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Picture Grace


     Back in the war year of 1918, a bearded saintly old man with foot scrapers to sell called on Eric Enstrom at his photography studio in Bovey, Minnesota.

     Out of this chance encounter came a world famous photographic study.  Today, Enstrom's picture, "Grace" showing an elderly peddler with his head bowed in mealtime prayer of thanksgiving, is known and loved throughout the world.

     There was something about the old gentleman's face that immediately impressed Enstrom on the day Charles Wilden visited his studio.   "I saw that he had a kind face...there weren't any harsh lines in it."   The photo happened during the time Enstrom was preparing a portfolio of pictures to take with him to a convention of the Minnesota Photographers Association.  "I  wanted to take a picture that would show people that even though they had to do without many things because of the war they still had much to be thankful for."

     On a small table, Enstrom place his large family Bible, and on it laid a pair of spectacles.  Beside the Bible, he placed a bowl of gruel, a loaf of bread, and a knife.  Then he asked Wilden to place his folded hands to his brow in prayer before partaking of a meager meal.  Enstrom immediately noticed that Wilden struck the pose very easily and naturally.  To bow his head in prayer seemed to be characteristic of the elderly visitor.

     As soon as the negative was developed, Enstrom was sure he had something special...a picture that seemed to say, "This man doesn't have much of earthly goods, but he has more than most people because he has a thankful heart."

     The picture caused little stir at the 1918 photography convention.  A few years later, however, Enstrom took it to the convention again.  This time it was hung in exhibit and received warm critical acclaim.  Most sales in the early 1920's were to traveling people who came through Bovey and saw the picture in the window of his photo studio.  As soon as one print was sold, he'd make another to take its place.

     The early "Grace" pictures were printed in black and white or in brown tint.  Later his daughter, Rhoda Nyberg, began hand-painting them in oils and interest in the picture soared.  When demand for the picture outran Enstrom's ability to supply photographic prints, he sold the publishing rights to Augsburg Publishing House in Minneapolis, Minnesota.







 © City of Bovey, Minnesota