JS, Letter, , NY, to , , OH, 13 Oct. 1832; handwriting and signatures of JS; three pages; CCLA. Includes address, postal markings, dockets, and archival marking.
Two loose leaves, measuring 9¾ × 7¾ inches (25 × 20 cm). JS apparently folded the document to create a margin line prior to inscription. The document was folded with two tri-folds in letter style, addressed, and sealed with a red adhesive wafer. The postage rate was inscribed in a large and elaborate script in red ink. A circular date stamp was applied in red ink. Docket in handwriting of reads: “Joseph Smith Jr | Oct 13th 1832 ”. The document was refolded, apparently at a later time, probably in connection with filing. Additional docket in unidentified handwriting reads: “J. Smith | Oct 13 1832”. The two leaves appear to have been sewn together at some point in time. Graphite pagination added on the recto pages of the two leaves suggests that at one time the letter was placed in an archival letter file or book. The document has undergone some conservation.
The document includes two autograph signatures. It was apparently received and kept by . The presence of the docket suggests that the letter was kept for a time in JS’s office in , Illinois. The document was apparently returned to Emma Smith because it came into the possession of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ). A late nineteenth-century printing of the letter in the periodical of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and late twentieth-century archival correspondence indicate continuous institutional custody.
“Letters of Joseph Smith, the Martyr,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Dec. 1879, 356–357; Richard P. Howard, Independence, MO, to Richard Lloyd Anderson, Provo, UT, 10 Sept. 1971, photocopy, CHL.
Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.
Howard, Richard P. Letter, Independence, MO, to Richard Lloyd Anderson, Provo, UT , 10 Sept. 1971. Photocopy. CHL.
JS wrote a letter to his wife on 13 October 1832 from a in , New York. JS’s letter indicates that he and had been staying at the hotel at least a couple of days. The letter references an earlier communication to Emma during the same trip, but only this one is extant. JS was in New York with Whitney, who had been commanded in a revelation dated 22–23 September 1832 to travel to the cities of , New York City, and to “warn the people of those cities with the sound of the gospel.” To “fulfill the Revelation,” as Whitney later remembered, he and JS left probably sometime in early October and traveled to New York City; Providence, Rhode Island; Boston; and throughout New England. According to a later JS history, the entire trip was a “rapid journey.”
The 22–23 September revelation specifically told to preach, and some records indicate that he and JS made efforts to do so. , who was preaching in New England in fall 1832, wrote in his journal that the mother of a church member told him in November “that Joseph had been to Boston & Prophecied u[n]to that citty.” Whitney recalled that the pair also met Benjamin T. Onderdonk of the Episcopal Church’s Diocese of . As this letter to mentions, JS preached in New York as well. Much of the time on the trip, however, was spent purchasing goods for Whitney’s , which was designated as a for the church under the governance of the . JS and Whitney may have also attempted to negotiate a loan for the firm, but if so, they were apparently unsuccessful. While in , Whitney and JS stayed in lower Manhattan at the , located at 88 Pearl Street. Pearl Street ran for over a mile between the East River and Broadway: from the Battery to a point one block from Five Points, where it arced to the west until it intersected Broadway. According to an 1834 guidebook, the street featured “numerous spacious warehouses” and was “the principal seat of the dry goods, and hardware business.”
While had traveled to in 1825 for business purposes, the largest cities JS had visited were , Massachusetts, and , Ohio, neither of which had a population close to that of New York City, which had over two hundred thousand residents. Although JS in his letter expressed wonder at New York City and its “great inventions,” he also reflected negatively on the inhabitants of the city, perhaps because the 22–23 September 1832 revelation intimated that they were in the throes of wickedness. The letter and its lengthy postscript give a glimpse into JS’s and Whitney’s activities in New York City, including JS’s discussions of religion with a young man he met in the city and ’s work in selecting goods for his store. JS also wrote of his desire to be with his wife and daughter, , and of his concern for Emma’s condition. JS had left his wife in an advanced state of pregnancy in . Since the couple had already lost three children shortly after birth, JS likely felt anxiety for both his wife and the baby.
This letter is one of the few extant letters written entirely in JS’s own handwriting. Addressed to in , the letter bears a postage mark dated 13 October on the wrapper. Emma apparently received the letter and kept it in her possession, though it may have been kept for a time in JS’s office in . It was evidently passed down in her family and later into the custody of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ).
Newel K. Whitney, Statement, ca. 1842, Historian’s Office, JS History Documents, ca. 1839–1856, CHL. JS’s account, which differs from Whitney’s recollection, says that JS and Whitney went to Albany, New York City, and Boston. It is likely JS and Whitney went through Albany on their way to New York City since Albany was the terminus of the Erie Canal on the Hudson River and they likely traveled by canal. Whether they traveled to Providence is unclear; it may be that Whitney’s recollection on this point is correct and that JS’s history did not include Providence because the history was relying on the list of cities given in the 22–23 September 1832 revelation. (JS History, vol. A-1, 240.)
Historian’s Office. Joseph Smith History Documents, 1839–1860. CHL. CR 100 396.
There was also apparently an “Eastern Pearl-street House” located at 309 Pearl Street, and there may have been a “Western Pearl Street House” located at 307 Pearl Street, but JS referred simply to the “Pearl Street House” without an east or west designation. (Williams, New-York as It Is, 153; Classified Mercantile Directory, 73–74.)
Williams, Edwin, ed. New-York as It Is, In 1833; and Citizens’ Advertising Directory. . . . New York: J. Disturnell, 1833.
The Classified Mercantile Directory, for the Cities of New-York and Brooklyn. Containing, the Names, Occupation and Place of Business of All the Principal Firms and Individuals. . . . New York: J. Disturnell, 1837.
“N.K. Whitney Book, 25 Sept., 1825,” Newel K. Whitney, Papers, BYU; Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 188. The United States Census Bureau reported that Salem had a population of 13,895 and Cincinnati had a population of 24,831 in 1830. When JS visited Salem as a boy in 1816, it likely had a population of about 12,700. In 1830, New York City had 202,589 residents. This did not include Brooklyn, which had another 12,406. (Gibson, Population of the 100 Largest Cities, –.)
Whitney, Newel K. Papers, 1825–1906. BYU.
Bushman, Richard Lyman. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. With the assistance of Jed Woodworth. New York: Knopf, 2005.
Gibson, Campbell. Population of the 100 Largest Cities and Other Urban Places in the United States: 1790 to 1990. Population Division Series 27. Washington DC: U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1998.
JS Family Bible / Joseph Smith Family Bible, ca. 1831–1866. Private possession. Copy of genealogical information in Joseph Smith Sr. Family Reunions Files, 1972–2003. CHL.
Oct 12<13> 1832
This day I have been walking through the most splended part of the city of — the buildings are truly great and wonderful to the astonishing <of>to eve[r]y beholder and the language of my heart is like this can the great God of all the Earth maker of all things magnificent and splended be displeased with man for all these great inventions saught out by them my answer is no it cannot be seeing these works are are calculated to mak[e]men comfortable wise and happy therefore not for the works can the Lord be displeased only aganst man is the anger of the Lord kindled because they Give him not the Glory therefore their iniquities shall <be> visited upon their heads and their works shall be burned up with unquenchable fire the inequity [iniquity] of the people is printed in every countinance and nothing but the dress of the people makes them look fair and butiful all is deformity their is something in every countinance that is disagreable with few exceptions Oh how long Oh Lord Shall this order of things exist and darkness cover the Earth and gross darkness cover the peopleafter beholding all that I had any desire to behold I returned to my room to meditate and calm my mind and behold the thaughts of home of and rushes upon my mind like a flood and I could wish for [p. ]
According to an October 1832 newspaper article, the Pearl Street House had existed for twenty-five years and was “extensively known as the resort of merchants from every part of the Union especially from the western part of the state of New York and from Ohio.” The hotel faced two parallel streets (Pearl and Water), stretching the entire distance between them. It included “four story buildings” as well as “a small court yard and a two story edifice, on the roof of which is a flower garden.” In the summer of 1832, the boarding house—which was “the largest commercial boarding house in the United States”— underwent extensive renovations, including the “erection of spacious additional buildings, containing several elegant dining rooms on the second floor, and ranges of sleeping rooms above.” It could accommodate up to three hundred boarders and was “kept by Messrs. Brown, of Clinton Co., and Mahon, late commander of the steamboat New Philadelphia, from whom every thing may be expected in the way of civility and attention.” (“Events of the Day &c.,” Evening Post [New York City], 26 Oct. 1832, .)