While a picture can speak a thousand words, historical photos speak a lot more. A solid blast-from-the-past photo can teleport you to another place and time, letting you imagine and empathize with things not possible otherwise.
We Can Do It
In this write-up, we have assembled a handful of rarely-seen historical photos that will leave you speechless.
The Students of LA’s James A. Garfield High School checked in for work on December 10, 1943 at the school’s airplane plant.
The Second World War was fought both on the battlefield and at the home front. When men had to serve in Asia and Europe, women back home were manning positions in military and civilian factories.
“Star Wars” – Behind the Scenes
Actors from the first movie from the Star Wars trilogy: Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, and Carrie Fisher are pictured on May 20, 1980 in the UK.
The sets of Star Wars were like the movie – absolutely thrilling. In fact, the actors in it became close friends while shooting. Carrie Fisher was extremely funny and could be seen pranking around – chasing other members of the cast with squirt guns and making Mark Hamill put on her outfits are some of her mischiefs the crew members fondly remember.
The under-construction Statue of Liberty in Paris’ Monduit and Bechet plant in 1883.
Lady Liberty is (to the surprise of many) Libertas, the Roman goddess. France gifted this statue to America. It was designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor. Gustave Eiffel, the man who did the engineering work, built the tower’s metal framework.
Though not confirmed, it’s believed the face of Lady Liberty was based on Bartholdi’s mother.
Thanks to industrialization, globe manufacturing is no more a real profession. This still is from 1933 when globes were usually made from wooden balls. The maps were separately painted on paper strips and which were later glued onto the globe.
Today, machines are used to stick printed maps onto plastic globes. The current outputs could be a lot more accurate, but they certainly lack the old-school charm.
A musical play called Teeth ‘n’ Smiles was penned by David Hare, which premiered at West End in London in 1975. The play revolved around the tale of a faltering rock band that comes to perform at the University of Cambridge. The role of the band’s singer, Maggie Frisby, was played by Hellen Mirren.
Disney could truly envision things. He aspired to erect a place where adults and kids could have fun together. He worked on his idea for several years.
In this photo, he can be seen standing beside the Disneyland model, in 1954.
His inspiration came from playgrounds, the history museum of Henry Ford, the World Exposition, etc.
Disneyland’s launch day was set aside for journalists. However, only 15,000 of the 30,000 attendees were actually invited. The other half entered with fake tickets.
First Days of Camping
This picture is from a 1934 caravan site.
In 1907, J Harris Stone, a journalist by profession, came up with The Caravan Club for travellers.
Fast-forward 25 years, camping trips became popular as several families owned cars. Currently, Stone’s club has more than a million members travelling to close to 3,000 camping locations across England.
The Dynasphere, which is an electrically-driven wheel, is being tested by J. A. Purves on the beach in Taunton. He co-invented the wheel with his son.
The Dynasphere was built to be used by one person. Capable of clocking 30mph, the original model came with a simple engine that propelled the machine. To turn the wheel, one had to lean sideways and tip the thing.
A Washington local TV star, Willard Scott played the character of Bozo the Clown prior to playing Ronald McDonald.
Bozo was loved by kids back then. Therefore, when the show was terminated, Scott was offered to come with a fresh clown character that would serve as McDonald’s mascot.
As per rumors, only one actor plays Ronald’s role at official events and in commercials at a given time.
This picture is of the French Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, in 1923. Monet can be standing with the vast waterlilies canvases in the background that he painted during the final few years of his life in his Giverny garden.
Monet was the founder of the Impressionist movement that emphasized on drawing reality as seen by the artist.
Unfortunately, Monet’s eyesight deteriorated during his later years, which limited his vision and drawing abilities.
This picture is of Milla Jovovich, a 13-year-old, with her picture on the cover of Lei magazine in 1988. Born in Ukraine, Milla became an American actress, supermodel, singer, musician, and clothing designer.
Her first breakthrough was when she got casted in Return to the Blue Lagoon as the protagonist. The controversial role fetched her a nomination for Best Young Actress at The Young Artist Award. She was also nominated in the Worst New Actress category at the Golden Raspberry Awards for the same role.
This image is a staged picture of a worker dangling from the eye lid of Jefferson on Mount Rushmore in 1934.
Sculpting the U.S. presidents on the mountain was an uphill task that took close to 13 years. A total of 400 people worked to get the presidents carved. Originally, the plan was to sculpt the presidents’ bodies too. However, the project ran short of money and time and therefore only the heads were carved.
Back from Space
This picture shows Apollo 11’s commander and the first human to step on the moon, Neil Armstrong, celebrating his 39th birthday in 1969. It was in Manned Spacecraft Center’s Crew Reception Area, which is in Houston, Texas’ Lunar Receiving Laboratory.
NASA’s Apollo team were the first set of people to land on the moon and considered national heroes. This celebration was during the Cold War, with the objective to let the world know that America was the real global power.
Doing a Man’s Job
Though the First World War was fought in Europe, America had to undergo hardships too. Since the majority of young U.S. men were drafted into the military, various industries had no option but to replace people who were on national duties.
As a result, women were hired to perform “men’s jobs”, such as carrying ice. The refrigerator wasn’t invented yet then and placing big ice blocks in ice boxes was how people kept their food fresh and cool.
Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist that painted surrealistic self-portraits – she was also known for her fierce character. She challenged norms of her times by wearing men’s clothes and being in an open marriage with painter Diego Rivera.
In this picture from the year 1926, she can be seen with Cristina (sister), Matilde (mother), and other members of the family.
Train of Tomorrow
The American citizen of the mid-20th century loved being futuristic. The country’s new prosperity post war created optimism all around, with auto makers faring better than ever before.
Engineers and designers with a futuristic mindset wanted to make the ideal modern American family vehicle.
In this picture, taken in 1947, you can see Train of Tomorrow’s observation lounge car that was made by General Motors. The train is currently on a countrywide exhibit tour of America’s major cities.
Big in Japan
In the 1970s, Queen was synonymous with youth rebellion. Their modern clothes and long hair defied gender norms, and the operatic vocals of Freddie Mercury and the band’s innovative style redefined music.
In 1975, Queen toured the world, starting in Canada and summing it up in Japan, performing in seven different Japanese cities.
This phase constituted their career’s greatest moments – they recorded Sheer Heart Attack and A Night at The Opera the same year.
Modern Age Cars
The 1950s arguably redefined the U.S. automobiles industry. Cars symbolized modernization and prosperity, which explains why most cars from that period looked like airplanes.
In this picture, you can see models posing with an assortment of GM cars in the year 1956 in Michigan.
The Eiffel Tower
A worker painting the Tower in 1953.
The Eiffel Tower was initially commissioned for Paris’ World Exposition in 1889. The tower’s height is more than 1,000 feet, and it took two years to erect.
When it was built, several hundred artists joined in protest, claiming the iron construction would ruin Paris. Guy de Maupassant, the French writer, used to lunch in the Eiffel Tower, so that he couldn’t see the tower.
A high school football team from the early 1910s.
Also called gridiron, American football is basically soccer and rugby put together, along with a few add-ons.
The very first game of football was played between Princeton and Rutgers, two college teams, in November 1869.
The NFL (National Football League) was first set up in 1920 as APFA (American Professional Football Association).
A Huge Harmonica
China invented the harmonica several thousand years ago. However, the Americans got introduced to it only during the 19th century.
The harmonica was embraced by the Americans almost instantly – it was cheap, easy to build, and small (almost always). Learning to play the instrument was quite straightforward too, which increased its reach among blues and folk musicians.
In the picture, two girls are trying to play a huge Blue Bird harmonica, inside a London music store in 1938.
During the 1960s, flying was becoming quite affordable. Therefore, to entice and appeal more to potential customers, airlines introduced very skimpy flight crew uniforms. Many airlines became household names for their “adventurous” crew attire. However, by the mid-1970s, the trend slowly faded.
In the photo, Patricia Bleasdale (BOAC stewardess) is at the London airport sporting the paper dress uniform.
Plane Wing Tennis
The picture below made its way to a postcard released in the 1920s. It depicted a common practice during that time: playing tennis atop a wing of an aircraft cruising at close to 60mph.
During the ’40s and ’50s, this bra style was quite popular.
Women have used different garments and equipment to make their breasts look a certain way. During the latter part of the 19th century, corsets were replaced by bras as a widely used breast support tool and by the 20th century, garments that looked more like the modern bras of today emerged.
Garry Kasparov Loses to a Computer
Garry Kasparov, an all-time chess great, was defeated in 1997 by a computer at a game of chess. The reactions of Kasparov and the crowd witnessing it clearly indicated that the computers back then weren’t advanced enough to beat a chess champion at their own game.
O.J. Simpson evading the cops on June 17, 1994.
Mr. Simpson was undoubtedly one among the most popular American football players in NFL history. However, on the personal front, things weren’t that great. In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson (his ex-wife) was found dead at her LA home, alongside Mr. Ron Goldman. Apparently, she was stabbed. Simpson was the natural suspect in the murders due to his troubled past with Nicole. He didn’t turn himself in. On June 17, O.J. Simpson was involved in a low-speed chase by the police. He was in a white Ford Bronco SUV that was driven and owned by Al Cowlings.
Steward and air hostess serving the Scandinavian country-style buffet on the SAS Scandinavian Airlines in 1969.
Several decades ago, tourism was considered a luxury and not many people could afford flying in an airplane. Tourism by plane turned into a reality only in 1930.
SAS, founded in 1946, is the flagship carrier of mainland Scandinavia, which includes Sweden, Denmark and Norway. SAS’ service was and is great always.
Jesse Owens winning gold in 1936, in Nazi Germany
Despite all the animosity, Jesse proved his mettle!
Owens was an Afro-American track and field athlete from America who won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympic Games that were held in Nazi Germany. Jesse had an extremely successful stint at the Berlin Summer Olympics and he single-handedly macerated Hitler’s Aryan supremacy myth.
In his honor, America awards the Jesse Owens Award to the best track and field athletes every year.
Golden Gate Bridge construction in 1936.
A suspension bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge connects Marin County to San Francisco Peninsula. The bridge is arguably the most globally recognizable American symbol, with the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers) declaring it a modern world wonder.
The bridge is considered, by many travel guides, the most photographed and most beautiful bridge in the entire world.
Princess Diana having fun at an amusement center with Prince Harry, April 1992.
Princess Diana always wanted her children to have a regular childhood, though they were next in line for the throne. The late princess believed the monarchy must understand and know the life of commoners.
Sadly, she died in a car accident in 1997 in Paris at a fairly young age of 36.
First Marriage of Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe entered wedlock thrice, despite being only 36 at the time of her death in 1962. James Dougherty, her first husband, was an L.A. cop. Monroe was only 16 when she married him.
After James, Marilyn married Joe DiMaggio, a baseball center fielder, in 1995; and Arthur Miller, a playwright, in 1956.
The 101st Airborne’s private James R. Hendrix playing guitar at Kentucky’s Fort Campbell in 1962.
Although James Hendrix’s music career lasted only four years, James is widely seen as an influential electric guitarist, and one among 20th century’s most celebrated musicians.
According to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, James R. Hendrix is undoubtedly one among the most eminent instrumentalists in rock music’s history.
A Massive Manta Ray
A huge manta ray captured in 1933 on the New Jersey coast.
The massive oceanic manta ray goes down as the largest ray type in the world. Typically, they are found in the waters of tropical and subtropical regions but could also be seen in temperate waters.
While they look like huge sea creatures, they are actually extremely benign and gentle. Their food primarily consists of plankton, which are tiny microorganisms floating in ocean water.
The King of Rock
Elvis Presley’s swearing-in for the mandatory army service in 1958 in Arkansas.
The rock and roll king served in the American army for two years, between 1958 and 1960. During his draft, Elvis was already a massive star and well-known worldwide.
He was therefore offered to enter the Special Services as an entertainer and use the priority housing privilege. However, he denied the offer and served as a regular troop member instead. This earned him his fellow soldiers’ respect and also of the people of America.
On December 5, 1993, the nationwide alcohol ban in America was repealed.
The U.S. government, in January 1919, passed the Twenty-first Constitution Amendment that prohibited production, transportation, sale, and import of alcohol. The prohibition came into place in the first place as the government believed alcohol led to poverty and crime. However, the prohibition instead caused crime rates to go up in the U.S. as gangsters were minting money selling alcohol in the black market. As a result, the prohibition was cancelled on 20 February 1933.
Exposing the Sphinx
The partially excavated Great Sphinx of Giza, 1860s.
The Great Sphinx of Giza basically is a statue of a lounging sphinx, which is a mythical creation with a human head and a lion’s body. Made of limestone, the statue is Egypt’s oldest known monumental construction that the ancient Egyptians supposedly built between 2558 and 2532 BC.
The Blue Tattoo
Olive Oatman was basically a Mormon pioneer who voyaged west to Zion in 1851. The 13-year-old was captured on her way by Yavapai Indians who killed her family and enslaved her. Olive remained a slave for about a year before being trafficked to the Mohave people. They drew tattoos on her face, raising Olive as their own. Though the Mohaves kept her happy, she was traded back to the whites when she was 19. This got her fame, but the price she paid for that was a broken and painful childhood that she couldn’t get over for the rest of her life.
American soldiers bidding adieu to their families before heading for Egypt in 1963.
The civil war in North Yemen was fought between 1962 and 1970. Saudi Arabia and Jordan provided military aid to the royalists, and Britain offered covert support. Egypt supported the republicans, with the Soviet Union supplying them airplanes.
An open-air school in the Netherlands in 1957, which is now defunct.
Open-air schools prevented tuberculosis from spreading – a common occurrence during the period before World War II. Since fresh air could help with improving health, the schools back then were erected in rural locations, away from the hustle and bustle of the cities. However, curtains were drawn on the majority of these schools during the 1970s.
The Deadwood settlement started illegally during the 1870s on areas that legally belonged to the native Americans. George Armstrong Custer, in 1874, led a voyage into Black Hills and declared gold discovery on French Creek close to the modern-day Custer, in South Dakota. As a result, a gold rush was triggered in the region, giving birth to the new and illegal town of Deadwood.
American soldiers belonging to the 969th Artillery Battalion decorating shells they delivered to Germany’s front line, 1944.
America joined World War II in 1941, after Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. They joined hands with the allied nations of France, the United Kingdom and Poland that were fighting Italy, Japan and Germany. The U.S. sentiment was usually anti-German, even prior to joining the war.
The 3245-year-old Tutankhamun tomb seal before being broken in 1922.
Tutankhamun was the 18th dynasty Egyptian pharaoh who ruled during 1332-1323 BC. The discovery of the nearly intact tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922 by Howard Carter garnered worldwide attention. People became curious about ancient Egypt again, which explains why the Tutankhamun mask is popular even today.
1969: Prior to the EPA’s creation, New York was among the most polluted cities of America.
Starting in the late ’50s and the ’60s, growing public concern about human activity’s impact on the environment was paid heed to by the state.
In 1962, a Rachel Carson book, Silent Spring warned the people about pesticides’ negative impact on the environment. Pro-environment civil groups started protesting thereafter. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), as a result, was set up in December 1970.
A Reprieve from War
A kitten being held by a Red Army soldier during World War II.
Wars pit humans against humans. Several times, this creates sympathy within warring soldiers toward animals. For instance, American forces employed several thousand animals during the Second World War.
Several World War II American military units adopted animals as mascots. These mascots were pets that actually belonged to the squad’s men.
The female snipers of the 3rd Shock Army, First Belorussian Front, 1945.
Second World War was a period during which Russia faced major military challenges. Due to this, several women were recruited into combat units – sniping was a military branch that they truly excelled in. More than 2,000 female snipers were in the Soviet military.
Historical Photos: Satisfied Audience
Marilyn Monroe staging a performance for several thousand allied troops stationed in Korea; 11th February 1954.
Monroe, in January 1954, married Joe DiMaggio. For their honeymoon, the two flew to Japan. Joe visited his baseball clinics. Monroe, on the other hand, detoured to Korea. Marilyn journeyed to a place where the U.S. military was stationed and put up 10 shows for approximately 100,000 servicemen.
Historical Photos: Seeking Employment in 1930
The Great Depression, which lasted for four years between 1929 and 1933, was a period of high unemployment in America. It’s, in fact, viewed at as the worst financial downturn ever.
Historical Photos: A Look from Above
Hiroshima prior to and after the bomb that hit the city on 6th August 1945.
During the end phases of the Second World War, America dropped two nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan on the 6th and 9th of August 1945, respectively. In Hiroshima, anywhere between 90,000 to 146,000 people died. Half died directly because of the bombing; the remaining died due to the bomb’s side effects. Sadly, the people who died were mostly civilians.
Historical Photos: Encounter of Cultures
A samurai group in front of the Sphinx in Egypt in 1864.
Diverse historic cultures coming together can be both hard and fun to imagine. That’s what happened when a Japanese samurai group headed to Egypt during the 19th century. During the period, the samurai culture was on the decline. The Sphinx was rediscovered very recently then, making the samurai group’s visit quite a rare event.
Historical Photos: The HMS Daphne
Slaves who were rescued from the HMS Daphne deck; 1868.
HMS Daphne was the Royal Navy’s Amazon-class sloop that worked on anti-slavery missions off the African east coast. As vessels were transporting slaves to Aden on Zanzibar’s main slaving route, the Royal Navy commissioned to offer robust ‘policing’ in the Indian Ocean.
After the Slave Trade Act (1807) was passed by the parliament, the Royal Navy sent several ships to help stop slave trade.
Historical Photos: Celebrations
Celebrations of the triumph over Nazi Germany – May 9th, 1945, Moscow.
Most allied nations celebrate Victory Day on the 8th of May. However, the Soviet Union celebrates the victory on May 9th, a day later. In this picture, Moscow can be seen lit up celebrating the sovereign state’s triumph over the Nazis, which marked the conclusion of a grueling, long, and hugely traumatic war.
Historical Photos: The Alliance
The Eight-Nation Alliance troops in 1900.
The Boxers, a Chinese covert unit, had killed several Chinese Christians, foreign nationals and missionaries across the north of China between 1899 and 1900.
The Eight-Nation Alliance basically was a global military coalition established by Russia, Japan, France, Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy and the United States in response to the Chinese ‘boxer rebellion’. Troops belonging to the eight countries invaded and took control of Peking on August 14, 1900.
Historical Photos: U.S. Marines
U.S. Marines hitting rough water to take the Cape Gloucester beach, in New Britain 1943.
The Cape Gloucester battle happened between December 26, 1943 and January 16, 1944, between American and Australian forces and Japan.
In this picture, American troops are wading through the shallow waters after disembarking their ship tank and heading to the shore, while the waters are gushing and surging around them.
Historical Photos: The final picture of the afloat Titanic, 1912.
This picture was captured by John Morrogh on 11th April 1912 somewhere around 2 PM as the massive Titanic was departing from Queenstown, Ireland.
The Titanic sank in April 1912 post ramming into an iceberg during its first voyage to NYC. Of the 2,224 crew members and passengers aboard, over a 1,500 of them died.
Historical Photos: First Flight of Wright Brothers
The first plane flight was on 17 December 1903 that lasted 12 seconds, only to be surpassed by a 59-second flight later that day.
The brothers invented the three-axis control that helped steer the aircraft and maintain its equilibrium.
Historical Photos: Eruption of Mount St. Helens, Washington
On 18 May 1980, Mount St. Helens erupted, leaving behind a horseshoe-shaped crater.
Mount St. Helens’ large eruptive cone consists of a lava rock that’s interlayered with deposits, such as pumice and ash. The mountain comprises layers of andesite and basalt through which multiple dacite lave domes have erupted.
Historical Photos: Futuristic Postcards
Looking at a 1900 picture that depicted what the Germans envisioned the year 2000 will be like is quite amusing.
The sentiment this postcard depicts is quite true. Humans created technologies during the 20th century that shortened travel time and made talking to people from any part of the world a reality.
Historical Photos: Earthquake and Fire in San Francisco in 1906
San Francisco saw mass destruction in 1906, thanks to an earthquake that struck the city on April 18, 1906. However, the real damage was courtesy the fires that set off thereafter.
Close to 3,000 people lost their lives and more than 80 percent of the city was wrecked. The series of events goes down as one among the deadliest and worst earthquakes in America’s history.