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It’s a painting you’ve probably seen many times, maybe in your parents' or grandparents’ homes. And here's the story of how it started right here in Minnesota.

The famous painting is officially named ‘Grace,’ and while it’s not specifically about the holiday season, it sure applies this season. But did you the interesting story of this uniquely Minnesota picture?

Minnesota Secretary of State's Office (CSJ/TSM-Rochester, MN)
Minnesota Secretary of State's Office (CSJ/TSM-Rochester, MN)

Growing up in Wisconsin, this same painting proudly hung in my grandparents' kitchen, as it likely did in many households here in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest. According to the Minnesota Secretary of State's office, it started as a photograph and was first taken right here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes (in Bovey, on Minnesota's Iron Range) back in 1918.

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According to this MinnPost story, Eric Enstrom, a Minnesota photographer, took the picture when a traveling salesman named Charles Wilden happened to stop by his photography studio.

Impressed by what he recognized as kindness in the man’s face, Enstrom asked Wilden to pose for a picture. He had Wilden clasp his hands and bow his head, as in prayer, while seated at a table with an arrangement of household objects, including a book, a loaf of bread, and a bowl of soup. He called the photograph “Grace.”

After the picture began to become popular, the MinnPost story says, Enstrom and his daughter painted over the original black and white photo so the picture took on the appearance of an oil painting. Various companies have owned the rights to that picture over the years, as it would go on to find its way to countless kitchens and dining rooms of grandparents everywhere.

It was so popular here in the Bold North that it was even adopted as the official Minnesota state photograph in 2002, and a copy is on display in the secretary of state’s office in St. Paul.

So if you happen to be getting together with family this holiday season at a home where that photo might still proudly hang on the wall, you can be proud to know this iconic picture has a uniquely Minnesota background.

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Gallery Credit: Rob Carroll


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