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A Note about Brigham’s Beard

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 10, 2010

Although Brigham Young was eliminated from the final runoff when he lost to Joseph F. Smith in the “Patriarchal Beard” category of our recent contest, he did have a notable, distinguished patriarchal-style beard. (Anyone know how long it would have taken him to grow one that long?)

This portrait is a familiar one, used, for example, on the cover of the Teachings manual from a few years ago.

His own family didn’t like the picture, though.

Children and grandchildren living in 1932 who remembered Brigham Young claimed that he wore such a beard only a few times in his life, that ordinarily it was much shorter, much neater, much less caricature-worthy.

They especially disliked that the long-bearded portrait was used on so many postcards, fixing that image in the minds of thousands of people who had never seen any other likeness.

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So it was with some relief that they greeted a new postcard published in Salt Lake City in 1932, one that showed Brigham the way they remembered him. A published announcement said that “the picture secured for the new post card fittingly portrays the character of the Church leader. The new card will replace the former picture in various places in the west where cards are displayed and it is expected to have a wide circulation.”

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That is all. No story. Just a note.



16 Comments »

  1. I really like the shorter beard. It seems much more distinguished and it shows off his strong jaw. :)

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — December 10, 2010 @ 10:07 am

  2. …so, I guess it’s ironic that the modern church chose the long-bearded Brigham to appear on the world-wide manual, when the short beard version more “fittingly portrays the character of the Church leader.”

    The short beard to me says colonizer/pioneer. The longer one is more patriarch/prophet. Maybe that’s why publishers chose the long beard? Because they wanted to emphasize those traits? Book covers are tricky because, despite the cliche, everyone does judge.

    Comment by Clark — December 10, 2010 @ 10:18 am

  3. The shorter beard has some other benefits, aside from showing off his jawline. When one is kissing one’s significant other, soul-patch and mustache hair can be irritating to the beardless party. So says my wife. If Brigham were involved in kissing, and surely he had ample opportunity to do so, perhaps he opted for the clean upper and bottom lip out of consideration for other parties involved.

    Comment by oudenos — December 10, 2010 @ 10:19 am

  4. I like the rouge and lipstick on the short beard card.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 10, 2010 @ 10:55 am

  5. Looks to me like we could label these as:

    Short beard – Brigham Young
    Long, gray beard – Brigham Old

    Comment by kevinf — December 10, 2010 @ 11:39 am

  6. This inspires me to toss my razor. My greatest worry is that the results may be disappointing.

    Comment by Mark B. — December 10, 2010 @ 11:46 am

  7. I love little vignettes like this. Thanks, Ardis.

    (Also, I sympathize with Brigham right now: sometimes, you just get lazy and refuse to trim your beard. On a related note, my wife says she can sympathize with Brigham’s descendants.)

    Comment by Ben Park — December 10, 2010 @ 11:55 am

  8. Let’s not forget the BYU-Brigham Young–No beard.

    Comment by Steve C. — December 10, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

  9. Wasn’t there also that one time he wore a beard made out of bees? Pretty sure I remember seeing a photo of that one.

    Comment by sister blah 2 — December 10, 2010 @ 12:03 pm

  10. kevinf: ha!

    Comment by sister blah 2 — December 10, 2010 @ 12:03 pm

  11. The beard of bees photograph is here.

    Comment by Justin — December 10, 2010 @ 12:20 pm

  12. My link to the bee beard portrait (credit: Matsby) didn’t go through.

    In any event, I am reminded of Clarissa Young Spencer’s reminiscence: “The family used to eat an early breakfast, but I always waited until ten o’clock when Father had his, so that I might be served with him. In those days he wore quite a long beard, and it was my duty to tie a bib over it in order to protect it from stray crumbs.”

    Comment by Justin — December 10, 2010 @ 12:34 pm

  13. Brigham’s beard rules. It’s better than Karl Marx’s beard it’s better than Abe Lincoln’s beard. Except for God and Jesus, it’s the best beard known to man.

    Comment by Screaming Nephite — December 10, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

  14. That center photo of the three looks like it was used in the PBS doc. ;) And given how long it takes me to put up any significant facial hair, I’d say it took BY a couple of years to get the long one. Jokes aside, imagine the gunk that got in there. Ugh. My dad used to say that his grandfather’s beard picked up all kinds of nasty stuff. If you didn’t wash and comb it every evening they could be awful.

    Comment by WVS — December 10, 2010 @ 1:46 pm

  15. The beard of bees is inspirational.

    Comment by Mina — December 10, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

  16. How funny to prefer one of your ancestor’s beards over another. I think I would generally vote for no beard, but who am I to say? Sometimes a bit of stubble can be rather attractive.

    I won’t mention the conclusions that certain social scientists came to, but here’s a link to the article summarizing their findings in the Telegraph.

    Comment by Researcher — December 10, 2010 @ 3:26 pm

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