Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn (top left in the photo) was the first documented public figure photographed “giving the finger.”
Nicknamed “Old Hoss”, Radbourn was a pitcher who played 12 seasons in Major League Baseball. A butcher by trade, Radbourn made his MLB debut in 1880 with the Buffalo Bisons. He then played for the Providence Grays (1881–1885), Boston Beaneaters (1886–1889), Boston Red Stockings (1890) and Cincinnati Reds (1891). Baseball was not his only claim to fame. In a 1886 photograph of the Boston Beaneaters (Radbourn was their pitcher) and their rivals, the New York Giants, Radbourn was photographed extending his middle finger to the camera, the earliest known photograph of a public figure using this gesture.
Also of interest: Radbourn and “Charley Horse”
Information and Photographs via 19th Century Baseball