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Swimsuits, Gold Medals, & Blacks (Part 3 of 9)

Did you know there was an official swimsuit of the Los Angeles Temple?

Casey:  The temple swimsuit, which like I said, those two things seem a little incongruent. This is the temple swimsuit, for those of you that are out there. There was a lady named Rose Marie Reid, who was a member of the Church. She grew up in Idaho, and moved to Southern California, married a guy who was Jewish, and became the top swimsuit designer in the world and she ran this business where she…

GT:  This was in the 50’s, probably.

Casey:  This was in the 40’s and 50’s, yeah.  So, she designed swimsuits for Hollywood stars for high profile people, and was very, very well known.

GT:  Marilyn Monroe would have been one of them.

Casey:  Yeah, and, basically, in the early 1950s, they’re raising funds for the Los Angeles temple. Rose Marie designed the swimsuit, specifically to raise money for the temple. For whatever reason, it became known by the name the temple swimsuit. Apparently, this was so popular that someone stole a version of it and got caught and there was a whole scandal in the news relating to it because her swimsuits were so desirable. But Rose Marie Reid, eventually, she had the Relief Society women in her ward sew the sequins on the on the suits that they sold to raise funds for it.

Did you know that the first pioneers that entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 received a gold medal, including a black man in the company of Brigham Young?

Casey:  This is an object that’s in this book that’s never been photographed before. But everybody that was in the vanguard pioneer company of 1847, they rounded up in 1897, the 50th anniversary and gave them a gold medal, basically, to say, “This person was part of the vanguard company, and we want to recognize and honor them.” Well, in the middle of those celebrations, a guy shows up at the Deseret News office, a black guy and said, “Hey, I was part of the vanguard company, too. His name was Green Flake. They gave Green Flake a medal and honored him as part of the vanguard company.

GT:  He was the one that drove Brigham Young’s wagon, right?

Casey:  Yeah, Green’s background is fascinating. When you dive into it, like I said, it kind of shows the complexities linked to race and the Church in the 19th century. For instance, Green is a slave owned by the Flake family, the Isaac Flake family that owns a plantation in Mississippi. Missionaries come, they convert the Flakes, and there’s variants in the sources, but the general story that’s told is that when the Flakes converted. They decided to migrate to Nauvoo, and they freed their slaves. But Green is 16 years old at the time, and he elects to stay with the Flakes. At that point, there’s some question as to, is he a family friend or is he a slave?

At that point, Brigham Young intervenes and says, “Look, Green has a wife and Green has kids. He can’t just pick up his life and move down there because you guys need him to,” which suggests that in Brigham Young’s mind, Green was not a slave. This is all in the 1850’s before slavery is outlawed, but it kind of does show that Brigham Young’s attitudes towards slavery, servitude and black members of the Church was more complex now than we depict it.

Dr. Casey Griffiths, author of 50 Relics of the Restoration, will tell us more about some of these relics of the restoration.  Check out our conversation….

Swimsuits, Gold Medals, & Blacks (Part 3 of 9)
The LA Temple had a fundrasier designed by Hollywood’s best.
Sequins were sewn on by the Relief Society!

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Casey!

520: Recycling Hofmann Forgeries

519: Mormon Interfaith Council

More Podcasts with these Interviewees

People Interviewed: Casey Griffiths
People in LDS History: Green Flake, Mormon History