Death masks have been utilized since early 1300’s BC. Initially, sculptors created them as a model for statues and busts of deceased persons. Many countries used death masks as mementos even down to our current time period.
The Prophet Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith were murdered June 27, 1844, in Carthage, Illinois. Their bodies were brought back to Nauvoo and a convert who had recently come from England by the name of George Cannon who knew how to make a death mask was living in Nauvoo. He was a grandfather of President George Q. Cannon.
Afterwards the death masks came into the possession of an early Church member by the name of Philo Dibble. During the 1850’s – 1860’s he traveled around Utah and the West with kind of a traveling museum with various artifacts including the death masks of Joseph and Hyrum.
Harrie Brown of Logan, Utah purchased the death masks from the Dibble family in November of 1885. In 1936, Wilford Wood of Wood’s Cross, Utah purchased the death masks, and kept them his personal church history museum in Wood’s Cross, Utah.
Steve Glenn who owns Mormon Art, in Provo, Utah, knew the Wood family and received permission to make a mold of the death masks. He made copies of the death masks and gave them to the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles and other key individuals over the next several years.
About 1980, the daughters of Wilford Wood, Leila Wood and Mary Wood Cannon generously gave the original death masks to the church Museum. Steve Glenn, knowing my personal love for the Smith Family gave me the death mask mold and I believe made another copy of the mold. He instructed me to make copies of the masks for whoever I felt prompted to share them with. A stipulations was given that they would never be sold – for this would be considered against the spirit in which the mold of the death masks were allowed to be made.
To the best of my knowledge, this statement is correct about the death masks
Wayne J. Lewis