These trailblazers took selfies before selfies were a thing

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Robert Cornelius made photography history with the first known self-portrait taken in 1839.
Robert Cornelius made photography history with the first known self-portrait taken in 1839.
Photo: Library of Congress

There was no selfie stick, no hashtags and no sharing with his BFF. In fact, when Robert Cornelius took his historic selfie, he sat still as a stone for 15 minutes, then watched the photo slowly appear on a silver-plated sheet of copper as he breathed in dangerous mercury fumes.

That was instant gratification in 1839.

Cornelius, using a wooden box fitted with an opera glass, likely deserves credit for taking the world’s first selfie. He didn’t make the picture out of vanity, but as an experiment to test a silver-plating method for the daguerreotype photographic process, which had been introduced worldwide just three months before Cornelius’ self-portrait.

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Photo: Polar Motion
Photo: Polar Motion