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.
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.