I'm here at TED2009, sitting next to Jennifer 8. Lee, a reporter and blogger for the New York Times. She showed me this image from an 1862 scan of a Lincoln speech that appears to contain an emoticon.
In the transcription of President Lincoln's speech, which added comments about applause and shouts from the audience was this line:
"… there is no precedent for your being here yourselves, (applause and laughter ;) and I offer, in justification of myself and you, that I have found nothing in the Constitution against."
Bryan Benilous, who works with historical newspapers at Proquest, said the team felt the ";)" after the word "laughter" was an emoticon, more than a century before emoticons became a widespread concept.
Could it be? Was this just a typo, a mistake, or was the reporter, transcriber or typesetter having a bit of sly fun?