Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Attention K-Mart Shoppers: Original Joseph Smith Photographs, Aisle Five

Attention K-Mart Shoppers: Original Joseph Smith Photographs, Aisle Five

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 11, 2011

It’s been a while since we’ve had a good ol’ sighting of Joseph Smith in a photograph “identified” on the “strength” of a superficial resemblance to some painting or sketch, supported by an unhealthy dose of wishful thinking. For a flock of past sightings and some discussion of why such identifications are utterly unreliable, see here and here and here and here.

There’s another such “identification” on a current eBay listing, described as follows:

This is an ESTATE FIND, 1/6th plate Ambrotype photo, purported to be of Founder of the Mormon Religion, Joseph Smith. I have not been able to confirm the photographer, or the subject, but it bears a striking resemblance to the paintings and drawings of the early LDS Church Founder.

A hopeful eBayer had the good sense to temper his hopefulness before it turned into gullibility, by asking for an opinion from experienced New York Mormon documents dealer Rick Grunder. Rick [purportedly] sent this response:

Thanks for the link to the eBay item. You ask, “Is it truly an ambrotype of Joseph Smith?”

Yes. You can tell for sure that it is Joseph Smith in several different ways:

1) The guy is wearing old fashioned clothes.

2) The guy has a weird hairdo like Joseph Smith.

3) The guy has a big nose like Joseph Smith.

What particularly excites me is that this is an ambrotype, a kind of photograph which first came into use in the 1850s. This proves our theory that Joseph Smith was not really killed in 1844, but lived on, underwent plastic surgery (by Dr. John C. Bennett) and later became Brigham Young.

Rick Grunder



  1. Love it!

    Comment by Tiffany — September 11, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

  2. Whether Rick wrote that or not, it’s hilarious! LOL.

    Comment by Tevya — September 11, 2011 @ 8:05 pm

  3. .


    Comment by Th. — September 11, 2011 @ 8:10 pm

  4. What’s the bidding up to now on e-bay?

    Comment by Steve C. — September 11, 2011 @ 8:28 pm

  5. 😉 😉 😉 Thanks.

    Comment by Stephen M (ethesis) — September 11, 2011 @ 8:30 pm

  6. I dunno. I see a striking resemblance to Martin Short’s as Ed Grimely.

    Comment by Grant — September 11, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

  7. Awesome.

    Comment by Ben Park — September 11, 2011 @ 8:42 pm

  8. Why purportedly? He himself emailed both of us indicating that this is how he responded to the inquiry.

    Also, don’t forget this gem from the Juvenile Instructor:

    Daguerreotype of Joseph Smith Wearing The Urim and Thummim: Caution, This Will Disturb You

    Comment by Jared T. — September 11, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

  9. I know he did, Jared, but I’m not entirely sure he actually sent such a flippant note — it’s the kind of thing I would type up for my own amusement and for friends but not actually send to a client. If Rick really truly did send it, my hat’s off to him in every way.

    Yes, that JI post was a gem. Keepa readers should also have a link to your review of the Tracy book, too.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 11, 2011 @ 9:28 pm

  10. Re Keepa’s Sept. 9 post “and later became Brigham Young.”

    The hair style does lend a certain cetacean outline to the photo’s subject.

    Comment by Steve — September 12, 2011 @ 8:03 am

  11. Hilarious — thanks! (And thanks, Rick.)

    Comment by David Y. — September 12, 2011 @ 9:20 am

  12. The response made me laugh out loud.

    Comment by The Other Clark — September 12, 2011 @ 11:22 am

  13. Made my day.

    Comment by J. Stapley — September 12, 2011 @ 11:22 am

  14. I always wonder about “striking resemblances”. Is this one called that because they make you want to strike someone repeatedly, reading aloud the Rick Grunder reply?

    Just classic.

    Comment by kevinf — September 12, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

  15. This reminds me of the line from James Thurber’s re-telling of “Little Red Riding Hood”:

    . . . even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge.

    I guess he wrote that before Louis Mayer joined those other guys.

    Comment by Mark B. — September 12, 2011 @ 3:32 pm