The Original 'Sister Wives': LIFE At Home With Polygamists In 1944

01/01/2011 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • LIFE

In 1944, LIFE photographer John Florea traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, on an assignment to study the burgeoning, defiantly devout kind of American family that still fascinates us today: polygamists. At the time, the 15 fundamentalist Mormons pictured here outside a courthouse -- men who had children numbering in the double digits via multiple wives -- faced time behind bars for living their strict religious beliefs despite state laws against plural marriage. As the controversy surrounding plural marriage continues, with Utah authorities saying they may charge Kody Brown, the patriarch of TV's reality show Sister Wives, with felony bigamy, LIFE.com presents photos, some of which have never been published, that shine a light into older generations of polygamous families.

Read more on LIFE