Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » One Earringy Dingy, Two Earringy Dingy

One Earringy Dingy, Two Earringy Dingy

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 22, 2013

Curiouser and curiouser. The recently posted photo of John Henry Smith and his bride, showing an earring in John Henry’s left ear, was scanned from the Brigham Young manual used a few years ago in Priesthood and Relief Society classes. But now someone has provided me with the original photograph, clearly showing earrings in both ears.

Once again, I have no explanation. I do have a big ol’ grin on my face for the unexpected details of history.



(The post title is, of course, an homage to Lily Tomlin.)



  1. I love this, that it was in the manual and that there were ear rings in both ears, and no one noticed. Big grin indeed.

    Comment by Dovie — January 22, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

  2. I remember thinking the dude had unusually long lobes, but was more struck by the bride looking 11-years old and the groom looking stoned.

    If I ever decide to pray that a daughter of mine marry an apostle, I’m going to have to throw in some caveats.

    Comment by Adam G. — January 22, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

  3. It’s obviously time to start looking for tattoos.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 22, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

  4. One other note: it’s wonderful to think of the earring police airbrushing that offending jewelry from his right ear but not even noticing that there was a matching offense in the other ear!

    Comment by Mark B. — January 22, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

  5. Now I’m waiting for someone to go through all the known photos of John Henry Smith looking for when the earrings disappeared.

    Comment by Kent Larsen — January 22, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

  6. Awesome.

    Comment by Chocolate on my Cranium — January 22, 2013 @ 6:30 pm

  7. Ardis: Your titles are always so clever. Now, I expect you to work in “sock it to me” somewhere in the near future.

    Comment by larryco_ — January 23, 2013 @ 1:32 am

  8. I am just pleased that this Apostle was wise enough to maintain current standards from the FSoY – one earring in each ear and all that. Otherwise this would have been a mixed message for our youth.

    Comment by Aaron R. — January 23, 2013 @ 2:45 am

  9. I missed the original post but have caught up with it now- this is superb. Nothing else to be said.

    Comment by Anne (UK) — January 23, 2013 @ 5:46 am

  10. Awesome, Ardis.

    Comment by Christopher — January 23, 2013 @ 9:33 am

  11. Ha! Cool.

    Comment by WVS — January 24, 2013 @ 1:43 am

  12. Related to Adam’s comment (#2), John Henry’s “stoned” look is caused chiefly by his having blue eyes. Photo chemistry was blue-sensitive — blue, including the blue of eyes, photographed as white. Even in the early days of television, newscasters and others who wished to appear in the professional uniform of white shirt and tie wore light blue shirts, which photographed as white (white shirts tended to appear grayish). So John Henry’s eyes show only his pupils, not his irises, giving him that weird stare. And he’s only three years older than his bride.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 24, 2013 @ 2:07 am

  13. This is all kinds of awesome, Ardis!

    Comment by John Hatch — January 24, 2013 @ 11:38 am

  14. Maybe this is a stretch, but did either of these guys serve missions, and if so, where? There were many places – Polynesia and Italy come to mind – where it was common for men to wear earrings in the 19th century. This could be the equivalent of today’s Peru-serving Elders coming home with one of those llama ties, or a missionary from upstate New York who served in Los Angeles in the early 80’s returning to Buffalo with a pair of Vans, a Señor Lopez baja pullover, and the habit of adding “awesome” to every sentence (believe me, Vans in Buffalo in 1984 were as jarring and counter cultural as Bishop Wooley’s gold hoop in 1870’s SLC).

    Comment by Cort — January 25, 2013 @ 5:35 am

  15. SAWoolley had served in India; JHSmith had not yet served (he’s still a teenager in this picture).

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 25, 2013 @ 6:57 am

  16. All this time and amusement and we haven’t even discussed John Henry Smith himself. I just spent a few minutes looking at his diaries, as edited by Jean Bickmore White. He seems to have been universally beloved, even by the Salt Lake Tribune. (And that says a lot in that era.) From the introduction to the diaries:

    In an editorial on October 14, 1911, the Tribune again paid tribute to John Henry Smith…: “In general it may be said that Apostle Smith belonged to that branch of the church which reached out for a new departure, a turning away from the bigotries, the intolerances, and the exclusiveness of the past, and for getting into touch with American life and American institutions.”

    A review of the diaries in BYU Studies characterized him as follows:

    Though reluctant to talk about himself, the sheer number of his recordings affords us some glimpses into his character. Diary entries reveal that he was a highly literate (but not especially literary) man. A voracious reader, he apparently spent every free day reading. While interested in many subjects, he seemed to be singularly fond of history and biography. He also enjoyed theater and attended performances whenever he could. But John Henry’s greatest loves were reserved for his wives, family, and Church. His devotion to his wives and children and his dedication to his Church set him apart as a man of strong loyalties. He was also endowed with a remarkable ability to relate to the broad spectrum of humanity. As White notes in her prefatory biographical sketch, the Salt Lake Tribune was not in the habit of lavishing praise on Mormon leaders in the early twentieth century but was unabashed in its praise of this particular Mormon Apostle. I was also impressed with how often John Henry was able to solve internal squabbles in the various stakes and wards of Zion. Clearly, Elder Smith was a peacemaker.

    As to the question about the earrings, the diary mentions that after his mother’s death, he was raised by other wives of his father, George A. Smith. In his youth he worked on the railroad and as a telegraph operator. He served his first mission at age 26, which is when his diaries began.

    Perhaps his work on the railroad or the telegraph is the pertinent factor here.

    Comment by Amy T — January 25, 2013 @ 7:28 am

  17. We have pictures of one of my pioneer ancestors sporting earrings. He crossed the plains with the Saints. But before that, he had been a sailor. I have read that for the 19th century sailor an earring was a symbol of sailing around the world or crossing the equator.

    Comment by KB — January 28, 2013 @ 8:41 pm

  18. Oh, KB, I have to beg: Would you be willing to obtain and share a scan of your pioneer ancestor showing his earrings? We’d all love to see it, I know.

    If the scan is available, you can send it to me at AEParshall {at} aol {dot} com, and I’ll post it immediately.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 28, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

  19. I don’t think they are earrings. When enlarged they look like spots on the the photograph.

    Comment by Matthew R. Lee — February 8, 2013 @ 7:53 pm