Joe Smith's Egyptian Mummies - 1857
Daily Missouri Democrat – June 12, 1857
THE MORMON PROPHET'S
MUMMIES. -- Not long since, we
stated that the mummies and accompanying Egyptian manuscripts at the museum were
the identical mummies and manuscripts formerly found by Smith the mormon
prophet. They were purchased by the proprietor of the museum from Mr. A. Combs,
who bought them at Nauvoo city on the 26th of May, 1856. In a work published by
"the saints" is a facsimile of the manuscripts with the information added that
they were written by the great Jewish patriarch, Abraham himself. Doubt having
still been expressed that they were the prophet's mummies, etc., we now append
the certificate with which the sale of them to Mr. Combs was accompanied. Here
NAUVOO CITY, May 26, 1856.
This to certify that we have sold to Mr. A. Combs four Egyptian Mumies with the records of them.
These mummies were obtained from the catacombs of Egypt, sixty feet below the surface of the earth, by the antiquarian society of Paris, and forwarded to New York, and purchased by the mormon prophet Joseph Smith, at the price of twenty-four hundred dollars in the year 1835. -- They were highly prized by Mr. Smith on account of the importance attached to the records, which were accidentally found enclosed in the breast of one of the mummies. From translations by Mr. Smith of the records, these mummies were found to be the family of Pharo, king of Egypt. They were kept exclusively by Mr. Smith until his death, and since by the mother of Mr. Smith -- notwithstanding we have had repeated offers to purchase, which have invariably been refused, until her death, which occurred on the 14th day of this month.
NAUVOO, HANCOCK CO., ILL. May 26th, 1856.
(Signed) L. C. BIDAMON.
former wife of Joseph Smith.
son of the mormon prophet Joseph Smith.
Note: For a discussion of how the Mormon mummies came to rest in the St. Louis Museum, see Walter H. Whipple's "The St. Louis Museum and the Two Egyptian Mummies and Papyri," in BYU Studies 10:1 (Autumn 1969), pp. 57-64, and Stanley B. Kimball's "New Light on Old Egyptiana: Mormon Mummies, 1848-71," in Dialogue 16:4 (Winter 1983), pp. 72-90.
St. Louis Christian Advocate – September 10, 1857
St. Louis Museum -- Zeulodon --
Mr. Editor: Did you ever
visit this rare collection of the curiosities of nature and art? ... the object
most attractive to me was the Egyptian mummies. These unfolded a history deeply
interesting to every lover of the curious and antiquated. It is said that these
mummies were obtained in the catacombs of Egypt sixty feet below the surface of
the earth, for the Antiquarian Society of Paris, and forwarded to New York, and
there purchased by Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, in 1835; and that he used
them in practicing his deceptions upon the people, pretending to translate the
writings or hieroglyphics found in the chest of one of them, stating that they
belonged to the family of Pharaoh. I suppose this great impostor, among other
things equally glaring, confirmed his prophetic authority by alleging this
papyrus roll to contain a commission to him from Pharaoh. By this, or some other
mysterious power, he evidently holds in strange captivity many deluded people
who groan to be delivered from bondage. Prof. Seyffarth says this writing
contains an invocation to the Deity Osirus, in which occurs the name of the
person, which is Horus. Long did I gaze upon these relics of departed
greatness. Three thousand years have told upon the fortunes of the world since
they mingled in the busy scenes of strife and acted their part upon the world's
theatre. Could they but read the mighty change! "Great Pharaoh's sceptered
pride" has departed. The refinements and luxuries of Egypt in the days of her
glory have faded. Its wealth and power are gone. Where stood the mightiest
empire on the earth, now stretches out drear and desolate plains, filled here
and there with huge piles of mouldering ruins, monuments of departed greatness.
Where palaces, and temples, and cities stood in the days of Pharaoh's glory and
Egypt's power, now ruin sways its sceptre, and the curious tourist and
scientific antiquarian study its hyeroglyphics, ramble amid its decaying arches,
and pillars, and obelisks, gaze upon its pyramids and penetrate its catacombs
and exhume its mummied Pharaohs, to tell the story of departed grandeur and
glory, and point to the wisdom of Moses in choosing rather affliction with God's
people and the imperishable glory of an everlasting reward. W. M. L.
St. Louis, Sept. 4, 1857.
Note 1: Oddly enough the St. Louis newspapers seem to have recorded very little information touching upon the "Mormon mummies" on display in the local museum there for many years. Prior to their transfer to Missouri, when the curiosities were yet in Illinois, the St. Louis Reveille made a slight mention of them in 1845. Advertisements and two short articles on the subject appeared in the local Daily Democrat in 1856 and 1857 (see transcripts on this web-page), but not much else was said about the mummies in the St. Louis press.
Note 2: In late 1846 or not long thereafter, William Smith, last surviving brother of Joseph Smith, assumed control of the Mormon mummies. Evidently he pawned the Mormon mummies in 1854 to cover some expenses. (For more on William's troubles at the time, see the Apr. 26, 1854 issue of the Missouri Republican) William never redeemed the missing antiquities, but it appears that he and his sister-in-law (Emma Smith Bidamon) obtained more compensation for the mummies, before they formally ended up in the hands of a certain Abel Combs. This fellow placed two of the relics in Edward Wyman's St. Louis Museum during the late summer of 1856. They evidently remained in St. Louis until 1863, when the St. Louis Museum was moved to Chicago. For the recollections of William's nephew on this subject, see his Oct. 24, 1898 letter, as published in the Jan. 11, 1899 issue of the RLDS Saints' Herald.
Note 3: The Prof. Seyffarth mentioned in the above letter was Gustavus Seyffarth, a visiting instructor at St. Louis' Lutheran Concordia College. He recognized the texts accompanying the mummies for what they were -- funeral documents commonly buried with mummies in Egypt during ancient times. The correspondent who penned the above letter probably attended one of Professor Seyffarth's 1856 lectures, held in the St. Louis Mercantile Library, in which he offered a description of the museum's Egyptian mummies and their accompanying papyrus documents. See also a report of Seyffarth's conclusions in this regard, published in the Sept. 13, 1856 issue of the St. Louis Evening Pilot.
WORD FAITH INDEX
CATHOLIC CHURCH INDEX