A prime objective of observational astrophysics is to characterize the earliest sources in the first Gyr of the universe, by directly observing the cosmic times when the first stars, black holes, and galaxies formed. Quasars are among the most luminous sources known and can be studied in detail even during the earliest cosmic epochs. I will present my search for these distant quasars, highlighting the key role played by Carnegie facilities. This effort has tripled the number of quasars known within the first Gyr after the Big Bang (at redshifts z>6), and resulted in the discovery of the highest redshift quasar known to date. I will review the diverse range of physical properties of these quasars, their host galaxies, and their environments including follow-up studies from X-rays to radio wavelengths. I will also talk about the future direction for distant quasar searches, the role of quasars in the understanding of cosmic reionization, and discuss the potential for future studies with JWST and the next generation of 30m-class telescopes.