Jennifer 8. Lee of the New York Times spent 1,523 words debating whether her paper used the very first emoticon in 1862 when it printed the text of an Abraham Lincoln speech.
True, a typesetter transcribing the speech did follow a semicolon with a parenthesis — the "wink" emoticon we all pretend to hate and secretly use in IM all the time ;) . And it did come in a parenthetical reference to the crowd's "applause and laughter" inserted by the transcriber. But Bryan Benilous, the researcher at ProQuest who noted the anomaly, admits that it's the only occurrence he saw in hundreds of similar, contemporaneous passages. If it were an intentional usage, meant to be read with its modern sense, wouldn't someone elsehave picked it up? Let us give the final word on the notion that emoticons have a 147-year-long history: :-p