Edward Martin, Handcart Company Captain Turned Prominent Photographer

By Jeff Morley, Church History Library
20 March 2024

The captain of ill-fated Martin handcart company was also a prominent Salt Lake photographer

Edward Martin may best be known as the captain of the Martin handcart company, but several years after the company’s arrival in the Salt Lake valley, he became a successful photographer. His profession enabled him to photograph many early latter-day saints, including the Twelve Apostles and most of the bishops serving in Salt Lake City wards. He also captured several prominent buildings in the city, especially the Salt Lake Temple and Tabernacle.

The Church History Library is fortunate to hold many well-preserved collections of his photographs, several of which you can view digitally in the Church History Catalog using this pre-filtered search: “Martin, Edward, Photographer, 1818-1882.”

Recommended Edward Martin Photo Collections

The following photographs show Edward Martin’s diverse photography portfolio. Not only was he a prominent portraitist, but he was also a skilled photographer of cityscapes and buildings, many of which he would sell as prints at his store.

The Salt Lake Tabernacle was constructed from 1863 to 1867. It served as the gathering place for members of the Church to hear the word of the Lord, especially during general conference from 1867 to 2000.

This collection includes portraits of Edward Hunter and his counselors in the Presiding Bishopric, clerk George Goddard, and most of the bishops serving in the Salt Lake City wards of the Salt Lake Stake.

A group portrait of Zina D. H. Young, Bathsheba W. Smith, Emily Dow Partridge Young, and Eliza R. Snow. Zina, Bathsheba, and Eliza all served as presidents of the Relief Society, while Emily served as a Relief Society teacher. Zina, Emily, and Eliza were plural wives of the prophet Brigham Young.

A colored portrait of President Brigham Young, the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This montage of individual portraits consists of, in order of appearance (but not entirely in order of seniority), from left to right starting at the top:

A photograph of an engraved perspective study of the Salt Lake Temple with inscription on the back that reads, “Mormon Temple as it’s to be finished at Great Salt Lake City, size 186 ½ by 99-, height 100 feet, towers 200 feet, walls 8 feet thick.” Temple construction began in 1853 and ended in 1893.

Edward Martin’s storied history is mostly defined by the events of the Martin handcart company, but it is only a part of who he was and what he contributed to Christ’s kingdom. As we have learned more about his life and contributions, we have gained further insights into Church history and its early members. His photographs help us place faces with prominent names in the Church. In turn, these prominent names left us with inspiring testimonies of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel, many of which you can discover within the Church History Library’s collections at Catalog.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.