1839: The First Selfie in History

Shadow-Catcher: 1839

Philadelphia, November 1839. “Robert Cornelius, self-portrait facing front, arms crossed. Inscription on backing: The first light-picture ever taken. 1839.” One of the first photographs made in the United States, this quarter-plate daguerreotype, taken in the yard of the Cornelius family’s lamp-making business in Philadelphia, is said to be the earliest photographic portrait of a person. View full size.  Source: Shorpy:

Comment at site: dickhaul said…
There’s more to this story.

Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph, was a well-known American portrait artist in the early 19th century. He learned of the photographic method used by Louis Daguerre and went to see M. Daguerre in Paris in 1838 to study his process. Daguerre was famous for his Parisian street scenes, but the exposure time for the photos was too long to be practical for photos of people. Upon his return to the states, Morse hired Robert Cornelius, a chemist, to discover the chemicals for a faster exposure time.

In 1839, Cornelius built his own camera then stood in front of the camera long enough for the exposure. That same year, Morse developed the first single-wire telegraph and tested it successfully; he then obtained a grant from Congress for a public demonstration, when the famous words “What hath God wrought” were sent.
Morse subsequently went into business with a partner producing and selling miniature photographs of human subjects.


Telegraphy may be long gone, but Morse invented portrait photograph.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s