Rare Historical Photos That Will Leave You Speechless
We’ve all heard the saying that “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but what exactly does it mean? Some historical events are so incredibly strange, beautiful, unnerving, or unusual, you’ll probably never read about them in the history books. Such are the photos in the following gallery–you’ll need to see them to believe the events they depict actually took place.
Sometimes all it takes is a single photo to open people’s eyes about what’s going on in the world around them. The following photos will evoke your curiosity and enlighten you about the incredible world we all live in.
1. Flying High
In the 1960s, being a flight attendant was every girl’s dream. They were bubbly, bright, young, and usually single. These classy ladies also wore stylish outfits and got to see the world in ways their friends and family could only dream of.
Back when air travel wasn’t nearly as common as it is today, flight passengers were usually of higher classes, and the women who served them were as glam as can be. Did you know that in order to keep the work force fresh-faced and energetic, flight attendants were expected to retire from work by the age of 32?
2. Man Down!
A guard is on the floor of what seems like an honorary ceremony. Poor man, but at least that’s all in the past! Luckily for us though, we have proof of this little piece of history and what’s actually going down.
What we’re seeing here is a British soldier in the Color Parade in 1970, who passed out literally as Queen Elizabeth and her guards were passing by. Could it be that he was so nervous to see her royal highness? Or was he just hot in his red coat uniform? Incidentally, Queen Elizabeth wasn’t even captured in the image.
3. The Hindenburg Disaster
This historical photo was taken in May 6, 1937, and it shows one of the most well known aerial disasters of the 20th century. Nintey-seven people were on board the Hindenburg on its tragic, final voyage – only half of its actual capacity.
The Hindenburg was a German passenger airship filled with hydrogen. In an attempt to dock at Naval Air Station Lakehurst, the airship suddenly caught fire and was ultimately destroyed, resulting in the untimely death of 36 people. Incredibly, it was all caught on camera.
4. The Mestiza de Sangley
This captivating, mysterious portrait taken by photographer Francisco Van Camp in the late 19th century shows a beautiful young woman wearing traditional garments. Very little is known about her–only that she was a “Mestiza de Sangley” woman, a term that originates from the Spanish Philippines.
The term “Sangley mestizo”, or Chinese mestizo, originating in the Spanish Colonial Period during the 16th-19th centuries, was used to describe people of Chinese ancestry. Dutch photographer Francisco Van Camp took this photo in his studio in Manilla, ca. 1875, but unfortunately, the woman’s identity is unknown, though some regard her as the “Mona Lisa” of the Pacific Islands.
5. The Girl with the Chin Tattoo
The woman you see before you is Olive Ann Oatman, known as the first white American woman to have a tattoo. She was born in 1837 in Illinois, and was kidnapped by a Native American tribe, either olkepayas or Western Yavapais, along with her sister when she was 14. The rest of her family was killed in the incident.
Oatman and her sister Mary Ann were adopted by a Mohave chief and his family and were both given chin tattoos. Five years after originally being taken, rumors of a white girl living with the Mohave tribe reached her home village and she was eventually traded for several blankets and horses. Her sister, Mary Ann, sadly died of hunger before the release. Oatman’s story resonated with the media for a long time after her return, and several novels, plays and films were written about her. She eventually died of a heart attack in 1903.
Actress Jamie Lee Curtis isn’t just Hollywood’s Scream Queen. As a matter of fact, long after her terrifying debut in John Carpenter’s 1978 hit, Halloween, Curtis became somewhat of a fitness icon, clad in revealing leotards and all.
In the romantic 1985 film Perfect, Curtis starred alongside John Travolta as a female aerobics instructor who falls in love with a reporter working on a less-than-flattering story about health clubs. If that’s not Oscar material, we don’t know what is!
7. A Young Freedom Fighter
This young lady is freedom fighter and activist, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, who put aside her own education, family and life in order to participate and contribute to the causes she believed in.
Mullholand, born in 1941, participated in many sit-ins and demonstrations for civil rights and integration, spent some time in prison because of it, and even spent two months on death row before being released.
8. Remember These?
Check out those gigantic computers! If you were born in the 1990s, chances are you’ve never seen these computer systems but if you’re one of us who remembers sitting around in class with these gigantic screens, you’ll get deja vu!
Seen here is the National Space Invaders Championship! Yes Space Invaders existed back then! This event took place in 1980 and was the first ever electronic gaming competition and they accumulated over 10,000 participants! The Space Invaders video game really took off in that decade. It was created only two years ago in 1978, before going viral and thus organizing a national event for avid users.
9. Heartthrob Heartache
This pictures snapped of James Dean at a gas station in 1955 was just before his fatal car accident hours later. This was the last picture captured of the “Rebel Without a Cause” actor. The photographer managed to catch his last few hours on camera.
At least he looks happy in the photo and took advantage of his final day doing what he loves most, racing cars. The iconic celebrity will be forever remembered by his good looks and talents. So sad he died so early, he had a big lust for life!
10. Abraham Lincoln’s Expression
Here’s former President Abraham Lincoln before and after the Civil War. You can definitely see he wasn’t the same man afterwards. Lincoln was elected for president when he was 52 years old, and by the time his term ended, he looked like a very old man.
Lincoln served as president for 4 years, and 4 years can feel like a very, very long time.
11. Nuclear Test Site, 1953
What would you have thought if you saw this gigantic mushroom cloud in front of you? Would you run away? Would you stop and stare at it in complete awe?
This photo was taken at a nuclear test site in Nevada, only 16 milliseconds after the first ever nuclear detonation.
12. Dorothy Counts Joins an All-White School
For many years, segregation was the law of the land in the United States. Then, finally, it was deemed unconstitutional and everyone was free to go wherever they wanted. Upon the newest ruling from congress, Dorothy Counts became the first black person to attend Harding High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, a previously all-white school.
Unfortunately, Dorothy had to drop out of school only 4 days later because she was constantly being insulted and intimidated by her fellow students.
13. Babe Ruth Breaks a Record
George Herman “Babe” Ruth went down in history as one of the best baseball players of all time, and for good reason.
Here he is seen hitting his 700th home run, on Friday the 13th, 1934.
14. Legs for Days, Literally
This is a unique image capturing the tallest person in all of history! His name is Robert Wadlow but was nicknamed “The Alton Giant” and “Giant of Illinois” because he was born in Alton, Illinois.
In the photo, he is talking with someone who looks extremely short sitting next to such an amazon figure, but really he’s just an average Joe! Wadlow lived from 1918-1940 and still has the reputation of tallest man on record.
15. Uniform Check
In this eye-catching image, Swedish airline stewardess, Birgitta Lindman, who worked for the SAS Airline, is having a closer look at the length of a showgirl’s outfit after rumors spread that airlines were considering skirts with shorter hemlines for Swedish air hostesses in 1959.
Considering how cold it usually gets inside an aircraft (not to mention in Sweden), we’re guessing most airline crew members would opt for a uniform more like the one Lindman is sporting! This memorable historical photos make us think: Scandinavia… more like “scandi-lous.”
16. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Burned Cross
How would you react if the KKK left burning crosses outside your family home?
Seen here, Marthin Luther King, Jr. is seen removing the scorched remains left outside his house in April of 1960, with surprising nonchalance.
17. Brigitte Bardot at the French Riviera
French actress Brigitte Bardot was one of the biggest icons of the 1950s and 1960s, with a wide array of films such as And God Created Woman, Contempt and A Very Private Affair. The photo below shows the actress at the beach in Cannes, where she graced many a red carpet.
Though Bardot originally started as a ballerina and a model, her talent eventually led her to the big screen where she made her debut in the popular comedy Le Trou Normand when she was only 18. Later on, she became a major sex symbol and is now considered one of the most recognizable faces of cinema.
18. How’s This for Prison Break?
This photo was a popular one back in the 50s. It seems as if a man is going on a detached roller coaster or something, but here’s what’s really going on: a prisoner is being used to test safety nets before it proceeded to mass produce!
This scene takes place in 1958, where capital punishment was practically everywhere in the United States, so this seems like a fun thing to do for a criminal waiting to hit the chair.
19. Bison skull mountain
Here’s a massive pile of bison skulls about to be ground into fertilizer. The photo’s approximately from the 1870s, and is seriously creepy. Imagine how many bison had to be killed to create such a massive mound.
Thankfully, the human race has come up with less gruesome ways to produce fertilizer since.
20. The Hippo Carriage
Imagine taking your hippo out for a ride like you would a normal car. We’re curious to know just how this guy got the hippo to cooperate, especially since hippos are incredibly dangerous and kill more people than sharks per year.
Whatever the persuasion, hippos seemed to be economical and less harmful on the environment than real cars: about 80 pounds of fruit and grass fed to your private hippo could get you 6 miles to the gallon at about 14 mph.
21. Bill Gates and the Data Tower
This is how you sold new technology in the 1990’s.
Bill Gates in shown here demonstrating how much data could be stored in a single CD-ROM. In 1994, this technology was pretty mind-blowing.
22. An Abandoned Mental Asylum
Imagine being in one of these in the early 20th century.
There are plenty of abandoned places like these across the US. Perfect location for the next horror blockbuster, don’t you think? This picture portrays an abandoned hospital bed taken at abandoned Pennhurst Asylum in Pennsylvania.
23. As Long as You’re Being Civil
Don’t you feel like you just went to a history museum with this incredible photograph? If not, let us refresh you on what went on. This pictures dates all the way back to 1913 after the American Civil War ended.
This is captured in the Gettysburg Reunion, years after the infamous Gettysburg address speech and battle, where the veterans of the Unions and of the Confederates are seen shaking hands with each other. There were over 50,000 veterans, making it the largest American convention for veterans in U.S. History. If this can happen, then there’s hope for peace in the Middle East! Ok…let’s not go overboard.
24. Barrel Mountain
This photo was taken during the prohibition era in 1927.
It shows an enormous tower of confiscated liquor barrels, that were probably burned down shortly after this photo was taken. What a shame!
25. A Rare Occurrence
This picture will literally give you chills. On the right, we have the recently deceased Cuban political dictator Fidel Castro, and on the right holding the fishing rod is the legendary “El Che,” also known as Che Guevara, who assisted the Cuban revolution alongside Castro.
The two met for the 26th of July Movement, to overthrow the residing Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista. This historical photo shows them sailing to Cuba on the yacht named The Granma. You can thank us for sounding smart when you mention this at your next friends’ gathering.
26. Don’t Look Back
Nature can be a lot scarier than a disaster movie sometimes.
This photo shows the pyroclastic flow, made of hot gas and rock, that was released into the air when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991.
27. Some Things Never Change
From 1920-1933, Alcohol was banned in the United States under the eighteenth amendment added to the U.S. Constitution. Before that, beer and all that was legal so you can imagine the disappointment of these lads whose blood has already been injected with the substance.
This protest occurred in 1932 after civilians got sick and tired of not being able to drink properly. At this time, the manufacturing transportation and sale of all types of alcohol were illegal, except for medical purposes. A year later, they banned the prohibition with the twenty first amendment. Guess all the protests worked!
28. The Astrochimp Returns
Look at that happy face!
You’re looking at Ham the Chimp, the first humanoid ever to be launched into space. If it weren’t for this guy, we would have never had today’s space program!
29. Playing His Heart Out
The image snapped is of none other than Big Jay McNeely, a famous blues artist and saxophonist from Los Angeles, California playing at the Tramps nightclub in New York in 1993.
Here he is blowing the audience’s mind, especially the women, as he did from the moment he started performing in public. McNeely was also a member of the jazz band The Tenor Saxophone Honkers and had many smash hits all the way up until the 1960s.
30. Legend in the Flesh
Here is an iconic photo of the famous and most notable English director and producer up until today, Alfred Hitchcock. The location is in France, at the Cannes Film Festival in 1972. He is riding a bike by the dock, or maybe he is just posing for the camera.
Alfred Hitchcock was quite an original individual, after reaching success in Britain cinema, followed by an international directing and producing career. He then moved to California and changed Hollywood history forever.
31. Houston, We Have a Problem
This is one of the rarest and most historical photos. It was snapped at the right place at the exact time! A pilot lost control of the airplane and looks like he is about to crash, right in front of an innocent farmer boy.
Although the pilot sustained some minor injuries only, he was safe. This image looks dangerous but due to the pilot’s intense knowledge of landing, he was able to make it with only a few wounds.
32. The Gettysburg Address
The Gettysburg Address was a groundbreaking speech by President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863. He calls on to remember the U.S. constitution and the motives of the founding fathers.
Lincoln only mentioned the American Civil War briefly during his speech. He didn’t mention slavery, the Confederates or the Union. Lincoln focused on hope for the country and his famous line of “Four score and seven years ago.”
33. The Many Looks of Hitler
This photographic series documents the many ways that Hitler could’ve disguised himself. It was actually created by the the US Government. Many Nazi officers either went underground or fled to Latin America after World War II ended, and photos like these were created to help officials find them.
It is said that several Nazi officials still live in South America to this day, 71 years after the war ended.
34. A special Kind of Baby Carriage
This baby carriage was all the rage during WWII-era London, but for reasons far beyond trends or fashion statements. This gas-proof carriage was designed after the British were afraid that Nazi Germany would poison the population with a toxic gas attack.
Coupled with the mother’s gas mask, both would be safe against sinister toxic strikes, and right on trend!
35. A Selfie from the 1800’s
Despite popular belief, Kim Kardashian did not invent ‘the selfie. In fact, people have been engaging in this act of self indulgence and narcissism since the 1800’s, and this photo proves it. Actually, this might be the oldest selfie to date, taken in 1839.
The man in the picture is Robert Cornelius, who was an amateur photographer, chemist and lamp manufacturer .
36. All Together Now
This is the last known photo of all four members of the Beatles together, taken on August 22, 1969. It seems like John isn’t too keen on posing for the camera!
The fantastic four eventually broke up in April 1970, when Paul McCartney announced he was leaving the group. Their influence on the music world remains to this day.
37. Going Home After the War
Taken in 1946 after the end of World War II, this photograph shows a German soldier finally getting home after a long couple of years of fighting and confinement. Unfortunately, he got home too late. His wife and children had already perished in the war.
Upon hearing the news, the soldier collapsed in agony. WWII changed a lot, and this was just one of the many lives impacted by the fighting.
38. The Scientist’s Desk
The messy desk before you belonged to one, Albert Einstein. You may have heard of him. This eerie photograph was taken on April 1955, merely hours after the ground breaking scientist had died. It features his desk just as he left it, never knowing he’ll never get to finish his work.
Wonder how many genius discoveries were made at this very desk.
39. The Two 30-Year-Olds
The incredible photo before you shows two 30 year old women shaking hands graciously. One rules over Great Britain to this day, and the other was the undeniable queen of Hollywood.
The two queens met on October 1956, and we’re not sure which of them was more star struck.
40. The Onion Masks
This soldier figured out the best way to peel an onion without crying. It’s important to keep your sense of humor even in the hardest of times, and this guy sure did his best.
If you can protect yourself against gas attacks AND make some salad in the process, it’s definitely a win-win situation!
41. The Royal Mug Shot
Isn’t this the most badass mug shot you have ever seen? Taken in 1970, The King of Rock N’ Roll still managed to keep his cool while being arrested. Well, he did has some experience in dancing to the Jailhouse Rock.
If only all mug shots had so much swagger.
42. Before The Scandal
This rare photo features two innocent looking coworkers, whose scandalous affair will soon shock the entire world. Three years after this photo was taken, president Bill Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky’s lives were forever changed, thanks to one innocent looking blue dress and one, Linda Tripp.
This two friendly faces don’t look anything like one of the biggest political scandals of the 1990’s, right?
43. The Kid Terminator
The young muscular fella before you is no else than the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger! This photo was taken during Young Schwarzenegger’s first bodybuilding competition in Austria.
The famous actor started his bodybuilding career at the tender age of 14, never knowing his abs of steel and enormous arms will soon make him one of the world’s favorite action stars.
44. Earth in 1946
This was WAY before Google Earth. This photo was the first ever to be taken from outer space, showing planet Earth through the lens of a 35-millimeter camera that was attached to a missile. Think about how much the world has changed since.
This was actually the first time mankind got a glimpse of the Earth from afar. How amazing is that?
45. The Name’s Connery…Sean Connery
Who was your favorite James Bond? Daniel Craig? Maybe Pierce Brosnan? This little Jamaican girl seems to adore the young, suave Sean Connery, who’s signing a coconut just for her during filming.
Not long after this was taken, the iconic ‘Dr. No’ was released and the entire world fell in love with the British spy.
46. Satchmo’s Serenade
This photo would have made an Instagram hit. Back in 1961, the legendary Jazz trumpeter, Louis Armstrong, played a song for his wife Lucille while visiting the Pyramids.
If that’s not pure romance, we don’t know what is.
47. The Young Street Performers
Ever stopped to watch a street performer’s act? The next time you see one, make sure you do, cause you’ll never know who they might turn into.
Back in 1974, a young Robin Williams was just a mime practicing his act in Central Park with a friend. Photographer Daniel Sorine took this photo of the two performers, never knowing Williams will soon become a huge Hollywood star, famous for iconic roles such as Mork, Mrs. Doubtfire and The Genie.
48. Young Boy Receiving Flag at His Dad’s Funeral
So many people have lost their lives fighting for this country and it always breaks my heart to see those who have to grow up with a parent. Since the war began in 2003, more than 5,000 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq.
This little boy’s father died on duty in Iraq and is trying to stay strong as he holds back tears. There are plenty of young children like this one that will be receiving their parent’s flag.