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The First Photograph (1826)
Taken in 1826 or 1827 by French photography pioneer Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, this view from the window of a Burgundy, France estate is the oldest surviving, permanent photograph in existence.
Using a unique process known as heliography, Niépce set his camera to an eight-hour exposure over a pewter plate coated with asphalt. He then wiped away the areas of the asphalt not hardened by sunlight to reveal a primitive photograph.Joseph Nicéphore Niépce/Wikimedia Commons
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The First African-American To Play Major League Baseball (1884)
On May 1, 1884 — 63 years before Jackie Robinson's debut — Moses Fleetwood Walker became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball. He played just 42 games for the Toledo Blue Stockings before suffering an injury and returning to the minor leagues for the rest of his career.
What's more, five years before Walker's debut, a man named William Edward White played exactly one game for the Providence Grays, perhaps making him the first African-American to play in the major leagues. However, with very spotty historical records suggesting that White was perhaps the son of a white planter and a mixed race mother, White's claim to be first remains significantly contested.National Baseball Hall of Fame/Wikimedia Commons
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The First Text Message (1992)
On December 3, 1992, 22-year-old British engineer Neil Papworth, part of a team working on developing SMS for Vodafone, sent the world's first text message to Vodafone executive Richard Jarvis. It read "Merry Christmas."
By 2000, each American was still only sending about 35 text messages per month. And it wouldn't be until 2007 that texting would surpass calling in popularity across the U.S.Neil Papworth
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The First Color Photograph (1861)
Kodak wouldn't introduce color film to the masses until 1935, but color photography had actually been around since 1861.
That year, Thomas Sutton and James Clerk Maxwell collaborated on what's now widely accepted to be the world's first color photograph (pictured), depicting a classic Scottish tartan ribbon of red, white, and green.
They created the image by photographing the same ribbon three times with three different filters (red, green, and blue-violet), then superimposing the three together, in a process whose basic three-color method underscores all color imaging to this day.James Clerk Maxwell/Wikimedia Commons
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The First Cell Phone (1973)
On April 3, 1973, Motorola employee Martin Cooper (pictured, in 2011, holding a replica of his original cell phone) made the first mobile phone call in history, connecting with Bell Labs in New Jersey while standing on Sixth Avenue in New York (he doesn't remember exactly what he said).
But most of the world wouldn't become aware of what Cooper and his team had done until much later. In the words of The Atlantic, "it would take another decade for the DynaTAC to reach consumers and two more decades for cell phones to overtake land lines in worldwide usage."Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for The Webby Awards
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The First Selfie (1839)
While the first usage of the word "selfie" uncovered by Oxford Dictionaries didn't occur until 2002, the world's first known photographic self-portrait was taken long before. In 1839, amateur chemist and photography enthusiast Robert Cornelius snapped the world's first selfie inside his family's store in Philadelphia.
Without the luxury of being able to simply push a button for immediate results, Cornelius had to remove the camera's lens cap, run into frame, and hold his pose for a full minute in order to come away with this image.Robert Cornelius/Library of Congress
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The First Email (1971)
In 1973 — a full 16 years before "You've got mail" and a solid two decades before email became common outside of government, military, and university settings — American programmer Ray Tomlinson (pictured, in 2009) pioneered and implemented the world's first email system, right down to the name and address format we still use today.
Just don't ask him what that historic first email said. "The test messages were entirely forgettable," he later told The New York Times, "and I have, therefore, forgotten them."
MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP/Getty Images
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The First Transatlantic Flight (1919)
The first pilot to make a nonstop flight across the Atlantic was Charles Lindbergh, right? Wrong. Lindbergh was in fact the 19th pilot to do so (although the first to do so solo).
Eight years before Lindbergh's flight, British aviators John Alcock (on ground) and Arthur Brown (in plane) made the first transatlantic flight, taking off from St. John's, Newfoundland on June 14, 1919 and landing in Clifton, Ireland the following day.Wikimedia Commons
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The First Vending Machine (Circa First Century A.D.)
Sometime all the way back in the first century A.D., Hero of Alexandria created the world's first vending machine using a coin and lever system not unlike the one used in early modern vending machines until the advent of all-electronic models.
The purpose of Hero's machine? To distribute controlled amounts of holy water at temples, because people had been taking more holy water than they'd been paying for.Wellcome Images/Wikimedia Commons
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The First Digital Still Camera (1975)
It may have weighed eight pounds and taken 0.01 megapixel black-and-white photos that took 23 seconds to render onto a cassette tape that then displayed the image on a television set, but this Kodak model did indeed become the world's first digital camera in 1975.
While the exact date is all but impossible to pin down, reports generally indicate that digital wouldn't overtake film for another quarter century.Kodak via burnick/Flickr
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The First African-American Governor Of A U.S. State (1872)
Although he went on to serve for just 36 days, P.B.S. Pinchback became the first African-American (born to a freed slave mother and a white planter father) governor of a U.S. state on December 9, 1872.
Following a career as a Louisiana state senator and then lieutenant governor, Pinchback assumed office as acting governor while Governor Henry Clay Warmoth battled impeachment charges for election tampering.
There wouldn't be another African-American governor in the U.S. until 1990.Library of Congress
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The First Internet System (1969)
As the pioneer of both packet switching technology and the internet protocol suite upon which today's internet rests, ARPANET is the clear forerunner of the communications network used around the world today.
Launched as a U.S. Department of Defense project in 1969, ARPANET was of course rudimentary by today's standards but could indeed link computer networks across the country to share data and transmit messages, including emails...
Pictured: A chart of the computer networks linked by ARPANET in 1973.ARPANET/Wikimedia Commons
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The First Female U.S. Presidential Candidate (1872)
Suffragette and women's rights advocate Victoria Woodhull barely lived long enough to see American women finally get the right to vote in 1920. But all the way back in 1872, she made her mark as the first female presidential candidate in U.S. history.
Although her candidacy was marked by controversy — including an arrest days before the election for publishing an "obscene" newspaper report on the adultery of prominent minister Henry Ward Beecher — Woodhull had nevertheless made history.
Only three other women would run for president over the next 80 years.Harvard Art Museum/Fogg Museum, Historical Photographs and Special Visual Collections Department, Fine Arts Library via Wikimedia Commons
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The First Automobile (1808)
People like Henry Ford (whose famed Model T debuted in 1908) and Karl Benz (whose 1885 Benz Patent Motorcar is sometimes cited as the first automobile) get more ink. But the man who invented the first automobile powered by an internal combustion engine (the same basic kind still used today) was France's François Isaac de Rivaz — in 1808.
The vehicle (patent reproduction pictured), however, used hydrogen and oxygen for power, not gasoline, and was not commercially successful. Even still, German inventor Siegfried Marcus built a vehicle with an internal combustion engine that was powered by gasoline in 1864, well before Benz and all that followed.François Isaac de Rivaz/Wikimedia Commons
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The First Domain Name Registered (1985)
Today, there are more than 300 million domain names registered worldwide. But on March 15, 1985, there was just one: symbolics.com.
The online presence of a now defunct, Massachusetts-based computer manufacturer (early merchandise pictured), it was in fact the only registered domain for another six weeks. Over the next few years, more and more technology companies would register their own domains, bringing the total still only to mere dozens.Marcin Wichary/Flickr
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The First American Casualties Of The Vietnam War (1959)
Although it would be another five years before the Gulf of Tonkin incident truly brought the U.S. into the Vietnam War — and a few more years after that before the war dominated the American press and political consciousness — the first two American casualties of the war actually came in 1959.
U.S. Army Maj. Dale Buis (right) and Master Sgt. Chester Ovnand (left) died in an ambush near Saigon on July 8, 1959.
TIME magazine gave the incident just three paragraphs, with the author later saying, "It was a minor incident in a faraway place. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that these two guys would be the first in a memorial to 50,000-some others."U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden/U.S. Army via Wikimedia Commons
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The First HIV Cases (Circa 1884-1924)
Scholars debate the date of the world's first HIV/AIDS cases, but research reported in National Geographic states that the virus first hit humans sometime between 1884 and 1924 in several sub-Saharan African countries, especially the Belgian Congo (pictured, in 1884; now the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
It wouldn't be until the 1950s and 1960s that the first Westerners contracted documented cases, and it wouldn't be until the 1980s that HIV and AIDS became a worldwide health concern.Henry Morton Stanley/Wikimedia Commons
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The First Hologram (1963)
Working from blueprints drawn up by Hungarian-British scientist Dennis Gabor in 1947, University of Michigan researchers Emmett Leith and Juris Upatnieks were able to actually produce holograms in 1963.
The train pictured here, created in April 1964, represents some of their earliest efforts in this far-ahead-of-its-time field.
On November 7, 1916, Montana Republican Jeannette Rankin became the first woman to win a spot in the U.S. Congress (and the first American woman to be elected to national office at all).
As a pacifist and a women's rights advocate, Rankin hit the ground running in the House of Representatives as a vocal opponent of U.S. involvement in World War I in 1917 and a vocal proponent of granting women the unrestricted right to vote -- which they of course didn't even have when Rankin was elected and wouldn't have until 1920.Library of Congress
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The First Artificial Refrigeration (1748)
Although refrigerators as we more or less know them today didn't enter the home until the 20th century, Scottish scientist William Cullen actually invented and demonstrated the basis of modern refrigeration in Glasgow all the way back in 1748.
Cullen was able to boil diethyl ether in a way that absorbed heat from a given space to cool it down so much that he could even create ice. However, the process wasn't quite practical enough to bring to market and thus the attention of the world. University of Glasgow/Wikimedia Commons
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The First Personal Computer (1957)
Pinning down what was the first computer is tricky, but choosing history's first personal computer -- a machine meant and sized for one person and operated by a keyboard -- is a little easier.
Completed in 1957, the IBM Auto-Point Computer is that model. Used primarily by military and government entities for mass data calculations, the computer sold for the equivalent of about $470,000 today.IBM
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The First Female Governor Of A U.S. State (1925)
After her husband, Governor William Ross of Wyoming, died in 1924, Nellie Tayloe Ross won the special election held to find his successor. She had been nominated by the local Democratic Party and had refused to campaign, but still won easily, taking office in January 1925.
Over the next half century, only three other female governors would follow in Ross' footsteps.Library of Congress
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The First All-Electronic Television (1927-1929)
On September 7, 1927, 21-year-old American inventor Philo Farnsworth successfully tested what he called his "image dissector" to transmit televised images at his lab in San Francisco. Almost a year later to the day, he demonstrated his electronic television to the press. And, finally, the following year, he removed the device's motor generator to make the first fully-functional, all-electronic television set.
Now, the history of the television's invention is a complicated, contentious tale filled with many competing inventors and the many historians who would go on to claim that one pioneer deserved more credit than another. However, Farnsworth's developments of 1927 through 1929 are widely recognized as the critical turning point.
By 1950, America's 150 million people still only owned between 5 and 10 million television sets.Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress
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The First Video Game Console (1972)
Five years before the first Atari and 13 years before the first Nintendo, the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey stands as history's first home video game console.
With no sound and no color, it was positively primitive by today's standards, but nevertheless retailed for the modern equivalent of more than $550.
Among its 28 games were Hockey, Roulette, the Old West-themed Shootout!, and Table Tennis, a ping pong game that would go on to inspire Atari's far more widely-known Pong, which debuted for home use three years later.Wikimedia Commons
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The First African-American U.S. Congressman (1870)
In 1870 -- just five years after the end of the Civil War and 95 years before the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would finally give African-Americans some honest enfranchisement -- North Carolina's Hiram Rhodes Revels became the United States' first African-American senator. Although he served for just one year, he fought for a host of causes including civil rights and moderate Reconstruction.
Over the next 97 years, the United States would see just one other African-American senator.Library of Congress
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The First Female U.S. Medical School Graduate (1849)
When Elizabeth Blackwell sought to attend medical school in the 1840s, the idea of a woman doing so was foreign enough that she recalls people telling her to disguise herself as a man.
When she was accepted to New York's Geneva Medical College in 1847 (after the school's 150 male students unanimously voted to accept her, reportedly believing that the vote was a joke), she faced a chilly reaction.
One classmate remembered of her first day, "A hush fell on the class as if each member had been stricken with paralysis. A death-like stillness prevailed during the lecture, and only the newly arrived student took notes."
Despite such adversity, Blackwell graduated in January 1849.Joseph Stanley Kozlowski/Upstate Medical University via Wikimedia Commons
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The First Magazine (1731)
Most of today's oldest magazines that are still in print started in the latter half of the 19th century, including Harper's (1850), The Atlantic (1857), and The Nation (1865). However, London's The Gentlemen's Magazine started printing more than a century earlier — and itself ran for nearly 200 years.
Covering everything from current affairs to economics to poetry, the magazine featured contributions from luminaries like Jonathan Swift and Samuel Johnson.
Pictured: The cover of the very first issue of The Gentlemen's Magazine, published in January 1731.Wikimedia Commons
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The First A.T.M. (1967)
While a few automated bank machines had been rolled out even earlier, the world's first true A.T.M. debuted at a Barclay's branch in London on June 27, 1967 (pictured, with actor Reg Varney making the ceremonial first withdrawal).
However, these machines wouldn't become legitimately commonplace until at least 1990, when the world still only had no more than five percent of the A.T.M.s it has today, according to the Credit Union Times. Wikimedia
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The First Toilet Paper (Circa Sixth Century A.D.)
The exact date of toilet paper's invention will never be known, but many historians trace its origins back to 6th century China, when people first began referring to its use in writing.
However, most Westerners would proceed to use everything from hay, book pages, lace, wool, or their own hands for centuries, until 1857, when American inventor Joseph Gayetty commercialized the product as we more or less know it today.Terry Johnston/Flickr
Momentous Historical Firsts That Happened Way Before Most People Think They Did
Charles Lindbergh was rather handsome. Strikingly tall, bedecked in classic leather pilot's cap and goggles, "Lucky Lindy" could sit in the cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis and look every bit the part of the romantic hero of aviation's so-called golden age.
When The New York Times ran its front-page story on the completion of Lindbergh's historic transatlantic flight on May 21, 1927, the newspaper described his landing with breathless grandiloquence:
"Those first to arrive at the plane had a picture that will live in their minds for the rest of their lives. His cap off, his famous locks falling in disarray around his eyes, 'Lucky Lindy' sat peering out over the rim of the little cockpit of his machine."
Yet nowhere did The New York Times mention — nor did many of those who idolized Lindy in the coming decades seem to realize — that Charles Lindbergh was not the first pilot to fly nonstop across the Atlantic, nor by some technicality the second or third, but instead the 19th.
Almost exactly eight years before Lindbergh's flight, British pilots John Alcock and Arthur Brown completed what was truly the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic, from Newfoundland to Ireland.
Lindbergh's distinction was that he was the first pilot to make the flight solo -- a qualifier some of us care to remember today, but one many of us surely don't.
And it is an important qualifier, but not important enough to explain why, today, no one (at least in America) remembers Alcock and Brown while everyone remembers Lindbergh.
Of course, some of the biggest reasons that we remember Lindbergh and not Alcock and Brown are that Lindbergh was handsome, that he looked great in flight gear, that he was an American man who'd quickly risen from underdog obscurity to fly from New York to Paris (not Newfoundland to Ireland) at the height of American Jazz Age affluence and glamour — that his story, not necessarily his actual accomplishment, was a better one.
And thus so many of us seem to remember Lindbergh's transatlantic flight as the first. Even National Geographic, writing as recently as 2013, made that very error over the course of an entire article before appending a correction at a later time.
All of this tells us something about how our collective memory, if not the history books themselves, choose to mark history's most famous "firsts." Time and again, we'll go with the better story regardless of its accuracy.
Sometimes, this means that some of history's most famous firsts actually occurred long before we realize they did. It may also mean that a first was so far ahead of its time that we all but refuse to believe that it could have occurred so long ago.
This is how we end up remembering Jackie Robinson as the first African-American in Major League Baseball — and not the man who played just 42 unremarkable games in one season for a smaller team all the way back in 1884.
Or how we find it nearly impossible to process the fact (if we've ever even heard it) that color photography was invented in 1861 — 78 years before The Wizard of Oz and some 90 years before our imagination of history itself stopped existing solely in black and white.
See more famous firsts that happened long before you thought they did in the gallery above.
Next, discover six famous inventors who don't actually deserve credit for their most noteworthy invention. Then, read up on eight overlooked women inventors responsible for some of history's greatest innovations — whether most of us realize it or not.