Last year, to much fanfare, Eborn Books released S. Michael Tracy’s Millions Shall Know Brother Joseph Again: The Joseph Smith Photograph which argues that a daguerreotype (known as the Scannel Daguerreotype) owned by the Community of Christ is an authentic daguerreotype of Joseph Smith. Here is a gratuitous me reference that came out the day of the book’s release and here is a story from the Mormon Times the day after that better shows the image.
When I commented to that reporter I was smack dab in the middle of writing a lengthy, and at times, agonizing review of the book. You can read that review in five parts here: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 (If you’re really bored enough to read all that, you have to also be sure to read the comments–there’s some fun stuff there). I smoothed that out a bit and placed it here. Some lively debate ensued here about whether or not there is evidence of Joseph Smith having had a daguerreotype taken of himself at all, specifically comment 54. The conclusion at the time seems to have been that there is no evidence, documentary or otherwise, that a daguerreotype was ever taken, only insinuations. I’m happy to report on this note, that our own Stan Thayne has brought a very intriguing reference to my attention, which I will leave to him to present in a future post.
When the book came out, though not reported in the “popular press”, some controversy had been brewing over Tracy’s use of the image. The JI posted a statement by the Community of Christ here that read:
The recently publicized image some people believe to be a picture of Joseph Smith is copyrighted intellectual property of the Community of Christ and is circulating without permission. All copies of the image were shared with researchers under strict conditions of confidentiality. E-mailing or displaying the image on the internet or any other media is a copyright infringement.
Community of Christ experts continue to study the image. If scholarly proof of identity satisfies rigorous internal guidelines, Community of Christ may make a statement concerning its authenticity.
Around the time I obtained the book and wrote the review, I understood that there was some talk about the possibility of a lawsuit over the use of the image. After the statement was posted, some comments were made by “Nick”, the producer of Eborn’s documentary about the daguerreotype, in defense of Tracy’s rights to the image.
From multiple sources, I recently learned that a lawsuit was indeed filed and has been settled out of court. The details are fuzzy for me as far as who exactly was named and what the exact issues were, but what was clear was that it was agreed that the book will not be recalled, but that once it is sold out, there will not be any more allowed to be printed.
So, though I cannot recommend the book as a good piece of research, I can recommend it to you as a quirky piece of Joseph Smith iconography. And even though this looks like the end of the road for Tracy’s book, something tells me this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the Scannel Daguerreotype.