Images of Jed

By Daryl Morrison

Holt-Atherton Department of
Special Collections
University of the Pacific Library
Archives Corner

jss_sketch_sepia1. Early drawing, ca. 1835. This portrait is the only known with any claim to authenticity. It is said to have been done from memory by a friend after Jed died, so noted above. A later artist, Ruth Senf Framberg, used it for the basis of her oil painting at the Friends of the Middle Border Gallery, Mitchell, South Dakota. Both appear in The Pacific Historian, vol. 11, no. 2, Spring, 1967.

The most frequent request asked of the Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections is to supply a photograph of Jedediah Strong Smith. Those who understand the history of photography and the early demise of Jedediah Smith know that a photograph of the stalwart mountain man is an impossibility. The 32 year old veteran mountain man died on the Cimarron on May 27, 1831, when he was attacked by Comanche Indians. Although early experiments in photochemistry and the camera obscura were centuries old, the invention date of photography is considered to be 1839. This was the year two principal inventors of the art, Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre in France and Fox Talbot in Great Britain, made their techniques known to the public. Daguerre introduced his photographic technique using a silver-coated copper plate and the resulting photographs were named after him— the daguerreotype. Yankee ingenuity embraced the technique very quickly and the very first American daguerreotype was made in 1839. Samuel B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph, was one of the first to bring daguerreotype technology to America. [Floyd and Marion Rinhart, The American Daguerreotype, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1981.]


2. Sketch of Jed Smith escaping from the Mojaves on his return to California in 1827. The artist did this sketch for Colonel Frank Triplett’s Conquering the Wilderness; new pictorial history of the life and times of the pioneer heroes and heroines of America. Engravings from designs by Nast, Darley, and other eminent artists, added a modish moustache of the 1880s. Pacific Historian, vol. 20, no. 2, Spring 1976.

The photographic studios were operational on the East Coast in cities like New York as early as 1840-41. They were viable businesses by 1843-44. Daguerreotypes quickly replaced the miniature painted portraits. St. Louis, the bustling fur-trade center and jumping-off-place for the western frontier, developed quickly in a boom city economy. Photography probably reached St. Louis about 1843, four years after the birth of photography, and still twelve years after Jedediah Smith’s death. American heroes such as Davie Crockett and Jim Bowie are other major historical figures that were never documented by photography due to their early demise at the Alamo. [Conversation with John McWilliams, photograph collector and dealer, Stockton, October 1998.]

jedbyremington3. Smith and men in the Mojave Desert in 1826, as imaginatively painted, ca. 1905 by Remington.
The Pacific Historian vol. 10, no. 1,
Winter 1966.

jed-badlands4. Harvey Dunn, Jedediah Smith in the Badlands, appeared on the cover of Together magazine, June 1960; as the cover of The Pacific Historian vol. 15,  no. 3, Fall 1971; and the dust jacket of the American Heritage History of the Great West. Original painting is a large canvas on display at South Dakota State College, Brookings, SD.

jed-by-prechtel5. Don Prechtel, The Real Discovery of South Pass, Wyoming (Jed Smith and fellow hunter James Clyman), original oil painting. Creswell, Oregon, ca. 1975. A photograph of the painting appeared in The Pacific Historian vol. 20, no. 2, Spring 1976. Original painting -Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library.

Without a photograph of Jedediah Smith, what images can we offer researchers looking for illustrations of Jedediah? There are photographs of his brothers and sisters.  Photographs of three brothers, Peter, Ira, and Benjamin, and three sisters, Sally, Betsy, and Eunice are to be found in the Smith Bacon Family Papers. One can speculate on the similarities or differences so surprisingly evident one way or the other in families. We leave it to the researcher to ponder if Jedediah’s brothers’ images resemble Jedediah Smith (of course the siblings are much older in years than Jed’s young adulthood).

6. Photographs of Peter and Benjamin  Smith, may bear a reasonable likeness of Jedediah Smith.

A sketch identified by author Maurice Sullivan who had access to family papers is said to be a picture of Jedediah Smith “made by a friend  from memory, after Smith’s death.” The sketch appeared in Sullivan’s The Travels of Jedediah Smith, a documentary outline (Santa Ana, CA The Fine Arts Press, 1934). It is this sketch (see below) that  has been used by several artists to develop their own inventive images of Smith in modern paintings and sketches rendered by artists imagining how Jedediah Smith might have appeared. Several of these have been given over the years to the archives at the University of the Pacific or appeared in The Pacific Historian.

jed-by-mathias7. George Mathis’ pastel portrait of Jedediah Strong Smith, ca. 1970, appeared in the The Pacific Historian, Vol. 17, no. 3, Fall 1973. Original- Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library.


Photos Currently Unavailable:
Of the 14 children of Jedediah Smith, Sr. and Sally Strong, there are six with photographs (in their later years) in the collection. The following copies of photographs are in MSS 20 Smith Bacon Family Papers in the Holt-Atherton Department of Special Collections. Sally Smith (b. 1791), Betsy Smith Davis (b. 1796), Eunice Smith Beers (b. 1797), Peter Smith (b. 1810), Ira Gilbert Smith ( b. 1811) with his daughter Libbie, (Benjamin G.) Paddock Smith (b. 1812)

More Images of Jedediah Strong Smith

Entitled “A Welcome Sight”
Sculpted by Victor Issa, dedicated 21 November 1992. Located at City Hall, W. Bonita Ave., San Dimas CA Sponsored by San Dimas Festival of Western Arts, San Dimas Chamber of Commerce, Jedediah Smith Society and many local donors.

Model of “A Welcome Sight”
Victor Issa, Loveland Colorado, Pedestal by Gordon Martin, Located in Holt Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific




Artist, George S. Stuart creates three-dimensional quarter life-size sculptures in his Ojai, California, studio. More than four hundred historiOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAcal figures are grouped by region, period, or special collection. He has captured the essence of some of history’s most famous and infamous personalities. For over fifty years Mr. Stuart has developed and presented informative, entertaining monologs about the personages and their times depicted in these authentic caricatures. His figures have been exhibited in the Smithsonian and private collections. Mr. Stuart presents monologs several times each month at the Ventura County Museum. Additional information and detail on the construction of these figures may be found on


OAS (Online Archive of California)

There are three collections and have a link to the OAS (Online Archive of California) site that actually show what’s in each individual collections.

“Register of the Jedediah Smith Society Collection, 1943 – ”

“Register of the Smith/Bacon Family Collection, 1821-1947”

Register of the Maurice S. Sullivan Papers on Jed Smith

Items belonging to Jed

Jedediah Smith’s Holster Pistol
Early percussion lock, not converted from flint, @ 50 caliber, single shot, Cap and Ball, 15 ½ inches long, 9 ½ inch octagonal barrel, muzzle load.
Recovered from Comanche Indians by Mexican traders after Smith had been killed.

Now lost, having been stolen in San Diego 1961. San Diego Historical Society in 1975 transferred title to JSS for the missing piece and the holsters.

Jedediah’s Shaving Case with Mirror
Donated by great grand nephew Julian Smith Bacon, Jr. to Society Archives March 23, 1974. Holt Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific.

Jedediah S. Smith
Original signature appeared on the bond document posted in 1827, Monterey, California.
Courtesy Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, Missouri.

Logos in his Honor

jedround-copyLAPEL PIN
Jedediah Smith in the Rocky Mountains
Design based on sculpted medal panel by Laura Gardin for a door at the Library, West Point Military Academy, New York. Prepared and presented by Robert Bussman, Past President JSS in memory of his father.

jed-seal-jpgSOCIETY SEAL
Jedediah Smith West of South Pass
Official corporate seal designed by graphic artist Irene Steiner, Soler Graphics – Hillsborough, California from drawing by Jose Cisneros artist, commissioned and donated by James Shebl, PhD, Past President JSS.

Theodosia Benjamin beaverBEAVER Logo
Drawing by Theodosia Benjamin.


beaver-blkEAGER BEAVER
Logo on Eager Beaver Plaque.
Beaver gnawing a tree created by Charter Member Theodosia Benjamin.