James E. Talmage papers

James E. Talmage papers

Dates: 1876-1933

Collection consists of the following types of materials: thirty volumes of personal journals and four pocket diaries; school notes, notebooks, examinations, and memorabilia from student days in England and America; lectures, notes, and administrative material from his years as a teacher and University President, as well as assignments completed by his students during that period; research notes on scientific and religious topics; material related to his work as a consulting geologist and mining engineer; material from scientific and scholarly societies of which he was a member; complaints heard in the Provo, Utah court of justice by Talmage when he served a Justice of the Peace; correspondence, both official and personal; notes, scripture references, and newspaper articles syndicated in several newspapers throughout the United States, all dealing with the Mormon religion and Talmage's work in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS); personal material, including a ledger, travel ticket folders, and a brief genealogy. Also included in the collection are manuscripts created by people other than Talmage such as a series of short stories by his sister, Susa A. Talmage, a manuscript concerning historical evidences of the Book of Mormon by Joseph Cluff, a poem dedicated to Talmage by one of his students, two biographical reminiscences of Talmage's wife, May Booth Talmage, and an oral history interview with his secretary.

  • Extent: 3 half boxes (0.75 linear ft.). -- 31 boxes (15.5 linear ft.). -- 1 oversize folder (0.3 linear ft.). -- 10 microfilm boxes (0.5 linear ft.)
  • Creator: Talmage, James E. (James Edward), 1862-1933
  • Call Number: MSS 229
  • Repository: L. Tom Perry Special Collections; 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts; 1130 Harold B. Lee Library; Brigham Young University; Provo, Utah 84602; http://sc.lib.byu.edu/
  • Access Restrictions: The thirty volumes of Talmage's personal journals have been reproduced on microfilm and typescript, and are available for use in either form. Use of the original journals is restricted.
Languages and Scripts
The collection consists of 16 series of materials: 1. James E. Talmage journals, pocket diaries, and ledger, 1879-1933; 2. James E. Talmage student materials, 1876-1893; 3. James E. Talmage teacher, administrator, and justice of the peace materials, 1884-1911; 4. James E. Talmage undated research notes (non-theological); 5. James E. Talmage affiliations with scientific and professional societies, 1882-1926; 6. James E. Talmage career materials as consulting geologist and mining engineer, 1879-1911; 7. James E. Talmage manuscripts (not specifically related to church service or educational, administrative, or engineering careers), 1886-1933; 8. Published material not written by Talmage, 1883-1910; 9. James E. Talmage church service and theological materials, 1872-1976; 10. James E. Talmage personal and professional correspondence, 1882-1913; 11. Materials created after Talmage's death, 1974-1976; 12. James E. Talmage journal microfilms, 1879-1933; 13. James E. Talmage collection additions, 1879-1988; 14. James E. Talmage collection appendix, ca. 1876-1933; 15. James E. Talmage pocket journals, 1924-1927; and 16. James E. Talmage letter books, 1890-1893.
Conditions of Use
The literary rights to the Talmage collection rest with the Harold B. Lee Library and the Talmage family. Permission to publish material from the James E. Talmage collection must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.
Box 25 used to hold the microfilm of the journals, but these have been moved to the general microfilm collection, so there is no longer a Box 25.
Preferred Citation
Initial Citation: MSS 229; James E. Talmage papers; 19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts; L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. Following Citations: MSS 229, LTPSC.
Custodial History
The bulk of the Talmage collection was donated to BYU many years ago and was part of the Harold B. Lee Library when it opened it October of 1961. The journals were donated by Talmage's son, John Talmage, during BYU's Centennial year, 1975. Other papers were donated and added to the collection in 1978 by other family members.
Acquisition Information
Donated; James E. Talmage (presumably); 1961. Donated; John Talmage and other family members; 1975-1978.
Separated Material
A certificate of appreciation, awarded to Talmage in 1892 upon his resignation from Latter-day Saints' College, where he had been the principal, was separated to the oversize area. See MSS Oversize Cabinet, drawer D. A series of photographs and ten boxes of glass slides were separated to Photo-Archives. The slides originally accompanied lectures given by Talmage, some of which appear in the collection. See Mss P 21. A collection of pamphlets, programs, and books related to social science, natural science, Church Activities, and miscellany was separated for general and special cataloging by the Harold B. Lee Library. Mining maps have been separated to the Oversize Area. See MSS Oversize Cabinet, drawers D and E.
Other Finding Aids
File-level inventory available online. http://files.lib.byu.edu/ead/XML/MSS229.xml
Related Material
Additional Talmage papers are preserved in the LDS Church Archives in Salt Lake City. Not all the papers created by James E. Talmage are extant. For example, little correspondence survives although from all indications, he was a prolific letter writer. The correspondence and papers which do exist are preserved principally by the family and two institutions, the Historical Department of the Church and Brigham Young University. Other individual manuscripts are preserved in scattered institutions in the United States and abroad. A register has been compiled of the Talmage Papers at BYU. They consist of his thirty-three volume journal, which is being indexed; school records from England, Brigham Young Academy, Lehigh University, and Johns Hopkins University; lecture and research notes and lantern slides compiled for his teaching and administrative responsibilities at BYA, the Latter-day Saints College, the Deseret Museum and the University of Utah; field notes and related records generated in his capacity as a Geological Consultant; notes and addresses documenting his service to Church and Community as a speaker, and literary manuscripts showing the origins and development of some of his writings. Preserved at the Historical Department of the Church are a few early letterbooks pocket diaries written when he was President of the European and British Mission (1924-1927); and the manuscripts toJesus the Christ and The Articles of Faith.
Subject Terms
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Religion; Salt Lake City (Utah); Geologists--Utah--History--Sources; Educators--Utah--History; University of Utah--Administration; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--Apostles; Brigham Young University--Faculty; Talmage, James E. (James Edward), 1862-1933--Archives
Genre / Form
Letters; Diaries; Lecture notes; Notes; Newspapers
Processing Information
Processed: Timothy Wood Slover; ca. 1961.
Appraisal Information
19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts.
Finding Aid ID Number
Finding Aid Title
Talmage (James E.) papers
Finding Aid Author
Timothy Wood Slover
Finding Aid Creator
This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2016-03-16 14:26:23 -0600.
Finding Aid Language
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008
Biographical Info:

Biographical History

Educator, author, and an apostle in the Mormon Church. Talmage taught geology at Brigham Young University and served as president of the LDS Business College and of the University of Utah.

"He lived on the bank of a mighty river, broad and deep, which was always silently rolling on to a vast undiscovered ocean. It had rolled on, ever since the world began. . . ."

Those words are attributed to Charles Dickens, the English novelist of the last century. Mr. Dickens could very well have used them to describe a small English lad (who would have been but seven or eight years old when that great man of letters passed away)--James Edward Talmage--who truly lived on the bank of a mighty river of knowledge all through the days of his mortality.

James E. Talmage was born in the small town of Hungerford, Berkshire, England, September 21, 1862--a third generation Latter-day Saint born there in the mission field. He came with his parents to America, arriving in Salt lake City in June 1876. The family became established at Provo, and James entered the infant Brigham Young Academy (now the University) at the opening of the academic year.

In England James had been a diocesan prize scholar at the age of twelve. At fourteen he entered Brigham Young Academy, and he and the never-to-be-forgotten master teacher, Karl G. Maeser, discovered each other. Soon James held the positions of secretary to the faculty and academy librarian. In June 1879 he was graduated from the Normal department, and while still in his seventeenth year began teaching philosophy, chemistry, geology, Latin reading (Julius Caesar), phonography (the Isaac Pitman system of shorthand), academic penmanship, and grammar, at a weekly stipend of almost 43 cents each, the magnificent sum of $3.00 a week or $120.00 for the school year. The second year his salary increased, but a professor's remuneration left much to be desired.

Before entering the services of the academy he was offered a responsible and an enticing position with the Provo public schools. He needed the money that had been offered. But, following his usual custom, he discussed the matter with his father, with Brother Maeser, and sought divine guidance. He went to work for the academy.

His field from the beginning of his public life to the end was education, for the early part as a professional teacher, for the latter as a writer and preacher of the word of God. To the classroom he brought such personality, such lucidity of explanation, such an energizing influence that students made unusual progress under his direction. His ready wit was always an engaging part of him in and out of the classroom.

From the creation of his earliest school records to the writing of his last journal James E. Talmage was a meticulous record keeper. He learned Pittman Shorthand at an early age, resulting in a more complete and detailed record for posterity, despite the added difficulty of transcribing the shorthand. He cared as much about the style of the language and the appearance of the written page as he did about the content and the meaning. He gave great care and attention to many of his papers, recording them in several different colors of ink, along with intricate diagrams and charts.

Great honors came to him over the years from the intellectual world. The man, largely self-taught, was recognized abroad and at home for his original investigations and understanding.

But it was in the spiritual realm that he exercised the greatest influence and felt the strongest call. He impressed one as possessing a severe mind, (his field was first chemistry, and in later years geology), scientific and unusually interested in facts, and then surprised one with the mellowness of his soul and his extraordinary spiritual gifts. Before an audience his persuasion was based largely on logic and intellectual appeal, though he left no doubt of the strength and fervor of his testimony.

In 1932, the later Elder Bryant S. Hinckley, under an assignment to write biographical articles on members of the Council of the Twelve, asked Dr. Talmage: "When and where did you receive a testimony of the gospel?"

"That I do not know," he answered; "I believe I was born with it as I belong to the third generation of Talmages in the Church. My paternal grandparents, James Talmage of Ramsburg, Wiltshire, England, and his wife, Mary Joyce of Hampshire, England, were the first, or among the first, to join the Church in that part of England. My father, James Joyce Talmage, and my mother, Susannah Preater (Talmage), became members of the Church before I was born. They were active and devoted members.

"Though I seem to have been born with a testimony yet in my early adolescence I was led to question whether that testimony was really my own or derived from my parents. I set about investigating the claims of the Church and pursued the investigation by prayer, fasting, and research with all the ardor of an investigator on the outside. While such a one investigates with a view of coming into the Church if its claims be verified, I was seeking a way out of the Church if its claims should prove to me to be unsound. After months of such inquiry, I found myself in possession of an assurance beyond all question that I was in solemn fact a member of The Church of Jesus Christ. I was convinced once and for all, and this knowledge is so fully an integral part of my being that without it I would not be myself."

Speaking of the priesthood he said: "Every call I have received to office in the priesthood has come to me because someone was needed to fill a particular place, and was in no sense a matter of advancement or honor to myself as an individual. The greatest joys of my life have come to me through activities in the Church, and these have been the activities of a member rather than an officer. Early in life I realized that I would have to live with myself more than with anybody else, and I have tried to so live that I would be in good company when alone."

He desired more education to pursue his chosen field. Many of his friends were strongly against this; and finally Elder Talmage went to see the President of the Church, President John Taylor. In recalling it, Elder Talmage was to say: "I have often marveled at the kindness and condescension of President Taylor in spending nearly two hours with me. In the course of our conversation he inquired into my work and plans. He advised me strongly to enter a university in the East and, to my grateful surprise, laid his hands on my head and blessed me for the undertaking. The blessing thus pronounced has been realized in both spirit and letter."

As a special student, in 1882, Elder Talmage entered Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and in a single year of residence, passed nearly all the requirements of a four-year course and was later graduated from the institution. He was offered a position as a laboratory assistant which carried a salary sufficient to meet his needs for the next year, but he declined this offer and went to Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, where he specialized in chemistry and geology during one intensive academic year.

Then he was called home to resume his work at Brigham Young Academy, serving now as professor of geology and chemistry, with varied activities in other departments. During his residence in Provo he served the community as city councilman, alderman, and justice of the peace.

He came to Salt Lake City as president of the Latter-day Saints College, 1888-93, where he also served in the dual capacity of professor of chemistry. In 1894 he became professor of geology and president of the University of Utah, resigning the presidency in 1897 but continuing for ten years as professor of geology. In 1907 he resigned his professorship to follow mining geology.

He received his bachelor of science degree in 1891, and doctor of science degree in 1912, both from Lehigh University.

As a professional geologist, respected in his field, he literally traveled the earth. The late Elsie Talmage Brandley, one-time associate editor of the Era, prized a birthday letter she had received from her father. He was in Siberia on geologic business--the date: August 1897.

On December 8, 1911, at the age of forty-nine, he was ordained an apostle by President Joseph F. Smith. As such he followed President Joseph Fielding Smith into the Council of the Twelve.

Still he carried a heavy schedule of civic and other activities. He represented Salt Lake City and the State of Utah at the national conventions called to further popular movements. He would plunge into the work at the convention and would bring the enthusiasm home with him.

He was called to preside over the European Mission of the Church in 1924, following President David O. McKay in that assignment. Here came a man to Europe who was not only a leader of a then not so popular church, but he was also a respected and honored Fellow of the royal Microscopical Society (London), Royal Scottish Geographical Society (Edinburgh), the Geological Society (London), the Geological Society of America, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was an Associate of the Philosophical society of Great Britain, or Victoria Institute. In professional fields he knew whereof he spoke, and when he spoke for the Church, newspaper columns and other media were opened as never before up to that time.

Home again in 1928, Dr. Talmage was discovering the challenge of something then comparatively new--radio. The Church had a Sabbath evening radio hour on KSL then as now, and soon he was finding his element. He liked it, and the radio audience enjoyed him. From the March 1929Improvement Era:

"The sermons delivered over the radio each Sunday evening at nine o'clock, by Dr. James E. Talmage, of the Council of the Twelve, are attracting widespread attention. Naturally it would be impossible even to estimate with any degree of accuracy how many people 'listen in,' but it is safe to say that many thousands do. Favorable comments on this series are received from many different states. Our missionaries in Alaska report that they have been able to receive these messages."

He was as much at home in his writing, in his speaking, in his teaching, as he was in his own laboratory. Among his writings were the volumes:First Book of Nature, Domestic Science, The Great Salt Lake--Present and Past, Tables for the Blowpipe Determination of Minerals, An Account of the Origin of the Book of Mormon, The Articles of Faith, The Great Apostasy, The House of the Lord, The Story of Mormonism, The Philosophical Basis of Mormonism, The Vitality of Mormonism, Jesus the Christ, Sunday Night Talks by Radio.

He had met with an accident while serving as president of the European Mission that resulted in a knee injury that bothered him, off and on for the rest of his life. Nevertheless he kept working to bring to fruition the great purposes of the restored Church.

The summer of 1933 found him amidst another series of Sunday evening radio sermons. On Tuesday, July 25, he became ill while working at his desk in the Church Offices and was carried to his home. Wednesday found him improved enough to be working at home on his next radio address. On Thursday, July 27, he passed away, death being due to acute myocarditis, following a throat infection.

At the funeral services the following Sunday President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., of the First Presidency, himself a student of Dr. Talmage at the old LDS College, as well as special assistant and private secretary at the University of Utah, paid this tribute:

"'Tongues in trees, books in running brooks;

Sermons in stones and good in everything.'

"This was I think, his glory."

Elder Melvin J. Ballard of the Council of the Twelve said:

"In this ministry he produced many volumes that shall be read until the end of time, because that which he has written is so clear and so impressive that it shall ever be among the cherished treasures of those who love the works of God. Yet these contributions he gave freely to the Church, without any earthly reward. . . ."

Elder Ballard that evening read Dr. Talmage's last message to the radio audience, entitled: "Priesthood--Taken from the Earth."

Such was the man James Edward Talmage: gifted and aggressive, a man of brilliant accomplishments and high attainments--student, scholar, preacher, and writer--a man whose very heart and soul found the love of the gospel and spent his all in its purpose and calling. [The above biography is extracted from the introduction toThe Parables of James E. Talmage, compiled by Albert L. Zobell, Jr. Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1973.

comments powered by Disqus

Site Navigation

Search this Collection

Collection Arrangement

Yellow highlight indicates current location in collection description

Series in MSS 229

Print View

Help with this Collection

Ask us a Question

Ryan Lee
Curator - 19th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts