Juvenile Instructor » Mormon Hydra 2 of 2
 


Mormon Hydra 2 of 2

By: Edje Jeter - July 28, 2013

As the examples in the first post showed, a Hydra could represent an individual (Joseph Smith), an institution (the Church), or a concept. The concept-as-Hydra was probably most common, implicating ideas like violence or fraud, usually with some specific incident(s) under discussion as an individual head (or heads) of the larger monster (for non-Mormon-related examples, see images below). [1]

NoMo Hydra example composite 20130727a

In polemic literature, Mormonism was often one of the heads of whatever hydra-headed evil was being discussed, even if the piece itself was not specifically anti-Mormon. For example (1890): “There is the Sunday question, the temperance question, the Mormon question, the Negro question. There is Socialism…. There is Romanism…. [~110 words] … Yet these problems, are, for the most part, but the hydra-heads of that one monster, Immigration.” [2]

In connection with Mormonism, a particularly common instance of the concept-as-Hydra motif was to portray polygamy as a Hydra. In these cases the Hydra might represent something unnatural, something hard to kill, and/or something with many manifestations, of which Mormonism was only the latest. [3] Mormon and pro-Mormon writers also used the concept-as-Hydra, both for not-Mormon-related topics like war and wickedness, as well as for anti-Mormon hatred. [4]

More direct, but still undeveloped, metaphors also appeared. There were instances of both the “Mormon hydra” [5] and “the anti-‘Mormon’ hydra,” [6] without explanation as to what such a figure of speech might mean.  Other authors used the image more specifically, focusing on the Hydra’s general hideousness [7] or the fact that, with multiple heads, the “monster[’s]…grinning face greets you at every turn.” [8]

In some cases, however, anti-Mormon authors elaborated on the image. One device was to name the various “heads”: “Ignorance, duplicity, deceit, profanity, these are some of the names that this hydra-headed monster bears on its various foreheads” (1901); “Mormonism is a hydra-headed monstrosity of polytheism, pantheism and materialism” (1904); and so on. [9] In these cases, the reference was probably to the beast of Revelation, since it had “upon his heads the name of blasphemy” (Rev 13:1).

Other authors communicated more clearly their classical references, emphasizing the Hydra’s double regeneration, which made attack paradoxically counter-productive and the monster very difficult to kill:

“If these Mormons should be dispersed by the bayonet; if their city is conquered and their temples destroyed; if the Impostors or their dupes, fall in battle, we shall realize, in its worst sense, the everlasting truth that ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.’ Instead of ‘crushing out’ Mormonism, we shall find, in the head of every decapitated Hydra, a thousand fresh ones springing up.” (1858) [10]

Other authors followed suit, using (1859) post-Smithian Mormonism as an example of a decapitated, non-dead Hydra, or arguing (1888) that Mormonism wasn’t really a Hydra and that if polygamy could be stopped Mormonism would “soon be dead.” [11]

The Hydra examples I have cited thus far are rhetorically generic: Mormons and non-Mormons used Hydra imagery in discourse around Mormonism, but they did it with the same Hydra imagery and language that appeared in discussions of Masonry, Catholicism, Alcoholism, Abolitionism, and so on. I have, however, identified one type of Hydra image that seems to be uniquely Mormon. The image below, “Mormonism, the Social Hydra,” from the Harvard Lampoon (WW Kent, 1882) illustrates the point. [12]

KentWW MormonismSocialHydra HarvardLampoon 1882Feb23 v3n1p8

The Mormon version of a Hydra represents polygamy: the main head is male while all the other heads are female. The idea of “the hundred-headed Hydra, the hundred-wived Mormon” also appeared in print. [13]

The story of Hercules confronting the Hydra was popular art and politics. [14] The Harvard Lampoon image above seems to have been modeled on a painting by Gustave Moreau (see detail below). [15]

MoreauG HerculesAndTheLernaeanHydra and Kent PoliticalCartoon

1882 was not the only time Hercules, a Hydra, and Mormonism appeared in the same political image. In 1885 Bernhard Gillam portrayed President-elect Grover Cleveland as a Hercules facing various opponents on the “Administration Road” to “Success.” In Gillam’s image, however, the Hydra seems to be a “Rotten Navy” armed with a “Lobby” club. The Mormon figure has only one head. [16]

GillamB FoesInHisPath Puck v16n415p392t3 LOC 650px

As noted, the Hydra metaphor, with the exceptions mentioned above, did not have a specific Mormon form nor was it uniquely attached to Mormonism. I did find one instance (1916), though, when Mormonism seems singled-out.  In a survey of lamentable religious situations in various North American locations, the author employs no pejorative imagery except: “Then look at the great Mormon states where the hydra-mouthed octopus of a supernumerary religion is sapping at the vitals of morality and liberty.” [17]

The Mormon Hydra appeared in anti-Mormon efforts from at least the 1840s to the late 1910s. I’m not prepared to make solid quantitative claims, but it seems like the Hydra appeared more frequently in the 1850s, 1880s, and 1900s, corresponding with the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the anti-polygamy campaign, and the Roberts / Smoot hearings. It is possible that since the volume of anti-Mormon writing increased during these times it is easier to find Hydra metaphors on simple statistical grounds, but it might also reflect frustration with a “problem” that kept coming back, despite all the effort expended “last time.” Again impressionistically, there does seem to be a shift from mainstream media to specialized religious and home mission periodicals. Octopus imagery also seems to have partially displaced the Hydra.

Bonus Image: it’s a Mormon plant rather than a Mormon Hydra, but it, like the Harvard Lampoon image, shows a central male head surrounded by multiple female heads. [18]

KepplerJ TrulyRepresentativeAmericanExhibit Puck v3n62p7t8 1878May15 650px


[1] One example of text-based concept-as-Hydra (with the usual caveat about “hydra-headed”): “Dr. Miller, editor of the Omaha Herald, says: ‘To the lasting honor of the Mormon people and system, for twenty-five years such machines of moral infamy as whiskey-shops, harlotries, faro-banks, and all the attendants of vice and iniquity, were totally unknown in Utah. But, now, these hydra-headed monsters are gaining foothold in Salt Lake City….” TW Curtis, The Mormon Problem: The Nation’s Dilemma (New Haven, CT: Hoggson & Robinson, 1885), 17. William Allen Rogers, “A Trustworthy Beast,” illustration, Harper’s Weekly, New York, 1888 Oct 20. The image shows Andrew Carnegie next to a poly-cephalic cow / hydra speaking to Uncle Sam. The caption reads, “The public may regard trusts or combinations with serene confidence.” —Andrew Carnegie, in an interview in N. Y. Times, Oct. 9.” The Hydra heads are labeled (clockwise from lower-left) “steel trust,” “lumber,” “salt,” “sugar trust,” and “oil trust” (where “trust” would presumably appear on the “lumber” and “salt” heads is obscured by the position or angle; Carnegie had investments in each of those industries). A Berghaus, no title, The Rural New-Yorker (1887 May 14), cover, courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society. The image shows a farmer facing a hydra labeled “Fraud” with heads labeled, left to right, “Glucose,” “Cotton-Seed-Oil-Lard,” and “Oleomargarine.” No artist listed, published by Currier and Ives, “The Hercules of the Union, slaying the great dragon of secession,” 1861, courtesy of the Library of Congress. The image shows Union General Winfield Scott as Hercules swinging a club (“Liberty & Union”) at a Hydra (“Secession”) with seven heads, each with the face and name of a Southern leader and labeled with a vice/crime. The heads are (top to bottom): Robert Toombs, Hatred and Blasphemy; Alexander Stephens, Lying; Jefferson Davis, Piracy; PGT Beauregard, Perjury; David E Twiggs, Treason; Francis W Pickens, Extortion; and John B Floyd, Robbery.

[2] CJ Pope, “Survey of the Society’s Work,” address before the Iowa Baptist State Convention, The Baptist Home Mission Monthly 12:1 (1890 Jan): 10 (8-11). Other examples of Mormonism as one head of an abstract hydra: “How deal with the Mormon monster that stares us in the face, and stares us out of countenance well-nigh? With clean hands of our own repentance and reform: else, when we cut off that hydra’s one head, two others will spring up. Certainly, we cannot deliver any very heavy blows at a distance on the corruption which we laugh at and pass lightly over at home!” CA Bartol, “The Puritan and the Mormon,” Unitarian Review and Religious Magazine 23:2 (1885 Feb): 160 (155-163). “Christianity, from Romanism to Mormonism, still lives and is a power. Ignorance is a monster very hard to kill; his hydra-headed constitution springs up again to new life and vigour, somewhere or in some form.” JC Wright [“By the Controls of Mr. J. C. Wright.”], as recorded by J Fowler, “Earlier Experiences in Spirit-Life; Or, How the Spirit-World Impinges on Human Organization,” The Medium and Daybreak 13:644, London, 1882 Aug 04, p 486 (486-487, 490). “I will not instance this Mormonism as a fair type of the movement I mean, even though I look upon it as the prelude of the final inevitable combination of all the great modern tendencies of the world and the flesh into one vast unholy cultus; Mormonism may be destroyed, but the hydra will not cease to show new heads.” Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, “Dr. Hengstenberg on Modern Missions” (translation of “Evangelische Kirchenzeitung”) The Missionary Magazine 43:4 (American Baptist Missionary Union, 1863 Apr): 121 (118-123). “Then follows an earnest denunciation of the hydra-headed evil which stalks over the land,—the idol-worship of popular favor; the debasing of God’s Houses and His Holy Day, to political harangues; the rapid growth of Infidelity; the spread of Spiritualisrn; the increase of bribery, and other gross political corruptions; the admission of Mormons into Corgress [sic; Congress], and the toleration of Pagan Worship in California; and then an exhortation both to Clergy and people, to faithfulness in their respective walks of life. So much for the rejected Pastoral.” No author listed, Article 6, “The General Convention of 1862,” The American Quarterly Church Review 15:1 (1863 Apr): 119 (104-126). “The minds of such pseudo-Republicans are transcendental and sophistical upon all subjects. See their daily repulsive innovations upon decent society and sober freedom; their Transcendentalism, their Spiritualism, their Fourierism, their Millerism, their Mormonism, their Free Love-ism, their Wakemanism, their Higher Lawism, their vox-populi, vox Dei-ism and consequently their Black Republicanism. … [~90 words] … Such lawless ‘fierce democracie’ is worse than monarchy—it is pantarchy—Hydra-headed tyranny. The people madly run from monarchy to the other extreme.” Preston Souther, “Miss Murray’s Travels,” review of Letters from the United States, Cuba and Canada by the Hon. Amelia M. Murray (New York: GP Putnam, 1856), Southern Literary Messenger 22:6 (Richmond, VA, 1856 Jun): 459 (455-461). “Look yet again at the deluded thousands who throng the streets of the Mormon city of the West. These facts proclaim that futurity alone can decide whether superstition be not a hydra-headed monster, which cannot be entirely destroyed. The present, at least, is unable to determine.” No author listed, “Origin and Modes of Superstitious Belief,” The Yale Literary Magazine: Conducted by the Students of Yale College 9:6 (1844 Apr): 275 (267-275). “But even this, though it result in placing upon the bench personified ignorance, is scarcely parallel to the popular folly of deifying ignorance, by choosing as clerical teachers the apostle of Mormonism, or Father Miller, instead of those whom God and man unite to qualify as our religious guides. Nor is the vulgar adulation paid to quackery in many of the States, by legally abolishing all distinctions between physicians and quacks, less repugnant to reason or less mischievous. … [~200 words]… And though popular ignorance may still prove for a time the pablum vitae of the hydra-headed monster of quackery, yet it will presently be dissipated by that universal education which is the early destiny of our young republic.” R, “The Past and the Present,” The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal 35:17 (1846 Nov 25 Wed): 336 (334-336, continued from previous number). [reviewer writes]: “Three reasons are assigned for the publication of this work, viz., 1. … 2. The prevalence of error, meaning thereby, Puseyism, Mormonism, Irvingism, and semi-Arianism. 3. …” [quoting Poulter, presumably in reference to the ‘errors’ above]: “to grapple with the hydra-headed antichrist of the nineteenth century.” JJ Poulter, An Essay on the Supremacy and Glory of Messiah (London, 1841), as quoted in “Brief Notices,” No author listed, The Baptist Magazine 5 (1842 Dec): 658. “It may not be generally known that the population of the new State of Idaho is almost entirely Mormon; and when you hear that word you can have an idea that working silently under the outward semblance of loyalty, is the hydra-headed monster of treason and disloyalty.” No author listed, credited to an “extract from a letter from a missionary among the Mormons,” “Words from Workers,” Home Mission Monthly 5:12 (1891 Oct): 277 (276-278). [In describing the value of the Council of Trent, the author lists groups or movements and their variances from Catholicism: Rationalism, Materialism, Socinians, Unitarians, Universalists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Campbellites, Spiritists]… The Mormon apostles are at variance with the Apostles of old on the subject of matrimony…. …It was to attack this many headed hydra, and to provide an antidote to its venom, and to that of the brood yet within its womb that on the morning of the thirteenth day of December, 1545, …[the Council was convened]. Thomas C Moore, Alethaurion: Short Papers for the People (Leavenworth, Kansas: Ketcheson & Hubbell, 1883), 423. [Mormonism is] “a monster more spiritually fatal, more arrogant, and more hateful, than any of those countless isms and hydra-headed forms of Dissent by which society in the present age is so signally tortured and disgraced.” No author listed, “The Mormon Imposture,” Article 3, review of The City of the Mormons; or, Three Days at Nauvoo, in 1842 (Henry Caswall, London: Rivingtons, 1842), The Church of England Quarterly Review 13 (London, 1843 Jan): 46 (45-63).

[3] “And the plural wife system is no less obnoxiously aggressive, and even [p 161] presents its hydra-head in European Turkey, and in some of the Territories of the United States of America, among the Mormons; and most, if not all of the Indian tribes.” CM Hawley, “Woman and the Law,” The Chicago Law Times 1:2 (1887 Apr): 160-161 (160-176). “A prominent member of the Anti-Polygamy Society is responsible for the following anecdote, which is a single illustration of how utterly destructive polygamy is to the sacred relation of family, and how the hydra-headed monster outrages all the holiest feelings of the human heart….” Jennie Anderson Froiseth, editor (and author of the cited comment), The Women of Mormonism: Or the Story of Polygamy as Told by the Victims Themselves (Detroit: CGG Paine, 1887 [1st edition, 1881]), 184. “Polygamy raised its hydra-head and claimed American protection among the mountains of Utah, but the people said it was detrimental to social order, and soon the breeze of the Pacific slope whispered its decline, and ere the morning of the twentieth century shall have been heralded in the special feature of Mormon religion will have become a thing of the past.” Fanny Williams, “Report of the Department of Heredity,” Proceedings of the Fourth Annual Convention of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union of Missouri, held in Carthage, June 15, 16, 17, and 18, 1886 (Kansas City: HN Farrey, 1886), 32 (31-33). “This Grand Lodge, of course, backs Utah in its raid upon the Mormon Masonry!—and well it may, for, being on the borders, it daily sees the baneful influence exercised upon the body politic by that hydra-headed monster, polygamy.” [snippet only], Annals of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, volume 9, p 109. “Matrimony in Utah has been allowed to run riot, as it were. The cruel and relentless hand of this hydra-headed monster has been laid upon the youngest and the fairest of the Mormon people.” Bill Nye [Edgar W Nye], Baled Hay: A Drier Book than Walt Whitman’s “Leaves o’ Grass” (New York: Frank F Lovell, 1884), 281. “The duty of congress is now to strike down this hydra-headed monster, which will bring trouble and possibly bloodshed in the future if longer dallied with as it has been.” No author listed, credited to “a correspondent of the Chicago Tribune,” as quoted in “The Mormon Question,” no author listed, credited to The Living Church (Episcopalian), Chicago, 1889 Dec 21, as reprinted in The Magazine of Christian Literature 1:4 (1890 Jan): 228 (228-229). “Since that declaration, the nation has arisen in its majestic strength, and carved the one ulcer, slavery, from the body politic, but the other ‘twin relic,’ [p 314] as foul and abominable an ulcer as was slavery, still fills our nostrils with its stench, still disgraces that which we declare is the greatest and best of governments, still spreads and thrives; and raising its ‘hydra head,’ bids defiance to people, to government, and to law.” PT Van Zile, “The Twin Relic,” in Jennie Anderson Froiseth, editor, The Women of Mormonism: Or the Story of Polygamy as Told by the Victims Themselves (Detroit: CGG Paine, 1887 [1st edition, 1881]), 314 (312-336).  “If the Aztec religion still existed, with its sacrifices human life, few would think that its prohibition by the Government, and the strict enforcement of the law, was unconstitutional; and yet the hydra-headed vice of the Mormons is more iniquitous than the sacrifice of life incorporated in the religion of the semi-barbaric Aztecs. When sentiment becomes sentimentalism to the extent that it would clog the wheels of justice, it is time for it to be crushed out as effectually as we trust the soul-destroying and woman-debasing vice of polygamy will be crushed out by the Government of the United States. —Minneapolis, Minn., Tribune.” No author listed, credited to Minneapolis, Minn., Tribune, “Thought of the Hour,” The Current 5:189 (Chicago, 1886 Jan 16): 47.

[4] “What else do we behold? Wickedness—the hydra-headed monster, apostasy, dares to lift his head; thieves dare to prowl in our midst.” Edward Hunter, cornerstone laying of Salt Lake Temple, 1853 April 06, as reported by GD Watt, Journal of Discourses 2:37 (35-38). “Is there a master mind, or spirit—a man possessed of sufficient intelligence, to walk forth among the nations of Europe, and say to the hydra-headed monster, ‘War, lie still and be thou quiet?’” John Taylor, speech in Salt Lake City, 1854 April 19, reported by GD Watt, Journal of Discourses 1:373 (365-375). “The whole scheme of attack upon any given body of religionists is another phase of the insane spirit of ‘Reformation,’ which anon raises its hydra-headed repulsiveness to stab, and slay all those who fail to agree with its particular mania at that especial juncture of affairs. Now it is intemperance, then retrenchment, then anti-Caesarism, then anti-stalwartism, then anti-masonry, and again anti-monarchy.” George A. Meears, “The Materia Medica of Religion: Who Shall Administer,” Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine 3:1 (1883 Oct): 74 (60-76); note that Tullidge had an on-again-off-again relationship with the institutional LDS Church, so his magazine is “Mormon” in a general sense, but not in the same way as, say The Deseret News. “Growing out of the habit of making polygamy the staple topic, we unconsciously pass to other points of belief and practice of the hated church, and from one step to another, we proceed to the utter condemnation of everything pertaining to the people and their religion. The consequence need not be a matter of doubt: it is the engendering of the most virulent hatred between the two classes. [¶] “The effects of this hatred are everywhere manifested—it is seen alike in social, commercial, and political circles. It invades the privacy of domestic concerns, and rears its hydra-head in the most unexpected places. It mars the success of every conceivable enterprise, and ejects its venom upon the purest and noblest aspirations of the human soul.” George A Meears, “A Gentile Exodus,” Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine 3:2 (1884 Apr): 186 (181-192).

[5] “I doubt, however, whether any forcible resistance will be offered to the United States Government, who, finding themselves almost powerless to cope with the Mormon hydra, have lately issued a plaintive Circular to the Governments of England, Germany, Norway, [p 251] Sweden, and Denmark, inviting their co-operation in putting a check upon Mormon emigration.” Samuel Phillips Day, Life and Society in America (London: Newman, 1880), 250-251. “He had often, in the bitterness of his soul, stigmatized the government that failed to grapple with this hydra of Mormonism as cowardly and supine! He had marveled at the apathy which rendered the nation at large so indifferent to this foul plague spot.” Jeannette H. Walworth, His Three Wives: Or, The Bar-sinister, a Mormon Study (New York: The Mershon Company, 1885), 276. “Still we certainly agree with the author now under review that “persecution” is not the proper instrument with which to assail this hydra monster. Mormons should be treated just like other men. When they conduct themselves as orderly citizens, they should be suffered to enjoy their opinions and to exercise the full liberty of conscience.” Article 8, “Mormonism and the Mormons,” Methodist Quarterly Review, edited by George Peck, 25 (3rd series, vol 3, New York, 1843 Jan): 115 (111-127).

“We have heretofore contemplated this great iniquity from a distance, as though intervening space diminished its atrocity. But, in reality, it is rearing its Hydra head in our midst, and upon the great highway of progress to the glittering shores of the tranquil Pacific.” No author listed, “Utah and the Mormons,” Article 3, review of Utah and the Mormons: The History, Government, Doctrines, Customs and Prospects of the Latter Day Saints, from Personal Observation During a Six Months’ Residence at Great Salt Lake City (Benjamin G Ferris, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1854), The Church Review 8:3 (1855 Oct): 376 (367-378). “The Indians were greatly astonished at the mariner’s compass, and would not touch it, but their greatest astonishment came when they first learned that a white man was allowed only one wife. They had never heard of old Solomon, and Mormonism had not reared its hydra head. A polygamous Indian could sit in an Indian council or senate, even if he had a dozen wives, and no moral reform committee would petition for his expulsion.” Daniel Buck, Indian Outbreaks (Mankato, MN: 1904), 15.

The “hydra-headed monster of Mormonism” also appeared in polemics; as before, it is not clear if this was a reference to the Hydra, a mob, or the beast of Revelation. “…in the struggle of the G. F. S. [Girls’ Friendly Society] with the hydra-headed monster Mormonism in Salt Lake and in many other sections there is work for ust to do….” EHBR, no title, Girls’ Friendly Society in America, Associates’ Record 12:1 (1904 Jan): 3 (3-4). “There is but one opinion in regard to Mormonism and its influence. It is an evil system, and its influence is pernicious, yet we often hear this remonstrance among Christian men: ‘The time is not yet come to destroy the hydra-headed monster, the public is not yet ready to abolish it.’ But when is it a proper time to destroy the works of darkness?” Botilda Persson Moore, “Early Recollections of Mormonism in Sweden,” The Home Missionary 61:3 (1888 Jul): 162 (158-163). “Through the negligence of successive administrations the hydra-headed monster of Mormonism has grown to vast proportions and defiant spirit.” Wesley Bradshaw, Brigham Young’s Daughter: A Most Thrilling Narrative of Her Escape from Utah, with Her Intended Husband, Their Pursuit by the Mormon Danites or Avenging Angels… (Philadelphia: CW Alexander, 1870), 19. “In a recent play here it was necessary to bring in the United States army at the proper time, to crush out the hydra-headed monster, Mormonism.” (Note that “the hydra-headed monster, Mormonism” was not portrayed on stage as a reptile; the author is merely speaking metaphorically). George Wilbur Peck, Peck’s Boss Book (Chicago: Belford, Clarke & Co, 1884), 150.

[6] “There is one sensible suggestion in the series of articles referred to, and that is that the Parliament take up the ‘Mormon’ question for consideration. If the British Parliament will do that for the purpose of ascertaining the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the result will be a perfect vindication of the Church, to the discomfiture of the anti-‘Mormon’ hydra. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has nothing to fear [p 27] when called upon to appear before the bar of justice and reason.” JMS, “A Reply to Anti-‘Mormons’,” The Latter-Day Saints’ Millennial Star 81:2 (1919 Jan 09 Thu): 26 (24-27). “The ‘News’ need not defend Senator Smoot. His career is an open book. He has been a credit to Utah and has fought valiantly and successfully a battle for the Constitutional liberty of the people of the United States which yet will be appreciated by millions of Christians of this country. The importance of that victory over the hydra of Tribune fanaticism may not yet appear to the multitudes, but it will become clear as the events of history roll by.” No author listed, “Why They Appeal for Votes,” The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT, 1908 Oct 28 Wed, p 1.

The following quote uses “hydra-headed” but probably refers to a Hekatonkheir / Briareus rather than the Hydra, if it intends a classical reference at all: “What if judges should be changed, or policies altered? It would bring but temporary relief, for behind all, impelling all, contriving all, demanding all, enforcing all, there dwells the unconquerable all-pervading idea of the American people that polygamy must be extinguished—on this one thing all parties, all creeds, and all philosophies are combined. The press calls for it, the pulpit thunders for it, the politicians argue for it, the people insist upon it. You may delay the issue but you cannot evade it. Your antagonist is hydra-headed and hundred-armed. Whether by bigoted judges, by packed juries, by partizan officers, by puritan missionaries, by iron limbed laws, by armies from abroad or by foes and defections at home, the assault is continuous and unrelenting. Your enemies are ubiquitous. Your friends—ah! it is your friends who advise you constantly to baffle your enemies and resign this one feature of your faith. …” No author listed, “The Constitutional Convention,” The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 34:14 (1872 Apr 02 Tue): 221 (cont’d, 209-215, 219-223, cont’d); compare with the following similar but not identical quote: “You will never hear… of the thousands of passing emigrants who have been fed and sheltered and succored. [¶] Your antagonist is hydra-headed and hundred-armed. Whether by bigoted judges, by packed juries, by partizan officers, by Puritan missionaries, by iron limbed laws, by armies from abroad, or by foes and defections at home, the assault is continuous and unrelenting, though unprovoked.” Thomas Fitch, at the constitutional convention, Salt Lake City, 1872 Feb, as reported in A Milton Musser, The Fruits of Mormonism, by Non-“Mormon” Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret News , 1878), 24.

[7] “There is, then, nothing wonderful or new in the rise of such a system as Mormonism, vile and corrupt as it is. Many heresies crept into the church in the first ages of Christianity; and as the truth did not arrive at its full extent [p 2] in the days of Moses, but was gradually revealed through successive ages… so also error has not been fully developed at once, little by little it has accumulated, until the monster stands forth naked and unintimidated in his hydra deformity.” TWP Taylder, The Mormon’s Own Book: Or, Mormonism Tried by Its Own Standards—Reason and Scripture, with an Account of Its Present Condition, new edition (London: Partridge and Co, 1857), 1-2. “There has been no time, in a great many years past, when the American Government would not have been justified in using its strong hand to crush the hydra-headed monster which there holds hideous reign under the piteous pretence of being a religious sect. The basis of Mormonism is polygamy, and nothing else; the ‘prophets’ are sensualists, whose sole desire is to keep a harem of concubines; and in no other way can they carry out their beastly designs, than by cloaking their hideousness under the pretence of a religious sect.” Hamilton Child, “Palmyra,” in Gazetteer and Business Directory of Wayne County, N. Y., for 1867-8 (Syracuse, NY: Journal Office, 1867), 54 (48-55).

[8] “Mormonism, as seen on its own territory is a hydra-headed monster, whose grinning face greets you at every turn.” WW Heberton, as quoted in no author listed, “Many Views of Mormonism,” The Assembly Herald 9:4 (1903 Oct): 463 (462-467).

[9] AF Chapman, as quoted in “From Home Fields,” The Institute Tie: A Monthly Devoted to the Interests of the Moody Bible Institute, Its Students and Friends 1:5 (Chicago, 1901 Jan): 143. George D Peackock, Jr, in quarterly report to the American Tract Society, as quoted/paraphrased in “Utah Needs Missionaries,” Boston Evening Transcript, Boston, MA, 1904 Mar 30 Wed, p 8. See also: [snippet only] Seventy-Ninth Annual Report of the American Tract Society (New York: American Tract Society, 1904), 63. “…whenever such a hydra-headed monster of injustice, iniquity, and anti-republicanism shall threaten the peace of this nation, it is quite time that Congress should assert its prerogatives, should trample down ancient precedents if they stand in its way, should disregard the opinions of any man, no matter how reputable, if they are quoted ever so persuasive, and call a halt on the enemy of free government.” Samuel H Miller, “Views of Mr. Miller,” House of Representatives, 47th Congress 2nd Session, Miscellaneous Documents, No. 35, Digest of Election Cases; Cases of Contested Elections in the House of Representatives, Forty-Seventh Congress, from 1880 to 1882, Inclusive, compiled by JH Ellsworth (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1883), 627-628 (624-628). “And if God permits this system thus founded to enjoy every possible advantage of self-propagation, until it has run its full length and run itself into the ground; until it has fully developed itself, revealed all its terrible poison, its upas nature, its true origin from the pit; until the hydra-headed monster has been so fully uncovered before the whole Christian world, with the sad ruin that follows in its train, souls wrecked, families broken up, infidelity begotten, Sabbath breaking, profanity, licentiousness, and the whole brand of vipers born and nurtured and fostered under its tutelage; if God shall allow all this, shall not the Christian world and all after ages be benefitted by the experiment, and the Christian atmosphere in this way cleared of this dangerous tendencv to break away from the revealed, the written Word of God?” MT Lamb, “Lessons from Mormonism,” The Situation in Utah: The Discussions of the Christian Convention, Held in Salt Lake City, Utah, April, 1888 (Salt Lake City: Parsons, Kendall & Co, 1888), 90 (85-92).

[10] Thurlow Weed, “Prospect of Peace with Utah,” Albany Journal 29:8453 (Albany, NY, 1858 May 19 Wed). “…they have gone on receiving strength from every opposition, until they are now almost able to defy the power of the state; and the question is seriously asked, how is this hydra-headed monster to be destroyed? Not by force surely, for that has been tried time and time again. When but a handful they were driven from Ohio to Missouri, and from thence to Illinois; and now an attempt is made to expel them from that state, yet after each remove they have been stronger than before. What then is to be done?” No author listed, credited to the Cincinnati Atlas, “The Disturbances in Illinois,” Sandusky Clarion 24:18 (Sandusky, Ohio, 1845 Oct 10 Fri). “If one word which has been uttered may serve to open the eyes of the people or their rulers to the seriousness of the present situation in the state of Utah, and to the importance of securing a permanent and final decision upon a moral issue supposed to have been long ago settled, but which like a hydra-headed monster, again rears its crest to imperil the safety and inviolability of one of the most sacred and valued institutions bequeathed to us by our forefathers, then this short narrative will not have been written in vain.” Charles Brewer, Retribution at Last: A Mormon Tragedy of the Rockies (Cincinnati: The Editor Publishing Co, 1899), v. “It seems but yesterday since we were told that Mormonism was doomed and its death only a matter of time. But the hydra of the desert was only ‘scotched,’ not killed; and to-day its rapid numerical increase, manifest political influence and renewed aggressiveness are recognized as constituting a blot on the good name and a serious menace to the public welfare of the nation.” Alex Turnbull, “The Menace of Mormonism,” The Baptist Home Mission Monthly 21:5 (1899 May): 209 (209-211). “…we only plead that our National Government may have wisdom and nerve enough to grapple with this hydra-headed monster in the outset, while its power to work mischief is fairly within our control.” No author listed, “Utah and the Mormons,” Article 3, review of Utah and the Mormons: The History, Government, Doctrines, Customs and Prospects of the Latter Day Saints, from Personal Observation During a Six Months’ Residence at Great Salt Lake City (Benjamin G Ferris, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1854), The Church Review 8:3 (1855 Oct): 378 (367-378). “Miss C. — ‘As you and I well know; but the Mormon is a hydra for many strokes to sever.’ Miss J. — ‘The great stroke is to bring them under our head.’” [snippet view only] The Opal: A Monthly Periodical of the State Lunatic Asylum 5 (Utica, NY, 1855): 45. “As the feebleness of her single-handed combat with the hydra-headed monster seemed at moments to strike her, she would raise her voice and her daintily gloved hand, and her eyes would flash sparks of indignant fire.” Lilian Whiting, Kate Field: A Record (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co, 1900), 445. “But suppose hereafter this prodigious monster, this hydra-headed monster, rears its head and prescribes a lower rule of civil conduct, in conflict with the laws of the state and of the United States—then what? The legislature may come in then under this section and prescribe laws, which it does now, that shall scotch that monster and deprive him of the rights of citizenship.” J[ames] W[esley] Reid, as quoted in Proceedings and Debates of the Constitutional Convention of Idaho, 1889, Volume 1, edited by IW Hart (Caldwell, ID: Caxton Printers, 1912), 934. [It’s a Hydra because it can do many things; also, it’s hard to kill]: “‘Why,’ said he, ‘the white-eyed followers of Mormonism would kill the regular army with clubs. You can wear out a tribe of hostile Indians when the grass gives out and the antelope hunts the foothills, but the Mormons make everything they eat, drink and wear. They don’t care whether there’s tariff or free trade. They can make everything from gunpowder to a knit undershirt, from a $250 revelation to a hand-made cocktail. When a church gets where it can make such cooking whisky as the Mormons do, it is time to call for volunteers and put down the hydra-headed monster.’” Bill Nye [Edgar W Nye], Remarks by Bill Nye (Chicago: FT Neely, 1886), 200. “Rev. Mr. Green, of Logan, and the Rev. Mr. McClain, of Ogden, Utah, gave us encouraging reports, though all felt that there must be a prolonged and fierce struggle before the hydra-headed monster, Mormonism, would be conquered.” No author listed, “The Annual Meeting,” Home Mission Monthly 3:9 (1889 Jul): 193 (193-196).

[11] In discussing what to do about John Brown and other abolitionists: “But there were other voices in both sections. Thus the New York Journal of Commerce, rabidly pro-slavery and bitter in its denunciations of Brown, thought that: ‘To hang a fanatic is to make a martyr of him and fledge another brood of the same sort. Better send these creatures to the penitentiary, and so make of them miserable felons. In the present state of the country, the latter course is, no doubt, the wisest; and if those men in Virginia who desire to apply the Lynch code to the helpless wretches now awaiting trial, reflect for a moment, they will perceive the folly of such a course. They would not only disgrace their State, but place another weapon in the hands of their enemies. The murder of Joe Smith did not check Mormonism, but rather gave it a new impetus; nor would the hanging of scores of Abolitionists have any better effect. Monsters are hydra-headed, and decapitation only quickens vitality, and power of reproduction.’ [endnote 87, p 647: “Quoted in the Liberator Nov. 4, 1859.”]” No author listed, credited to Journal of Commerce (New York) as quoted in Liberator, 1859 Nov 04, in Oswald Garrison Villard, John Brown: 1800-1859: A Biography Fifty Years After (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1910), 501.

Another author (1888) used the Hydra metaphor only to subvert it: “Some say that polygamy is not the worst part of the system; that the hierarchy or priestly power is more dangerous and hurtful. Not so. Crush polygamy, and the hydra-headed monster Mormonism will soon be dead. Polygamy is the life of the whole system. It separates the Mormons from the rest of the world, but it binds them together.” No author listed, “The Mormon Idea Un-American,” The Church at Home and Abroad 3 (Philadelphia: The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, 1888 May): 437 (435-438). For the last-cited author, Mormonism was a Hydra in that it had multiple heads but, unlike in the Hercules myth, each head did not require individual treatment. Like the Hugo-inspired octopus metaphors, there was one vulnerable point.

[12] WW Kent, “Mormonism — the social Hydra — are our senators too fat to play the Hercules?” Harvard Lampoon 3:1 (1882 Feb 23): 8, original at BYU, Harold B Lee Library, L Tom Perry Special Collections.

[13] “In the event of the hundred-headed Hydra, the hundred-wived Mormon, rearing his filthy crests again, this reminder of hideous possibilities and indeed necessary conclusions would be valuable.” No author listed, attributed to the Chicago Record-Herald, as quoted in Grace Wilbur Trout, A Mormon Wife, 3rd edition (Chicago: Van-American Press, 1912 [1st ed 1896]), “Appendix: Press Comments,” 102. Other references are more ambiguous, possibly intending a polygamous hydra or merely presenting the concept of polygamy as a hydra: “If Vermont gave to the world Joe Smith and Mormonism, with many wives, it was reserved for your senator to crush the monster Hydra—George F. Edmunds.” Josiah Bushnell Grinnell, in a funeral sermon for Solomon Foote, 1866 Apr 12, as reported in Men and Events of Forty Years: Autobiographical Reminiscences of an Active Career from 1850 to 1890, Josiah Bushnell Grinnell (Boston: D Lothrop, 1891), 377. “It has been proposed, as a means of overthrowing that hydra headed monster, the plurality of wives, to give one part of Utah to California, and another part to Oregon.” Jules Remy and Julius Lucius Brenchley, A Journey to Great-Salt-Lake City, in 2 volumes, Volume 2 (London: W Jeffs, 1861), 247.

[14] See, for examples: Louis Dalrymple, “It can not pass while he is there,” Puck 37:954 (  1895 Jun 19), centerfold, courtesy of the Library of Congress. John S Pughe, “A Herculean Task,” Puck 57:1466 (1905 Apr 05), cover, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

[15] Gustave Moreau, detail of “Hercules and the Hydra,” painting, oil on canvas, 179.3 x 154 cm, held at the Art Institute of Chicago, which provides the full image, some interpretive aids, and a display history. My suggestion that there is a relationship between the Moreau painting and the Kent image is conjectural, based only on the similar stances, club positions, and Hydra depiction. Moreau painted in Paris, 1875-1876, and the painting stayed there until 1958, so if there is a connection, it would involve Kent going to Paris or some image of the painting going to wherever Kent was between 1876 and 1882.

[16] Bernhard Gillam, “Foes in his path – the herculean task before our next president,” Puck 16:415 (1885 Feb 18): 392-393 (centerfold), courtesy of the Library of Congress; gBooks has higher resolution and richer colors.

Mormonism is represented by a creature with features similar to a stereotypical “Mormon Elder”—an old man with a long beard, wearing dark clothes and a harsh facial expression—and fantastical features: fangs, hands held like claws, dragon-like wings, a strap-on halo, and eight proportionately-tiny women tied to his belt by their hair. If the obstacles in Cleveland’s path are intended to correspond to Heracles/Hercules’s twelve labors, the two-headed “Rotten Navy” (with heads “Robeson” and “Roach”) could be the Hydra or the three-headed giant Geryon. On the other hand, Geryon had wings, which suggests that the winged Mormon is Geryon. If we squint real hard, we could say that the eight women and the Mormon Elder comprise a nine-headed Hydra, just like the Lernean Hydra.

At any rate, I don’t think an exact correspondence is intended or, if it is, it is beyond me. If the Mormon is Geryon, the Navy is the Hydra, the “Silver Swindle” viper is Ladon, the “High Tariff” / “Over-Production” buzzard is Stymphalian, and Cleveland is wearing the skin from the Nemean Lion, there are still seven labors left and only six figures. Even if we say that cleaning up the lot is an Augean mess, it does not address the issue that none of the remaining figures have obvious (to me) indicators of a connection to the myth.

[17] He mentions Seattle, Montreal, Quebec, “our great stronghold of Missouri,” Nevada, “Roman Catholic Louisiana” where “in many places the farthest limit of superstition and priest craft reigns,” “conservative, aristocratic American-hearted South Carolina,” and Boston “this city of schools and Irishmen,” each with a negative comment about the status of home mission work. Marcellus R Ely, “The Farthest Limit,” The American Home Missionary 22:12 (Cincinnati, 1916 Dec): 745.

[18] J Keppler, “A Truly Representative American Exhibit, as Arranged by Puck for the Paris Exhibition,” Puck 3.62 (1878 May 15): 7-8. The male face on the plant labeled, “Mormonism,”  belongs to church president John Taylor; he is surrounded by eleven female faces. Gary L Bunker and Davis Bitton point out that the “Mormonism” plant and the “Beecherism” plant (center, right) are related since both involve non-monogamous relations (HW Beecher and E Tilton had an affair; The Mormon Graphic Image, 1834-1914 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1983), 99-100). Also shown, bottom to top, starting at bottom left: a small tin labeled “Best Boot Blacking”; a jar labeled “Black-Berry Jam” containing caricatured heads of Black people; a box labeled “Pickled Tramps” showing a hobo drinking.

[bottom, center-left]: a melon with a face labeled “S. Matthews” [Thomas Stanley Matthews] (with a few illegible letters (to me) at the bottom) and a card: “The ‘Boss’ Squash Head”; the potted plant  labeled “Mormonism,” as described above; a box labeled “Ne Plus Ultra Stove Polish” (a “Mormonism” flower covers part of “Ne Pl—–ra”); a jar labeled “Spiritualist” containing a dour-faced woman holding a skull; a jar labeled “Dried Hoodlums, Trademark” showing a hanging victim from the back, from the shoulders up.

[bottom, center]: five unpackaged beetroots , three of which have faces (identities unknown to me), four of which are labeled (left to right: “Insurance,”  “Bank President,” “Forger,” and “Savings Bank”); the card in front says “Dead Beeots”; a potted plant labeled “Century Plant” with various leaves, one labeled “Birth 1776” and another “Republic,” and, in place of flowers, four heads (identities unknown to me).

[bottom, center-right]: a cabbage with a face, labeled “Montgomery Blair,” and with card, “‘Champion’ Cabbage Head” (a much smaller, unlabeled, cabbage with a face sits to the right of Blair); a potted plant labeled “Beecherism” with four three-lobed leaves, one leaf of which has three faces (clockwise from left): “T.T” [Theodore Tilton], “Elizabeth” [Elizabeth Tilton], and “H.W.B.” [Henry Ward Beecher]; a box labeled “Excelsior Scrubbing Soap”; a jar labeled “Social Mushrooms” showing a mushroom, a partially anthropomorphic mushroom, and a fully anthropomorphic mushroom labeled “Shoddy.”

[bottom, right]: a box labeled on one side “Forty Rod” (in quotes) and on the end “Whiskey”; a box labeled “Micks in Irish Whiskey” showing a caricatured Irish male holding a “Torpedo” in one hand, a bottle in the other, a club in his teeth, and a canister of dynamite on the ground; a jar labeled “White Trash” showing a hobo; and a jar labeled “Brandy Lunch Fiend” containing a male putting something (unidentified) in his very large mouth.

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12 Comments

  1. Reading Edje tease out the meaning of these fun symbolic ideas and images has quickly become one of my favorite Sunday activities.

    Comment by Ben P — July 28, 2013 @ 9:55 am

  2. This is fascinating, Edje. There’s a lot to tease out here, and I appreciate your careful approach and attention to the particulars of each image and its contexts.

    Comment by Christopher — July 28, 2013 @ 10:03 am

  3. “Are our Senators too fat to play the Hercules?”

    “Matrimony in Utah has been allowed to run riot, as it were. The cruel and relentless hand of this hydra-headed monster has been laid upon the youngest and the fairest of the Mormon people.”

    Sounds like I need to stop getting my news from a dry source like NPR and find something a little more literary.

    Thanks, Edje — these posts must take a lot of work, besides the creativity of coming up with the topics, but they’re very informative and helpful in understanding the political mood of the time.

    Comment by Amy T — July 28, 2013 @ 10:39 am

  4. So much good here. Thanks.

    Comment by JJohnson — July 28, 2013 @ 10:57 am

  5. Fascinating post, Edje. It’s these kinds of examinations of visual culture that I love to read. Your insights are very informative! Nice work!

    Comment by Noel Carmack — July 28, 2013 @ 11:04 am

  6. Thanks, Ben, Christopher, Amy, JJohnson, and Noel.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — July 28, 2013 @ 11:17 am

  7. Great stuff, but as a history professor I’m “forced” to say, please, next time put much of that endnot informationn in the text. It is easier to read and makes it more likely that people will read it. I gave up after the fourth endnote as it was too volumonous. Sorry.

    Comment by Ignacio M. Garcia — July 28, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

  8. I’ll represent the other side who appreciates the more concise post with the fun of however many footnotes I feel like chasing through.

    And I echo what Amy said, both about the work that must be involved and the interest and usefulness of what they contain. You are the best, Edje!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 28, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

  9. EDJE! These keep getting better and better. Now to use all of these modulations as bossed in a Mormon-themed video game.

    Comment by Tod Robbins — July 28, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

  10. Wow, Edje, this is great stuff yet again. In awe.

    Comment by Nate R. — July 28, 2013 @ 10:21 pm

  11. Edje…so impressive!!! Great work. Super valuable.

    Comment by Brittany — July 28, 2013 @ 11:01 pm

  12. Thanks, Ignacio, Ardis, Tod, Nate, and Brittany.

    Ignacio: I agree that the footnotes are long, unwieldy, and sometimes difficult to read. When I eventually submit for formal publication the text / note ratio will be within industry norms.

    In the meantime, I’m compromising between making information and sources available to interested readers and source-miners and making posts short enough for (what I assume are) most blog-readers’ time and attention limits.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — July 29, 2013 @ 10:07 am