We tend to think that emojis are a new thing coming from Japan, but one of the earliest smilies was found in print in 17th century by a Slovakian Scientist. Is a circle with two dots for eyes really the earliest known emoji? India is staking a claim back 3,700 years to ancient pottery. If you ask me, it looks more like graffiti than an emoji.
More history of the Smiley on Wikipedia
Did Abraham Lincoln pioneer the emoticon? (I'll save you a click: No) Other historians [think] the semicolon alongside a closed parenthesis is either a mistake or a misinterpretation of something that is perfectly grammatical for that era. To make matters worse, it is a transcription, so why give Lincoln the credit for something the journalist wrote down! If anything, the journalist was using emoticons, not the President of the United States.