Minnesota – State Photograph

Grace, by Enstrom. Rhoda Enstrom, Eric Enstrom's daughter.

Grace – by Enstrom

The photograph “Grace” was adopted as the state photograph in 2002.

The photograph “Grace,” depicting an elderly man bowing his head and giving thanks, was taken in Bovey, Minnesota in 1918 by Eric Enstrom, and was adopted as the official state photograph in 2002. A copy of the photograph is on display in the secretary of state’s office in St. Paul.


“Amazing Grace”

Famous photo hangs in Secretary of State’s office
Posted on Sunday, April 7, 2002 by Megan Boldt – Grand Rapids Herald-Review

St. PAUL, MN – When Charles Wilden went door-to-door in Bovey trying desperately to sell shoe-scraper in the early 20th century, he probably never imagined his face would be seen all around the world.

Or in the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office.

But on Wednesday, Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer placed Eric Enstrom’s “Grace” on her office walls. The 1918 photograph of Wilden was designated the official state photograph last week.

“I remember this picture from the time I was a child,” said a teary Rhoda Nyberg, Enstrom’s daughter. “We were very proud of it. This is going to be something his grandkids … and his great-grandkids are going to remember for a long time.”

Generations of Enstrom’s family — his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — traveled down to St. Paul to celebrate as a piece of family history became a piece of state history. Enstrom’s photo depicts the humbleness and grace of Wilden, with his hands folded and his head lowered, praying over a loaf of bread.

Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL-Bovey, said that Nyberg used to watercolor the black and white photos for those who flooded the family business. If someone requested Wilden have a red shirt, she painted a red shirt.

Popularity soared by 1945 and Enstrom sold the copyrights to Augsburg Publishing House because he couldn’t keep up with the demand for the popular religious image.

Last session, the Legislature passed a resolution urging the U.S. Postal Service to reproduce “Grace” onto a postage stamp. It usually takes the service two to three years to decide whether or not to accept the recommendations.

Sen. Bob Lessard, I-International Falls, said he received some complaints about his and Rep. Loren Solberg’s efforts to give Enstrom’s photo the recognition it deserves. Some did not like the idea designating a photo that has a religious theme. “That is not what it’s about,” he said. “This picture I think represents an elderly person showing his emotions, showing how he feels.”

It’s world-renowned, Lessard added. He received a letter from someone in the armed services that saw the picture in Afghanistan. Nyberg remembered reading letters from people in Europe for the wars that spotted her father’s work across the ocean.

Kiffmeyer said the picture is an appropriate fit for the Minnesota state photograph.

“This is something I think we can all rally around,” she said.