Abraham Lincoln Invented Facebook?

A guy named Nick St. Pierre was browsing through the collection of the Lincoln Museum in Springfield, IL and stumbled across something Lincoln had created  in 1845 called the Springfield Gazette:

The whole Springfield Gazette was one sheet of paper, and it was all about Lincoln. Only him. Other people only came into the document in conjunction with how he experienced life at that moment. If you look at the Gazette picture above, you can see his portrait in the upper left-hand corner. See how the column of text under him is cut off on the left side? Stupid scanned picture, I know, ugh. But just to the left of his picture, and above that column of text, is a little box. And in that box you see three things: his name, his address, and his profession (attorney).

The first column underneath his picture contains a bunch of short blurbs about what’s going on in his life at the moment – work he recently did, some books the family bought, and the new games his boys made up. In the next three columns he shares a quote he likes, two poems, and a short story about the Pilgrim Fathers. I don’t know where he got them, but they’re obviously copied from somewhere. In the last three columns he tells the story of his day at the circus and tiny little story about his current life on the prairie.

Put all that together on one page and tell me what it looks like to you. Profile picture. Personal information. Status updates. Copied and shared material. A few longer posts. Looks like something we see every day, doesn’t it?

Lincoln even tried to get his idea patented:

Lincoln was requesting a patent for “The Gazette,” a system to “keep People aware of Others in the Town.” He laid out a plan where every town would have its own Gazette, named after the town itself. He listed the Springfield Gazette as his Visual Appendix, an example of the system he was talking about. Lincoln was proposing that each town build a centrally located collection of documents where “every Man may have his own page, where he might discuss his Family, his Work, and his Various Endeavors.”

He went on to propose that “each Man may decide if he shall make his page Available to the entire Town, or only to those with whom he has established Family or Friendship.” Evidently there was to be someone overseeing this collection of documents, and he would somehow know which pages anyone could look at, and which ones only certain people could see (it wasn’t quite clear in the application). Lincoln stated that these documents could be updated “at any time deemed Fit or Necessary,” so that anyone in town could know what was going on in their friends’ lives “without being Present in Body.”

That was it. Pretty much just a simple one-page overview of how his system would work. After we read it, we both sat there quiet for a long time. It was so obvious what this was, guys.

A patent request for Facebook, filed by Abraham Lincoln in 1845.

Hey Zuckerberg, you weren’t the first after all.

FILED UNDER: Open Forum, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. rodney dill says:

    I don’t see any mention of Farmville.

  2. Hey Norm says:

    Watch out for the Lincolnvoss Twins???

  3. mattb says:

    #PDShawbait… 😉

    I’m surprised he hasn’t posted yet…

  4. Tillman says:

    What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
    ~Ecclesiastes 9

  5. walt moffett says:

    in line with Tillman’s post, won’t the town crier, gossip monger and/or graffiti be prior art?

  6. PD Shaw says:

    I think Dan Rather’s grandfather is behind this hoax; the photo in the corner is from 1846 after he was elected to Congress.

    Lincoln did, however, invent sockpuppetry by writing fake letters to the newspapers with his fiance.

  7. @PD Shaw:

    Lincoln did, however, invent sockpuppetry by writing fake letters to the newspapers with his fiance.

    Actually, that was Benjamin Franklin (who wrote letters to his own newspaper under the name Silence Dogood).

  8. PD Shaw says:

    @Stormy Dragon: You may be right; but Lincoln was too busy fighting vampires, which is also why Franklin had more inventions than Lincoln.

  9. matt says:

    We got punked it was a hoax…