Minnesota’s the Only State with a State Photo (and It’s Famous)
Many people recognize the iconic photo of an old man praying over his meal, but few know the story behind it. Turns out, the photo has its origins right here in Minnesota!
In 1918 a traveling salesman named Charles Wilden visited the small mining town of Bovey, Minnesota. While there, he stepped into the studio of local photographer Eric Enstrom. Noting the kindness in Wilden’s face, Enstrom asked the salesman to pose for a photo. As story goes, Enstrom placed Wilden at a table, asked him to fold his hands and bow his head and arranged household items including a book, a pair of spectacles, a loaf of bread, a knife, and a bowl of soup around him. He called the photo “Grace.”
A monument to “Grace” located in Bovey shares that — after taking the photo — Enstrom took the photo to a convention of the Minnesota Photographers Association where it received poor reception. A few years later, however, he took it again to the convention where the photo was hung in exhibition and received warm critical acclaim.
(If photo above does not show, refresh page or click here)
Enstrom sold the photo at his studio where it was originally available in black and white or brown tint. Later, his daughter began hand-painting the photo in oil colors, leading to a soaring increase in interest and sales. According to MNopedia.com, the Enstrom family sold the rights to the photo in the 1950’s to Augsburg Publishing House in Minneapolis — a publisher associated with the American Lutheran Church. The photograph continued to grow in popularity in Minnesota and across the country, and by 1961 Augsburg Publishing had sold twenty thousand prints. Today, the photo is a well-known fixture in homes, churches, restaurants (and perhaps the occasional thrift store).
In 2002, a bill was proposed in the Minnesota State Legislature recognizing “Grace” as as the official state photograph. The bill was passed and a print hung in the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office in St. Paul. According to some reports, “Grace” is the only officially-recognized state photo today.