Thursday, April 8, 2010

My 1839 Hunk – Robert Cornelius

Robert Cornelius, age 30, Philadelphia 1839

The photo above is of Robert Cornelius, taken in 1839.

Yes, 1839. One hundred and seventy one years ago.

That might not be a big deal to you, but you have to remember most of the “old timey” photographs you are probably familiar with viewing are from the late 1800’s. And this photo (above) is probably the first successful photograph, rather self-portrait ever taken! Amazing!

What’s even more amazing is how attractive Mr. Cornelius is (hubba hubba). For some reason when I think of the “olden days”, attractiveness isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. I think of Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and other stately looking or Puritan type of people, not people who could grace the covers of People Magazine. Seriously, look at him. That straight out of bed hair, those dark penetrating eyes, those full lips…

Now, I know standards of beauty change over time, but Robert is pretty stunning. In my mind, I want to call him Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice fans know what I mean). Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way, The Virtual Victorian wrote:
This photograph was made 171 years ago, and yet Robert Cornelius looks as contemporary and 'immediate' as any young man you might happen to pass on the streets today. He might be in a fashion publicity shot, or some moody modern musician. But, the most poignant thing is that what you see is a real man - a man you could reach out and almost touch, a man you could talk to, or even desire.
Yes, he is a real man. A man who at the age of 30 decided to utilize his knowledge of chemicals to see if he could enhance the production of daguerreotypes. So he went outside his family’s store at 8th Street (between Market and Chestnut) in Philadelphia and “snapped” a photo of himself. He went on to experiment and eventually developed a process to accelerate the photographic process. He also went on to open the second photographic studio in America! What can’t this man do? He even dabbled in ventriloquism.

This photo is from 1843, but sadly it’s covering his face.

Well Mr. Cornelius continued to work in the world of photography until he grew bored or the market became too saturated (researchers are not quite sure) and returned to his family’s gas and lighting company (did I mention, he was a rather wealthy fellow). He lived a long life and eventually died at the age of 84 in 1893.



  1. He is handsome.. I thought so as well! Hauntingly so!

  2. Imagine his 1839 teeth, when he cracked a smile... And his pre-20th century hot showers body odor... But yes, he was quite a handsome fellow. Common sense says that there must have been many such, throughout history.

  3. This is the post that brought me to your blog and now I'm one of your "followers"! In some ways, this inspired me to take up blogging again because you said all the things about this studly 19th century guy that I wish I could be saying to the interweb! I salute your taste in dead hotties and maybe we can be internet friends :)

  4. @The Sanity Inspector Yeah, you're right of course there were beautiful people throughout history... but the thing is we don't have photographs of them, only descriptions.

    @Rebecca yes we can be internet friends! I already follow your blog! Email me any time.

  5. Oh God yes! The magnetism. Hubba hubba indeed.

  6. I fell in love with this photo the first time I saw it. It is haunting the way he looks at the camera. I wish photography could have been discovered sooner. Think of all the amazing faces we will never see.

  7. The father of selfies....if he'd only known what he was starting. I guess if you're gorgeous you can't help but snap one of yourself. I wouldn't know but here's a toast to all you beautiful folk out there.


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