Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Subversive Photographs (updated with better scan)

Subversive Photographs (updated with better scan)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 09, 2013



Above: Samuel Amos Woolley (1825-1900) was a member of the prominent early LDS Woolley clan. Like his more famous brother Edwin D., Samuel was bishop of a Salt Lake City ward. He served a mission to India beginning in 1853. This photo was scanned from Preston Woolley Parkinson, The Utah Woolley Family, Salt Lake City, 1967, p. 165; it is available in numerous places on the internet. The photo appears both as shown here and “flipped” so that Woolley is looking to his left; I don’t know which is correct.

Below: John Henry Smith (1848-1911) was an apostle, and briefly a counselor to Joseph F. Smith (both callings much later than the date of this wedding picture), and he was the father of George Albert Smith. This photo was scanned from the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young manual (1997), also, coincidentally, on p. 165.



Notice anything peculiar? No? How about some closeups:

. . . . . .

Can you see it now? If not, you may have to find copies of the books for clearer pictures – I can’t blow these up any more without the images falling apart.

I have no explanation.

UPDATE: Here’s another image of Bishop Woolley, generously furnished by Bill West, which shows his hoop much more clearly:

. . . .



  1. Well, that does it. I’m either leaving the church or going out and getting an earring today!

    Comment by Mark B. — January 9, 2013 @ 7:07 am

  2. Maybe he had been in Penzance on a mission?

    Comment by Grant — January 9, 2013 @ 7:17 am

  3. :) Woolley’s might be explained by the sailor tradition of getting an earring when you’ve sailed around the world (or, alternatively, crossed the equator), but that’s only a guess.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 9, 2013 @ 7:27 am

  4. Sounds like a 165 code. Better call the conspiracy theorists and get them started.

    Comment by Julia — January 9, 2013 @ 7:50 am

  5. Oh, cool. One of my pioneer ancestors was a sailor; he made it to China at least once. Here I go to take a good close look at his pictures.

    Comment by Amy T — January 9, 2013 @ 8:05 am

  6. When I went on my mission, my stake president had been unavailable to set me apart, so I had to be set apart by an MTC counselor, whose name was Dean R. Woolley.

    Comment by queuno — January 9, 2013 @ 8:11 am

  7. Unfortunately I can’t tell from the existing pictures whether my ancestor wore an earring. Too bad!

    Comment by Amy T — January 9, 2013 @ 8:14 am

  8. Awesome.

    Comment by Paul — January 9, 2013 @ 9:08 am

  9. These are great photos, Ardis. It makes one want to start scouring through old photographs to see what else might jump out.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — January 9, 2013 @ 9:19 am

  10. When something does jump out, let me post it here, Gary!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 9, 2013 @ 9:46 am

  11. The other striking thing about the picture of the Smiths is their age. I work with the young women and she looks as young as any of them. Let’s see. When they got married, she was almost 17 and he’d just turned 18. Family Tree says they had eight boys and then three girls; three of their first six sons died very young. That’s a real baptism by fire into adulthood.

    Comment by Amy T — January 9, 2013 @ 10:34 am

  12. As a 4th-great-grandson of Samuel Amos Woolley and having recently (like within the last 5 minutes courtesy of an aunt) come into possession of a high-res photo of him, I can confirm this alleged “subversiveness.

    Comment by Bill West — January 9, 2013 @ 10:39 am

  13. Interesting. One point on the first picture. It is likely that you have the “correct” orientation posted here, I base that solely on the buttons and placket on Br. Wooley’s jacket. Assuming that the standard held true back then, Men’s clothing always as the button hole on the left and the button on the right side, as is shown here. A flipped version would have portrayed Br. Wooley wearing the opposite.

    Comment by Jay S — January 9, 2013 @ 10:43 am

  14. You’ll also notice that Bro Woolley has facial hair which is also contrary to the new order. This Brothern have not been reading the FTSOY booklet. When my father finished his advance training (1948?) the Air Corp. the whole class had to pierce their left ear and wear an erring. I’m thinking this was done during certain times to show some sort of assocation/deed/event. Very interesting though and how you came up with this is maybe another story.

    Comment by Mex — January 9, 2013 @ 10:45 am

  15. That is AWESOME! (Sorry for my lack of decorum and intellectualism, but it is awesome.)

    Comment by Jami — January 9, 2013 @ 11:25 am

  16. I think I’ll start wearing an ear ring when I preside in sacrament meeting.

    Comment by Steve C. — January 9, 2013 @ 11:29 am

  17. I’m wondering about the prevalence of tattoos amongst 19th Century LDS men, now. Cool find!

    Comment by kevinf — January 9, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

  18. Well, at least they had the good judgement not to wear more than one. ;-D

    Comment by MDearest — January 9, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

  19. What a find, Ardis! How did you notice them? Now I’ll be looking at my old family photos too to see if there are things we have missed.

    Comment by Chocolate on my Cranium — January 9, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

  20. I have to confess that I’m not the one who spotted these. The true culprit would not, I think, appreciate my giving him credit by name. If I had a hat, though, it would be off to him …

    … and to all of you for taking this in the lighthearted way it was intended, and not making any seriously snarky remarks.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 9, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

  21. I can’t say how many times I’ve seen that picture of John Henry Smith…but I’ve never looked that closely.

    It transcends awesome. If only we could see the hint of a tattoo peeking out from the collar.

    Comment by Scott Hales — January 9, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

  22. And correct me if I’m wrong, but it appears that this later picture of JHS reveals a telling hole in his earlobe:

    Comment by Scott Hales — January 9, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

  23. Jay S. made the same observation I was going to. Note that J.H. Smith’s buttons also match the current convention, which might help argue that the convention was the same then as it is now. And Sarah has her wedding ring on the left hand, which seems to indicate that that photo isn’t flipped.

    Both of these men have earrings in their left ears; I wonder if it was one side only?

    The good news is, it looks like Sarah doesn’t have multiple piercings. :)

    Comment by lindberg — January 9, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

  24. Okay, the JHS photo Scott linked seems to indicated he had both ears pierced.

    Fun bit of historical detective work!

    Comment by lindberg — January 9, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

  25. This also brings to mind all the photographs of crosses in LDS settings Mike Reed includes in his new book, not to mention the Masonic fobs and pins one sees adorning the cloths of some 19th-century Church authorities.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — January 9, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

  26. He wears that curl in his hair to call my attention away from the earring. It worked until you pointed it out to me.

    Comment by Carol — January 9, 2013 @ 2:26 pm

  27. I’m surprised the photo of JHS wasn’t altered for publication as that has become almost ubiquitous with current church publications.

    Comment by Tod Robbins — January 11, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

  28. This is full of WIN. Thanks, Ardis!

    Comment by Jared T. — January 22, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

  29. I am extremely disappointed to see this apostate activity taking place on the interwebz. I would write a long treatise condemning your actions, but I am late to an ear piercing appointment. 😉

    Comment by Brian Duffin — January 24, 2013 @ 12:49 pm

  30. Absolutely unrelated to any comment posted thus far:

    Regular Keepa readers understand that some assumptions and speculations have no place here.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 24, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

  31. my teenager loved it!

    Comment by namakemono — January 24, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

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