The First Selfies

Selfies are a phenomena in the age of the iPhone. Now that we can take, edit, and erase as many photos as we want without the bother and expense of buying film and having it developed, selfies are ubiquitous. One recent study published by Mashable estimated that the average person will take 25,000 selfies over their lifetime, and that 93 million selfies are taken worldwide every day.

At the turn of the century, selfies were not a fad. Besides the expense and practicality, people really cherished their privacy to an almost extreme degree. The less that was known generally about you, the better. Being a little mysterious was considered a fine quality! Certainly they didn’t like the idea of photographs of them being out there in the world. (I sympathize with the Victorians a lot about this. I know your driver’s license picture is necessary, but that seems like plenty to me!)

However, there were people as far back as the first half of the nineteenth century when photography was just becoming a real trend who were eager to try selfies. When the Brownie Box cameras came along, priced at one dollar, there were more than a few early adopters who tried it right away. One thing I notice is that most of these early adopters were pretty good-looking, which might explain their liking for selfies! Many of them also have lots of other pictures visible in their selfie, or were photographers themselves.

I collected some early selfies from across the Internet. Let’s take a look!

Australian Harold Cazneaux’s self-portrait in a mirror (1904)  From


Vintage selfie of a man in Gary, Indiana (1924) From


Edwardian Woman 1900


This next one features the rarest of creatures: a smiling Victorian!

Early 1900s Woman taking a smiling selfie in a mirror from


Antique mirror selfie from the late Victorian era


An English couple with a sort of selfie-stick – 1925 from


Photographer Florence Vandamm in 1947 from 


Paul Stang 1910 from


Australian military aviator Thomas Baker (c1917) Baker was a young pilot during WWI when he took this mirror selfie. He died in battle a year later. From


Undated photo from the Indiana historical society  


Russian photographer Alexei Kuznetsov’s self-portrait, using a mirror ball in a greenhouse (1885)


Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov 1914, age 13 From


Woman’s mirror self-portrait (c1900)


Robert Cornelius’ 1839. The first known selfie. Getty images.


Belgian painter Henri Evenepoel took this selfie in 1898. Picture: Henri Evenepoel from


2 thoughts on “The First Selfies

  1. I think the Romanov photo is especially haunting considering her aftermath. What is that blob that could be a person, ghost or some other item next to her?? Creepy!

    Liked by 1 person

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