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1860s photo album of early LDS Church leaders set for auction

An 1860s photo album featuring several early leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Apostle Ezra T. Benson’s presentation gold pocket watch from 1856 will be up for auction Saturday, Dec. 3, at Heritage Auctions in Dallas.

The photo album includes 100 photos, 61 of which are either photos of early church leaders or photos of Salt Lake City at the time. Photos include early LDS Church Presidents Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow as well as several former members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other leaders such as Orson Pratt, Heber C. Kimball and his wife Vilate Kimball, George A. Smith, Willard Richards, Orson Hyde, Ezra T. Benson, George Q. Cannon and Eliza R. Snow.

Don Ackerman, a consignment director at Heritage Auctions in the historical department, said that while individual photos of church leaders such as Brigham Young show up quite often, an album like this of all the photos compiled together is one of a kind.

“I’ve never really seen anything quite like it,” Ackerman said in a phone interview.

Heritage Auctions has been around since 1976. It started off as a coin business and eventually expanded to the point where it is now the third largest auction house in the world and one of the largest auction houses for collectibles, according to Ackerman.

Specific information about who compiled the album or who took the photos is not stated in the album, although Ackerman said that it’s probably safe to assume that the photos were taken by the Sutterly Bros., given that their photography studio is present in multiple pictures in the album.

Based on photos of construction of the Salt Lake Tabernacle included in the album, it has been dated by Heritage Auctions to be between 1863 and 1864. The name of each person in the album has been written above each picture. Ackerman said the album and the photos in it are currently in great condition.

“It’s been untouched. It hasn’t been picked over. It has a certain purity and integrity to it,” Ackerman said.

Other photos include one of Kit Harrington and several Ute Indians who lived in the area.

The gold pocket watch, which is being sold separately from the album and is from a different seller, was given to Elder Ezra T. Benson, an early member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and great-grandfather of LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson. It was given to Elder Benson while he was on a mission in England in 1856.

Engraved on the dust cover of the watch are the words, “Presented to the Apostle Ezra T. Benson with the love and esteem of his Brethren assembled in Council at Birmingham. 23rd July, 1856.”

Current starting prices for both items have been set at $10,000, and both items already have an early online bid placed.

“In the case of both the photo album and the pocket watch, I’m enthused about them,” Ackerman said. “I like American history and I like history in general. I thought these were really interesting, important and historical items.”

See for additional information.