Way back on March 30, 1881, four emoticons, described as typographical art, were published in the satirical magazine titled Puck. They were dubbed “vertical emoticons” because they are intended to be viewed vertically, rather than horizontally. Here’s how they looked:
Victoria Woollaston of the Daily Mail says:
But, there is some suggestion that emoticons were used much earlier, even before the 1881 issue of Puck.
Reports claim Abraham Lincoln used a “winky face” in a 1862 speech. The transcript records the audience’s response to Mr Lincoln’s introduction as: “applause and laughter ;).”
But this is generally considered to be a typo.
Similarly, a Robert Herrick poem from 1648 appears to feature a smiley face after the words “smiling yet.”
In the second line of To Fortune, published in Hesperides, the poem reads: Tumble me down, and I will sit, Upon my ruins, (smiling yet:), Tear me to tatters, yet I’ll be patient in my necessity.’
This is also considered to be a typo, and its connection to the word “smiling” is said to be a coincidence.
Emoticons were the successor to emojis. The word emoji literally means “picture” (e) + “letter” (moji).
Source: Daily Mail