FAQ/Download the Daguerreotype

Who on earth is Joseph Smith?
Where can I find the LDS Church Web page?
What is the history of the photograph?
How can you be sure it's a photograph?
How can you be sure it's not a photograph of a picture portrait?
Why is the chin stronger in the photograph than in the death mask taken of Joseph Smith?
How can I get more information on the JSIII photograph?
How can I get a graphics file of the picture on your Web page?
How can I learn more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?


Joseph Smith was the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1830 in upstate New York. Despite Joseph's murder by a mob in 1844 and severe persecution and hardship in the Church's early days, the LDS Church has grown to more than 10 million members around the world. The Mormons were evicted from Illinois and Missouri, travelled across the plains to the Salt Flats of Utah, blazing a trail that was later followed by many pioneers. While in Utah and not yet a part of the U.S., Mormon communities were invaded by the U.S. army. Today, society recognizes many notable things about the LDS church. For example, the Book of Mormon is held in esteem by them along with the Holy Bible, strong family beliefs, Brigham Young University, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and well known members such the Osmond family, the Marriotts, and NFL Quarterback Steve Young.



In the 1840's photography was not considered a proper way to preserve the image of a loved one. Photography was a novelty, and not taken seriously. It did not hide the blemishes and scars the way a good painter did. For these reasons photos that might now be considered valuable were simply lost.

In 1843, in Navuoo, Illinois, the original daguerreotype photograph was made by Lucian Foster. Congress finally amended copyright laws in 1865 to allow for protection of photographs. In July of 1879, Joseph Smith III was awarded copyright #9810, for a photograph of his father, Joseph Smith Jr.

The details of this copyright were not clarified until 1993, when an amateur researcher found the copyright registration in public records at the Library of Congress. As part of the registration process, an 8" X 10" albumin copy of a 2" X 3" daguerreotype original was submitted by Joseph Smith III. It is still on file at the Library of Congress. This image, referred to as the JSIII photograph, is considered by many experts to be the only remaining photographic image of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. The location of the original daguerreotype is not known. It's doubtful that it still exists.



The JSIII photograph has been scrutinized by art history specialists at the University of Utah, an expert in early photography from the Smithsonian and others. All agree that this image of Joseph Smith is a retouched photograph; and not artistic, but photographic in it's origin.

There are many reasons behind this conclusion, some of them include:
1. Enlargments of the eyes reveal individual eyelashes and hints of blood vessels.
2. The coat button at the lower right has an out-of-focus, three dimensional and extremely realistic photographic quality to it.
3. An expert in clothing styles and textiles found the weave of the fabric in an enlargement of the area around the left collar and lapel. This weave accurately followed the directions appropriate to the different cuts of this style of clothing. Details of the weave of the fabric would be far to tedious for an artist to paint.



The JSIII photo had been dismissed as a photograph of a painting. Very similar is the likeness referred to by many as the "Majors" painting (the name "Majors" taken from the presumed artist). Computer experts have enhanced sections of the JS III image finding detail disproving the notion that it is a photo of the "Majors" painting. Details such as blood vessels in the eyes, and individual eyelashes are found. Details of button type, clothing style, and specific weave patterns in the jacket are beyond what would be produced by an painter of the time.

The "Majors" painting could not be what the photograph is of - it had to be a living man. The similarities between the two have been explained, according to art experts, by the understanding that the painting was most likely made as a copy of the 1843 daguerreotype.



A mold or mask was made of Joseph Smith's face shortly after his death 1844. A common practice of the time, masks were made of Napoleon and other important leaders. This mask has been considered to be the most accurate representation of his features. Measurements from it have been used to measure the accuracy of other images. Recent pathologic evidence shows that the death mask has flaws. Drawings of the skull exhumed in 1928 show evidence of facial fractures in the lower part of the face. These fractures appear to be along the "Le Forte" fracture lines, common fracture points of the skull.

This information is supported by testimony from witnesses of Smith's murder. They state that he fell, or jumped, from a second story window landing face first. One man claimed to have struck him in the face after he landed outside.

Maxillofacial surgeons state that these types of fractures cause an elongation of the face and a receding of the jaw line. Images based on the death mask hold those same inaccuracies. Those who knew "Brother Joseph" complain that the nose was too prominent and the line of the jaw too weak when viewing images based on the mask.

The fact that the death mask reflects these fractures should in no way detract from other ways in which it accurately displays details of the Smiths face. The prophet was beaten by mobs on occasion. Scars of this abuse are visible in both the photo and the mask: puffiness over the left eye, an unusual hair line, and a small scar just to the left of center above his upper lip.



More information is available to the interested reader. Inquiries are welcome. Send them to Jim Fugate



To get a copy of the JSIII photo in computer graphic file format, JUST CLICK

Download the graphic in .GIF format

Download the graphic in .PCX format

Download the graphic in .TIF format

Download the graphic in .BMP format

Download the graphic in .JPG format

Download the graphic in .RAS format

Download the graphic in .TGA format


HUNDREDS of great LDS Church-related links!