Grace (photograph)

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Photograph with window light added to original.

Grace is a photograph by Eric Enstrom. It depicts an elderly man with hands folded, saying a prayer over a table with a simple meal. In 2002, an act of the Minnesota State Legislature established it as the state photograph.[1]

History and background[edit]

The original photograph was taken at Enstrom's photography studio in Bovey, Minnesota. Most sources indicate 1918 as the year, though Enstrom's daughter Rhoda, born in 1917, claimed to remember being present when the photograph was taken, which might have been around 1920. The man depicted in the photograph is Charles Wilden, who earned a meager living as a peddler and lived in a sod house. While the photograph conveys a sense of piety, the book seen in the photo is actually a dictionary not a Bible,[disputed ] and local stories about Wilden "centered more around drinking and not accomplishing very much."[2]

What happened to Wilden after the photograph is unknown. In 1926, he was paid $5 by Enstrom in return for waiving his rights to the photograph; he disappeared thereafter. After the photograph became popular Enstrom attempted to track Wilden down but was unsuccessful. Numerous family members and local historians have also attempted to determine what became of Wilden but have not been able to locate definitive evidence.[2]

Enstrom first licensed the photograph to Augsburg Fortress in 1930. In the 1940s, his daughter, Rhoda Nyberg, colorized the photo by hand. This version was featured in prints produced during the 1940s onward and became the more widespread and popularly known version of the photo.[3]

Enstrom earned a modest sum from the photograph for the remainder of his life until his death in 1968. Nyberg died in 2012.[2][3]


In 2014 the stage play Picturing Grace premiered,[4] which presents a dramatized retelling of the story behind the photograph, its photographer and subject. The play premiered in Itasca County, the same region in which the photograph was captured.

The water tower in the town of Bovey, MN has the following words painted on the side - Bovey Home of the picture Grace.

The extremely deep lake which borders Bovey on the west and north has no name on any map. (Compare a map of the area with a satellite photograph.) It was previously a deep iron ore mine. A past resident of Bovey has used social media to promote the idea of naming it Lake Grace.



  1. ^ "Grace, official state photograph". State of Minnesota. Retrieved Feb 25, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Lee, Stephen J. (27 February 2012). "Man in famous Grace photo mystifies historians". Grand Folks Herald. Archived from the original on 1 November 2015.
  3. ^ a b Walsh, Paul (27 February 2012). "Iron Range artist brought Grace photo to fame". Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
  4. ^ "'Picturing Grace' has successful opening, looks forward to future audiences". Grand Rapids Herald-Review. Retrieved 2016-01-28.

External links[edit]