Is this Joseph Smith?

Apparently, there’s been a lot of speculation as to whether this photograph shows Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism. The Deseret Morning News is following the LDS church’s party line: we don’t know. However, it seems that, alas, the photograph isn’t Joseph, the Seer. Here’s historian Will Bagley’s take on it:

 “Smith recorded having his picture taken in 1844, but this ain’t it. Another problem with it is that the Daguerreotype has “Taken in 1854” scratched on the back. The guy’s clothing matches that date perfectly, while people didn’t dress like that in 1844. But the main problem is that Eborn Books is promoting Tracy’s book–and using the “anything goes” approach to selling it. My sources inside the church say they aren’t buying it (no matter what is implied in the KSL piece). Apparently the CoC church is fighting for its copyright and might sue people using it without authorization: I went to a website where I’d seen the picture and it said they had to take it down. I note that my friends who first showed me the picture at RLDS archives in about 1996 said they weren’t going to make any claims unless they could back them up, and they still haven’t.”

So, unless Joseph Smith miraculously reappeared alive in 1854 and looked much younger than 48 (his age in 1854 had he survived), this isn’t him.


11 Responses to Is this Joseph Smith?

  1. I believe that I have seen the daguerreotype of Joseph Smith that was taken in 1844. I also believe I know where it currently is. See the following post to learn more.

    Joseph Smith’s Daguerrotype – An Appeal for Help

  2. […] couple of days ago I stumbled upon a blog post entitled, Is this Joseph Smith?, which contains a quote by historian Will Bagley, who said, “Smith recorded having his picture […]

  3. […] the prophet than the first one, considering the death mask. Historian Will Bagley apparently notes that Joseph made mention of a photograph he had taken in 1844 (does anyone have the original […]

  4. David G. says:

    Where does that Bagley quote come from? The Deseret News article doesn’t have that.

  5. runtu says:

    It was posted on RfM a week or so ago. A poster there asked Will (who is also an occasional poster there) for his comments, and what I quoted was Will’s response.

    And I very much doubt that the Deseret News would cite RfM, much less visit the place. 🙂

  6. David G. says:

    Well, it would have been nice if you had identified where you were getting your quote from. And it also would have been nice for Bagley to tell us where he’s getting his 1844 source. No one else seems to know where it is.

  7. runtu says:

    RfM is the Recovery from Mormonism message board at

  8. runtu says:


    I’m sorry the citation was sketchy. Somewhere in my boxes (we just moved) I have Jessee’s “Personal Writings of Joseph Smith,” which I believe has the entry about Joseph sitting for a photo. I’ll try and find it.

  9. Here is the post on the RfM board that quoted Bagley’s emailed response.

  10. […] the prophet than the first one, considering the death mask. Historian Will Bagley apparently notes that Joseph made mention of a photograph he had taken in 1844 (does anyone have the original […]

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