Grace (photograph)

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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 in Bovey, Minnesota at Enstrom's photography studio. Most sources note the year as 1918, though Enstrom's daughter Rhoda, born in 1917, claimed to remember being present when the photograph was taken, and it may have been taken closer to 1920. The man in the photograph, Charles Wilden, was a Swedish immigrant who lived in nearby Grand Rapids, Minnesota earning a meager living as a peddler and living in a sod house. While the photograph conveys a sense of piety, the book shown in the photo is in fact a dictionary, not the Bible, and local stories about Wilden "centered more around drinking and not accomplishing very much."[2]

What happened to Wilden after the photograph is unclear. 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. Various 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 used in prints produced in 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. He died in 1968. Rhoda Nyberg died in 2012.[2][3]

Photograph with window light added to original. 
Colorized version. 


  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. 
  3. ^ a b Walsh, Paul (27 February 2012). "Iron Range artist brought 'Grace' photo to fame". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. 

External links[edit]