Our world’s history is marred by good and evil. Natural disaster and wars in conjunction with acts of kindness and spectacular events. The invention of photography came around in a more mainstream way in the mid-1800s and brought with it a relatively quick way of documenting history’s most important and emotional moments. We have found some of the most touching and monumental images to be captured by photography within the last century. There are some photos that we were stuck on for a while due to their weight in the grand scheme of history, while others showed us the silly early days of some of today’s biggest inventions.
Without photography it would be much harder to document and prove certain events happened, or didn’t. Photography gives us a path to reliving and remembering, something that throughout history has proven to be useful as to make sure we do not repeat our own mistakes as humans. Be it World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust, the famous faces who were in the military before they became famous and we now have documentation of it, or behind the scenes looks at places like Disneyland and their cafeteria for the costumed workers. We now have proof of its occurrence as well as a way to remember how things once were.
Time is a fleeting thing, whether we know it or not we are growing older and moving away from what was once the way we were brought up. The baby boomer generation was raised one way, while the millennial generation was raised another. Photos throughout these times are going to enter the photos of history soon enough, when enough time has passed and the significance of events and their outcomes becomes more prevalent over time.
Mother with a gas-resistant stroller
In the winter of 1938, with the second World War rearing its ugly head, men and women in the United Kingdom were taking precautions when it came to chemical warfare. Here we see a woman walking down her street with a stroller that is entirely encased in a gas-resistant material. The mother herself is also wearing a gas mask to protect herself. This photo was taken in London in 1938.
The head of the Statue of Liberty
In this stunning photo, we see a woman and a young child standing beside the face of the Statue of Liberty as it was assembled in France and being prepared for its shipment to New York City to be displayed as a gift to the United States. This photo was taken in 1885, and this photo is showing the way women dressed at the time. Seeing the face of the Statue of Liberty without the body, though, is somewhat disturbing.
Elvis Presley in the military
We are used to seeing Elvis Presley in his performance garb and cool moves. Here we see a young Elvis in his military uniform together with other soldiers being walked somewhere on base. This photo was taken in 1958, quite a long time before his career skyrocketed to the fame he was known for and before he met Priscilla. Elvis seemed like such a young man in this photo and so unlike the way we were used to seeing him.
Testing out a bulletproof vest
This photo from 1923 shows the testing of a bulletproof vest. Whether it worked or not was left for the aftermath of this photo but considering we have bulletproof vests these days we are pretty sure this was a successful vest test. Apart from the vests test we see onlookers who seem to be police in uniform standing by to see if the vest indeed worked, making us assume that the vest was being made for the police officers in that area.
Charlie Chaplin in his youth
Here we see a rare photo of a young Charlie Chaplin in 1916 at the young age of 27. We are so used to seeing Charlie Chaplin with his signature little mustache, makeup, hat, and attire but here we see him as raw as ever. The comic was much more than a silent film stooge but a filmmaker, composer, and writer among other things. He rose to fame through his silent films and his comedic timing that taught a new generation all about it.
The Hindenburg Disaster
This sensational photo was taken on May 6th, 1937 during the Hindenburg Disaster. The disaster occurred when the German airship, carrying many passengers, caught fire when it was trying to dock at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst in New Jersey. There were 36 people killed aboard the ship and 62 survivors. To this day the event is marked by photographs, newsreel coverage and eyewitness testimony that was recorded and played back on the radio.
Baby cages were a thing
This one took us by surprise, to say the least. Here we see a baby sitting in what was known as a baby cage that was meant to make sure that children were getting enough fresh air and sun light during their primitive years. This photo was taken around 1937 in a high-rise apartment building. We were more scandalized than anything else. Seeing as there are none of these contraptions today we are pretty sure they were said to be obsolete.
Ronald McDonald version 1.0
Putting aside our fear of clowns, this is what the original Ronald McDonald looked like back in 1963. Ronald McDonald was the resident live logo for the fast food chain McDonald’s. Here we see him carrying a tray with a drink a fries as he waves towards the crowd and the photographer. His nose consists of a McDonald’s cup and his face is painted to look like a clown. These days the McDonald’s clown is a lot less scary, thankfully.
Disneyland worker cafeteria
Ever wonder where the men and women who play the Disney characters that your children loved so much eat? This photo from 1961 shows us the Disneyland employees in their worker’s cafeteria getting their lunch during a break. We must say we never thought about where they go to hang up their feet between shifts at the theme park. We love Goofy back there getting his food and snow White getting hers too!
Child sitting among the ruins of her home
This emotional photo was taken in 1940 right after a bomb landed in London, destroying many building in the process. The little girl is sitting on the ruins of her home holding her favorite doll and trying to comfort herself. The air strikes on London in 1940 were done by the German army and were known as The Blitz as part of World War II.
The Berlin Wall in the making
This photo is showing us the construction of the Berlin Wall back in 1961. The Berlin Wall was a concrete barrier that separated between East Germany and West Berlin. The wall was both physical and ideological as it was built by the German Democratic Republic to cut off the Western part of the city. This rare image shows the Eastern side working to build the wall while the Western side looked upon in wonder at what was going on.
The first skin transplant patient
This photo is of Walter Yeo in 1917. Yeo was an English sailor during World War I received a very bad injury to his face that needed reconstruction. Yeo was thought to be one fo the first individuals in the world to get a facial reconstruction by the use of a skin flap. This kind of advanced plastic surgery was unheard of at this point in history, making this case the beginning of facial plastic surgery.
The original spray tan
Today, many men and women go to tanning salons to get their skin primed for the summer months. Back in 1949, when this photo was taken, women also went to a special place to get their skin darkened. Here we see a blonde woman holding a nozzle that is connected to a sun tan machine that is spraying her skin with a tinted color. Sound familiar?
Measuring bathing suit lengths for decency
While today this would absolutely not fly in any way, back in the 1920s, there was a marshall on every beach that had the power to measure any woman’s bathing suit to make sure it was long enough so as not to be considered indecent. If a woman’s bathing suit was too short she would be fined. Our inner feminist is not happy about this one.
Martin Luther King Jr. and his son removing a cross
In a moving and calm gesture, the late civil rights leader and activist, Martin Luther King Jr. is seen here with his son on the front lawn of his home, taking a burnt cross out of his grass. The burnt cross was put there by white supremacist individuals trying to make a statement to Dr. King. However, King was not deterred and just pulled the cross out of the ground as his son watched.
The science of prosthetic limbs is slow going yet evolving one. Here we see an 1890s version of prosthetic legs given to a young child. The little girl is seen standing on her own by way of her two legs that gave her support to stand. The prosthetics back then were connected to the upper body of the individual in order to make sure there was no way the prosthetic would move from the designated limb.
Nazi officers celebrating Christmas
In one of the only color images from the early to mid-20th century, this photo from 1941 is of Nazi officers and cadets during their Christmas feast. A number of soldiers in this dining hall is very large and they are all sitting very closely to one another looking at the camera to commemorate their Christmas dinner. The soldiers are all in official uniforms and are waiting to be served with their meal.
Great Depression dinner
The Great Depression occurred between 1929 and 1939 and originated in the United States. In this photo we see young children eating their Christmas dinner during the years of the Great Depression as they were served with turnips and cabbage, the only regularly sourced food they were able to get as it was cheap and accessible. Many people during that time were very hungry and did not know how to care for their children.
The last of the Alcatraz prisoners leaving
The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, located on the island of Alcatraz right off the coast of San Francisco, was one of the highest security prisons in the United States. The prison was opened in 1934 and closed in 1963. In this photo we see the last of the inmates leaving the prison on the day it was slated to be closed. The prison was closed after a successful and violent escape by several inmates in June of 1962.
Chimp goes to space
This 1961 photo of Ham the Chimp posing for the camera after successfully returning from space. Ham was the first primate to be launched into space as part of America’s space initiative. Ham’s name stands for Holloman Aerospace Medical Center. Ham was specially fit into a bio pack couch before the flight to space took off to make sure he wouldn’t get hurt from the impact.
Alcohol being poured out of windows during Prohibition
This photo shows an enormous amount of alcohol being poured out of the windows of a factory in Detroit, Michigan, in 1929. The reason the alcohol was poured out was due to the fact that between 1920 and 1933 the period of prohibition had taken over the United States with the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The reason for this was because of the growing concern of the affect alcohol had on people and their behavior.
Serious snowball fight
It looks as though these men got into one huge fist fight back in 1893. Alas, these men, who were Princeton University freshman and sophomores got into a huge snowball fight between the two class levels. The injuries sustained were due to the sheer force of the throws! Two out of the three men in this photo can’t open one of their eyes while the other has an open wound under one of his. That’s one serious snowball fight they must have had.
Swedish driving rules change
Many of you may not know this but Sweden used to be like England and had drivers drive on the opposite side of the road. When Sweden moved their traffic laws to be more like the rest of the Western world in 1967 they crashed into a few issues (pun totally intended). Here we see the traffic disaster that was the main road the day after the country shifted their driving laws from left side to right side.
Kathrine Switzer and The Boston Marathon
In a history making moment, we see race organizers trying to stop Kathrine Switzer from completing her Boston Marathon run in 1967. The attempted halt was unsuccessful and Switzer became the first woman to finish The Boston Marathon. We are happy to report that many of these sexist and angering situations are no longer valid and that there is nothing stopping a woman from attempting any feat she thinks she can handle.
Albert Einstein’s summer vacation
This photo of theoretical physicist Albert Einstein was taken in 1939 in Nassau Point on Long Island, New York. Einstein was the brilliant man who developed the theory of relativity and was the 1921 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics “for his services to theoretical physics and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.” Seeing Einstein relaxed and sitting by the beach is a total departure from how he was usually documented.
The last photo of the Titanic
This photo is the last known photo of the R.M.S. Titanic as it sailed from Southhampton to New York City. As the events were to unfold, the ship set sail on April 10th, 1912 and on April 14th, 1912 at 11:40 PM the ship hit an iceberg that punctured holes in the frontal area of the ship. The ship sank with over 1,500 fatalities as there were not enough lifeboats to accommodate the 2,224 souls on board.
The first Woodstock
In 1969, a massive crowd of over 400,000 people came to the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. The music festival was scheduled to be three days long and took place in Upstate New York. This photo shows an aerial view of the stated amount of people that were all there for the free thinking and enjoyable festivities. The images out of Woodstock thereafter showed the various types of characters that attended the festival.
Salvador Dali and Raquel Welch
In 1965 famous painter Salvador Dali painted a portrait of actress Raquel Welch. Welch was without a doubt one of the most desired women of that decade and so it made a lot of sense that Dali would be as infatuated as the rest of the world. We see Dali kissing Welch’s hand after he finished painting her portrait of her.
The V-J Day kiss
The kiss seen around the world! V-J Day, or Victory over Japan Day, was marked by the beginning of the end of World War II. When it was announced that the US won, this sailor grabbed a woman he did not know and kissed her in the middle of Times Square in New York City on August 14th, 1945. The man who took this photo was Alfred Eisenstaedt who just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
Audrey Hepburn shopping
In a vintage version of ‘stars, they’re just like us’, in this phot we see a beautiful Audrey Hepburn circa 1958 at the grocery store with her pet deer, Ip. Since this was Beverly Hills we assume everything is allowed, as there is no way it would be okay for us to walk into a grocery story with a pet anything. We’re also not Audrey Hepburn so there’s that too.
Titanic news breaking
This photo, dated April 16th, 1912, shows a young newspaper boy Ned Parfett standing on the sidewalk and selling copies of the evening paper with the news of the devastating sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. Many people believed that Titanic was a ship that couldn’t sink due to its sheer size, they were obviously very wrong.
Fixing an airplane mid-flight
This photo captured the moment a single pilot plane was having trouble so the pilot decided to climb out of the plane and fix whatever the problem was. He either had a death wish or knew exactly what he was doing, we are not sure. The better question is who flew beside him taking this picture and didn’t think to tell him he was out of his mind?
André the Giant
This image shows a young boy completely in awe of André the giant’s sheer height. André was 7 feet 4 inches tall (or 2.24 meters) and was a wrestler and an actor. His most famous role was in the film The Princess Bride, where his gigantism, caused by an excess of the growth hormone, came to good use. The little boy in this photo didn’t understand why André was so tall but his face says it all.
Jimi Hendrix on one of his last days
What makes this image of the late legendary Jimi Hendrix so powerful is that it is one of the last images of Jimi before his untimely death at the very young age of 27 in 1970. Hendrix was an extremely talented musician who sang, wrote and performed his own music as well as made a name for himself as one of the best guitar players to date. He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his contributions to music during his musical career.
POW confronting Heinrich Himmler
This photo shows a POW standing right in front of Heinrich Himmler, one of the leading members of the Nazi Party. The image is a powerful one due to the very fact that this shirtless soldier is not sitting like the rest of the prisoners of war but standing in defiance when Himmler and his men walk past the other side of the fence.
Milkman during the London attacks
Between September 1940 and May 1941, The Blitz was taking place. The German air strikes were flattening England as the conflict between the two nations thanks to the Second World War was escalating. What’s amazing about this photo is the milk man’s dedication to getting his milk delivery on time! We see destruction all around the man but he is still on the go with his glass milk bottles.
1969 was a crazy year
We know this photo is from 1969 and we assume it was taken in Woodstock due to the lack of clothing on the women, the landscape around the individuals in the photo and that grin on the guy’s face! We are not entirely sure what is taking place in this photo and why the women are touching the guy in that manner but it seems innocent enough.
The moment of freedom
This absolutely breathtaking image captured the moment in 1945 when Jewish prisoners in an internment camp train were freed by the Allied forces. On top of the image, it states, “The photograph inserted below was taken by Major Benjamin at the moment the first of the refugees at the train became aware of their liberation and started to move up the hill toward our troops.”
JFK Jr. saluting his father’s coffin
One of the most heartbreaking photos we have ever seen. A very young John F. Kennedy Jr. salutes his father alongside his mother Jacqueline Kennedy, during his funeral procession. The fact that he is so small and doing such a mature thing like saluting in a serious manner befitting an adult is hard to watch. Jacqueline’s half hidden face is also a sight that is hard to bear.
Jacqueline Kennedy by Lyndon Johnson as he takes oath
This photo was taken as Lyndon Johnson was being sworn into office on Air Force One. Lady Bird Johnson stated that when she saw Jacqueline, “Her hair [was] falling in her face but [she was] very composed … I looked at her. Mrs. Kennedy’s dress was stained with blood. One leg was almost entirely covered with it and her right glove was caked, it was caked with blood – her husband’s blood. Somehow that was one of the most poignant sights – that immaculate woman, exquisitely dressed, and caked in blood.”