Rare Historical Photos From The Past
Can you imagine Madonna during her college days at the University of Michigan? How about legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix as a paratrooper in the US army? Or even the super-spooky haunted house that inspired the Blair Witch Project? We’ve compiled some of the most incredible photos from history in just one article for your viewing pleasure, so if you want to hear the surreal backstories and see these mind-blowing photos for yourself, scroll on through!
Tree Pruning in the Late 1800s
This jaw-dropping image shows seven brave (or mad!) men pruning a tree in the late 1800s. While “tree pruning” sounds like a fairly safe past-time in the twenty-first century, this photo proves that it wasn’t always as straightforward as getting out the garden shears and having a go! Tree pruning was also called “pollarding,” and occurred throughout Europe in the nineteenth century to keep trees healthy and to ensure that they didn't get too big.
The word comes from the name “poll,” which is the old name for the top of the head! “To poll” was to cut the hair, which is why pruning trees was, and is sometimes still, known as “pollarding.” We can count seven men up this tree! Would you have gotten up there? We’re not sure that you’d find us volunteering for this job!
Steelworker on Site of the Empire State Building Construction
Have you ever thought about how the Empire State Building was built? In the 1930s, at the time of construction, steelworkers, and builders risked their lives to get the enormous New York landmark completed. In this picture, taken by renowned Empire State Building photographer Lewis Hine, a rather grouchy looking fellow sits hundreds of meters above the city on the half-finished structure.
The enormous project took thousands of brave workers - up to 3,439 on one day in August 1930! The building got so high that they had to set up cafeterias halfway up to prevent builders and steelworkers having to come all the way back down for lunch. Incredibly, only five workers died during the building of this impressive structure. The more you know!
A Father is Presented with His Newborn Triplets in New York
Seventeen years after the construction of the Empire State building, this man became a new father to triplets - but we're not sure that he's so impressed! The technology we have in the twenty-first century means that parents often know both the sex of their child before it is born and the number of children they’re having. However, this wasn’t a luxury that people enjoyed in 1946. Of course, in the contemporary era, many parents would have been ecstatic to be expecting twins!
In 1940s New York, however, the country had just recovered from the Great Depression. Having to support three newborns would certainly have been a shock, especially if you were only expecting one! The rest of the hospital crew look pretty happy, though - don't you think? We're glad someone is pleased with the sight of this absolute bundle of joy.
A Father Looks for Work During the Great Depression
The 2008 Global Financial Crisis may be the most recent financial crisis in living memory, but most readers will know that this was not the first time that the world was hit by a recession. In 1929, the stock market crashed, which had a significant impact on America and many other countries besides. Enormous numbers of people lost their jobs, and by 1933, unemployment in the United States had reached 25%.
This image shows us just how difficult life was for families in 1930s America. People were impoverished, and their spirits were downtrodden, but they did what they could with what they had. Perhaps this father of three might have a few tips for the man in the previous photo! We can only hope that he eventually found himself a good job.
A 17-year-old Dr. Juliane Koepcke After 10 Days in the Amazon Jungle
Juliane Koepcke is the daughter of an ornithologist and a biologist. She managed to survive just over a week in the Amazon on her own thanks to her survivalist skills and ingenuity. What was a seventeen-year-old doing in the jungle alone, you ask? Koepcke was flying from Lima to visit family on Christmas eve in 1971 when her plane was struck by lightning in a freak accident!
The teenager is reported to have fallen through the trees, still strapped into her plane seat, and woke up on the forest floor with minimal injuries. She found candy from the crash, which sustained her for the ten days she was lost and walked downstream until she found a fishing boat. Incredibly, Koepcke didn’t want to steal the boat, so slept there overnight until she was discovered the next day and flown to a hospital. A truly miraculous tale!
A 90-year-old Czech Grandma Paints Village Murals
Anežka Kašpárková, a 90-year-old Czech grandma, is known for painting incredible floral murals in ultramarine blue around the village of Louka where she lives. The artistic practice is taken up by others across Europe, with the village of Zalipie in Poland being particularly famous for its beautifully painted houses. A new place to add to the bucket list, for sure!
Kašpárková used to be a farmer and began painting the beautiful motifs she saw in her mind on buildings after retiring. Despite her wonderful talent, the Czech grandmother remains humble, explaining: “I’m just doing what I like. I try to help decorate the world a bit. I am not an artist. I just do what I like.” It’s hard for her to get up ladders as she grows older, but she makes sure she tried to repaint her gorgeous motif work on the village chapel each spring.
Madonna Before She Was Madonna
Before every superstar was famous, they were, of course, just normal people with normal lives - even Madonna wasn't always a celebrity! In this photo, she poses for the camera at age eighteen at the University of Michigan. The iconic popstar studied dance there but dropped out in 1978 to move to New York with only $35 in her pocket.
In New York, Madonna was a Dunkin’ Donuts waitress and took classes at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. She joined a rock band called The Breakfast Club, where she sang as well as playing guitar and drums. It wasn’t until 1982, six years after this photo was taken, that she released her debut single as Madonna!
D-Day on the Beaches of Normandy
Have you ever heard someone use the phrase “D-Day?” Many readers will know that it denotes a significant day in history: June 6th, 1944, to be exact. This image depicts the Allied troops storming the beaches of the French coast. They began planning the assault an entire year out from landing at Normandy, and the battle took two months. D-Day is particularly salient because it marks a turning point in the second world war; the beginning of the end for Hitler.
Codenamed “Operation Neptune,” this enormous amphibious operation is one of the largest in military history. The Germans lost somewhere between 4000 to 9000 men on D-Day, and the allies, made up of British, American and Canadian troops, had at least 10,000 casualties on the first day of landing at Normandy. A truly momentous historic moment.
The Real Charlie Brown & Friends in the 1960s
Do you remember the heartwarming and hilarious cartoon series, “Peanuts?” These four children just so happen to be some of the voices behind our favorite characters. Charles Schultz, the creator of the Peanuts series, was very keen for the children in the animated comic to have actual children’s voices to add to the authenticity of the show.
Cathy Steinberg, who voiced the character of Sally Brown, was only four years old when she was asked to be involved with the franchise. Funnily enough, this child actor just so happened to be the next-door-neighbor of producer Lee Mendelson! Other voice actors were sourced in a similar way: Todd Barbee voiced Charlie Brown, and was the son of Chuck Barbee, Mendelson’s director of photography!
Jonathan, the Oldest Tortoise in the World
Both of these images depict the world’s oldest living terrestrial animal on the planet! His name is Jonathan, and he was born in 1832, which makes him a whopping 187 years old today. The picture on the left shows the enormous Seychelles giant tortoise in 1902, and the one on the right shows Jonathan in 2017. Naturally, we're already obsessed.
Jonathan lives on an island called Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean at the governor’s house. The magnificent tortoise is commemorated on the island’s five pence piece and has a few other friends at the governor’s house, including Emily and Frederika, the latter of whom was thought to be female, but was discovered to be male in 2017. Go figure!
Queen Elizabeth as a 14-year-old Princess
Do you remember Queen Elizabeth as a teenager? It nearly has to be seen to be believed, as it feels like she’s been the Queen of England forever! Our Queen Lizzie was once Princess Lizzie, the firstborn child of the Duke and Duchess of York, who was to become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, now known colloquially as the Queen mother. This image was taken in 1940 when the young royal was only 14.
Her birthday is April 21st, 1926 (which makes her a Taurus, in case anyone was curious!), and she was born at 2:40 in the morning. In the year this photograph was taken, Elizabeth addressed children who had been evacuated because of the Second World War on the BBC radio Children’s Hour program. She said: "We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers, and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end, all will be well."
King George V & Friends Pulled in a Carriage Alongside a Beggar
George Frederick Ernest Albert, or King George V, lived to the ripe old age of 71, and from this photo, it doesn’t look like he was much into charity! He was King of England for only 26 years, but somehow during his reign, he lived through communism, socialism, Irish republicanism, fascism, and the Indian independence movement. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t quite make it to Queen Elizabeth II’s age - the old King must have really seen some things!
In this image, he and his friends ride alongside a beggar while they are pulled by horse and carriage. It looks to be taken around the turn of the century, in the late 1800s or early 1900s. We can’t help but feel sorry for the poor fellow running alongside the King, as life was a lot tougher back in the day!
World’s Oldest Tree in California “Forest of Ancients!”
How old do you think this tree is? 500 years? 600 years? Guess again - it was planted in 2833 BC, before the pyramids were built, making it 4,851 years old. This tree is older than Queen Elizabeth, older than the battle of Normandy, older than King George V. It’s even older than classical Greece! The tree is nicknamed “Methuselah” and is a bristlecone pine tree located in Eastern California.
It was said that an older tree existed, however, the scientist who discovered it passed away, and no one else has managed to locate it since. The tree lives among many other super-old trees in the “Forest of Ancients” and is named after Methuselah, who is a religious figure in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. He was said to be the oldest man in the Bible and lived to the ripe age of 969. A bit longer than Queen Elizabeth II then!
Jean Bugatti with a Bugatti Royale in 1932
In this colorized image, Ettore Bugatti’s eldest son Jean Bugatti stands next to one of the largest, oldest, and rarest luxury cars in existence. The Bugatti Royale, or the Bugatti Type 41, was designed and built to be sold as a hyper-fancy luxury car for royalty. Unfortunately, the cars were only produced from 1927 to 1933. If you remember some of the earlier images, the Great Depression hit in 1929, which meant that it was probably the worst time he could have possibly chosen to sell a luxury car. Even if it was meant for royalty!
At 6.4 meters long and just over 3 tonnes in weight, this car is over 20% longer and 25% heavier than the Rolls Royce Phantom, which is known for its size and weight. Because there wasn’t much of a market for the Bugatti Type 41, only seven of these cars were ever made, and only six remain. As you might expect, this makes these cars extremely rare, being valued today at around $16 million each!
“Socks,” The First Cat of the United States
There aren’t many cats that are so famous they have paparazzi following them, but this Arkansas-born tuxedo cat just so happens to be one of them. Why is he so famous, you ask? This cat belonged to none other than Bill Clinton, President of the United States! The Clintons adopted socks in 1991, a year before this image was taken when the stray decided he’d quite like to go home with Chelsea Clinton after she attended a piano lesson.
The famous Whitehouse cat took the prime position as First Pet until 1997 when Buddy came along. Buddy was a Labrador Retriever, and, according to Bill Clinton, was not particularly well-liked by Socks. The ex-President of the United States said of the pair: “I did better with ... the Palestinians and the Israelis than I've done with Socks and Buddy." Poor old Socks!
The Decreasing Size of Donut Holes
We have more questions than answers about the next photo, namely: is the decreasing size of donut holes something we ought to be concerned about? Furthermore, is there an ideal size for a donut hole? What does this information mean for Timbits, Munchkins, and other donut hole snacks? Don’t worry - we’ve done the research for you.
The brilliant Dr. Eugenia Cheng, pianist, mathematician and honorary fellow at Sheffield University, has the answer. Using a “squidge to crisp” ratio, she figured out that the ideal donut hole should be around 0.4 inches or 11mm. It seems to be the case that a thicker donut with a smaller middle is more delicious because it achieves that perfect squidgy, crispy texture. Pure mathematics is suddenly looking a lot more delicious!
The First Vacuum Cleaner by Siemens
Siemens' very first vacuum cleaners were launched all the way back in 1906, and were sold as “dedusting pumps.” They weighed 150kg and were mostly only used commercially due to their prohibitive weight and cost. When the wealthy began buying these new-fangled dedusting pumps, maids like this woman here were worried that the machines would take over their jobs!
Looks like “robots taking our jobs” has been a worry since way longer than we thought! Fortunately for domestic staff, the machines didn’t take over, and both the time-poor and the wealthy still rely on maids and cleaning services to maintain their households. Of course, these giant machines have become much smaller and lighter too - thank goodness!
Boy Reading in Bombed London Bookshop
Everyone knows that Hitler was evil, but did you know that he and his armies purposefully targeted civilian areas during the Second World War? Unfortunately for many families in Great Britain, the Germans bombed cities throughout the country, including London, and over the course of the latter half of 1940, 23,000 British civilians died as a result.
You might remember that Queen Elizabeth, aged only 14 in 1940, sent out a special message on the BBC Children’s Hour program at this time. Perhaps this young man even heard her speak. Many families sent their children away to stay with relatives in more sparsely-populated areas in the country where the bombing was less likely, but this fellow seems to have stayed. We wonder what he’s reading!
Woman Working on a Lockheed P-38 Lightning Fighter Aircraft
In the contemporary era, it might not be so unusual to see a woman working as a riveter on a fighter aircraft, but in 1944 when this image was taken, it was still something of a novelty. When millions of men left America to fight in the Second World War, women stepped up to build aircraft, munitions, and other pieces of technology to support the troops out in combat.
If you’ve ever wondered where the iconic “Rosie the Riveter” iconography comes from, you’re looking at just one example of the women that influenced her creation. After the war was over, many women lost their jobs as there was lessened demand for military equipment, and men returned to work in their usual positions. This image serves to remind us of all the incredible women that stepped up to the plate in the world’s time of need.
Man Browsing in Old Cincinnati Library
Calling all bookworms! This is an incredible image of the old Cincinnati Public Library, which was built in 1874, and sadly demolished in 1955. The enormous library was filled with spiral staircases, checkerboard marble floors, and shelves that rose meters and meters above the heads of book-loving citizens of Cincinnati.
The enormous building was originally built as an opera house, but luckily for Cincinnati literary lovers, the developers went bankrupt and it was turned into one of the biggest public libraries America has ever seen. It is truly a shame that the library was demolished in the mid-50s, but if you can believe it, the books outgrew the library, and a new one was built to house the city’s gigantic collection of books.
Jimi Hendrix as a U.S. Army Paratrooper
Just like Madonna wasn't always Madonna, legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix wasn't always the Jimi Hendrix. In fact, at one time in his life, he was Private Hendrix! The young guitarist enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1961 and was stationed in Kentucky. A particularly rebellious young paratrooper, he wasn't exactly a favorite of his commanding officers, and often missed midnight bed checks, slept while on duty, and played guitar off-duty. The latter habit annoyed his comrades, who just wanted a little peace and quiet.
Can you imagine not wanting to listen to Jimi Hendrix play guitar? Luckily for rock and roll, Hendrix was discharged after only one year in the army. Uh, why, you might ask? The official story goes that he injured his ankle while parachuting, but it's rumored that his captain had just had enough of his shenanigans and didn't want to deal with him any longer. Thank goodness - if Hendrix had made a good soldier, the world wouldn't have been able to enjoy songs like "Hey Joe" or "All Along the Watchtower!"
US Soldier Holding Giant Jungle Centipede
If you’re squeamish, you might want to cover your eyes for this one! In this unsettling image, a U.S. soldier shows off an enormous jungle centipede in Vietnam during the war in 1967. The species, called scolopendra subspinipes, can be found throughout East Asia. It isn’t uncommon to find this creepy crawlies around subtropical Asia and around the Indian Ocean too, as well as in South and Central America and the Carribean.
These super-long centipedes are sometimes known as jungle centipedes, red-headed centipedes, orange-legged centipedes, or Vietnamese centipedes, and usually, grow up to 20cm long. And they bite. Remind us again why anyone would hang out in the Vietnamese jungle for longer than say, a second? Eek! We'll stick to the beaten track, thanks.
Walt Disney Looking Slick in the 1920s
It’s difficult to imagine this legendary animated film maven as a young man, but don’t fear: they had cameras in the 1920s! Walt Disney wasn’t always the cinema giant we think of today and got his start creating Laugh-O-Grams, which were short animated fairy tales played in theaters. Sound familiar? We thought so, too!
Walt Disney was in the Laugh-O-Gram business for three years, but unfortunately, the company went bust in 1923, and he moved to Hollywood. Roy, Disney’s brother, was already living there and was recovering from an illness. Five years later the animator created Mickey Mouse, and the rest, as they say, is history! Who knew that the famous animator had gone from rags to riches?
Policeman Stops Traffic So a Cat Can Cross the Road
This one will bring a smile to your face! The Big Apple has a reputation for being one of the busiest and most hostile urban environments on the planet. While it might have been a little less busy in 1925, crossing a New York street would still have been a daunting task for a creature as small as a cat. Even more so if the cat happened to be holding a kitten!
Rumour has it that photographer Harry Warnecke missed the first crossing! Fortunately, the cat and the cop were happy to repeat the action so that Warnecke could capture it on film. The gorgeous mother cat was named Blackie and had not one but five kittens to get across the street in Lower Manhattan. We bet these little babies grew up to be just as brave as their mama!
Unemployed Men Line Up Outside Gangster Al Capone's Soup Kitchen
“Hold on a minute!” we hear you say, “a soup kitchen? By mafia boss Al Capone?” That’s right, folks. Nicknamed ‘Scarface,’ this famous gangster was known as a ruthless businessman who wasn’t afraid to use violence to get what he wanted. But this doesn’t mean that he didn’t also have a compassionate side. After all, he grew up with eight siblings and was the son of a barber and a seamstress! We can’t imagine that his early years were particularly privileged.
It seems that the gangster's more modest upbringing may have made him a little more empathetic than we might expect. The story goes that in the years leading up to the Great Depression, Capone ran into some trouble with the North Side Gang. Fearing for his safety, Capone laid low and took the Great Depression as an opportunity to clean up his image with the public. During this time the famous mob boss donated to charity and sponsored a soup kitchen in Chicago. The one you see here is exactly this soup kitchen!
Russian Soldier Feeds Polar Bears Condensed Milk
This image of a soldier and a group of polar bears was taken in the 1950s, on the Chukchi Peninsula. Back then, polar bears were much more abundant! The winters in this area are very harsh, dropping right down to -40 degrees. This is so cold that it’s the same temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius! The soldiers took pity on the polar bears, who were having a rough time of it, and decided to feed them with what they could.
Polar bears usually live off a diet of seals and whales, but as you might imagine, it was difficult for them to hunt in such freezing temperatures. Soldiers were on rationed food, but tinned condensed milk was something that they had quite a lot of. Accordingly, they would open tins of milk for the bears, who would then feed their babies. We hope these little guys survived the winter!
Russian Babies Napping in the Moscow Snow
This next photo will seem fairly shocking to Westerners, who would be appalled at the idea of leaving their children out in the snow. While this image was taken in 1958, the practice of putting babies out for a nap is still common throughout Russia and Scandinavian countries. It is believed that the fresh air boosts the children’s immune systems!
Of course, the children are well-wrapped up in snug woolen gear and are wrapped in sleeping bags too to keep them warm. This is an age-old tradition, and nothing new for those who have to endure the harsh winters in the North! Do you think it works? We guess that if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be such a long-standing tradition.
1950s Christmas Hoover Advertisement
Women of the world, prepare to roll your eyes. This one is from 1958 when women were expected to stay home and clean while their husbands went out to work. While everyone loves getting something shiny and new under the Christmas tree, we’re not so sure that a vacuum cleaner would be such an appropriate gift nowadays!
Old advertisements like this show us just how far we’ve come with women’s liberation. In the 1950s women might have even been excited to get a Hoover on Christmas morning. Can you imagine? We can’t help but giggle at the thought of a vacuum cleaner wrapped up in gift paper. Hopefully, Hoover sold these machines in boxes so that the surprise wasn’t ruined!
The Last Prisoners Leaving Alcatraz in 1963
Most readers will know of the famous maximum-security prison, which is located on an island off San Francisco. Alcatraz was opened in 1934 and operated for nearly 30 years. In this image, prisoners leave the island to be transported to new jails across the country after the place was shut down due to its high operating costs. It was initially thought that the prison would be the best place to keep some of America’s most notorious criminals, as it was on an island and was thus difficult to escape.
While it may not have been an easy place to escape from the prison was very expensive to maintain. The saltwater ate away at the buildings, and to top it off, everything needed to be shipped by barge from San Francisco - even fresh water! Keeping prisoners on the island cost the federal government $7 more per day per inmate than comparable prisons on the mainland. No wonder it was shut down in 1963!
Pioneer of Women’s Wrestling Mildred Burke
While women’s wrestling may be more commonplace in the twenty-first century, it was certainly unusual in the 1930s. Burke is remarkable not only because she was a pioneer of the sport for women, but also because she wrestled more than 200 men and lost only a single match. You go, girl! This record is what led WWE to induct her posthumously into their Hall of Fame in 2016.
Billy Wolfe was a local wrestling promoter in Kansas City, where Burke was working as a transcriber. After seeing only one event, she began to pester Wolfe to help her learn how to wrestle. Rumour has it that Wolfe got sick of her bothering him, and got one of his boys to body slam the young woman. Unfortunately for the other guy, Mildred Burke body-slammed him instead! This was enough to convince Wolfe, and the two were later married after working together closely for the duration of her wrestling career.
Mount St. Helens Erupting in 1980
Have you ever been in an earthquake? How about a volcanic eruption? While many of us will have felt the odd quake here and there, few people have had to endure a volcanic eruption as large and as devastating as the one that occurred in 1980 on Mount St. Helens. The blast was so loud that Americans hundreds of miles away would hear it, and the resulting destruction cost over a billion dollars.
Earthquakes had rumbled in the area surrounding the mountain for the two months prior, warning Washington citizens that the volcano was about to blow its top. Despite this, fifty-seven people tragically lost their lives in the eruption. Snow and ice atop the mountain were forced down its slopes in enormous mudflows, flattening forests in its wake. We can only hope that an eruption like this never happens again.
Fall Cottage on a Lake in Maine
Do you love autumn as much as we do? Those pumpkin spice scents, the bountiful produce, and of course the spectacular oranges, reds, and yellows, as the leaves begin to tumble from their boughs... New England has got to be one of the most beautiful places on earth in the fall. It is the quintessential place to experience the North American autumn, and there’s nowhere better to enjoy it than Maine.
We’re super envious of the folks that get to live in this little lakeside retreat amongst the foliage! Can you imagine sitting by the fire, indulging in the New England seafood and then enjoying a hot chocolate before bed? Truly a dream come true! If you want to go and see these fall colors for yourself, the best time to head to Maine is at the end of September. Isn’t nature just beautiful!
Super-Spooky Northern Irish “Dark Hedges”
Would you dare to descend upon this terrifying highway? Right at the top of Northern Ireland in Stranocum, Ballymoney, these twisted-looking trees line a remote road in the heart of the Irish countryside. While they may be beautiful by day, by night the trees are the stuff of nightmares. And Game of Thrones, apparently! In the television series, this scary spot was used as the Kingsroad. If you’re a superfan of the show you’ll know that this road takes our favorite characters right from King’s Landing to the Wall in the North.
The television series has popularized the spot (or should that be poplar-ized! Get it?) and it is now one of the most photographed places in Northern Ireland. We beech-a didn’t know that! Speaking of beeches, these beech trees may look scary, but in fact, the road won’t take you anywhere particularly frightening. Still - not a place you’d want to be alone at night!
A Young King George VI On a Slide
You have to feel a bit sorry for King George VI, who had a stammer so bad that his pre-reign speeches were all either hidden or destroyed. He is, of course, the father of the current Queen Elizabeth, but he didn’t have an easy time of things, especially for a King! As he wasn’t the eldest son in the family, he didn’t expect to have this responsibility thrust upon him. But, in a curious twist of events, his older brother Edward married American socialite Wallis Simpson.
This was all fine and dandy, except she just so happened to be a divorcee, meaning that Edward had to abdicate to be with the woman he loved. In this photo, the then-Duke of York rides a slide at the Wembley Exhibition in 1925. We suspect he looks a little pale because of a speech he gave, which wasn’t the easiest for him to get through due to his speech impediment. Poor Bertie!
The House from ‘The Blair Witch Project’
If you grew up in the 90s, you will remember scaring yourself silly watching the 1999 film ‘The Blair Witch Project.’ The movie was inspired by a super-creepy old house, and the picture below is exactly that house. It’s located in Maryland and isn’t a place you’d want to be alone even by day. Trust us - even the Google image search for “Blair Witch Project” is seriously spooky!
The film is extra-terrifying because it is set in a ghostly spot that really exists, and is haunted by Civil War-era ghosts. No thank you. Oh - and how could we forget the stories about the tall figure that haunts the forest by night? Do yourself a favor and don’t do any extra research on this one. You won’t sleep for a week!
The 1895 Paris Montparnasse Derailment in Paris
Ever shake your head at those speedsters on the highway trying to get to their destinations in a dangerous hurry? This image shows the 1895 version of this exact phenomenon. The Granville-Paris Express train was on its way into the station and was traveling fairly quickly. They were a little behind schedule, so train staff had been stoking the engine to get to their destination faster. Are you shaking your head yet?
Unfortunately, the air brake on the train failed, and the guy who was supposed to apply the hand brake in case of emergency was preoccupied with paperwork. As a result, the train derailed and plowed on through the station, killing a woman on the street who had been standing in her husband’s usual spot. Miraculously, only six passengers were injured, and the train itself wasn’t too beaten up. The engineer was fined 50 francs, and the conductor who failed to apply the handbrake was fined 25 francs. Not a good day at work for these Frenchmen!
The Washington Tacoma Narrows Bridge After its Collapse
It’s not often that a $6.4 million dollar bridge collapses, but this two-lane beauty fell apart into the water below only four months after construction was completed. The bridge was known to swing in the wind even before it was open, and construction workers nicknamed it “Galloping Gertie.” They anchored the bridge to cables to try to stabilize it, but the cables snapped immediately. For some reason, this didn’t seem to concern anyone, and the bridge was opened on July 1940.
The structure, which was an enormous swing by this point, was caught by the wind and began swaying rhythmically on one day in November 1940. The movement of the bridge built momentum, and the cables began to snap. After only four months, the third largest suspension bridge built at the time finally broke apart into the water below. While it was good luck that no people were harmed, an unlucky dog was trapped in a car on the bridge and became the only casualty of the bridge’s collapse. To add insult to injury, however, the State couldn’t collect insurance for the failed bridge, as their insurance agent never took out a policy on their behalf, choosing instead to pocket the premiums paid. A bad run for Washington!
The Vespa 150 Troupes Aéro Portées
You might think the words “anti-tank scooter” sound like a total oxymoron, but the French might not agree with you. In the 1950s they modified Italian-made Vespas to mount three-inch M20 recoilless rifles on the frames for use by paratroopers in combat. These light anti-armor cannons were chosen for their weight so that the scooters could still travel up to 60kmph with the rifle mounted on top.
While they didn’t intend for these rifles to be fired from the Vespas, it was possible in case of an emergency. Paratroopers were meant to be parachuted down in two-person teams, with the M20 on one Vespa and the ammunition for the weapon on the other. Soldiers were then supposed to work together to mount the M20 on a Browning machine gun tripod before firing the rifle, presumably at the enemy.
The Incredible Harriet Tubman in 1911
How do we begin to sum up the life of such a fearless and revolutionary figure in American history? Harriet Tubman left a legacy matched by few, rescuing around seventy people from the clutches of slavery, as well as being a Spy, Nurse, Civil War Scout, Suffragist, and anti-slavery Civil Rights Activist. Most people could barely hope to complete even a tenth of Tubman’s staggering feats across the course of her life.
Truly a woman of action, this image was taken in 1911, only a couple of years before her death in 1913. Tubman is now buried in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York. She inspired and continues to inspire folks all across the globe, and once said that "Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world."
“Miss Universe” Pageant Girls in 1952
Did you know that the Miss Universe pageant has been running for nearly seventy years? What’s more is that it has origins right back to the 1920s, where the term was first used for the International Pageant of Pulchritude. Miss Universe as we know it now began in the 1950s. Thirty contestants flew from all around the world to compete at Long Beach in California, and the pageant was supported by Pacific Knitting Mills. The company made swimwear and clothing in California.
Armi Kuusela, the Finnish contestant in this image, ended up winning the first pageant at Long Beach in 1952. Can you spot her? In recent years the pageant has become more controversial, as Donald Trump bought the pageant in 1996. The pageant is now called the Miss Universe Organization, and the yearly competition is broadcast on NBC across the United States of America.
Fijians in Viti Levu in 1884
While Fiji is now a popular holiday destination for Australian and New Zealand tourists, it was once much more unknown to Westerners looking for a vacation in paradise. This photo was taken by Alfred Burton and features villagers in Viti Levu, which is the largest of the islands that make up Fiji. The British violently colonized Fiji ten years before this image was taken, and the country remained a British colony until 1970.
Dr. Roderick Ewins describes the scene: "The shirtless man standing behind the group has a club over his shoulder, of the type called gugu or tivitivi and patterned on the butterfly fish. The man squatting appears to be holding a scrub-clearing club. The man far right with a wristwatch holds a length of bamboo, used as a water container or a stamping-tube for rhythm in music, while the man in a white woolen singlet holds a bundle of cloth in his left hand, and in his right a cane-knife, favourite implement of Fijian village men to this day."
Prague’s Klementinum Baroque Library
The Czech capital city of Prague boasts some of the most beautiful architecture in the world, so it’s no surprise that its libraries are equally as stunning. The library pictured in the images above is the Baroque library, which was opened in 1722. This building is part of a wider complex of buildings called Klementinum. Within the complex, you’ll also find churches and an astronomical tower.
As you might expect, this gorgeous library has a complex history. Klementinum was taken over in 1773 by the Prague University when the Jesuits had to leave. Nonetheless, this astonishing piece of architecture is well-preserved: even the labels on the bookcases of the library here are original! The library ceiling is also decorated with Biblical motifs by Jan Hiebl. It’s definitely a must-see for any tourist!
The Faroe Islands from Above
You could easily mistake this image as something computer-generated for a film, but it is, in fact, a real place! The Faroe Islands are somewhere in the middle of the ocean between Iceland, Scotland, and Norway. While the islands are their own autonomous country with separate sports teams, they do rely on Denmark to oversee their military, policing, and currency, for example.
The climate hovers steadily between 5-15 degrees Celsius year-round, and the islanders speak Faroese, a Germanic language that shares similarities with Old Norse, Icelandic, and Norweigan. Wondering what they eat? Similar to coastal Scottish, Norweigan and Danish populations, the islanders’ diet is mostly comprised of seafood, meat, and potatoes. The more you know!
A Woman Rides Snow King Mountain Chairlift in 1956
This next photo is bound to give you heart palpitations. The Snow King mountain is in Jackson, Wyoming, and was originally called “Simpson Ridge.” The earlier years of the mountain’s history were plagued by bad publicity, blizzards, and even murder, which didn’t make it the most popular ski field around. Nonetheless, this woman looks like she’s having a great time!
Prohibition Protest in 1925
The 1920s and 30s in America are marked in the minds of many as an era of prohibition. Enormous political uproar ensued after the government made the production and sale of alcohol illegal in the United States. This image is from a New York protest in 1932, where men marched through the streets, tired of not being able to enjoy a beer after a hard day’s work.
Of course, rather than improving conditions for alcoholics and problem drinkers, Prohibition made things much worse in many cases. A black market developed for the sale of alcohol, which supported American organized crime. Speakeasies sprang up across the country, and in some places, there were more of these illegal drinking establishments than there had been bars pre-Prohibition. Thankfully for these men, the government made liquor legal again in 1933.
Women Being Subject to Bathing Suit Censorship in the 1920s
While headlines are made in this century for police harassing women dressed in burqas at the beach, in the 1920s women were chastised for the opposite problem! Modesty laws in the early 1900s were hugely restrictive, and police walked about on beaches all over America with measuring tapes to ensure that women were dressed “appropriately” for the beach. One-piece swimsuits that we would consider conservative today were frowned upon, with film star Annette Kellerman literally being arrested in Boston for wearing one.
Some of the first swimsuits were made of wool, and included stockings and long sleeves. If women did not submit to the modesty laws, they would be asked to leave the beach! Gradually, however, arms became more exposed, followed by necks and then necklines. The advent of lycra and other form-fitting fabrics also paved the way for more modern (and revealing!) styles of swimwear in America.
That brings us to the end of this collection of incredible photos from history that need to be seen to be believed! We hope that you were as wowed by these pictures as we were. Can’t get enough of this content? See our other articles to get more of your favorite fix!