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Joseph Smith's Vest/1840s Clothing Styles

When I got my little Carte de Visite in the mail, I knew I had a large assignment of work ahead of me. If this was a photograph of Joseph Smith, he would NOT be wearing clothing from the 1860s, or 50s, but of the early 1840s (he died in June 1844). Authenticating an old image starts with studying the clothing that person is wearing in your image, to date it. My guy had a popped down collar, all of Joseph Smith's paintings seem to show a popped up collar, and he had a bowtie. The BEST evidence that calmed my nerves, was images of Abraham Lincoln, who was in politics in the 1840s, and had his picture taken many times, through to his death in 1865; and to be honest... this was the scariest step, I put this off, about a week. In he oldest picture of Lincoln, claimed to be about 1846- he IS wearing a popped down collar, high up on his neck, with a thick scarf of some kind, covering almost the whole of his neck- just like in my little Carte de Visite. Later decades, the collars dropped down the neck, lower by the 1850s, and get drastically thicker in the 1860s (when my CDV was printed, copying either a metal daguerreotype, or tin, per renowned expert, Gawain Weaver's March 2020 analysis). 

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1882 sketch of Joseph Smith wearing a stripped vest, note: oval shape

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I got into a days long discussion with a Church Historian, about popped down collars, having already researched clothing styles of the 1840s, he eventually admitted they were happening in Joseph's time, but initially tried to say it was only an 1850s style... it wasn't, simple as that, seen above it was shown in a daguerreotype from the year 1840, seen above.


Joseph is seen with a popped up collar in almost all artwork (generally from 1842), however, I believe his candidacy for Presidency (starting in January 1844) warranted some to make sure he had the latest fashion. I found a lot of evidence my CDV showed a man wearing clothes consistent with the 1840s, using mostly images that I found on the Library of Congress' reputable website, seen below. First I am showing Nathaniel Ruggles Childs and Albert Childs, dated in the year 1842 (two years before Joseph died). 

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Joseph Smith Jr.'s Popped Down Collar

If the above was not convincing enough, to prove to you that Joseph Smith could have worn a popped down collar, visit the Pioneer Memorial Museum, in SLC, and you will find that he OWNED a popped down collar- which is currently still on display. (permission was granted to use my own photography on my website). Notice the detail above and in my CDV, and in the collar shown below, often the 1840s collars were too small, as in they hardly met in the middle, and the scarf was used as a means to keep it in place, but in the 1860s, when my CDV was printed- the collars were BIG and met in the middle. 


Joseph's Watch Fob

One item I overlooked to analyze was a watch fob, mention in a 1984 Ensign Magazine article, "From the Prophet's Life: A Photo Essay". As there seem to be many items on the man's lapel, in my Illinois Man's photograph, that I thought something darker, but also glaring, on his left, was part of his tie, being dragged down, but inspiration to reread this article made my mind open to the possibility of it actually being the watch fob. The more I compared, in photoshop, changing the opacity of the watch fob, below, to the side of this dark but shiny object, which measures 2″ x 1 1/2″ and is "framed with beaded gold trim".

Watch Fob with low opacity, hovering above the dark rectangular object

Watch fob overlaid to the length of the dark shiny object, dimensions match.

The object's length can be compared when sized and place next to Illinois Man's nose.

Joseph's Brocade Vest

The Pioneer Memorial Museum, mentioned above, also has a vest, a striped, brocade vest, with intricate stitching of flowers and U shapes, snake looking designs, that I can see hints of in my CDV. Below is my crappy photographs, also courtesy of the Pioneer Memorial Museum, permission to use on this site, as it's my own photograph, but better images exist in archives and in an 1984 ENSIGN magazine. 

If you don't mind the glare from the glass, and reflections of my camera's lanyard, you see similar shapes in my brocade vest and the vest the man is wearing in my CDV. Allegedly this was given to Melissa Lott, by Emma Smith- herself. 

ushapeonvest of JSjr.JPG


I am struck with amazement with all of the above, but even the unexpected things, finding evidence of Joseph Smith wearing a large bowtie in the well known 1842, David Roger's painting; although they are different shades and width, the white one in the painting is so large and wide- that it's tucked into his vest, whereas in my CDV, this silk looking scarf (soft and floppy- if not silk), is smaller in my CDV- BOTH are bow-ties, that are not some stiff, starched large bow-tie Abraham Lincoln wore in his 1850s picture, but is soft enough to be wrapped around his neck many times, before being tied into a bowtie. 


The Lapel

The lapel, on the jacket, seen in my CDV shows a split tone, with a darker upper. Sutcliffe Maudsley's work, "The Martyrs", shows a similar jacket- with the darker upper lapel, completely open jacket; not only is this jacket seen in Maudsley's work... it's seen in David Roger's painting of Joseph Smith Jr., as well. 

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