A. LeGrand Richards, Called to Teach: The Legacy of Karl G. Maeser (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2014), I–XXII.

As an educational biography, this work was not intended to chronicle Karl G. Maeser’s family life or to bring a new historical analysis of his times. I have sought to understand the powerful ideas and experiences that produced Brother Maeser’s vision of education and how that vision was implemented in practice through the unique challenges of his life. My interest in this great educator is driven by my commitment to educational philosophy and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am not a biographer or historian by training, but I am inspired by his personal character, his commitment to his religion, his profound and unique educational preparation, and his unflinching commitment to a set of religious beliefs that I also share.

It is not easy to investigate a legend. Nearly every president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since Brigham Young, every president of BYU, and a large percentage of the General Authorities have told and retold stories of Karl G. Maeser. Among those who know something of his life, there is no lack of opinions about him, but many details of this great educator’s life have not been previously available. Within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there are so many versions of the Karl G. Maeser story that it is difficult to rely on secondary sources. In this text, therefore, I have tried to seek primary sources or verify evidence for everything I have included.

Previous Works on Maeser

For a man who has had such a profound impact on education in the western United States and in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Karl G. Maeser as a person has received relatively little careful analysis. Anecdotal stories and comments about him abound, but only two previous books have been published about this remarkable man. Reinhard Maeser wrote a loving tribute to his father entitled Karl G. Maeser: A Biography.[1] It gathered a number of family stories and personal recollections. In 1953, Alma Burton published a simplified version of his master’s thesis, Karl G. Maeser: Mormon Educator.[2] This added more family stories and interviews of family members, but neither of these books carefully examined the historical details or the context in which Karl lived.

In 1975, BYU celebrated its centennial year as an institution. As a part of this celebration, Ernest L. Wilkinson and a team of dedicated historians and writers published a four-volume history of Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years.[3] This was a massive undertaking. More than a hundred pages of volume 1 looked at the contribution Brother Maeser made to the university, but the scope of this work could not display the breadth of Maeser’s contributions.

In 1977, Douglas F. Tobler published an important article, “Karl G. Maeser’s German Background, 1828–1856: The Making of Zion’s Teacher.”[4] In it he brought some wonderful insights into the historical context in which Maeser was raised. From 1986 to 1987, Tobler and Jeffrey L. Anderson gathered materials into a detailed, unpublished chronology of Maeser’s life, largely as it was chronicled by one of his most important students, James E. Talmage, who kept a very detailed journal.[5] This chronology, however, was never developed into a book. Eilene Thompson also gathered a large amount of material pertaining to Maeser’s life into a collection, part of which she donated to the L. Tom Perry Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University.[6] She also organized it into a CD that she has shared with the Maeser family. Unfortunately, not all of the information is documented or verified, but it does contain some wonderful gems.[7]

Why I Wrote This Book

In many ways, without intentionally setting out to do so, my career has been steered so that I could be prepared to write this book. As a frusterated undergraduate student, I became dissatisfied with assumptions that seemed to be built into the educational institutions. On a dare, a colleague challenged me to apply to Harvard Graduate School of Education, and I was surprised to be accepted. At Harvard I wondered why my attempts to integrate my religion into my scholarship seemed more welcomed there than they had been at BYU. So after completing my master’s degree there, I applied to a PhD program at BYU to ask what it means to “seek learning . . . also by faith” (D&C 88:118). I enjoyed the rigors of the instructional science program, but I was left believing that Latter-day Saints did not yet understand the educational principles they had been promised in their own paradigm.

As a doctoral student in instructional science at Brigham Young University in 1980, I read a flier one day advertising a course in “educational philosophy” (Home Economics 521R) by a visiting professor from Germany, Dr. Winfried Böhm. Working this unorthodox elective course into my fully preplanned schedule eventually culminated in an invitation for me to teach educational philosophy courses for two years at the Institut für Pädagogik at the University of Würzburg. This experience, along with numerous opportunities to return to Germany as a guest lecturer and visiting professor, has deepened my appreciation of educational philosophy and has given me a solid basis to read German materials.

After returning to BYU as a professor, I continued to ask what the assumptions are that Latter-day Saints might adopt to enable them to make the greatest progress in education. Eventually, I became more interested in the story of Brigham Young University and became fascinated with its founder. I was shocked and delighted that Brother Maeser had such a profound perspective and that a careful biography of his life and contribution had not yet been written. I became almost obsessed to learn every detail. So much had been said, but so little of it had been carefully documented or placed into its historical and philosophical context. I became personally driven to find everything I could.

Important Finds in This Book

I have been able to discover numerous records previously unnoticed or undiscovered. Putting these discoveries into the mosaic of Brother Maeser’s life has provided me a wonderful case study of what it means to seek learning by faith; one that may yet bless the lives of others who are his beneficiaries whether they know him or not.

It might be supposed, for example, that the closest one might come to understanding Karl’s early schooling would be to read accounts of German schools about the time Karl attended. However I was able to find not only details about the schools he attended, but the perspectives of many of his early teachers. It is not irrelevant to note that he attended the Kreuzschule for only two years without graduating from it. This is especially important because his Latin teacher (Köchly) was engaged in a public debate with the director of the school (Gröbel) about its fundamental approach to learning. The eventual result of this debate was a major reform effort in German preparatory schools. Karl’s decision to transfer to a Teacher College meant he would sacrifice his opportunity to rise to a higher social class. It also meant that he would then be exposed to some of the most innovative educational ideas available anywhere in the world. There were only a few teachers at the Teacher College where Karl attended, and they published important works that are still available.

In 2007, I traveled to Massachusetts with my wife, where I was allowed to spend a day in the archives of the Massachusetts Historical Society reading the papers of Horace Mann, the famous founder of public education in the United States. He described his visit to the schools in Dresden on July 29, 1843, specifically mentioning his visit to a few public and private schools and “a seminary for the Instruction of Teachers” (referring to the Friedrichstadt-Schullehrerseminar where Karl attended). He complimented the quality of the schools there as the best he had seen.

In his report to the school board regarding the Prussian and Saxon schools, Mann described in great detail how the teachers would teach geography almost as an art class. From memory, the German teacher could draw on the chalkboard a map of a continent or country in proper proportion including mountains, rivers, forests, deserts, and so forth. One day while photographing Karl’s roll book of his geography class at the University of Deseret (now held in the University of Utah’s archives), I saw an inserted drawing of Africa that seemed a perfect example of what Mann had described. The picture was hand-drawn with remarkable detail. It was not signed, so it cannot be confirmed whether Karl or one of his students drew it, but it was a dramatic illustration of someone’s ability and of a Pestalozzian approach to geography. It is likely that a careful analysis of the handwriting would confirm it to be Karl’s.

Previously, very little had been known about Karl’s experience as an apprentice teacher in 1848–50. It was known that he took a position in Bohemia, but it was not known exactly where, how long, or with whom he taught. Through an electronic search, I found a reference to Karl in an obscure 1850 German magazine published by the Gustavus Adolfus Union.[8] This magazine described activities of a Protestant organization to support churches throughout the world, especially in Catholic-dominated areas. This source reported that Maeser, as a twenty-one-year-old tutor for the Baron Rüdt von Collenberg’s family, helped establish the first gathering of Protestants in Komotau in over two hundred years. This reference demonstrated that Karl had a religious background and a willingness to defend it before he became agnostic just a few years later. It also demonstrated his ability to organize long before he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The likelihood of finding such an obscure German reference would have been miraculous just a few years before.

Numerous other experiences led me to important discoveries in Washington, DC; Richmond, Virginia; Philadelphia; and Germany. New technological innovations have made it possible to access old German newspapers like the Allgemeine Deutsche Lehrerzeitung and the Sächsische Schulzeitung, which previously were not available in the United States. From these sources I was able to discover numerous insights into Karl’s early experiences as a teacher in Saxony. I also gained information about Benjamin Mieth, Karl’s father-in-law, who had also joined the German Teachers’ Association. The Saxon School Magazine revealed that he was a respected teacher and member of the association. It is likely that Karl joined upon the recommendation of Mieth in 1851. This put them both in a fairly controversial organization and brought them under careful scrutiny by the civil authorities very early in Maeser’s career.

It was a great thrill to discover that Karl gave a lecture at the Saxon Teachers’ Association in 1854, one year before he became acquainted with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The other lecturers that year were among the most respected principals and directors in Saxony. One of them, August Lansky, gave an address about Utah and the Mormons. Since Mormon missionaries were forbidden to enter Saxony, the Lord used a most unusual way of introducing Maeser to the Church. It was an anti-Mormon book that gave Karl his first introduction to Mormonism, and it seemed miraculous to me that Karl was ready to join what was then viewed as a hated sect even before he met a member of it.

One day in the Special Collections section of the BYU library, I was reading John Van Cott’s mission journal. Van Cott was called to be the president of the Scandinavian Mission, which was headquartered in Copenhagen. He was the first Latter-day Saint that Karl had contacted, but the actual date was not known at that point. I read a hitherto unnoticed statement in the entry in his journal of July 29, 1855, which said, “Received two letters from Dresden making enquiries concerning the way and manner by which they could be adopted into the Kingdom of God.”[9] This discovery was a great thrill because I knew this was referring to Karl Maeser’s first inquiry letter and that it had been previously unnoticed.

Franklin D. Richards, my great-great-grandfather, served as the president of the European missions during the time Karl joined the Church. He kept a fairly careful journal most of his life. As a missionary from England in 1854 to 1855, however, he only recorded notes in a pocket-planner type of notebook. It contained notes, records of books purchased, some Church records, financial records, a list of people visited, and names and addresses of contacts and missionaries, but actual dates of events were rare. This notebook was available in a special set of DVDs prepared by the Church History Department. While I reviewed this planner, my interest was piqued when I saw that on page 62 someone had practiced the cursive letters of the old German alphabet. Below the alphabet was a list: four shirts, five collars, two pairs of socks, and so forth, and a date, “Oct 15/ 55.” I knew this to be the day after Karl had been baptized. The next two pages instantly stood out to me. On the top of the page was an attempt to draft a German version of the baptismal prayer: Habend autorität von Jesum Christum erhalten, ich taufe dich im naman des Vather des Sohnnes und des heilegen Gheistes.[10]

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, every effort is made to keep the wording of the baptismal prayers with precision. If the person officiating leaves a word out or substitutes a word, he is required to repeat the ordinance. It was obvious that the writer did know the English wording but did not have a proper knowledge of German grammar and spelling. For example, Habend (having) isn’t a real German word; authorität (authority) should have been capitalized; naman (name) was a misspelling of Namen; ich taufe dich (I baptize you) was in an English word order, not German; and so on. On the page below was a cleaned-up version in proper German spelling and grammar, though slightly different from the German baptismal prayer that is currently used: “In dem ich Auftrag habe von Jesum Christum erhalten, taufe ich dich im Namen des Vaters, des Sohnes und des heiligen Geistes.”[11]

Most interesting to me was to notice the handwriting. I was quite familiar with Karl’s writing, and it appeared to me that Karl had probably translated the prayer that was used for his own baptism. (The capital G of “Geistes” in the prayer, for example, was identical to the G that Karl used in his signature.) My interpretation of these two pages was that William Budge or Franklin D. Richards drafted a German version of the baptismal prayer, and then Karl was asked to put it into proper German style, form, and spelling. This was also a great discovery for me to make.

On another occasion, I read a microfilm copy of the correspondence of Franklin D. Richards at the Church Archives. I found a letter written by Richards to Brigham Young in November 1855, but it had been smudged quite severely and was therefore illegible on microfilm. Knowing that the date was so important to Karl’s conversion, I remembered an article I had read about a BYU research team’s scientific way of reading ancient papyri. I contacted them to see if their analysis might work on an old letter. They said they were willing to try, so I asked permission from the Church Archives to obtain the original for such an analysis and was told that the original was actually decipherable, and I was given special permission to view it. I spent a full day analyzing the original with a magnifying glass and found that I could make out nearly all the letters. It was a treasure that gave little unknown facts about Karl’s baptism and the details around Richards’s first visit to Germany. Tragically my computer’s hard drive was destroyed shortly thereafter, and the assured automatic back up had not been installed. I lost my transcription of the letter and nearly a year’s worth of work with it. I had kept hard copies of much of the material I had lost, but this was one that I had not printed, so I had to redo the original work. In the end, though, it was well worth the effort.

In the middle of June 2006, I went to the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at Harold B. Lee Library to find an article written about Karl in a Church publication. However, I was disappointed to learn that that section of the library was closing for the evening. I thought that perhaps I could get a microfilm copy of the article in the library’s family history section. When I asked, however, I was told that no such copy was available there. It was my first visit to this part of the library, and there are thousands of drawers in this section. I opened one drawer to see what types of items this collection contained.

At about eye level, I saw one box with a German title, Der Darsteller der Heiligen den letzten Tage, 1855–1861 (The Representative of the Latter-day Saints, 1855–1861). I knew nothing about the title, but I recognized that the dates were significant. Karl had joined the Church in October 1855, so I knew that I had to review this microfilm. I started reading through the film and discovered that it was a magazine published by Daniel Tyler, president of the Swiss-Italian Mission. The first edition was from May 1855, so my excitement grew as I saw some of the events surrounding Maeser’s conversion chronicled in a contemporary magazine.

I was especially careful as I reached the October 1855 edition in hopes of finding some reference to Karl’s conversion, but I found nothing. Then I carefully examined the November issue—again nothing. On the last two pages of the December issue, however, was a poem titled “Was zweifelst Du?” (Why doubt ye?), which was signed simply “Karl.” I had not yet known of this poem or the magazine but was thrilled to discover it. Karl G. Maeser had contributed poetry and articles to the magazine for the next few years. The family had not even known of these, except those that had been included in a later German hymnbook. I quickly gathered everything I could find that he had written. Not more than a couple of weeks later, I was asked to speak about Karl’s life to a delegation from the city of Meissen that was visiting Provo as part of a sister-city exchange. Because of complications, the meeting did not take place, but I was able to give them a small pamphlet in German with some of Karl’s writings. I don’t believe this was a haphazard discovery.

I was able to find numerous references to the little branch that Karl attempted to nurture in Dresden before it was discovered by the Dresden Police. Ten different newspapers from major cities in Germany and a few German newspapers in the United States carried stories about it. Just a few years ago, I would have had to travel to each of those cities and scour microfilms in the libraries. Now I can call many of them up while sitting in my own living room.

In reviewing the materials placed in the BYU Special Collections by Reinhard’s family, I noticed Karl’s birth certificate. On the front of the clear mylar folder was the birth certificate, and on the back was a certificate from the Lutheran school that Karl had attended in Cölln. I requested a photo of both the front and back of the folder, thinking they would give me an image of the birth certificate and the school certificate. However, to my delight, they took the document out of the folder and photographed both the front and back of the birth certificate. It was more than a certificate; it was his official papers, certifying much more than his birth. It included his height and his registration in the military, but on the back was written in Sütterlin, the German cursive, “Ausgehändigt nach Liverpool [handed over to Liverpool] July 2, 1856.” It was stamped by the Dresden Police, verifying that his decision to leave Germany was less than voluntary.

Before the Maesers left England, Anna Maeser gave birth to a child, but the exact date had not been documented. Wanting to learn more, I found a reference to the birth of Karl Gustav Franklin Maeser in London during the first quarter of 1857, but again, the exact date was not included. Still determined, I had requested a copy of the birth certificate from London but never received it. Eventually, Maeser family historian Eilene Thompson received a copy of it and shared the information. Franklin was born on January 25, 1857, in the Church headquarters in London on Jewin Street. This was an important discovery and showed that the baby was older than nearly all had presumed.

Another interesting discovery was the 1857 writings of Edgar Bauer, a spy for the Danish government. Seventy pages of his German book on English freedom were about Mormonism, while Karl was serving as a missionary to the German speakers in London. Bauer had been a schoolmate of Karl Marx. Marx was also in London while Maeser was serving as a missionary. It is not unlikely that Bauer was spying on both Marx and Maeser. The Geheimpolizei were interested in Mormon activities in Europe, and Maeser’s activities in forming a German branch in London did not go unnoticed.

It was a thrill to find the records of the Maesers listed on the registry of the packet ship[12] Tuscarora in 1857, when they set sail from Liverpool to Philadelphia. Karl was not listed as a German immigrant in some records, because he spent a year in England and was therefore listed as a missionary. As part of my visit to Washington DC, I traveled one day to Philadelphia in hopes of finding evidence of the Maesers’ stay there. Because I had such limited time, I was specifically looking for the place where the infant Karl Gustav Franklin Maeser was buried. Various stories had been shared by family members, most believing that Franklin died just before they landed in Philadelphia. Some had supposed that he was buried at sea. From my research I was convinced that he must have been buried somewhere in Philadelphia.

Through a series of events, I was led to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and within a very short time found a death record that stated “Carl Maier, July 4, 1857, 6, Machpelah Debility, John McCrystal.” The name wasn’t quite right, but the date was. Debility is a term used mostly to describe the death of infants or elderly (it meant the inability to thrive). Machpelah was a cemetery not too far from the dock, and John McCrystal was a ship’s physician who certified the death. I also discovered that the Machpelah Cemetery was moved in 1895, so I walked to the place where the cemetery was and took some photos for the family. If the remains were intact in 1895, they were moved to the edge of the county to a cemetery now called Graceland.

There have been multiple explanations of Karl’s trip to Virginia. Most of them claim that Karl, upon landing in Philadelphia, was called on a mission to Virginia. There is a wonderful story told by the Maeser family that while in Richmond, Karl entered a music store where a man wanted to hear the piano played before purchasing it, but the worker who normally played was not available, so Karl volunteered to play it for him. The man purchasing the piano turned out to be John Tyler, former US president, who thereupon asked Karl to teach his children. There is good reason to believe that this story of Maeser teaching the Tyler children is true—two references were made to this fact while Maeser was living, and he never corrected them (he was one, by disposition, who likely would have, were they not true). I therefore wanted to find some verification from the Tyler side of this story. I found no success while researching in the Tyler Papers at the Library of Congress because many of his most important papers were destroyed when Richmond was burned during the Civil War. My trip to Richmond was not very helpful either.

In July 2012, I became aware that the largest collection of correspondence from the Tyler family was housed at the College of William and Mary. The library offered an opportunity to hire one of their researchers for twenty-five dollars per hour for up to two hours. I carefully reviewed the holdings and hired a researcher to examine them for me. The very last letter on my list was successful. It was a letter that President Tyler’s wife, Julia, wrote to her mother on April 12, 1858. It described a visit she had made to Mr. and Mrs. Clopton in which she learned of a German music master who was teaching piano. The letter contained precious details about him and confirmed that he was going to teach their daughter the next day.[13]

As a part of this search, I found a connection between Maeser and the Godbeites (an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) that previously had been unnoticed by Maeser researchers. James Cobb, with whom Maeser had taught and baptized, had supported the Godbeites while living in the Maeser home as Karl was serving a mission in Switzerland. This added an extra tension to the family in Karl’s absence.

Another exciting find for me was a short statement in Franklin D. Richards’s journal on July 29, 1887: “I delivered to Professor K. G. Maeser the conclusion of Prests. Cannon & Smith as to the Prof’s proposition to extend his labor to various other stakes—approved if practicable.”[14] This confirmed that Maeser had actually proposed a plan to the First Presidency regarding the establishment of the Church Educational System and that it was approved by them. I wondered why Elder Richards mentioned only the approval of President John Taylor’s First and Second Counselors. Then I realized that Richards was reporting to Brother Maeser on the day of President Taylor’s funeral. The Church Educational System was not formally established until 1888.

There can be little doubt that a man as conscientious about record keeping as Brother Maeser would have kept a journal, but while there are a few references to it, the journal itself has not been found. This makes the task of writing this book even more difficult. Fortunately, though, wherever Maeser went, he tended to attract the interest of the press. Newspapers reported lectures he gave early in his career before he met Mormon missionaries; when reporters discovered that he had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it became a significant news item in the German press. In 1857, a reporter actually came on board the ship that brought the Maesers to the United States, and the New York Times reported the first conference he attended, held in New Jersey, at which he spoke. Though he was inaccurately referred to by numerous names (Maier, Mercer, Mainer, Mazer, Masser, and so forth), newspapers reported other conferences in Philadelphia at which he participated, and the New York Times even announced the opening of the first school he organized in Salt Lake City in 1860.

These and other discoveries reinforced to me that Maeser’s life was directed by a divine purpose. The details in these discoveries reveal the depth of his commitments and the scope of his vision.

Meissen Visits

During the process of writing this book, I made two trips to Meissen, Germany, Karl’s birthplace. During our first visit, my wife and I met Mayor Olaf Raschke. Since my wife was serving on the Provo City Council, we were able to strengthen the ties between the two sister cities. While there, I spent some time in the archives in Dresden, specifically to find records of Karl’s attendance at the Kreuzschule.

In September 2007, I had the privilege of traveling with my wife and two daughters to Meissen as part of a delegation from Provo to Meissen’s famous Wine Festival. It was a wonderful visit. During this experience, we toured the home where Karl was born. We also spent time with Dr. Egbert Perßen, a member of the Meissen city council who was quite a local historian. I knew that Karl had graduated from the parish school in Johanneskirche in Cölln (a subdivision of Meissen), so I wanted to take a photograph of it. Dr. Perßen, however, knew that the building currently called Johanneskirche was not the one that Karl would have attended. Instead, he directed me to the proper place.

Who Should Read This Book?

This book is written for teachers everywhere—in schools, universities, and churches—and in families. Maeser believed that the calling of a teacher is a sacred one, requiring the most demanding standards of intellectual rigor, public service and personal virtue. He asked what role spirituality ought to play in true education, and his answers were both profound and simple. The details of his life offer a powerful example of truth-seeking, dedication, insight, and faith. He invites teachers to recognize the nobility of their calling and their potential to affect the life trajectory of their students not only in mortality but beyond. Truth seekers will find in him a remarkable example of one who was willing to open his eyes to a possibility that would require the sacrifice of almost everything. He invites everyone to join him in the spiritual quest to fulfill a divine mission.

This book should have a particular importance to the faculty and students of Brigham Young University. They are the most immediate benefactors of the legacy left by Brother Maeser. He was convinced that the founding principles of the Brigham Young Academy were absolutely essential for the continued success of the school. Size and sophistication should never be allowed to overshadow these principles. It also seems most appropriate that a greater awareness of the sacrifices made by the founder of the university would strengthen the gratitude of those currently given the privilege of attending it. I believe that Maeser also left us the great challenge to yet become what has been prophesied to be possible.

Another group of benefactors of Maeser’s legacy are the participants in the Seminary and Institute programs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Maeser would remind them that religious instruction is much more than a separate subject of the curriculum, designed to supplement a secular experience. It should become the very glue that holds all truth together into a great whole. He drafted the proposal that led to the Church Educational System; he wrote the first curricular materials for the Church’s religion classes. He proposed a systematic reporting system, the unification of teaching purposes with a variety of methods and trained teachers in the power of object lessons.

Students of education can also benefit by examining Maeser’s important contribution to the history of education, not only in Utah, but also in the western United States. In Utah, the struggle to establish a public system has to be seen in light of the role the Church played and the animosity developed between territorial and federal authorities. Resistance to governmental control of schools runs deep in Utah history, with good reason. Maeser’s part in preparing teachers for public schools has often been overlooked because of his role in Church education, but this is unfortunate. Few individuals were more central in the development of public education and in the preparation of teachers than Karl G. Maeser. He helped found the first territorial and state teachers associations. He actively worked to strengthen teacher preparation for both public and private schools. He helped ameliorate the supposed animosity between public education and the Church.


Those of us who benefit from Karl G. Maeser’s great contribution and legacy owe it to our profession to learn more about his example. The power of his inspiring personality cannot be re-created in a work such as this, but the impact of his convictions and the sacrifices he made for the future must not be ignored. Throughout his career, he held to the notion taught to him by Brigham Young that nothing should be done without the Spirit of God, and I have diligently sought that Spirit in my research. I own the mistakes that may be included, but I have also felt the sweet accompaniment of spiritual assistance. This is written so that others may carefully observe this beloved brother’s example and draw from it courage and inspiration as they seek divine direction to fulfill their own mortal missions.

My appreciation goes to BYU for the support I have received throughout this project. In 2011, I was granted a professional development leave to pursue the research more fully. The university financially sponsored a trip to the East Coast to read the John Tyler Papers in Washington, DC. I was also enabled to read German newspapers in Richmond and visit Philadelphia to examine records there. The Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations also deserves my deepest gratitude for the support and encouragement given me. Through my health challenges and sabbatical, my colleagues showed great support. I’m particularly grateful to Sterling Hilton and Scott Ferrin for their encouragement and help. I hope this will prove to be a lasting contribution to the institution that owes so much to Brother Maeser.

To the Harold B. Lee Library and staff goes my deep gratitude. Gordon Daines and the staff of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections were especially helpful. When I came across obscure references that were not available at BYU, the Interlibrary Loan Office in the Harold B. Lee Library went to great lengths to be helpful. Special thanks go to BYU librarians Mike Hunter, chair of the BYU Department of Religion and Family History, and Rachel Wadham, education specialist. The staff of the LDS Church History Library were also most helpful, as well as Anne Johnson of the Swem Library at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virgina, and Esther Ludwig at the Staatsbibliothek in Dresden, Germany. Milan Tyler Pohontsch helped me translate the old German script into a German I could recognize. I have also had a number of students who contributed to this work, including Brian Ricks,[15] Daniel Rytting,[16] Chris Hansbrow,[17] Brett Dowdle,[18] Jeff Drysdale,[19] David Hoffman,[20] Boyd Smith, Damon Johnson,[21] Raylene Hadley,[22] and Sarah Sandberg.[23] Jason Buck set up and maintained the website.

I appreciate the help of the Religious Studies Center staff, including Dana M. Pike, Joany O. Pinegar, Brent R. Nordgren, and Devan Jensen. Special thanks go to designers Juliana G. Cox, Alex Masterson, and Art Morrill and to editors Austin Ballard, Aleesha Bass, Bert Fuller, Jenessa Hall, Rebecca Hamson, Rachel Ishoy, Dana Kendall, Jonathon R. Owen, and Nyssa L. Silvester.

Numerous reviewers examined drafts of the text, including Gordon Daines and Jessie Embry. Family members and friends showed wonderful support while enduring hours of stories, insights, and questions that dominated so much of my time and attention. I’m also grateful for the interest and support shown to me by the Maeser family who have almost adopted me by inviting me to family activities and expressing great interest. I also appreciate the support and interest of my friends in Meissen.

Finally, I want to thank Karl G. Maeser himself. Brother Maeser taught that the careful observation of any object in nature will ultimately testify that the Creator is actively involved in its creation, design, fulfillment, and future development. To me, it seems obvious that the Creator prepared this remarkable man in a profound way; he opened unique doors and whispered to him the words of invitation. Assurance was periodically offered to him that he was in fact on course with the Lord’s eternal will. This assurance was the thing he most sought, and these moments of assurance meant more to him than any other earthly reward. I too have felt such moments in my life during this project. I will be forever grateful for this man and the legacy he has left us.

I dedicate this effort to the recipients of his legacy who can better understand their benefactor and to the students of American education who can appreciate more fully the remarkable contribution of this visionary teacher.


[1] Reinhard Maeser, Karl G. Maeser: A Biography by His Son (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 1928).

[2] Alma P. Burton, Karl G. Maeser: Mormon Educator (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1953).

[3] Ernest L. Wilkinson, Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1975).

[4] Douglas F. Tobler, “Karl G. Maeser’s German Background, 1828–1856: The Making of Zion’s Teacher,” BYU Studies 17, no. 2 (1977), 155–77.

[5] Douglas Fred Tobler, “Chronology of Karl G. Maeser,” MS 12845, 1986–1987, CHL.

[6] Eilene Thompson, “Ancestors of Karl G. Maeser, 1988–1901, and Anna Henriette Therese Mieth, 1830–1896” (1999), MSS 2126, LTPSC. Eilene’s husband, Fred Thompson, is a grandson of Karl G. Maeser.

[7] Eilene Thompson, “The Life of Karl G. Maeser,” family record in author’s possession, 2009.

[8] See Karl Großmann and Karl Zimmermann, “Nr. 87. Kommotau,” Der Bote des evangelischen Vereins der Gustav-Adolf-Stiftung (Darmstadt: C. W. Leske, 1850), 91; and Karl von Zimmermann, “Kommotau in Böhmen,” Die Bauten des Gustav-Adolf-Vereins in Bild und Geschichte (Darmstadt: Eduard Zernin, 1860), 165–69.

[9] John Van Cott, journal, July 29, 1855, MS 1035, 1:223, LTPSC.

[10] Selected Collections MS 1215, box 1, vol. 14, July 11, 1855–October 13, 1855, CHL. See Richard E. Turley Jr., ed., Selected Collections from the Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Provo, UT: BYU Press, 2002), DVD pt. 34, and

[11] Franklin D. Richards, journal, in Turley, Selected Collections, DVD pt. 34.

[12] “A canal boat designed to carry passengers.” Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., s.v. “packet.”

[13] Tyler Family Papers, 65 T97 Gr. A, box 8, folder. 5, Special Collections, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA.

[14] Franklin D. Richards, journal, July 29, 1887, MS 1215 4 36 222, in Turley, Selected Collections,

[15] Brian W. Ricks, “Closing the Church University in 1894: Embracing or Accommodating Secularized Education” (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 2012).

[16] Daniel Rytting, “Progressive Educators Meeting Mormon Educators: A Collection of References—The BY Academy Summer School, 1892–1901” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 2008).

[17] Chris Hansbrow, “The Personal Touch of Karl G. Maeser upon Individual Academies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Late 19th Century” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 2010).

[18] Brett Dowdle, notes of the General Board of Education Minutes, 2010.

[19] Jeff Drysdale, “Karl G. Maeser: Man of Influence” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 2010).

[20] David Hoffman, “Karl G. Maeser: Theology Class Notes and Sources” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 2007).

[21] Damon Johnson, “Karl G. Maeser and the Foundation of BYA” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 2005).

[22] Raylene Hadley, “Karl G. Maeser: His Works, Talks, and Letters,” unpublished materials, Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations, Brigham Young University, 2004.

[23] Sarah Jane Sandberg, “The Educational Philosophy and Legacy of Karl G. Maeser” (honors thesis, Brigham Young University, 2002).