The Library of Congress recently acquired a collection of photographic materials and other effects belonging to Robert Cornelius, whose 1839 daguerreotype self-portrait (below), dubbed America’s first selfie, is the world’s oldest surviving portrait.
The belongings were donated by Cornelius’ great-great granddaughter Sarah Bodine, who found them in her attic in New Jersey during a move. They include a daguerreotype made in Cornelius’ studio, portraits of his children and other family members made by other daguerreotypists, experimental lenses, and a valentine to his wife, Harriet, as well as the eulogy he wrote for her in 1884.
To make America’s first selfie, Cornelius would have had to remain motionless in front of the camera for 10 to 15 minutes, according to the Library of Congress. The lens of his makeshift camera was repurposed opera glass.
Amanda Arnold is a senior editor.
Tags: portrait photography