Some of us are history buffs and love pouring over old books and photographs. There’s nothing more thrilling than learning a secret about the past or discovering a buried plot twist in a story you thought you knew well. If you’re one of those people, you’ll enjoy this gallery featuring some of the most fascinating, and sometimes haunting, historical photos ever captured on camera. These rare photographs provide a glimpse into the past, and a better understanding of our collective world history.
We all know the deathly power of a nuclear weapon and the lasting effects it can have on an area. You can’t really test these types of bombs without some type of aftermath. Well, in 1946, Americans tried to test one under water.
“The device was anchored about ninety feet beneath a barge, and when it exploded it sent up an immense column of radioactive seawater, topped by a flattened white mushroom cloud,” said Alex Wellerstein writer for The New Yorker. “The column rose some six thousand feet, then collapsed back into the lagoon, generating a wave that was nearly the height of the Chrysler Building.”
“The Most Beautiful Suicide”
In 1947, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale jumped from the observation deck of the Empire State Building onto a limousine which was parked below. Photography student Robert Wiles heard the explosive crash and shot this photo soon afterward. Years later, pop artist Andy Warhol appropriated the shot for an art print.
Time later wrote of McHale, “Everything about her pose—her gloved hand clutching her necklace; her gently crossed ankles; her right hand with its gracefully curved fingers—suggests that she is momentarily quiet, perhaps thinking of her plans for later in the day, or daydreaming of her beau.”
Two German soldiers (and a mule) wearing gas masks in WWI, 1916. Early gas masks were crude, as nobody thought or expected that poisonous gasses or fumes would ever be a weapon. Now, poison gas is only one of the invisible threats that soldiers face.
And what good is a mule if it’s gassed? That was probably their mode of transportation to travel long distances. And speaking of poison gas being only one of the invisible threats, there are way more gasses out there that can subdue an enemy. If it weren’t for masks, some battle would be over way before they even started.
Battle of Saipan
This photo shows an American soldier reaching into a cave to assist a woman with a baby on her back, after the Battle of Saipan, June 1944. Saipan is located in the Mariana Islands. It’s been colonized by everybody! It started as a Spanish colony, then was taken over by the Germans, then the Japanese. As the largest island in N. Mariana, it’s an important part of the current United States commonwealth, similar to Guam. US citizens don’t need a passport to visit.
In 1944, Allied Forces had been capturing more and more islands. The Japanese were left holding the Philippines, the Caroline Islands, Palau Islands and the Mariana Islands. If the Allies could capture Saipan (and therefore the Mariana Islands) then they could cut off Japanese lines of communication.
Imagine the Last Thoughts
These are John Lennon’s glasses, pictured after his 1980 assassination. The way the glasses sit there with the majority of the blood on one lens it just makes you wonder what his last thoughts were before passing.
What was he seeing before that last moment? The photographer of this picture did a great job at capturing an image that makes the imagination run loose. Even in the backdrop, you can see the big city buildings which add to the story. May The Beatles legend rest in peace and his music live on forever.
Removing a Symbol of Hatred
Martin Luther King, Jr removes a burned cross from his yard, with his son, in 1960. As we all should know, King experienced plenty of discrimination and harsh words of hatred from the other side. There wasn’t much he could but be the non-violent, peace curator that he was or that burned cross would have probably been impaled into him.
He must have just said some things that got the people going for them to put a burning cross in his yard! Not only is that disrespectful, it is completely blasphemous! Some people can sometimes take things to the next level.
Solemn Mr. Frank
Anne Frank’s father Otto revisiting the attic where the family hid from the Nazis. He was the only survivor (1960). As you see him standing there, you can tell he is reflecting on the times in that attic and all the trials he and his family went through.
This is one of those photographs that need a violin and piano playing in the background as you look at it. You can only imagine the pain this man felt and still probably feels. Have any of you ever experienced any stress somewhat close to what he has experienced?
It was total chaos on the first morning after Sweden changed from driving on the left side to driving on the right, 1967. The official name for the day was Högertrafikomläggningen. A complicated name for a complicated task. What is the point of switching sides like this?
Is there a scientific formula that says driving on one side is less likely to bring forth an accident? If that is the case, then this would make sense but we aren’t going to go and try to find all the specifics for this one, just know we think it’s a bit strange without great reasoning.
The Beginning of World War I
Pictured here are Archduke Franz Ferdinand with his wife on 28 June 1914, the day they were assassinated by Gavrilo Princip. His assassination in Sarajevo precipitated Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war against Serbia. This caused the Central Powers (including Germany and Austria-Hungary) and Serbia’s allies to declare war on each other, starting World War I.
What a great vendetta someone must have to assassinate a man and his wife. Yes, we know that he may not have been the greatest person being described as “a man of uninspired energy, dark in appearance, and cast a shadow of violence and recklessnesses,” but that still means your vendetta has to be strong.
Cause for Celebration
This was taken on the night Prohibition ended: December 5th, 1933. For all of those who enjoy a good drink, imagine what it would be like today if there was no selling of alcohol? Would you go stir crazy? Would you try and find it on the black market or try and buy it from those selling it illegally?
Whatever you might do, we know that when it comes back to the masses that you are going to celebrate and scream with joy. Just like you see in the image above. Folks probably got drunk for several days straight or bought enough liquor that would last them just in case there was another prohibition.
The Photo That Changed the Face of AIDS
This 1989 picture of a father comforting his dying son is widely considered to be the photo that changed Americans’ opinions of the AIDS epidemic. You can’t have negative feelings towards something when you see that people affected by it are still human and are loved by others.
It would be a scary thing to have someone you know and care for become affected by this disease so seeing that happen in this picture only makes it more real. Even to this day, AIDS is one of the most deadly diseases and someone you know or someone you know knows might have it.
A step forward for humanity
This man is said to be one of the earliest recipients of plastic surgery, most likely during WWI. And although it looks cringeworthy, this man was probably thankful that there was an attempt at trying to make his face look how it once used to look. Yeah, he isn’t smiling in the picture because it isn’t exactly what anyone would want their nose area to look like but it is better than missing most of your nose.
Would you want to be a candidate for a new surgery even if it wasn’t completely ready to be done? They have to start on someone!
Rub a Dub Dub
Soot-covered miners help wash each other after a grueling shift. This was a daily ritual. Netherlands, 1945. This is not for the insecure. This is for the hard working miners who have no choice but to clean off in front of each other after working hard doing their job. It’s kind of similar to athletes showering right after a game in the same shower.
When you are all gross and dirty, there is nothing more satisfying than rinsing off and being able to put on new clothes. Even if you have no soap, just the water hitting you and rinsing off the primary filth is big.
Devil with the Blue Eyes
Here is a rare color photo of Adolf Hitler, which shows his true eye color. There are many conspiracy theories as to what his true eye color was but it would make sense if they were blue because if they weren’t it would be kind of strange that he didn’t like non-blue-eyed people. However, that too is a myth that can’t really be proven.
Whether his eyes were blue, black or gold the common denominator he had was pure evil. That’s something we may never know for sure but do we want to know or care to really know what color they were seeing all the pain he caused?
Affectionately referred to as Little Nap, the “Napoleon of the Chimpanzee World”, this charming fellow was a popular animal celebrity in 1915. And he’s one of the cutest monkeys ever thanks to that outfit. He was all the rage at the monkey Halloween get together.
Imagine that little guy walking up to you looking at you just like that. You’d want to play with him or at least take a selfie with the little fellow! Great idea to give him his own photo shoot because now he will live forever in the hearts of many.
This stunning young woman was photographed in the Philippines by Dutch photographer Francisco Van Camp, in 1875. The photo’s inscription indicates that she is a “Mestiza Sangley-Filipina,” an ethnic term used in the 16th to 19th-century Spanish Philippines to indicate someone from Chinese descent.
Rare photos of past beauties are always something you can appreciate. You get the chance to see how they gauged beauty back then compared to these days and most of the time, we still have the same sense of praising what is beautiful. No doubt that she lovely but what are your thoughts?
Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí collaborated on a film in 1945. Though the project was abandoned, Roy’s nephew picked it up 54 years later. The result is the six-minute musical animation Destino 2003.
Maria Popova writes, “Destino, tells the tragic love story of Chronos, the personification of time, who falls in love with a mortal woman as the two float across the surrealist landscapes of Dali’s paintings. Dalí described the film as ‘a magical display of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time’ and Disney called it ‘a simple story about a young girl in search of true love’.”
No Holding Her Back
Boston Marathon race organizers as they attempt to stop Kathrine Switzer from running in 1967. They failed, however: she became the first woman to finish the race.
All she wanted to do was finish the race and all they wanted to do was try and stop her from finishing. Just 40 years earlier, women had just gained the right to vote after a 72 year long battle for women’s rights. Something as simple as finishing a race should have been the least of these people’s concerns, honestly. Nevertheless, she did it and made history at the same time.
The President with Elvis
Now, this is rare. Until the Obama administration, we didn’t really see musicians in the White House with presidents so seeing this photo of these two is an exclusive sighting.
When we go to the swimming pool or even the beach today, you can count on seeing at least half of dozen women in thong bikinis. The most revealing bikinis you have ever seen and no one bats an eye (except the drooling men who can’t take their eyes off of these ladies). Let’s take a history lesson.
It’s hard to believe today, but this woman was arrested for public indecency after stepping out in public wearing this bathing suit. Swimmer Annette Kellermann was arrested in Revere Beach, Massachusetts for indecency in this fitted one-piece. The year was 1907.