Dec 15): 264-265.

[2] The title is “Mormonism in Utah—The Cave of Despair.” At center is an enormous human skull labeled “Utah.” An adult male with a rifle looks out from each eye socket; as a rough approximation, then, the skull is 5 meters tall from where the jaw would have been to the top of the skull. The mouth of the skull acts as an entrance to a cave. Between fifteen and twenty figures are on the path entering the cave. All are females or children-in-arms. (There might be a third visible guard, visible in profile, in the shadows at the left of the cave entrance.) To the right of the skull is a body of water labeled “Salt Lake.” To the left is a field with skeletons of various sizes strewn about; birds, presumably buzzards, wheel above. A sign identifies the place as “Mountain Meadow.” The women wear a variety of European traditional costumes from central to northwestern Europe, the British Isles, and Scandinavia. Two carry bags labeled with a country name: one “England” and one partially obscured, but presumably “Norway.” The woman at left front looks to be wearing wooden shoes, possibly sabots, which, to magazine readers in the eastern United States in the 1880s, could suggest a either a European peasant origin or geographically-non-specific rural backwardness or both. She is also wearing an Alsatian schlupfkapp. Almost all the figures have somewhere on their person or luggage a large patch or sticker with the word “Sealed.” The postures and facial expressions suggest to me fear, resignation, defeat, and—consistent with the title—despair.

[3] The title is, “Woman’s Bondage in Utah.” The caption reads: “The Mormon solution of the ‘cheap labor’ question” with a note to “see Page 38.” In the background are visible a city and, prominently (with no apparent regard for the actual geography and layout of Salt Lake City), the Salt Lake Tabernacle, labeled “Tabernacle.” At center and center-left are six females performing non-specific farm labor: digging, picking things up, carrying loads. If the women are intended to be represented as performing a specific task, they are all clumped together and are about to run into each other. That said, I don’t think the figures are intended to convey any specific work or work system; the point, I think, as conveyed in facial expressions and postures, is that the work is arduous and long and that the women are exhausted physically and emotionally. The women are all “White” of indeterminate early- to middle-age, The two foremost women each wear a ball-and-chain attached to an ankle. One woman’s ball is labeled “sealed” and the other woman’s is “ignorance.” The women’s dress seems to be generic female farm clothing for the nineteenth-century US; if a particular costume or regional variant is intended, I don’t see it. At bottom right is a White male sitting on a rock reading a document. The document is entitled, “Account Money Saved in Farmhands” and shows what looks like a ledger or tabulation. Tucked under the male’s left arm is a whip labeled “Intimidation.”  Unlike the other figures, he appears to be smiling slightly. At center-right is a Black male observing the women. He is holding a stick or straw or something and seems to be chewing on one end of it. It seems to me his facial expression and posture are meant to convey ease and relaxation. Under his left arm is tucked a roll of paper with “Emancipation 1862” written on the outside and, “Lincoln” on the visible corner from the interior of the roll. The upper right corner has a cut-out labeled “The Mormon Agent’s Delusive Bait.” In the cutout a paunchy, bearded, middle-aged male addresses three young-adult females in European provincial costumes. The resemblance is not perfect, but the male in the cutout could plausibly be intended as the White male in the main image. The females in the cutout are adults, but younger than the females in the main image. The costumes are traditional—at a time when such costumes were mostly confined to rural areas far from cities or special occasions. Except for an Alsatian schlupfkapp on the woman on the left, the costumes to me (in my ignorance) do not strike me as necessarily precise—I think the idea is that Mormon men were preying on uneducated, rural women from Europe in general rather than that they were focusing on the Bretons or Norwegians or whomever. The male points at a sign that reads “Promise of a happy home out west” laid across the trigger of a large “steel jaw” leg-hold trap labeled “Polygamy” and “Degradation.”

[4] “DURlNG the present year over 2,800 Mormon immigrants have arrived at this port and been dispatched to Utah. For the most part, these immigrants were converts, gathered in the Scandinavian countries by the emissaries sent abroad by the Mormon Church, and induced to come to the New World by exaggerated representations of its attractions and advantages. These “converts” are very often disappointed in their expectations, but once absorbed into the Mormon mass, and subjected to the despotic discipline of the Church, they are left without hope of deliverance, and in time either sink into a sullen despair, or—conscience being blunted—acquiesce in the usages and evils by which they are surrounded. [¶] Our illustration gives a good idea of the [illegible: personnel?] of the female “converts” arriving here from Sweden, Norway, and other countries whence the Mormon missionaries draw their chief supplies. Robust and accustomed to hardships and privations, with no ambition beyond the satisfaction of the demands of the physical nature, they are just the sort of recruits needed for the reinforcement of the polygamous abomination. The males who swell the ranks from abroad are ordinarily of the less intelligent and easily deluded class, and they are, for that very reason, perhaps, regarded as particularly desirable accessions by the Mormon leaders. They come, however, well clothed and with considerable money in their possession.” No author listed, “The Mormon Invasion,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 57.1473 (1883 Dec 15): 269-269.

[5] “On a recent Sabbath, while our New York and Brooklyn churches were open for worship, a steamer arrived at Castle Garden with 800 captives of Mormonism. Under the care of Mormon missionaries they took the Erie Railway to the West. The law of the land neither touched them when they landed nor put on their shoulder the hand of arrest as they departed. So the cancer grows, and the Congress of the United States and the morality of the nation seem to consent to it. The last legislation on this subject turned out to be as impotent as all that went before. The Government of the United States sits idiotic in the presence of this evil, which wars not only upon the decency of all good people, but is the sworn foe of free institutions the world over. Other vessels are coming with other hundreds of Mormon devotees. Their missionaries are busy all the world over. Why this strange silence on the part of so many of our public men? The appalling fact must be stated that Mormonism has already become such a political power that public men ambitious for the Presidency are afraid to touch this evil lest their official prospects be blasted. Mormonism is not only dominant in Utah, but to-day holds the balance of power in several of the States and Territories. The evil is fearfully intrenched [sic], and overshadows the national capital. In my opinion nothing but a great national revolution will ever touch it. The days for a peaceful solution of this question are past. By the year, by the month, by the hour, Mormonism is gathering momentum. A few batteries opened on the hills around Salt Lake City might once have put a quietus to this great outrage, but not now. God only knows by what mode and through what national exhaustion the curse is to be extirpated; but go it must, or go the honor and virtue and life of this nation will. What headway can the Church of God and reformatory organizations and public morality make, as long as this organized libertinism and enthroned indecency are allowed to remain? The men capable of throttling this evil do not seem to come to the front. I wonder from what State they will come, and in what Congress they will appear, and what will be the mode of their attack. Eight hundred captives of Mormonism under the control of their captors allowed on a Sabbath day to pass through New York is a monstrosity.” No author listed, T De Witt Talmage, editor, “Mormonism Triumphant,” in “Editorial Comments,” Frank Leslie’s Sunday Magazine 14.2 (1883 Aug): 219-219.

[6] The captions are, counter-clockwise from top left: “Come along, Bill! Don’t get mixed up with them Mormons!” “What a mean place! Let’s go back to Hengland!” “Official Inquiry —“Where are you going?” Chorus —“Utah!” “Needed—if not wanted.” “The ‘Switzer-Girl’ who wanted to be a Mormon.” No author listed, “The Old World Populating the New,” 5 illustrations, no illustrator listed, under one title, “New York City.—Incidents of the Arrival of Mormon Emigrants at Castle Garden. From Sketches by our Special Artists.” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 47.1208 (1878 Nov 23, Supplement): 207-208. The other two images: No illustrator listed, “New York City.—Scene in the Castle Garden on the Arrival of Mormon Converts from Europe,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 47.1208 (1878 Nov 23): 196-197. Detail of center without binding gutter losses (from a reprint); full scan (with watermark) from a reprint. A portion of the image was used in William G Hartley, “How Shall I Gather?Ensign (1997 Oct): 15 (5-17). No illustrator listed, signed “Bghs.”, “New York City.—Mormon Emigrants Landing on the Wharf at Castle Garden from Ocean Steamers,” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper 47.1208 (1878 Nov 23, Supplement): 206; in situ in Google Books.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. Intriguing insights into how American media portrayed Mormonism and polygamy in the 1880s as anti-legislation stepped up. Does anyone know whether female converts from Europe actually outnumbered male converts to the extent portrayed here?

    Comment by Barbara — January 6, 2015 @ 8:52 am

  2. *anti-polygamy legislation

    Comment by Barbara — January 6, 2015 @ 8:59 am

  3. Thanks, Edje. Interesting, as always.

    Comment by Saskia — January 6, 2015 @ 9:00 am

  4. Oh, look at their wooden shoes! I remember a long ago discussion (Keepa? T&S?) about the Black Hawk War-era militiamen from Salt Lake City mocking the Danish immigrants in Sanpete by calling them “wooden shoes.”

    Comment by Amy T — January 6, 2015 @ 9:45 am

  5. Thanks, Edje.

    I use the Cave of Despair in my diss introduction and one of my advisors thought the woman with the wooden shoes was a Native American because of the braids. Thanks for giving me the proper names to bolster my argument.

    Comment by jjohnson — January 6, 2015 @ 12:58 pm

  6. Saskia: Thanks.

    Amy T: That’s a great anecdote. Thanks for bringing it up. I’ve been vacillating on whether contemporaries would see wooden shoes as “merely rural” or “rural European” and I think you’ve pushed me toward a more specifically European interpretation.

    JJohnson: I’m glad it was useful. Also: saying “schlupfkapp” makes me smile.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — January 6, 2015 @ 6:28 pm

  7. Barbara: I don’t know any actual numbers, but the accusation that Mormon Elders targeted females was pervasive in US missions and in discussions of immigration from non-US missions. Between the accusations of sex-selective proselyting and apologetics for polygamy, it seems likely that some scholar has done a count of sex ratios among converts and immigrants, but I don’t know a source.

    Just for an N=1 giggle, I looked at the Mormon Migration database for a June 1882 Scandinavian trip and tried to separate given names by gender. Of 735 passengers I identified, with first-draft confidence, 374 feminine names (50.9%), 344 masculine names (46.8%), and 17 ambiguous names (2.3%). Now, obviously, a real analysis would need to look at more trips and account for age distributions, etc, but I think this one example fits my expectation pretty well: pretty close to parity with a small prevalence of females.

    Copenhagen to Hull 16 Jun 1882: http://mormonmigration.lib.byu.edu/Search/showDetails/db:MM_Scandinavia/t:voyage/id:25/keywords:1882

    I imagine that the overwhelming majority joined the Liverpool to New York 21 Jun 1882 – 3 Jul 1882 trip: http://mormonmigration.lib.byu.edu/Search/showDetails/db:MM_MII/t:voyage/id:282/keywords:1882

    Keller, blogging for FAIR, has some analysis suggesting that there was a sex imbalance among European converts: http://blog.fairmormon.org/2010/10/12/go-west-young-man-and-sex-ratios/

    Comment by Edje Jeter — January 6, 2015 @ 6:28 pm

  8. […] As discussed a few weeks ago, Leslie’s used the Tabernacle as the menacing Mormon signifier in “Woman’s Bondage in Utah” (1882) but went even further in visually equating the Tabernacle with a trap. […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » The Salt Lake Tabernacle as Graphic Signifier in the 1880s — January 21, 2015 @ 2:29 am


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