“a deguarian likeness of…my uncle Joseph”

By March 14, 2009

Yes, believe it or not, I have re-emerged and am actually posting something. Jared has been very patiently deferring to me so I figur I’d better get this reference up. Not that I really can lay any claim to it; I just stumbled upon it while reading Joseph F. Smith’s diary. But it may hold out hope for all those hopefuls that an image–a relic, an icon–may yet exist of the Prophet Joseph that we can worship in the form of a coffee-table picture book…er perhaps I should say a hot cocoa, or pero, or mate, or herbal tea table book.

So, the reference: In JFS’s journal he lists the following items among a catalogue of his possessions that were destroyed in a fire during his first mission to Hawaii: “a deguarian likeness of my Father uncle Joseph and Brigham young, a presant and priceless to me” (JFS diary, entry of June 26, 1856; call # MS 1325, box 1, fd. 3, Church History Library; also available in the Selected Collections DVD set, Volume 1, DVD 26). So, this could be evidence that an image is floating around out there somewhere! Scavengers beware! Eborn could print a second edition!

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. Thanks, Stan. This is a great find. I really hope someone made a daguerreotype of the daguerreotype, etc, before giving it to JFS. I wonder who gave it to him in the first place.

    Comment by Jared T. — March 14, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

  2. Curse that fire!

    That recently discovered daguerreotype of Oliver Cowdery was, if I recall, found among a very large collection of such images at the Library of Congress. With these parameters (Joseph, Hyrum and Brigham together in the image), maybe it would be worth someone’s effort to look in that collection.

    Comment by Kevin Barney — March 15, 2009 @ 8:10 am

  3. I know I’m developing a reputation as a curmudgeon in this area. I would love a photo of Joseph as much as anybody else would, but I want to know that it is a photo of Joseph, not just someone in a white stock with his hair combed forward at the temples. I’m leery of anything that encourages fly-by-nighters to go rummaging around in unidentified images, advancing any old image as a Joseph photo without the — what’s that word again? — without the provenance to support the claim. You just have to know that this is going to open the floodgates again. Ugh.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — March 15, 2009 @ 10:54 am

  4. Kevin, I’d encourage you to read the write up by Bishop on the supposed Oliver Cowdery Dag. Bishop had a heavy hand in writing up Tracy’s book on the Scannel Dag. and I, personally, find that their shared methodologies are unconvincing. But then again, for some things and from some people, the burden of proof is really really high for me. The OC dag seems to have caught on with the LDS community, but I wonder if they reread this write up in light of what we’ve seen with Tracy’s work on Scannel, if they wouldn’t feel a little more tentative.

    Comment by Jared T. — March 15, 2009 @ 10:58 am

  5. Ardis, if anyone, I can appreciate the caution that you’ve consistently advanced, but it sounds almost like you wouldn’t be pleased to see any reliable hint that there was an image for fear someone might actually go out looking for it 🙂

    If this indicates that a dag. was taken, I’d call that a remarkable find. If people come out of the woodwork with dags of 3 people, I invite it. Of course, without important factors such as provenance, I think they won’t gain much traction. The good fight has been fought for the last year against a number of dubiously potential JS dags, and in each case, the burden of the evidence (or lack thereof) has failed to gain these images but the most cursory following.

    But I’d rather suffer a thousand dunderheads with their crackpot theories for the chance that someone reliable with something promising will be turned on by this information.

    Comment by Jared T — March 15, 2009 @ 11:11 am

  6. Of COURSE I am pleased at the disclosure of a new and reliable hint! I’d love a photo of Joseph.

    I’m cautious, though, because another seemingly reliable hint was the statement of one of Joseph’s sons that he had a daguerreotype of Joseph … which eventually was discovered to be a daguerreotype of a Joseph painting, not a Joseph-in-life. The idea of these three men being together in a time and space with a daguerreotypist seems so remote to me that I have to wonder about it, and the possibility that it was a reproduction of three grouped images, or something other than what seems like the obvious meaning of JFS’s description. I have to wonder why Brigham’s family didn’t have such an image, or why Brigham didn’t mention having sat for such a portrait in all the writings where he discusses having his image taken.

    Good historians — people with any hope of establishing the fact of a JS image — are going to keep hunting, patiently and carefully, and Stan’s disclosure ought to give them hope. But they’d keep hunting even without such a hint. Publicity for this JFS entry is really going to affect only the thousand dunderheads, plus the gullible many who, like me, desperately want a legitimate photo.

    I’m not sure I can share your willingness to suffer a thousand dunderheads with their crackpot theories. Not that it’s up to me, of course.

    (Stan, please don’t misunderstand me. It’s a marvelous find, I wish I had found it myself, and I congratulate you. But it’s a mixed blessing.)

    /s/ Tiresome Curmudgeon

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — March 15, 2009 @ 11:33 am

  7. Thanks for the post, Stan. I think it’s an important find, even though, as Ardis points out, it ultimately muddies the waters even more.

    Comment by David G. — March 15, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

  8. I was thinking that Either Caroline Crosby or Louisa Pratt brought images of Joseph and Hyrum Smith on their mission to the Society Islands and people would often come to look at them. I skimmed through their diaries and couldn’t find it though. Made me wonder if such things were common for people to take on missions.

    Comment by J. Stapley — March 15, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

  9. Thanks Stan. Interesting find. I can see where Ardis is coming from on this, and in fact when she wrote “The idea of these three men being together in a time and space with a daguerreotypist seems so remote to me that I have to wonder about it,” she articulated my biggest question about the thing. That said, I hope I’m wrong.

    Comment by SC Taysom — March 15, 2009 @ 7:12 pm

  10. I interpreted it to mean separAte images from the start. He likely only meant the daguerrotype of the portrait,no?

    Comment by Smb — March 15, 2009 @ 8:08 pm

  11. I also read this reference as separate dags of the three men. And I’m with Smb on this one. How do we know JFS isn’t talking about a dag of a portrait?

    Comment by Robin Jenseen — March 15, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

  12. I don’t know who this Jenseen character is, but I like the way he things about daguerrotyping.

    Comment by Steve Evans — March 15, 2009 @ 10:02 pm

  13. I like the way Jenseen “things” too.

    Comment by David G. — March 15, 2009 @ 11:42 pm

  14. Do we have a dag of HS?

    Comment by David G. — March 15, 2009 @ 11:44 pm

  15. David G., I think (or “thing”) the only Smith brother with a known image is William. Nobody has used any proposed dag of Hyrum to compare to any contested Joseph dag.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — March 16, 2009 @ 12:02 am

  16. While I share all of Ardis’ concerns, we do need to look at what JFS is saying. I find it hard to believe that he is referring to three separate images. He only speaks in the singular…a “likeness” and a “presant,” which I read as one image, not three (unless JFS was a closet trinitarian!). This doesn’t rule out the argument that JFS’s dag is really a composite of three separate dags, but I don’t think we can infer that directly from the text.

    And I think the reference to HS is significant, since like Ardis I’ve never heard or seen one.

    Comment by David G. — March 16, 2009 @ 11:30 am

  17. If you want to see what JSJ looked like, I think the photo of the young JFS probably provides the closest likeness that we have, apart from the dag of the oil painting. By the way, I’m guessing that this reference was to that dag of the oil painting, as smb pointed out.

    Comment by john f. — March 16, 2009 @ 11:32 am

  18. I’m hoping Jared or someone more familiar with the dag of the painting can comment on its history. When was it taken, initially? Was it circulating in 1856? My understanding is that we don’t have the original dag of the painting, but rather we have a picture of the dag of the painting, which JS III deposited in the library of congress in the 1890s. Does someone have more (or better) information than I do?

    Comment by David G. — March 16, 2009 @ 11:42 am

  19. D’oh.

    Comment by Steve Eeevans — March 16, 2009 @ 11:50 am

  20. Reed Simonsen published a black and white spiral bound book about the Joseph Smith Daguerreotype called “Photograph Found–The Joseph Smith Daguerrotype” ( or history of the …Daguerrotype). It had a large copy of the image on the cover. I bought it from him personally for a very reasonable price at an home-ed conference in Provo-Orem in the 1990’s. He told me he had sent copies to all the Apostles. He also had for sale a great little American early history book. I have seen the American History stories book in LDS bookstores over the years.

    While having an image of Joseph Smith is not too important to me at all as far as testimony goes–the book is totally convincing.

    It has testimony of Joseph Smith III as to the picture being in possession of his family when he was young, after his father’s death and that it remained in their possession for quite sometime. He was 11 when the martyrdom happened and perfectly remembered his dad’s appearance. He went to a huge amount of trouble to personally get an “albumen print” copy or copies made and entered/files with and in the proper Bureaucracy (Library of Congress I think it says) of the day all the way back East in Washington, D. C.– in order to legally obtain the copyright.

    It is a little troubling that an adult male member of the church who knew of the picture and was displaying copies out west in latter pioneer times could only have obtained what he had by the unauthorized loss by the Bureaucracy of one of the copies filed there by Joseph Smith III.

    An enormous number of people came to visit his/JS III family in Nauvoo and elsewhere later–after reading one feels the loss of the original of this family memento could have been due to another sad case of sticky fingers…

    He/Joseph III said the portrait–which I guess was put on tour/displayed somewhere and viewed by JS III in person– by Louis Ramsay/Ramsey (which I have personally seen as it hangs in the SLC Temple) is a fine work of portraiture as far as painting skill goes–but looks NOTHING like his dad.

    The paintings where you see the Prophet in the dark suit and light colored cravat with the pompadour-ish hairstyle, which had been made and viewed by JS III–and which must have used the daguerrotype as a crutch were good liknesses but whoever made the one which shows Joseph Smith’s right hand wearing a ring was inaccurate in that respect–Joseph Smith never wore a ring on his right hand and only wore his wedding ring on the usual finger of his left hand. The book goes into details of how the right hand differs so much in quality compared to the rest of the painting–the hands do not appear in the copy of the albumen print of the Joseph Smith Daguerrotype and so the artist didn’t have help with that right hand with the ring and it shows!

    With all the SPECIAL OCCASIONS happening in Nauvoo at the time–who doesn’t think the amazing new chance to get a likeness of yourself and loved ones wasn’t going to be taken advantage of by anyone with something to pay or barter to do so???

    The daguerrotype image of Emma Smith and baby David, born after Joseph’s martyrdom, lying asleep on her lap was taken in Nauvoo less than a year after Carthage–why all disbelief over the image of Joseph? These images of Emma are in the book by Buddy Youngreen “Reflections of Emma”.

    The photo taker ( I cannot recall the name, now, maybe I’ll go get the book before I post this) had come to Nauvoo in the year or less before the Martyrdom and the picture has been taken for use in the Presidential Campaign materials for the Prophet.

    This type of photo on the silver emulsion plates is one of the most accurate types of image possible–even today! Look up scriptures about refiner’s of silver and other references! It reflects about 95% of light shone on it and a refiner knows it is finished processing when you can see your countenance when you look at it;)–get it? You can see the wear/repair in the coat, differences in the dilation of the pupils due to light source angle, skin/facial details corresponding with effects of getting beat to pieces.

    The book goes into details of what B.H. Roberts calls “the blasphemous” exhumation of the priesthood dedicated graves of Emma Smith, Joseph Smith The Prophet and Hyrum Smith by the then called RLDS Church around 1920. Details of Emma’s dress matching descriptions of what she wore to be buried (of which I have personally seen bits of on display at the facility controlled by that group in Nauvoo, ILL) and how Joseph Smiths facial bones had really disintegrated likely due to his beatings, even compared to Hyrum–who had been shot right in the face at Carthage.

    The death mask is considered carefully. Remembering Joseph went head/face first out of the very high 2nd story window onto the ground in the midst of fiends –who didn’t just stand there looking at him– solved all the very slight conundrums of that one to my satisfaction.

    In closing–I absolutely hate the she-man image on the Joseph Smith manual we are now using in church. There is no way he looked like that in facial feature.

    Comment by Terri Dance — March 16, 2009 @ 12:08 pm

  21. This source has not gone unnoticed until now. I know that Patrick Bishop pointed it out to me sometime late last year (IIRC). If a daguerreotype of the three of them together exists it wouldn’t be very difficult to identify, though one wonders why other copies have not surfaced (they made copies by making daguerreotypes of a daguerreotype) as such an image surely would have been prized. And Ardis may be right: we have to find a time when all three could have been in front of a daguerreotypist, and it surely wasn’t Lucien Foster as his equipment was not in nauvoo before the martyrdom (I know a researcher who has found documentation to support this but he’ll have to be the one to share it, sorry). I also agree with Robin that nothing in the text forces us to assume it was one daguerreotype of the three men together. More on this JFS diary entry later.

    In the spirit of the this entry, I post the following from Eliza R. Snow, a poem written to Joseph Smith while he was in hiding in 1842:

    By Miss E.R. Snow.

    Sir, you’ve left us ‘your portrait’ that product of art–
    A small specimen neatly design’d–
    But ’tis only a picture, for where is the heart?
    And O, where that rich jewel, the mind?

    It is only a picture! for where is the speech,
    That most noble conductor of thought
    With which thou art gifted the nations to teach,
    And by which we desire to be taught?

    Sir, we look at ‘your portrait’ and see it enclos’d
    In its frame like a prisoner bound,
    And regret its original, thus is expos’d
    To the malice of men that surround!

    O, how strange, in this boasted, republican land,
    Where all claim to be happy and free;
    That a prophet of God is forbidden to stand,
    And is forced like a culprit to flee!

    ‘Tis a sad ‘restitution’! but all things must come–
    It was thus with the prophets of old:
    But when you are absent, and driv’n from your home
    Here’s ‘your portrait,’ your friends may behold.

    Nauvoo, August 20, 1842.

    I just wish she had used “daguerreotype” so there’d be no question. This may, however, refer to one of the little Maudsley “portraits”.

    Comment by Curtis Weber — March 16, 2009 @ 12:11 pm

  22. Addendum: Joseph Smith III stated his father never wore any right hand ring as shown in the painting, only his wedding ring on the left hand.

    Comment by Terri Dance — March 16, 2009 @ 12:16 pm

  23. Oh, here’s the reference for the Snow poem: The Wasp (Nauvoo, Illinois), 27 August 1842.

    Comment by Curtis Weber — March 16, 2009 @ 12:20 pm

  24. The photo taker ( I cannot recall the name, now, maybe I?ll go get the book before I post this) had come to Nauvoo in the year or less before the Martyrdom…

    I hope that his name isn’t Miller.

    Comment by Justin — March 16, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

  25. I believe he may be referring to Lucien R. Foster (see my comment above).

    Comment by Curtis Weber — March 16, 2009 @ 1:24 pm

  26. …and Ardis is proven prophetic.

    Comment by Ben — March 16, 2009 @ 1:37 pm

  27. 999 to go, Ben.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — March 16, 2009 @ 2:05 pm

  28. Good to see you blogging again, Stan.

    Comment by Christopher — March 16, 2009 @ 4:03 pm

  29. David, I don’t see it as a dual portrait, even after rereading the phrase. I could easily see JFS commenting that he owns “a hair locket of JSJ and BY” meaning one of each, and I think dageurrotype is likely to be similar in this case. He could also have pressed the likenesses together as one in some way. He wasn’t writing a museum artifact list, he was jotting in his journal about losts pictures of two men he esteemed a great deal.

    Comment by smb — March 16, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

  30. Sam, to be clear, I’m not arguing for a dual portrait. I was only saying that the suggestion isn’t ruled out by the text. I still favor my reading of one image rather than three, but I concede it’s vague.

    Comment by David G. — March 16, 2009 @ 7:03 pm

  31. oh…i forgot to mention…I also found the dag (that’s some new jargon for me) and made a photocopy but seem to have misplaced it.

    Comment by stan — March 16, 2009 @ 8:44 pm

  32. The Question of whether JFS is referring to one portrait or multiple portraits is a stretch. it seems clear it was one item but I agree with smb, it could be a compilation.
    On a tangent, a likeness of Wm Shakespear was just discovered in England, which is cool.

    Comment by PJ — March 19, 2009 @ 3:09 pm

  33. no, PJ, that turned out to be a dag of Oliver Cowdery.

    Comment by john f. — March 24, 2009 @ 8:34 am

  34. […] last year.  With this latest edition to the fold of false Josephs, I just may be losing hope, and Ardis may just be proving prophetic yet […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Daguerreotype of Joseph Smith Wearing The Urim and Thummim: Caution, This Will Disturb You — March 30, 2009 @ 11:27 pm


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