A History of the Selfie – What is National Selfie Day?

A History of the Selfie - What is National Selfie Day?

What is National Selfie Day?

From Snapchat to Twitter, the biggest trend these days is grabbing the perfect selfie! Everyone from the Kardashian clan to your grandparents seems up on the best Instagram-worthy angles, camera lighting, and filters to look absolutely perfect in the big, wide world of social media.

June 21st is National Selfie Day, and, just in time for the undoubtedly worldwide celebration of pics and hashtags that will ensue, here is a brief history of a few of the “firsts” for society’s new favorite pastime!

Where it All Began

The first use of the term “selfie” seems go to back to 2002 when an Australian man posted a photo of his lip in a public forum, asking for advice about the stitches he received after a late night of, ahem, “socializing” at the pub.

But did you know that the concept of the selfie has actually been around since the 1800’s? In October of 1839, a young man from Philadelphia named Robert Cornelius unknowingly made pop culture history.

Cornelius used a “camera” that was rigged from a box and the lens from an opera glass. On that fateful day, he set up his “magic box” and ran in front of it as soon as he took the cover off the lens, sitting for a couple minutes before running back to re-cover the lens. The resulting print of his face and tousled hair can now be found in the Library of Congress, complete with Cornelius’ handwritten note on the back: “The first light picture ever taken.”

Cornelius would go on to open one of the United States’ first photographic studios, but later went back to work at the family’s lamp shop because…well… #CashNeeded.

The Roaring Twenties

By 1925, America’s economy was booming as the Roaring Twenties raged across the country.  Wyoming elected the first female governor in the U.S., the first issue of the New Yorker was published, and a Jewish immigrant named Anatol Josepho invented the photo booth. For just a quarter, you could get 8 photos. In September of that year, he opened the Photomaton Studio near Times Square in New York City.

The masses were enthralled. According to the New York Times,

“Almost since the studio was opened last September crowds have stood in line to put the quarter in the machine and take a strip of eight sepia photos of themselves.”

Josepho later got married, moved to Los Angeles, became friends with Humorist Will Rogers, and donated hundreds of acres to the Boy Scouts to build a camp that still exists today, featuring filmmaking and robotics programs for youth….and he did it all before the ability to post the humble-brag news to Instagram or Twitter!

And while social media technology wasn’t yet feeding America’s thirst for anything new and different, another new technology was: the possibilities for Space Travel! In 1966, the Gemini 12 Mission brought astronaut Buzz Aldrin to outer space where he spent 5 hours outside of the spacecraft AND grabbed the very first space selfie.

Selfies Today

Today, selfies are everywhere, from publicity stunts at the Academy Awards to research in academia, not to mention the Facebook walls and Twitter feeds of our favorite celebrities and of our friends and neighbors. One 2015 study posed the idea that our selfies can say a lot about our character and personality. And a 2018 report even solidified what we’ve all suspected for years: yes, our noses really do look bigger in selfies because of the camera angling.

So, with all this interest in the art of the selfie, it’s no wonder that June 21st has been dubbed “National Selfie Day” since 2014.

How do you plan to celebrate this year? Maybe snap an I-woke-up-like-this pic that makes everyone question your integrity…or maybe you want to show off your perfect duck face pose?

But undoubtedly the best idea? Take one of our Sporcle quizzes about selfies and brag about it on social media with the hashtag “#nationalselfieday.” However you decide to commemorate the day, have fun, and don’t forget to snap a picture!

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