Transcript: #Pixburgh: Early Selfies [VIDEO]

Lauren Uhl, Curator, #Pixburgh, Heinz History Center

One of the interesting things that Leslie and I learned when we were doing some research for #Pixburgh was that selfies are not new. One of the earliest selfies that we have in our collection dates from 1882, and it’s a charming picture of Thomas and Frederick Gretton.

Thomas Gretton was a recent college graduate and he and his family came to Pittsburgh in 1882 and landed on the South Side. The day after they arrive in town, Thomas, Frederick, and his father all get jobs immediately at J&L Steel. They take their picture in the mirror, and this becomes a time-honored way of people taking their selfies before the advent of cellphones.

Another scientist who takes an early selfie is James Benny, who’s a civil engineer. He gets one of the first Kodak cameras in Pittsburgh. They come out in 1889 and they are revolutionary.

The Kodak is a small, lightweight box that comes loaded with film – enough to take 100 shots. They’re characteristic because they have a round image instead of the usual rectangular ones that we’re familiar with now.

James Benny gave us a great time capsule of Pittsburgh in the year 1889, including his selfie.