Rumor-Mongering: Joseph Smith Daguerreotype

The Church History Library/Archives staff have been hit with a wave of telephone calls today from Church members looking for confirmation of the latest rumor to hit the LDS fan rumor mill. This one concerns the daguerreotype which has been studied as a possible — possible — image of Joseph Smith.

Community of Christ Archivist Ronald E. Romig and Historian Lachlan Mackay published a study in the Saints Herald, v. 141, no. 12 (December 1994), “What Did Joseph Look Like? Possible Early Photographic Image of Joseph Smith, Jr., Studied,” which, so far as I can determine, remains the chief source of information about this image. In the last few days, however, a rumor has started in the seminary circuit, reportedly sparked by a talk given by the president of a certain southern temple, that this daguerreotype has been confirmed by the Joseph Smith Papers Project team as an authentic image of Joseph Smith.

No, it has not.

The JSPP team has not issued any statement about this image; some project members privately believe it *is* a Joseph Smith image, while others are equally adamant that it is not. The Newsroom at has issued no statement. Neither has the Museum of Church History and Art, or anyone else in the world of the LDS Library or Archives.

Because no one in the archives has any new information to give to callers, all they can do is refer questioners to the Community of Christ, which owns the daguerreotype — but I don’t suppose their poor archivist is enjoying the rash of calls and emails from our people.

So you heard it here — or rather, you didn’t hear it here — or maybe you heard it NOT here, first: The rumor that the church has uncovered a Joseph Smith image, or endorsed a previously studied one, is false.

110 comments for “Rumor-Mongering: Joseph Smith Daguerreotype

  1. Yes, and on the back of the the daguerrotype, in now faint handwriting, is a statement about generals and the war in heaven. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    Ardis, do you know if a copy of this is viewable online anywhere?

  2. I remember reading a 2005 New Era article “What did JS Really Look Like?” taken from the Saints Herald piece you cite. It was interesting to me to learn about the study by Ephraim Hatch, BYU author of Joseph Smith Portraits: A Search for the Prophet’s Likeness for the Religious Studies Center. In it he compares many paintings and drawings of the Prophet Joseph to measurements from the death mask. The famous Community of Christ painting when compared with the death mask shows that the artist misplaced some features: the eyes are too close together, the mouth is too small, and the upper lip is not long enough. Daguerreotypes said to be taken of the Prophet in life are said to be taken of this painting. It seems the Maudsley drawings fit best with the measurements from the Prophet’s death mask.

    Cool stuff. But you probably all knew that.

  3. That is interesting, BiV, since the Maudsley drawings make him look much chubbier than I had presumed him to be.

  4. then there is this site, explaining that the death mask measurements are inaccurate because Joseph’s facial bones were fractured when he fell out of the window.

    I don’t like JS being chubby, either.

  5. Keith, yes, the image is available online, but you’ll need to find it by Googling. I don’t want to endorse the the only website where I’ve seen it by directing traffic there — that site is produced by someone with a clear interest in establishing the validity of the daguerreotype for the purpose of selling copies of a painting he has commissioned, and several details about that website give me the willies.

    And now that I’ve whet your curiosity, let the Googling commence …

  6. I too *like* the photo. But I have had family history photos that have turned out not to be, and then they are hard to get out of your head.

  7. The recent publication by BYU Studies of a daguerrotype which they think MIGHT be Oliver Cowdery is interesting as a comparison. The photo appears on the cover of their recent book with essays about Cowdery. The general impression I get is that “Oliver” was having a good time when the picture was taken, unlike most subjects photographed at the time.

  8. I personally accept the Oliver one. I like the Joseph one, but I’ve been familiar with it since there was a short announcement of it in Sunstone many years ago. I’m less sure of that one, but I kind of hope it really is him. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about this recently; I was wondering why all the sudden interest, so thanks for clearing up that mystery, Ardis.

  9. This is regarding the “Scannel Daguerreotype.” Someone close to me referred a similar email to me and attached was a highly photoshoped version of it (pretty well done actually). It looks as if someone put some decent effort into crafting it. Sunstone published an image of the original back when Romig’s conclusions broke. There is only one copy of that image online, and I guess it is technically an infringement of copyright.

    As to its authenticity, I think the burden of proof lay with those that believe it is authentic. My understanding is that there is no record of someone with the technology visiting Nauvoo during the time period. Also he looks to young to me to be Joseph circa 1843.

  10. If you turn it just right the picture morphs into somebody that probably isn’t Brigham Young.

  11. As to its authenticity, I think the burden of proof lay with those that believe it is authentic. My understanding is that there is no record of someone with the technology visiting Nauvoo during the time period. Also he looks to young to me to be Joseph circa 1843.

    I’m with J. on this one.

  12. boy more woo woo stuff
    this is fun
    i wonder how long befoe we hear about it here in east tennessee

  13. “As to its authenticity, I think the burden of proof lay with those that believe it is authentic. My understanding is that there is no record of someone with the technology visiting Nauvoo during the time period. Also he looks to young to me to be Joseph circa 1843.”

    Those who argue that it is real, from what I understand, say that it must have been taken when Joseph visited Philadelphia in 1839, because that was exactly when it burst on the scene. Their reasoning is that of course Joseph would have wanted to take advantage of these new developments.

    This is not to say I believe it, because it all sounds too tenuous to me. I’m just giving their (shaky) argument.

  14. From the KSL article linked above:

    There also were two sets of measurements of Smith’s live skull, one made during a Joseph Smith visit to Philadelphia in 1839 and ’40.

    “Even had his head measured by phrenologists in Philadelphia. Well, there’s a photographer about two blocks from there. His style is similar. We think that could be the place where this photograph was taken,” Tracy said.

    Tracy says he found 32 points of anatomical comparison. “His anatomy matches up perfectly with this image,” Tracy said. He agrees there needs to be more study of the image. “In fact, we invite more people to come and study this image,” he said.


    In his journals, Joseph Smith wrote he once had his picture taken by a daguerreotype camera. But the picture has never turned up.

    J., the above provides a possibility for Joseph Smith to have had the opportunity to get his daguerreotype taken — it seems logical that if he is having his skull measured (sounds odd to us now but was more common in the mid-nineteenth century as a left-over from the pseudo science of eighteenth-century Enlightenment theories on people, culture, and history), he would also be interested in making use of the newest technology, especially if it really was only two blocks away. But of course even adding this little fact to Joseph’s note that he had his picture taken doesn’t say that this particular picture is Joseph.

    I was fairly convinced by BYU Studies analysis of the Cowdery photo and had the sense that it was probably the real thing. I hope that we can someday find out whether this photo is really of Joseph Smith. My sense is that it is, but that is just wishful thinking.

  15. The creepy website that Ardis edited out says that the JS in the 2nd image is a daguerrotype of the painting that looks like it, not the other way around.

  16. In his journals, Joseph Smith wrote he once had his picture taken by a daguerreotype camera. But the picture has never turned up.

    This is not accurate. Joseph only wrote his journal until 1836. Further, I just went over his journals again and couldn’t find any reference to his posing for a daguerreotype camera. I imagine that Joseph went two blocks away from a lot of things in his travels.

    The image linked to in #24 is indeed an image of the painting.

    RE: The Cowdry image. I agree the the BYU Studies article was very convincing.

  17. I’ve heard two other significant objections to the authenticity of this image:

    The donor was indeed a member of *a* Smith family, but one to which genealogists have failed to make any connection to *the* Smith family.

    Remember that Daguerreotypes are one-of-a-kind — you don’t pass out copies like your mother distributed your school pictures, because if you want two Daguerreotypes, you have to sit for two pictures. So why, if this is authentic, did the image end up in the hands of either an extremely distant cousin, or no cousin at all? Why would Joseph have given it to anyone but Emma (or perhaps Lucy)? Had it been in Emma’s possession, I cannot imagine she ever would have parted with it after Joseph’s death — remember how she hung on to his painted portrait?

    As much as I would *like* to have a genuine photo of Joseph, this last is, for me, an extremely difficult objection to overcome.

  18. “My understanding is that there is no record of someone with the technology visiting Nauvoo during the time period.”

    Well, the Steed family had their pictures taken. Wait.. That was The Work and the Glory. ;)

    Seriously though, isn’t there a daguerreotype of the Nauvoo temple? Was that taken after Joseph’s death or even after most of the Saints had left?

  19. The Joseph Smith Papers Project is not convinced of either the Cowdery or Smith images recently floating about.

    Mark Ashurst-McGee
    Smith Papers

  20. I stumbled onto the Joseph Smith daguerreotype issue last week, totally by coincidence while searching for free online Mormon texts.

    I found the Simonsen and Fugate (The Randall Co.) site linked by BiV in #7 and Bookslinger in #24. It claims the Carson Daguerreotype is a modified copy of one taken of Joseph in person, instead of the Carter painting. All over the web this page is cited when referring to the Carson Daguerreotype as a photo of Joseph. The site makes many bold and convincing claims (and some are common-sense arguments) backed up with absolutely no citations . It claims UofU and Smithsonian scholars, as well as experts from multiple disciplines, have declared it photographic. I guess we’re supposed to take their word that this is accurate. We don’t even know what decade this research happened. Does this mountain of supporting evidence exist somewhere? Too fishy for me…

    I\’d never heard of the Scannel Daguerreotype before today and the only reference I\’ve found in Sunstone is from the December 2005 issue. The image wasn’t printed and Robert Rees said the CoC wouldn’t allow reproduction until authenticated. Is there an earlier reference since the KSL article claims this was discovered in 1965?

    The Scannel Daguerreotype doesn\’t remind me of the Joseph that I know from paintings in his lifetime and his death mask. I think his eyebrows should be less bushy and more arched and defined, and his chin more rounded. I don’t see much of his distinctive nose either. I can almost see the resemblance to his paintings, but it disappears in the photoshopped version mentioned by J in #16 and the creepy painting on the unnamed website.

  21. I attended a fireside a few years ago in which our stake president brought in a man (I forgot his name) who was a forensic specialist. He gave a two hour power point presentation in which he attempted to prove the authenticity of the picture. He used FBI techniques to prove that it was actually a picture of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Watching his presentation and listening to the scientific language he was using reminded me of a CSI episode. My stake president, who is quite a fan of the Prophet Joseph, was convinced as I was that it really was a genuine picture. In the end, the presenter had some software which was able to clean up the picture and give us a clearer view of what he really looked like.
    A few weeks before this fireside a friend gave me a copy of the picture as a gift. I was skeptical when he told me about the picture a week before. But when I saw it for the first time, a powerful feeling came into my heart that this was him. For copyright reasons, and probably others, the church will never officially address the picture and say anything one way or another. But like the Savior, it isn’t what he looks like that matters most. What matters most is the great work he did in restoring the gospel to the earth. I proudly display my picture on my book case at home.

  22. Hugh, the Romig/Mackay article I mentioned in the original post (p. 9) confirms that “the RLDS Church has had [this] daguerreotype in their possession since 1969” (rather than 1965).

    And I suppose I should clarify that it isn’t the painting I find especially creepy (it’s so-so), but the way it is being marketed strikes me as a hair away from priestcraft. *That* I find creepy.

  23. Ardis, I don’t know of where I can access any Saints Herald issues. Is that article online somewhere? Or better yet, is there an online archive?

    I can see that the marketing is more disturbing than the painting itself. I suppose I’m a bit desensitized with all the LDS media I consume. I doubt many in the Church worry about priestcraft in this market, especially with all the testimonies I’ve heard about Del Parson’s “Christ in Red Robe”.

  24. Does anybody else think the Carson Daguerreotype of Joseph makes him look like a Geisha? What were they thinking back then with those Pompadour hairstyles? I’m sure Carson’s touchups didn’t help either.

    The weirdness of this picture is a prime reason why the Carson Daguerreotype would never be used, even if it is of the Prophet in person.

    Can you tell which of these is Joseph Smith?
    Door #1
    Door #2
    Door #3

  25. J. Stapley … You say in #26 that the Carson daguerreotype is a photograph of the RLDS painting. I\’ve heard it conteded that it\’s the opposite… The painting was done from the daguerreotype. What evidence do you have or know of that would show the painting predates the daguerreotype? Also the cloth and eye evidence stated is fairly convincing. Do you also know that to be false?

    Just trying to get to the bottom if it all…

  26. Greg, you have heard from who? It is fairly easy on this one to get to the bottom of things. Check out the Sunstone link in comment #32 for starts.

  27. Well, on the webpages linked in that same #32 as “Simonson and Fugate”, for example. The citation you referred to in Sunstone merely made the claim the the Carson daguerreotype was of the painting. There are NO sources cited. I’m trying to determine if there is any definitive evidence that the Carson daguerreotype postdates the RLDS painting.

  28. Thanks, Visorstuff; that helps. Uncle Dale doesn’t come anywhere close to catching the 1994 Romig/Mackay article, though.

    The Community of Christ website does carry .pdf’s of the French and Spanish translations of the current issues of the Herald, but I don’t see that they carry any back issues at all.

  29. My first issue with it is that the clothes style (and hair style) are from the 1870s, 1880s or even later. Second issue is that he is missing Joseph’s lip scars. Third issue is the hairline doesn’t even come close to the death mask’s. I could go on…. I wish the ring was visible to help.

  30. Allison, the image in your post is a photoshopped version of the Scannel Daguerreotype.

    Greg, see Davis Bitton, The Ritualization of Mormon History and Other Essays, (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 179.

    The folks at the CoC have gone through and asked websites including the image of the Scannel Daguerreotype to remove the image.

  31. Sorry about that Ardis, was skimming through comments and saw your note, didn’t see what it was referring to the 1994 article. I’m unaware of online archives for it.

  32. Yes, the Steed family did have their pictures taken in the Work and the Glory series. The author of the series Mr. Gerald N. Lund, DOES HIS RESEARCH! I\’m sure that if someone had not come to that area with that technology he would not have put that part in his books. I truly believe that this recent picture could very possibly be a picture of Joseph Smith Jr. Just a thought but I think it could possibly be him.

  33. Yes, the Steed family did have their pictures taken in the Work and the Glory series. The author of the series Mr. Gerald N. Lund, DOES HIS RESEARCH! I\’m sure that if someone had not come to that area with that technology he would not have put that part in his books. I truly believe that this recent picture could very possibly be a picture of Joseph Smith Jr. Just a thought but I think it could possibly be him.

  34. Holly S. – that is an interesting point that since Lund footnotes his research, and the fictional Steeds had their photos taken, then someone HAD to come to Nauvoo with photographic technology. However, Lund documents things that were happening in America IN GENERAL, not neccessarily in Nauvoo in his books when it comes to technology.

    I’ve not seen demonstrated proof of photographers/daguerreotypers in Nauvoo prior to 1846 (in which the temple and other landmarks, people, etc. were photographed). For exmaple, see here for early images from Nauvoo. No surviving images of Mormon leaders or landmarks (such as the temple construction) prior to then.

  35. The Scannel Dageurreotype shows the subject wearing what looks like a watch fob or watch key in the shape of something not unlike the Phi Beta Kappa key or that of similar societies of the period (and today). That’s so obvious that I’m sure the photo interpreters out there have pounced on it with their enlargers, but has anyone identified the organization to which this “key” relates or established that Joseph Smith wore a key to wind his watch in such a prominent way on his watch chain? Does a watch key appear in the contemporary paintings of him? With respect to photographers at work in Nauvoo pre-1846, there’s a frequently seen image of a formally dressed man standing in the interior doorway of a house attired in a very tall stovepipe hat identified as Brigham Young. Is this a genuine photographic image of B.Y. and does anyone know when it was taken? (Perhaps the B.Y. Nauvoo image is among those to be accessed via #52 above, but I couldn’t get through when I clicked on the link.) For what it’s worth, there are parallel discussions being held today about the legitimacy of early photographs that have surfaced at auctions of another famous resident of Illinois — Abraham Lincoln. Also, the Library of Congress has just released a clutch of heretofore misidentified photos depicting the troops and civilians massed on the Capitol grounds to hear Lincoln read his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, including one of Lincoln himself standing bare-headed and wind-blown reading the address on the inaugural stand. This supplements the companion image (long-known and published) showing Lincoln a few minutes before or after this shot with John Wilkes Booth identified as a member of the crown lurking just below the platform.

  36. Bill, I don’t the story about the BYU image, but it was included on the Cover of BYU Studies reprint of Esplin’s Dissertation (image here). I don’t own that version of his dissy, so don’t know if it includes info on the image, but it might be a good place to look.

  37. I am most concerned about the history of the daguerreotype. A way to understand historical items is to understand the item\’s history. Archivists call this understanding the \”provenance.\” Museums also use provenance to understand their items. For example a dress owned by Dolly Madison\’s granddaughter is more likely to have been worn by Dolly than one found at a theft store in California even if it looks a lot like one she would have worn. If Joseph Smith had a daguerreotype taken (and his journal does not say he did), I believe his widow and children would have know about it. They would have talked about it and would have showed it to the many visitors they had. They really valued his memory. We have many accounts of people visiting Emma Smith and she showed them a painting, manuscripts and other things that Joseph owned. But none mention a daguerreotype. Why would a family that seems not be related to Joseph Smith have a photograph of him. The family is named Smith but they were not members of the Church and did not live in Nauvoo. Because of this I do not believe that this daguerreotype is of Joseph Smith.

  38. I wonder if a photographic image was found of Joseph Smith if people would recognize him. I think often times people get a preconceived notion of how a person looked based on what they believe the person should look like, or from paintings based on the artists’ ideas. Yes, there were people during the time of Joseph who wrote down their descriptions of what they believed he looked like, but many which I have read differ from one another. Even Emma wrote “No painting of him could catch his expression, for his countenance was always changing to match his thoughts and feelings.” Personally, I quite like the Scannel daguerreotype, but who knows if it’s the real thing. I will say, the one thing that makes me question the Scannel dag…is its history, or lack thereof. I just get sick of people, in regard to the daguerreotype, saying “Oh, that doesn’t look like him at all!” Hmmm, you know this how? And please don’t say, “it doesn’t look like the death mask!” The death mask is not the best representation of what Joseph looked like because of when the death mask was made. Joseph and Hyrum were killed on the 27th of June 1844. Their bodies were returned to Nauvoo (around 22 miles from Carthage) the next day. Then George Cannon made the death masks in the Mansion House in Nauvoo. I’m just saying, a lot can happen to the body just a few hours after death.

  39. One thing is for certain. The circumstantial evidence is against the Scannel Daguerreotype as being Joseph Smith Jr. First, if this is truly Joseph he has certainly changed his appearance in one years time. Going from a thin young looking man with smaller eyes spaced more widely appart, a wider chin and mouth to the features conveyed in the 1944 Daguerreotype. There is a lot more circumstantial evidence supporting the 1944 Daguerreotype in terms of people around Joseph. And also forensic evidence. Now there are many lower quality portraits of Joseph around the 1944 time period that show him as being a little portly. Even if the artists are not experts they were witnesses to his actual looks and the overwhelming consenses is that he was a little portly around that time. The 1944 Daguerreotype show some small amount of fat around his neck. Now to me that 1943 Scannel Daguerreotype is a man at least ten to fifteen years younger and thinner. He does not wear the scars and facial damage that Joseph suffered and would have exhibited in that time period. That puts it out of the Daguerreotype era since the earliest are around 1839. And if you look at the quality of the Scannel Daguerreotype there is no way it was one of the earliest ones because it is obvious that the quality is too high so it could not have been much before the claimed date. And that means that it is either a forgery or a mistaken identity of a later person who happens to look a lot like Joseph Smith Jr. The nose and hair are very much looking like Joseph but the rest of the face does not. It could be an ancestor or a carefully selected person planted as a hoax.

    I will not even consider those arguments who use the death mask as hard evidence because people in death do not look like anything they do alive after body preparation, tissue relaxation, rigamortis, not even to mention facial and bone damage which is nearly sure to have occured. All theories based on the death mask are flawed unless they have other good reasons to be true.

  40. J. Stapley, thank you for the link. Yes, this is the photo of Brigham Young that I was trying to describe from memory. I’ve always assumed that it was taken in Nauvoo, but perhaps it was taken during one of BY’s trips to the East. He looks so young that I’ve never thought that it looked “like” BY, but then I can easily be mistaken for all the reasons discussed above in connection with Joseph Smith images. The BY photo depicts an elegantly attired young man, but then in all photos I’ve seen of him he was always very well turned-out. The photo of a Mormon leader that I want very much to see (if and when it is every found) is the one taken by Elizabeth Wood Kane, Thomas’s wife, in June 1858 of Nauvoo Legion Major Howard Egan. Egan had been detailed by Brigham Young to escort TLK to Philadelphia from Salt Lake City that spring. After succeeding in this task, Egan waited patiently at the Kane home for days while Thomas went to Washington to see President Buchanan and while he recovered from his physical collapse thereafter. Egan’s role was to return to Utah with a Kane report for BY too sensitive to entrust to the U.S. mail. His appearance was so striking (handsome), that Mrs.Kane recorded in her diary (now at BYU) that she felt compelled to capture his image in a photograph, a craft that she was then mastering on her own hook. Thinking of her description of Howard Egan makes me want to see what he looked like as a young man in 1858 — a guy who had served as a blue jacket aboard a U.S. Navy man o’ war before migrating to Nauvoo and who had shot his wife’s seducer in the head from a distance of two feet while seated next to him and chatting on a log alongside a Utah trail. In 1860-61 Egan returned to the desert as superintendent of perhaps the toughest stretch of the Pony Express route west of Salt Lake City.

  41. Could this be a portrait of Don Carlos Smith, Joseph’s youngest (?) brother? I believe that he was born in 1816 which would make him about 27 in this photograph if it were he.

  42. Velikiye, if it were an image of Don Carlos, we would be left with the same — perhaps worse — questions than assuming it is Joseph. Why would Don Carlos’s picture been sent out of the family, away from his widow or mother? Don Carlos was not famous, as his brother was, making it even less likely that a family tradition concerning the picture’s subject would have been passed down through the generations. We need reasons to believe the image is a Smith at all.

  43. I have been on the project for years. An Anthropologist that has studied the image and the masks and the skulls has stated that the man in the image has to have a biological connection to the Smiths as it relates to Joseph Smith\’s skull. He states it has to be a \”brother or son\”

    The clothing is 1840\’s I don\’t care what Bagley says.We have had that verified by two costum currators. So it is most likely not his sons.

    Regarding the brothers:

    Don Carlos died in 1841. Possible but not probable. Also DonCarlos had the lightest of the Smith brothers hair. It can not be him.

    Samuel died in 1844, but his hair is almost just as light as DonCarlos.

    It is not Hyrum for a multitude of reasons, plus it doesn\’t match his skull.

    So the only two left are Joseph and William.

  44. Patrick, the problem isn’t in choosing among the Smith men; it’s in first establishing that the image is a Smith at all. What are the credentials of your anthropologist (besides his capitalization, I mean) that he can determine a biological connection without biological materials? I’m guessing that you really mean “genetic” rather than “biological,” since both Joseph Smith and the man in the image were presumably both biological homo sapiens, but a genetic claim is even more problematic.

  45. Adris,
    If you understand the history of photographs you will can understand the main pupose for having your portrait taken was not to hang a picture of yourself on the wall for you to look at and then when you are dead and gone to have your posterity pass it down. The whole point in early daguerrian images was to give them away as presents to FRIENDS and family. They were as you may or may not be aware the size of a large postage stamp in most cases, so as to be carried on there person in a pocket. The only reason they were called daguerreotype was because of the inventor. What replaced them was mainly the “Carte-de-visite”. Translated in English as “Card of Visiting”. They were the size of a small post card. You would leave them at the door as a thank you to any you visited. Also daguerrian imagers would take images of promient people in society as adversiting items and it would never be in the family line.
    Althought the Scannel’s claimed they were relatives which is not verifiable after doing the research all images do not have to be found in a family line to be pronounced authentic. However, this provenance is a huge help to verify image and artifacts. But we do not have this help with this image.
    Joseph was known to give gifts all the time to people. His horse, his jacket, the first liverpool edtion B of M, locks of his hair, ETC ETC ETC. He could have gven this image as a present to a non family member.

    Regarding “biological” vs “gentic” you are probably right with the terms, but you are just continuing to ask probing questions so you can have all the information in the book before it comes out. I will not commet any more on items in the book that I know of until publication. I need to keep my integrity. But we can continue a dialogue if it does not compromise the book.

  46. Patrick, before you make any further assumptions about my knowledge of photographic history, I should warn you that I grew up with two professional photographers as parents, with Matthew Brady and Ansel Adams as household gods, with the second bathroom always converted to a darkroom, and with a dining room table that was usually occupied evenings by my father hunched over his latest restoration project, his loupe screwed into his eye and his three-hair camelhair brush patiently placing thousands of minute dots. My collection of fully identified 1852-1930 family photographs numbers close to 2,000. Our favorite family guffaw was snickering at the TV shows where crimes were solved by blowing up snapshots until you could read the driver’s license in the hand of the guy in the distant background. So thanks for the lesson on photographic history.

    I certainly hope you aren’t basing any part of your conclusions on the translation of the term “carte de visite.”

  47. Just trying to share helpful info. But as you are to busy trying to establish your credentials and not the issues at hand I will not “cast any more pearls”.

  48. Oink, oink. Thanks, Patrick. You have a standing invitation to address the issues; I’m saving you time by identifying areas where you don’t have to give me an elementary education.

    You questioned whether I understood the history of photography; I gave you my background to demonstrate that I did have such an understanding. My understanding differs greatly from yours. For instance, my understanding is that cartes de visite did not come into vogue until the early 1860s, when the technology to print multiple paper copies of a photograph, cheaply, became available. This does not apply to daguerreotypes, which were expensive, very time consuming to take, could be duplicated only by repeating the lengthy and difficult process (either by taking another image of the sitter or by taking an image of the original image), and generally required expensive and heavy cases for their protection — touch the surface of such an image and you destroy it. All of these factors militate AGAINST the daguerreian image being given to a casual acquaintance (and no one has as yet demonstrated that there was even a casual acquaintance between Joseph Smith and the Scannels). No, the state of photography in the early 1840s gives all the weight to presenting a man’s daguerreotype to his wife or mother or other close relative or cherished friend — the same sort of person, say, to whom one might have given a miniature painting (the only reason I can think of for your mentioning the small size of some early images; otherwise, your remark is totally irrelevant).

    You also mention the practice of photographers offering for sale the images of prominent people. Again, such a practice did not develop until the 1860s, with the carte de visite. It was NOT a common practice in the age of daguerreotypes. But let’s say, for the sake of this discussion, that some photographer *did* take an image of Joseph Smith and offered copies of it to advertise his business, or for collectors who (20 years later) did collect the carte de visite photographs of generals and actresses and other notables. Let’s say the Scannels, for some reason, purchased such an image for their presumed collection. Then why have no similar commercial images emerged in the decades since this one turned up, and especially in the decade since the Saints Herald and Sunstone articles made it generally known to Mormon scholarship? Why is there no copy in the photo album of Julia Murdock Smith? Why is there no copy in any of the many early Mormon albums donated to LDS Archives? Why is there no copy in ANY known Mormon album, when Mormons would have been the natural audience for such a photo?

    “He could have g[i]ven this image as a present,” you say. “Could have” is not evidence, in the complete absence of any evidence that Joseph knew the Scannels, or that they crossed his path at any point for any reason.

  49. The clothing is 1840’s I don’t care what Bagley says.We have had that verified by two costum currators. So it is most likely not his sons.

    I hope it wasn’t the same costume curators that consult on most westerns.

    I wasn’t basing my comments on Bagley. The bulk of my research has been in 1855-1870s Mormonism, and the clothing is clearly from very late in that time period or after (I would bet on the 1880s). Then again, someone can always try to make the comment that Mormons were way behind the time in fashions in the 1880s, but it just doesn’t match up in my opinion. Obviously others have their own opinions, but to me it just doesn’t add up.

    Ardis – did your father teach photography by chance? I don’t think I’ve made this connection before…

  50. Dad didn’t teach publickly, no. He taught a lot of younger coworkers on the job and shared his experience even with rivals, but taught no formal classes.

  51. Well, the church may not have uncovered a Joseph Smith image, but I believe that I have.

    On October 15th, 2007, I posted a blog article called, Joseph Smith’s Daguerrotype – An Appeal for Help, in which I explained my experience in coming across “by accident” (more like Divine Providence) a daguerreotype that looked like Joseph Smith. The artifact is sitting in a museum in Brazil and has been published in an exposition book, all of which is linked in the blog article and comments. I contacted church headquarters, Brazil missions, my local bishop and did a myriad other things, but no one has done a (damn) thing to investigate the daguerreotype, nor shown any interest. As I do not know Portuguese, I haven’t attempted to call the museum, but I’ve since decided, what with so much talk going around about this other supposed picture of Smith, that I’m going to call tomorrow and hopefully someone there knows English. It is been years that this picture has been sitting there, with the owners clueless as to who it might be, and no one that I talk to about it interested in investigating it, and I think it is high time this particular picture of Joseph Smith comes to light, as I believe it is highly probable that this is the picture of the Prophet that has been missing all these years. Also, I believe that I was divinely guided to be at the right place, at the right time, just so that that picture would go into my hands and I’d be able to see it and recognize the Prophet, so that it could be acquired by the church. If anyone knows Portuguese and would like to assist in communicating with the Brazilian museum, please leave me a message on my blog.

  52. Anarchist, the church history library has a file, two inches thick, of photocopies of images people have brought in, certain they have a photo of Joseph Smith. They all have about as much support as yours — either “somebody in my family was named Smith” or “this came from a family in Illinois” or “I just know because of a spiritual witness.” They’re all of anonymous young/old/middle aged/fat/skinny/bald/hairy white men with penetrating/serene/mesmerizing eyes and firm/gentle/laughing/sad mouths and patrician/prominent/refined noses.

    What kind of an investigation do you think the church should conduct into your anonymous and unprovenanced candidate?

  53. A simple phone call to a Brazilian bishop local to the bookseller asking him to go himself, or send someone to the bookseller and take a look at the book in question and then make an assessment whether it looked like Joe Smith would have been simple enough to do. If the bishop thought it might be Smith, he could fork over the $10 to buy the book and send it to Salt Lake, where they could make their own assessment. When I called Church hq, the person I talked to wasn’t even interested in looking at another supposed picture of Smith. It’s one thing not to have the resources to pay for it, but when a member is willing to track it down and send it to them (like I was), but they don’t even want to be sent the photo, that’s a bit different.

    Regardless of your two inch thick file, if someone comes to you with yet another Smith lookalike, you take a look. You don’t shut your eyes.

    This particular daguerrotype is different. I’ve seen all the supposed photos, all the paintings, all the pictures and drawings, the death masks, etc. This picture stands out like a sore thumb. Even the author of the book it is in, who doesn’t know who it is of, was impressed by it more than the other portraits. He dedicated more page space and more text to talking about than all the other portraits. It is in a remarkable state of preservation and it’s been hidden from view for 164 years because it left this country in 1844 and was shipped off to a private collection in Brazil.

  54. Okay, Anarchist. I don’t know how the image’s remarkable state of preservation, its early transfer to Brazil, or the author’s admitted ignorance of the man’s identity are relevant, but I trust you have some train of thought that hasn’t come through in the brief space of a comment.

    For just a moment, though, try looking at it from the point of view of the curator who has been presented with three dozen potential Joseph Smith images in the last year, none of which come with any reason to believe they are in fact Joseph Smith images except the intense desire of the person proposing them. Even if the curator did “take a look,” what then? Just what do you think the curator can determine, without any evidence to work from except the face of an anonymous man?

    I’m not saying there is NO Joseph Smith photo out there, or even that yours is not the real deal. I’m just asking for a little compassion for the curator, who has no starting point to “conduct the investigation” you call for.

  55. I agree with Andrewe\’s #58. There are a few other thoughts here as well. First, a death mask is like having your face pressed against a window. Does that look like anyone in their natural form? I think not. Second, if this dag is him (and the story behind it of him recently getting out of Liberty jail being true), then the pain in the eyes of this person would make sense. I think that is what is troublesome to many saints who see the picture. They see a man who appears to have alot on his mind…and not a \”ten foot tall, alabaster Paul Bunyon\” of a Joseph Smith. Again, who in this world has seen Joseph Smith? So why can\’t it be him? Personally, I stared at the picture for three days, and found that the notion of it being him fascinating…and much more inspiring than any other depiction I have ever seen. Again, maybe the whole thing is a scam…but why would the RLDS Church do that?

  56. jonah, it isn’t the RLDS (CoC) that is promoting this image; the CoC has not released the image because they *cannot* confirm its identity, and they apparently are not very happy that their copyright claims are being ignored by the private entrepreneurs who are marketing their painting and book.

  57. Ardis, is this the same person who wrote “In Search of Joseph” in 1995 – that lists for almost $200 on the web?

  58. Frankly, even if I didn’t know anything else about the overall issue, that price alone (for a 115 page book) would send HUGE red flags waving for me.

  59. Artis, noted…thank you. I still believe it is the real thing. Consider the death photos of JFK. He looks like a different person. The blood has stopped (gravity taking its toll on correct facial appearance, etc… I just think that to utilizite Joseph Smith\’s death mask as any other indicator than bone structure and general appearance is to get the man\’s true appearance wrong.

  60. #77, the image I saw wasn’t just of the face of a man. My recollection of the image (seven years now) is of a man sitting down at a table, with artifacts upon that table. For all we know, some the artifacts may be identifiable and traceable. The clothing he wore would tell a lot about the date of the image taken. The flip-open, pocket-sized frame it is in, the colorizing technique, etc. There might be a whole lot that can be learned about the daguerrotype just from looking at a reproduction of it in a book. If the owners attempted to track down the subject, they probably looked in New York City, as it came out of New York, instead of in Nauvoo or Kirtland or some other place local to Smith, which may be the reason they couldn’t make the determination. The author of the book thinks that it’s probably of some U.S. congressman or other dignitary.

    I believe that there is sufficient information in the reproduction I saw in that book to make an assessment whether this image is worthy to follow up and track down. The original daguerrotype would undoubtedly reveal other details that would help to determine whether it is Smith. As I said, the image is different than anything else I’ve seen. It doesn’t look like the paintings, the death mask, the drawings or the supposed photos. If I had a scanned image of it and posted it online, most LDS would be compelled to admit that if there was ever a photo taken of the Prophet, this has got to be it. Despite being different than other depictions, there are aspects that are recognizable, such as the strange combing of the hair, the prominent nose, the stature (large), yet, none of them have the exaggerations of the paintings. You notice these aspects, but are not drawn to them. Also, as the position of the subject is angled to the right of the camera, it affords an uncanny “three dimensional” view. It is unlike any daguerrotype I’ve ever seen, nor, apparently, seen by the author of the book itself. His opinion was that it must have been of some aristocratic upper-class gentleman who thought highly of himself, due to both the preservation, position, coloring, careful framework and the confidence being exuded by the individual.

    You need not worry yourself about me not being compassionate towards the curator. I was very nice to her. Maybe she had a bad day and wasn’t thinking clearly. At any rate, seven years is long enough to wait. It’s about time I tracked it down myself and posted it for all to see, if they will let me do so, and then we’ll see if other LDS think my assessment of it is worth making the wheels squeak.

  61. Okay, Anarchist, I’ll say it and stop: Your picture is worthless without a provenance, and no curator is going to spend 30 seconds investigating it. End of story.

  62. Ardis, I am considering a venture into the historical daguerreotype business. The market looks ready. Certainly I could produce images made to order, according to specification, given a reasonable description of the subject. Not only that, but I believe I am much more intelligent than Mark Hoffman — to say nothing of the fact that I am more happy and handsome.

    What do you think? Do you have any good recommendations for an enterprising entrepreneur?

  63. Jim, are you saying that we are gullible? Are you? ARE YOU? Because if you dare assert such a thing, HERE, in the hallowed halls of the Bloggernacle, right here in front of me, in so many words, I would simply have to stand up, raise my arms above my head and announce in my most impressively stentorian tones that … I agree with you.

    Really, I understand the desire for a true photograph of Joseph. I even understand why this particular image is so visually appealing. Fooling myself into accepting an image with no more going for it than this one has, though, is impossible. I am wrong about many, many things, but at least I don’t engage in wilful self-deception. (Not to say that all those who “have a feeling” this is the real deal are engaging in wilful self-deception — but that’s what it would be in my case, when I understand the historical problems with it.)

  64. I’m not making any personal comments about anyone, since I don’t know anything about them. However, while I was in college I worked in a small publishing company. From time to time an author with an ax to grind would bring in a mind-numbingly detailed tome about religious or scientific subjects with all sorts of proofs of their amazing theories. Usually they were being overlooked by “the establishment.” They would run up large publishing bills and then disappear without paying. It was a good early training in skepticism.

    By the way, no one seriously involved in early Mormon history would refer to “Joe Smith” like Anarchist did.

  65. When we presented the picture to our GD class as a attention getter (sic) the majority was quite sure the picture was not authentic especially the women.

  66. Ardis #87, you may be right that without a provenance, it won’t be looked at by the Church. At least, at first. But that may not be the end of the story. For all we know, if it is genuine, it may not be meant for Church curators, it may be meant for the church (with a little ‘c’.) But then I am an anarchist… Who knows? We accept plenty of things the history of which are not known. Didn’t “Joe Smith” (sorry, East Coast, couldn’t resist) himself say that “know man knows my history?” Maybe the church will accept this, too. We’ll see.

    Okay, so, Ardis, now that you stopped, does that mean I got the last word? ;)

  67. A series of comments has been removed for their repeated references to another commenter that had reached the point of being abusive. My apologies to that other commenter for not having cut them off sooner.

    Readers will please be advised that LDS Anarchist has posted scans of his proposed Joseph Smith image on his own blog, which can be accessed from the link in his comment #74 or by clicking on his signature in any of his later comments. All further discussion of that image should be carried on there, not here.

    Anarchist: Inasmuch as you have your own blog for promotion of your theories, you will kindly refrain from further posting in this thread.

  68. All these folks are aiming way too low. Forget that photo/daguerrotype of Joseph Smith. What about a photograph of the Almighty Himself??

    This all reminds me of Innocents Abroad. From Chapter XVII

    But isn’t this relic matter a little overdone? We find a piece of the true cross in every old church we go into, and some of the nails that held it together. I would not like to be positive, but I think we have seen as much as a keg of these nails.

  69. I’ve spoken with Ron Romig about this daguerreotype, because I had several questions about it.

    If my memory of this conversation is correct, Ron told me that there has been a scholarly panel reviewing the image and the issues surrounding it. The goal of the panel is to come up with a more definitive statement than he and Lach were able to make in the Saints Herald article. He indicated that progress on this panel was slow and was bogged down by a number of issues that are common to panels assembled to reach historical conclusions without being able to offer a salary to its participants.

    Ron indicated to me (irrc) that he personally believes that it’s quite likely to be an actual image of Joseph, but he makes it very clear that he takes a very dim view of attempts to jump to sensationalistic conclusions about it.

    My impression of Shannon Tracy is that he’s been profiteering on Joseph’s image for some time, by offering other people’s conclusions without attribution. For example, in Tracy’s previous book on Joseph Smith, he has an analysis that shows that the RLDS church confused Joseph and Hyrum’s skulls when they re-interred them in the 1920s. This conclusion was reached by the RLDS church decades ago, but Tracy doesn’t mention it.

  70. I just posted this same comment to JI (am I breaking blog conventions by reposting here?), and I am aware that Jared on JI and J. Stapley here have already beat me to the punch, but at the very least I thought it might be interesting to note the two references that we do have to Joseph sitting for portraits in his journal. My real hope is that I manage to be the hundred-and-first poster on any thread. The JI comment ensues:

    I am not sure why some people believe that there should be a “missing” daguerreotype of JS.

    Among other places it has cropped up in recent days, an article on by John Hollenhorst (cached version from a few days ago) says “In his journals, Joseph Smith wrote he once had his picture taken by a daguerreotype camera. But the picture has never turned up.” Someone made a change, and today the article reads, “In his journals, Joseph Smith wrote he once had his image taken. But a daguerreotype-camera image has never turned up.” Clearly an attempt to correct the mistake, but still it falls short.

    There are two situations that I can think of in JS’s journals in which mention is made of a likeness being made of the prophet. Both are in Nauvoo, both in 1842. His journal entry of 25 June 1842 states (I will refrain from quoting so as not to favor one transcription over another) that a profile image was made for the Nauvoo city chart. This we know to be the image of Joseph made by Sutcliffe Maudsley on the familiar chart today.

    The second situation is recorded in the journal entries of 16, 17, and 19/20 September 1842, which simply say that JS was at home “painting” with a brother Rogers. The identification of this painting (and the artist for that matter) has been the subject of recent research by both Glen Leonard and Richard Anderson, and we should leave the explanation to them, but it is safe to say the journal text was not lying. This was a portrait painting, not a daguerreotype.

    Dean Jessee’s Papers vol. 2 and Scott Faulring’s American Prophet’s Record, combined, present the text of JS’s journals. At risk of sounding confrontational, I welcome a reference to JS having a daguerreotype made.

  71. 100: No. There is a photograph of William very late in life, but I *think* (am open to correction) that otherwise there are no known photographs of anyone in that Smith generation.

  72. I don\’t about the picture; but when Smith died they weighed him at 230 lbs. He was 6 feet, 0 inches tall. Rigdon weighed approx. 260 lbs. He became sick and went down to 160 lbs. Both men were very fat. Smith carried his weight in his lower torso. That is why a full picture of Smith and Rigdon is needed.

    How much did Brigham Young weigh and how tall was he? From his picture he looks very heavy.

  73. “Both men were very fat.”

    Joseph was very active and known as a strong, athletic man. 6’0″ and 230 (if accurate) is “very fat”?

  74. Ray –

    considering that I know people with less than 10 percent body fat who are classified as “morbidly obese” by the medical comunity (due to the idiotic reliance on Height/Weight charts to determine obesity), sure – 230 can be very fat. Doesn’t matter if Jospeh was solid muscle – by today’s height/weight charts, 230 is considered obese for a 6 foot tall male.

Comments are closed.