This was the first-ever "selfie," taken in 1839

Illustration for article titled This was the first-ever "selfie," taken in 1839

It didn't have the cringe-inducing moniker to go with it, but the first recorded photographic self-portrait was taken in 1839 by chemist and metallurgist Robert Cornelius—and it's one of the earliest human photographic portraits as well.


In fact, according to the Library of Congress, Cornelius' self-portrait is believed to be the earliest extant American portrait photo. Cornelius posed for the daguerreotype in the yard of his family's lighting store, at a time when the long exposure time for photographs made humans a relatively impractical subject. Although Cornelius is now credited as a photography pioneer, he became more involved in gas and lighting, the family business, in later years, receiving patents on devices that allowed cheap animal fat to be burned in fine lamps and for lighting gas lamps with electric sparks, among others.

The back of this particular photograph reads, “The first light Picture ever taken. 1839.”

Robert Cornelius’ self-portrait: The First Ever “Selfie” (1839) [The Public Domain Review via Neatorama]


Stephan Zielinski

This looks darkroomed. I can tell from some of the grains and from seeing quite a few rooms in my time.