Martyrdom: Joseph and Hyrum Smith June 27, 1844

An exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, is among special offerings at the Museum of Church History and Art.

"Joseph and Hyrum Smith: Brothers in Life, Companions in Death" opened June 23, just four days before the sesquicentennial of the death of the two Church leaders in the Carthage Jail in Illinois. The exhibit will continue through Jan. 15.The exhibit features rare artifacts that belonged to the two early-day Church leaders and artistic representations of them. Also, it includes photographs of some of the places where they lived and some of the important events in their lives.

"We have a cloak made for the Prophet by his tailor, John Bills, in Nauvoo," said Glen M. Leonard, museum director. "The cloak has been in the museum collection for a long time. We have other personal belongings such as Hyrum's watch and Joseph's riding crop (long willow with an ivory handle used when riding a horse). There is also some art of Joseph and Emma done in Nauvoo. These are some watercolor drawings made by Sutcliffe Maudsley, and English pattern maker and portrait painter. We also show a pair of oil portraits of Hyrum Smith and his first wife, Jerusha, and a single portrait of his uncle John Smith, which were probably painted in Kirtland in the 1830s. We believe these portraits hung in the Kirtland Temple for a time."

The portrait of John Smith is awaiting the finishing of a frame before it will be placed on display, said project curator Robert Davis.

Several images in the exhibit show Joseph and Hyrum together in the same painting or engraving. Most of the images were produced after the martyrdom to show how close the two brothers were throughout their lives.

Also part of the display is a walking cane made from Joseph Smith's first coffin. In addition, a shotgun used by Elder Willard Richards as he rode on a wagon that carried the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum from Carthage to Nauvoo is shown.

Many of the items have never been shown in a museum exhibit, Brother Leonard said.

The Maudsley watercolor drawings of the Prophet Joseph and Emma, Willard Richards' shotgun and the John Smith portrait were all recently obtained by the Museum of Church History and Art. And the Hyrum and Jerusha Smith portraits were recently acquired by the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU. These important historical objects were preserved by several generations of descendants of these Church leaders, Brother Leonard said.

Blanche Miles, textile conservator at the Church museum, said microscopic studies made by T. Michael Smith, a registrar at the museum, indicate that the outer part of the dark blue cloak is probably wool. The cape's lining, now a faded green, was made from a course, home-spun wool, she said.

"The cape is very heavy, fully and tightly gathered and would form a big circle when worn over the shoulders," said Sister Miles, who began work as a volunteer before the museum opened in 1984.

"There are five buttons on each of the cape's two front pockets. The decorative buttons were covered with velvet, were very worn and loose when we began conservation efforts. I covered the buttons with nylon net and stabilized them so they would not be lost," Sister Miles said.

Also, she said she dyed nylon tulle, a fine netting, and placed a strip of it down the front sides and the bottom edge of the cloak.

"There were many insect holes throughout the cape. I covered the edges with the tulle and did a blanket stitch all around the cape to secure and stabilize the material. I feel a great responsibility in working on the cape - to do enough but not too much work," Sister Miles said.

The cape, which has been in storage at the museum for some time, was made by Bills, who according to museum records was a member of the Nauvoo Legion. It is not known when the Church acquired the cape. Brother Davis said it was likely part of the Deseret Museum collection. The Museum of Church History and Art, adjacent to Temple Square in Salt Lake City, is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free.

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