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Recently discovered daguerreotype could be only verified photo of Joseph Smith

Jul 21, 2022, 6:11 PM | Updated: Jul 22, 2022, 5:10 pm
The image of a death mask of Joseph Smith Jr. (From the book "Joseph Smith Portraits")...
The image of a death mask of Joseph Smith Jr. (From the book "Joseph Smith Portraits")
(From the book "Joseph Smith Portraits")

SALT LAKE CITY — A locket passed down through the descendants of Joseph Smith may be a photograph of the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

News of the pocket watch locket was released Thursday by the John Whitmer Historical Association in PDF and paperback versions of its journal, edition 42.

“Smith family members and historians have long believed that a daguerreotype, or photograph, of Joseph Smith, Jr., was made before his June 27, 1844, assassination. That daguerreotype has now been found. Learn more in the JWHA Journal Spring/Summer 2022 issue,” the JWHA Facebook and website state.

The claim that it is Smith isn’t definitive however and there are no other known photographs of him to compare it with.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a state about the discovery:

“Every few years, potential donors bring artifacts to the Church History Library for review, including alleged photographs of the prophet Joseph Smith. Such artifacts are, of course, of great interest to the church. Though it was not mentioned specifically in the article, church historians, archivists and artifact experts were provided — by the item’s owner and the article’s authors — the opportunity to analyze the locket and photo and to review their findings prior to publication. We concur that the daguerreotype and locket were created of the materials and methods appropriate to the 1840s. However, as nothing is definitively known about the locket’s history before 1992, we cannot draw a conclusion about who is pictured in the daguerreotype. We welcome the recent publication of the image and hope it will prompt the discovery of additional information helpful to determining its authenticity.”

Smith’s death mask survives, and paintings and descriptions of him are widely available.

According to Deseret News, Daniel Larsen, Smith’s great-great grandson, inherited the photo from his mother before her death in 1992. But the small image was inside a a pocket watch with a bent release mechanism. He didn’t look at it again until 2020 when he managed to get it open. Inside, he discovered the photo.

“In my opinion, there’s absolutely no question that it’s Joseph,” Larsen told the Deseret News. “I looked at it and I looked at it and saw those eyes. I told my wife to come in and look at this. We looked at it and … almost at the same time said, ‘This is a photo of Joseph Smith.’ ”

Larson said he believes a Lucian Foster was taking portraits like this one in New York in 1844, moved to Nauvoo and lived in the Smith mansion house for two months before Smith was killed in June 1844. Joseph Smith III claimed Foster made a daguerreotype of his father.

 

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Recently discovered daguerreotype could be only verified photo of Joseph Smith