William Woodruff or Yet Another Nauvoo Francis Grice Doppelganger?

From: Nelson B. Wadsworth, Through the Camera Eyes. Brigham Young University Press, 1975. p44.

Wilford Woodruff was in Nauvoo in the spring of 1844. He left on May 9th on a missionary and “Joseph Smith for President of the USA” campaign trip to the east and returned to Nauvoo on August 6th, 1844.

The upper daguerreotype is from the Francis Grice Collection at the Library of Congress. See: [Unidentified man, half-length portrait, facing front] (loc.gov) The lower daguerreotype, found on eBay in 2015, has been identified as Wilford Woodruff. Rare Original Photo of Wilford Woodruff Discovered on eBay – Church News and Events (churchofjesuschrist.org)

Wilford Woodruff’s life is well chronicled, thanks to his own pen and to the diligent scholarship of others. Among those scholars were the authors of “Images of Wilford Woodruff’s Life: A Photographic Journey,” who wrote: “[H]e left an incredibly detailed handwritten record, spanning over sixty years, of just about everything he did and experienced.”

Alexander L. Baugh, “Images of Wilford Woodruff’s Life: A Photographic Journey,” in Banner of the Gospel: Wilford Woodruff, ed. Alexander L. Baugh and Susan Easton Black (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010), 1–64.

Fifty years ago, Nelson Wadsworth wrote:

“The prophet, who was thirty-eight in 1844, did record that he “sat for a drawing of my profile to be placed on a lithograph of the map of the city of Nauvoo.” He also casually mentioned sitting for his portrait in oils but did not once record posing for a daguerreotype. Although he made no such entry in his history, there is strong circumstantial evidence that he was photographed, and that the photographer was Lucian Foster.
The omission of such an entry is understandable since these were trying days for Joseph Smith. Just when Foster photographed Smith is now a matter of sheer conjecture. The most likely time would have been around the state presidential convention which met in Nauvoo May 17, 1844, and nominated Smith for the presidency of the United States.”

Nelson Wadsworth, “Zion’s Cameramen: Early Photographers of Utah and the Mormons,” in Utah Historical Quarterly, Volume 40, Number 1, 1972, pages 28, 29.

Wadsworth’s 1972 conjecture on when Lucian Rose Foster captured an image of Joseph Smith, Jr., remains in play in 2022. Wadsworth was certain that the Daguerrean image existed. Wilford Woodruff, the Fourth President of the Church of Latter-Day Saints was thirty-seven years old when Joseph Smith was murdered in 1844. Woodruff’s doppelganger happened to be in Nauvoo. In 2022 nothing seems certain, which just might be the true state of all things past and present.

Is it just an odd coincidence that the First President of the Church of LDS and the Fourth had a Daguerreotype of his doppelganger made in Nauvoo in 1844 by F. Grice? Or was Francis Henry Grice Foster’s Daguerreotypist? Did “F. Grice’s” black skin force him to be a surrogate, albeit a brilliant and talented “stand-in”?

3 thoughts on “William Woodruff or Yet Another Nauvoo Francis Grice Doppelganger?

  1. On the subject of Doppelgangers, this may be of interest:


    The advertisement for L. R. Foster’s daguerrotype service is timely and intriguing. I wonder if there is a similar advertisement in Nauvoo’s “Times And Seasons” newspaper?

    BYU and the LDS appear to have accepted this attribution / identification as Wilford Woodruff, but has anyone used facial recognition software for a “second opinion”?

    Kudos to Brother Ron Fox for spotting this daguerreotype. The article refers to L. R. Foster as Brother Foster. Do we know that Foster was a Mormon?

    I have visited and overnighted in Nauvoo, and explored some of its intrigue and mystery. The Nauvoo Mansion referred to for Foster’s studio is, of course, the home of Joseph Smith, and also became, in effect, a B&B, and thus a location for Foster’s workshop.


  2. Hi Tom:
    Lucian Rose Foster was a Mormon – he was the head of the NYC group. He gave Joseph Smith a pencil case in Nauvoo (JS Letters). He was also a Mason, as was Francis Grice – Grice was active in a Black Masonic Lodge in California in the 1860’s. Grice has been said to have been a Mormon (Ruth Carter, for example) but I doubt it. He was a active member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in SLC and San Fran. Foster left the LDS group and went with the Strang contingent. see: Lucian R. Foster – Wikipedia. He had a Dag studio ad in the Hancock (County) Eagle in April 1846, presumably in Nauvoo. (Apparently, a microfilm copy of the short-lived Eagle exists per LOC). For some reason, Foster was in SLC in 1876, where he died. I have yet to find a single Dag that can be linked to Foster by physical evidence (like a debossed brass surround, etc.)

    Facial recognition on Dags is tough since finding an iron-clad proven image to c/w is often impossible. Death masks are problematic also. Some think the Hyrum and Joseph masks have been switched, for example.

    Thanks for the info!


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