32 vintage selfies you probably have never seen

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Vintage selfie history

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

It’s easy to forget that selfies — self-portrait photos — have a long history. (And no, Gen Y and other smartphone users definitely didn’t invent the concept.)

Just as painted self-portraits probably existed since pigments and paints were first created, selfies have been around as long as there have been cameras. 

These vintage selfies, some of which date back to the 1800s, prove that the desire to capture our own images has been around for quite some time.

As time progressed, cameras got smaller, more user-friendly and affordable, and it became simpler for anyone to take a selfie (particularly with a little help from a mirror).

Here, take a look back at more than 30 of the coolest vintage selfies from all around the world — all made by people who certainly didn’t need a filter to make their pictures look retro.

The first selfie photo known to exist: Robert Cornelius (1839)

The first known selfie was created when American photography pioneer Robert Cornelius created a daguerreotype of himself way back at the dawn of photography in 1839. 

Far from being a quick point and shoot, he had to uncover the camera, jump into place, then hold his pose for around five minutes. 

The first selfie photo known to exist - Robert Cornelius (1839) at ClickAmericana com


M.V. Lobethal’s daguerreotype selfie (1846)

M V Lobethal daguerreotype selfie (1846) at ClickAmericana com


An antique teen selfie (1852)

British chemist Sir William Henry Perkin took this photo of himself at age 14

Antique teen selfie by Sir William Henry Perkin FRS (1852)


Globe reflection in Glen’s Falls New York (1870s)

Antique selfie - Globe reflection in Glen's Falls New York (1870s) at ClickAmericana com


Seneca Ray Stoddard, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Larry J. West — c. 1870 Self-portrait

Seneca Ray Stoddard self-portrait - Antique selfie (c1870)


Vintage selfie by San Francisco photographer Isaiah W. Taber (1885)

Taber was a famous photographer in old San Francisco 

Vintage selfie by San Francisco photographer Isaiah W Taber (1885) at ClickAmericana_com


A mirrored sphere vintage selfie (c1885)

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

Kuznetsov greenhouse mirrored sphere vintage selfie (c1885) at ClickAmericana com


German photo studio team in an old group selfie

Picture from the Kodak Collection at the National Media Museum (1890)

German photo studio team selfie - The Kodak Collection at the National Media Museum (1890) at ClickAmericana com


Antique “self-photo” of Henri Evenepoel (1898)

Antique self-photo of Henri Evenepoel (1898) at ClickAmericana com


Early selfie – Unidentified woman taking her own photograph using a mirror and a box camera (roughly 1900s)

Early selfie - Unidentified woman taking her own photograph using a mirror and a box camera, roughly 1900 at ClickAmericana com


Vintage 1900s woman taking a smiling selfie in a mirror 

ALSO SEE: Sweet antique baby portraits: 24 cute cabinet card photos of baby boys & girls in the 1800s

Vintage woman taking a selfie in a mirror - 1900s at ClickAmericana com


Antique mirror selfie of two men c1900s

Antique mirror selfie - Two men c1900s at ClickAmericana com


Woman’s mirror self-portrait (c1900)

Woman self-portrait mirror selfie (c1900) at ClickAmericana com


Old self-portrait of a woman with a big camera on a tripod (c1900)

ALSO SEE: The romance of antique photos: Looking back at images of the 19th century

Vintage selfie - Old self-portrait of a woman with a big camera on a tripod (c1900) at ClickAmericana com


Antique mirror selfie from the late Victorian era

Antique mirror selfie - Late Victorian era at ClickAmericana com


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

Antique Harold Cazneaux self-portrait in a mirror (1904) - Australia at ClickAmericana com


Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov’s selfie (1914)

Another one of the earliest teen selfies in history was created by the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia in 1914.

The youngest daughter of the ill-fated Romanov family took this simple picture of herself in front of a mirror, apparently to send to a friend.

Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov selfie (1910s) at ClickAmericana com


Self-portrait of 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.

Self portrait of Australian military aviator Thomas Baker (c1917) at ClickAmericana com


Paul Stang: Self-portrait in Norway (c1910)

Paul Stang was a self-taught Norwegian photographer who took a selfie against a beautiful Nordic backdrop.

Paul Stang - Self-portrait in Norway (c1910) at ClickAmericana_com


Is this the first group selfie ever?

Photographer Joseph Byron & his NYC photo studio team — known especially for their pictures of stage celebrities — went on the roof of their Manhattan building to take a series of selfies back in 1920. (See more from this day below.)

NYC photographers - Group selfie from 1920 at ClickAmericana com


Taking the photo above

From a different angle, here’s a shot from the photo session shown above of these men making vintage selfie history!

Caption on the picture below reads: “The way the photograph was made on the roof of the Marceau Studio, Fifth Ave, opposite St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dec. 1920.”

NYC Vintage group selfie behind the scenes (1920) at ClickAmericana com


NY Photographer Joseph Byron’s vintage self-portrait photo (1920)

One more snap from the same day as the two pictures above — this time the boss took his solo selfie.

NY Photographer Joseph Byron's vintage self-portrait photo (1920) at ClickAmericana com


A young woman with a hat took this old mirror selfie photo (c1920s)

DON’T MISS: How Kodak Brownie cameras made snapshot photography affordable for millions

Unknown woman mirror selfie photo c1920s


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

Vintage selfie - Man in Gary Indiana (1924)


Two boys taking a mirror self-portrait (c1930)

Two boys mirror self-portrait - (c1930) at ClickAmericana com


Young Frank Sinatra’s mirror selfie from 1938

ALSO FROM THE 1930s: See Dorothea Lange’s iconic Migrant Mother photos from the Great Depression

Vintage Frank Sinatra mirror selfie from 1938 at ClickAmericana com


Polish photojournalist Julia Pirotte selfie (1930)

Polish photojournalist Julia Pirotte vintage selfie (1930) at ClickAmericana com


Woman taking a vintage mirror selfie photo (1938)

This photo of Mattie B‘s grandmother was taken with a camera that survived into the 21st century.

ALSO SEE: Vintage instant cameras from Polaroid & Kodak: OneStep, Pronto, Colorburst & more

Woman taking a mirror selfie (1938) at ClickAmericana com


Vintage selfie of a woman from 1942

Credit Foto Fortepan — Orosz Helena

Vintage selfie of a woman from 1942 - Credit FOTO FORTEPAN - Orosz Helena at ClickAmericana com


Vivian Maier reflected in a shop window self-portrait (1950s)

Vintage selfie - Vivian Maier reflected in a shop window self-portrait (1950s) at ClickAmericana com



Colin Powell selfie circa 1954

The former Secretary of State/retired four-star general took this mirror portrait when he was around 17 years old.

MORE: Vintage flashcubes: How these old camera add-ons worked & made pictures brighter

Vintage Colin Powell selfie c1954 at ClickAmericana com


Buzz Aldrin’s famous spacewalk selfie (1966)

During his first stand-up spacewalk on Nov. 12, 1966, Buzz Aldrin photographed landmarks on Earth.

While doing so, he set his camera on the edge of the hatch, pointing it in his direction. He then took what he now describes as “the first space selfie.” (Credit: NASA/Buzz Aldrin)

ALSO SEE: To the moon! 20 newspaper headlines from the Apollo 11 launch on July 16, 1969

Vintage famous Buzz Aldrin spacewalk selfie from Nov 12 1966 Buzz Aldrin-NASA at ClickAmericana com


Even a crow took a selfie back in 1912

The Crow’s self-photograph — A photograph of a crow by himself

“Mr. H.R. Caret invented a device by which a crow took a photograph of himself when we pecked the bait, which was connected with a string that operated the shutter of the camera.”

Vintage crow selfie from 1912 at ClickAmericana com

ALSO SEE: Vintage Instamatic cameras: Flash back to the boxy, iconic cameras that pretty much everyone had in the ’60s & ’70s

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