Paris Hilton Said She Invented the Selfie. We Set Out to Find the Truth.

Paris Hilton Said She Invented the Selfie. We Set Out to Find the Truth.

He pointed toward Robert Cornelius, who in 1839 took a picture that has been cited as the first selfie. But Cornelius ran into the frame. Could it be argued that a selfie must be taken using a hand-held camera?

Sadly for Ms. Hilton, there is a photo of several gentlemen holding up a box camera in the familiar selfie position in 1920.

Even selfie sticks preceded Ms. Hilton by decades, Mr. Marino said. In a 1934 photo, Helmer and Naemi Larsson, a Swedish couple, appear to be using an actual stick to press the button on a camera above them.


Is this 2006 picture the first selfie ever? No, it’s not.

Paris Hilton, via Twitter

Not great news for the heiress. But maybe she’d argue that real selfies have to include celebrities. If so, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, Madonna and others got there first.

Well, could a selfie have existed before the term existed? “Selfie” came into popular usage only in 2002, about four years before Ms. Hilton and Ms. Spears posed for the pictures. Mr. Marino and I were getting closer!

Still, try as we might, we could not come up with a way to prove Ms. Hilton right.

“Could it be that they felt that there had never been a selfie quite like this before?” Mr. Marino mused. “She’s not being ahistorical — she’s saying ‘we’ did something with selfies that had not to that moment been done?”

“But yeah, it’s hard for me to tell what that is,” he said.

In conclusion, Paris Hilton did not invent the selfie. Her publicist did not answer questions about whether her tweet was serious. Ms. Spears’s publicist did not respond, either.

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