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40 Must-See Photos From The Past

The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” was coined by American newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane in 1911. It’s a simple notion that applies to many aspects of our lives, but especially to historical photography. Sometimes, one simple picture can tell you more about history than any story you might read or any document you might analyze.

These photographs all tell stories about the historical figures or events that they represent. Once taken simply to document their present, they now help us witness the past. Many photographs only become iconic shots years later, once we understand their importance and historical context. From historical landmarks and famous people to the basic daily routines of the past, these pictures portray the past in a way that we can empathize with and understand more intimately.

Perhaps the wars, poverty, fights for freedom and little miracles of the past have lessons for us that we can use today?

(via sobadsogood)

Woman With A Gas-Resistant Pram, England, 1938

Unpacking the head of the Statue of Liberty, 1885

Elvis in the Army, 1958

Animals being used as part of medical therapy, 1956

Testing of new bulletproof vests, 1923

Charlie Chaplin at age 27, 1916

Hindenburg Disaster, May 6, 1937

Circus hippo pulling a cart, 1924

Annette Kellerman promotes women’s right to wear a fitted one-piece bathing suit, 1907. She was arrested for indecency

Annie Edison Taylor, the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, 1901

106-year-old Armenian Woman guards home, 1990

Baby cages used to ensure that children get enough sunlight and fresh air when living in an apartment building, ca. 1937

The original Ronald McDonald, 1963

Disneyland Employee Cafeteria in 1961

Advertisement for Atabrine, anti-malaria drug, in Papua, New Guinea during WWII

Soldier shares a banana with a goat during the battle of Saipan, ca. 1944

Little girl with her doll sitting in the ruins of her bombed home, London, 1940

Construction of the Berlin wall, 1961

Unknown soldier in Vietnam, 1965

Bookstore in London ruined by an air raid, 1940

Walter Yeo, one of the first to undergo an advanced plastic surgery and a skin transplant, 1917

Suntan vending machine, 1949

Measuring bathing suits – if they were too short, women would be fined, 1920′s

Martin Luther King with his son removing a burnt cross from their front yard, 1960

Hotel owner pouring acid in the pool while black people swim in it, ca. 1964

Lifeguard on the coast, 1920′s

Artificial legs, UK, ca. 1890

Mom and son watching the mushroom cloud after an atomic test, Las Vegas, 1953

Mother hides her face in shame after putting her children up for sale, Chicago, 1948

Austrian boy receives new shoes during WWII

Hitler’s officers and cadets celebrating Christmas, 1941

Christmas dinner during Great Depression: turnips and cabbage

The real Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, ca. 1927

Last prisoners of Alcatraz leaving, 1963

Melted and damaged mannequins after a fire at Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London, 1930

A space chimp posing to camera after a successful mission to space, 1961

Illegal alcohol being poured out during Prohibition, Detroit, 1929

Princeton students after a freshman vs. sophomores snowball fight, 1893

A beautiful suicide – 23 year-old Evelyn McHale jumped from the 83rd floor of the Empire State Building and landed on a United Nations limousine, 1947

First morning after Sweden changed from driving on the left side to driving on the right, 1967

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What do you think?

  • Anonymous

    Aren’t all photos from the past?

  • Kjs

    That acid in the pool picture, horrifying!

  • anonymous

    Unknown soldier is hot

  • cdsofogerrgwergw

    they should’ve had wifi

  • 小哥们


  • Sillinessiskillingme

    I am more upset about the 1948 picture of the mother trying to sell her children in Chicago than the “Beautiful Suicide” picture!

  • Dee

    Why be offended by the comment of a beautiful suicide. There is a woman selling her children. A hotel owner pouring acid into a pool. A baby in a cage hanging off a building really!

  • jaochim

    I really like the picture of when Sweden changed to driving on the right side. I would love to be there that morning.

  • Jane.

    the woman who jumped off of the Empire State Building: It looks like her legs were tied together at the ankles. ? Suicide ?

    • AddisonDewitt

      geez I’m glad you aren’t a detective…if you look at the feet you can clearly see the one foot is sticking out of a sock that is torn, possibly at impact, the other foot is still covered by the other intact sock.

  • 1SouthSide1

    That fucking hotel owner pouring acid in to pool really pisses me off.

  • Ennie MyC

    Great, great pics. Thanks for sharing.

  • Amanda Crowell Walker

    Seems like most photographs have been covered here. Except for the bullet proof vest. They couldn’t do that on a dummy? LOL

  • Ross

    Any leader contemplating any sort of bombing should first look at the picture of the little girl with the baby doll and then examine their conscience.

  • artikelinformasi

    old photos which show how live has change

  • Jeff Davies

    My favourite was the soldier feeding the goat. That poor goat must’ve been absolutely terrified and still hunger compelled it to search for food regardless. The soldiers were terrified as well but at least they knew what was going on there. The poor goat never could.

  • JFarleg

    Edson, not Edison. It’s right there on the barrel.

  • Brett Smith

    The original Ronald McDonald is Willard Scott (pictured here).

  • confused

    Statue of Liberty is old Witchcraft Statue named Hecate. Hecate was the goddess of magic, witchcraft, the night, moon, ghosts and necromancy. Nice liberty…indeed, and gift from the French people.

    • Serai 1

      What a pity you haven’t the vaguest idea what you’re talking about.

  • Fame

    All amazing photos! Annette Kellerman nice rack!

  • Allen750

    I see people complaining about copyright issues.

    Welcome to the Internet.

  • donjon

    baby cages? thats f*cked up. Artificial legs? creeeeeepy

  • Joan Criscuolo

    These photos beautifully portray the hope, the challenges, the sadness, the heartache, and the compassion of the human spirit. I believe it was for this purpose that they were published here. I hope their intent reaches the hearts of those who see them!

  • Rob

    That Chimp seems so happy to have that as a headline!

  • Guest

    No suicide is ever beautiful…

  • geezlueez

    what is the story behind the woman selling her kids?

  • Mamaw

    People want to have something negative to say about everything. Why can’t you just enjoy the pictures? Get a life!

  • Lynne Manker-Chestnut

    I wonder if Stephen King saw the picture of Ronald McDonald before he created Pennywise…it would explain a lot.

  • Rox

    If copy writing pictures is such a big offense then are many of us guilty of sharing picture after picture on FB or Blogs etc. please don’t call me names for this,I am actually asking and its just an observation. I am very sensitive and will have build a fort and crawl in it with my wine and hide out for the night and I am claustrophobic, so you see the pain you will cause if you are mean to me

  • Tinkrbelle

    Very thought provoking and definitely worth sharing. A picture is really worth a thousand words!

  • Edward Kimble

    This is precisely why copyright law should be changed to 25 years. By 75 years, all the economic value is gone but so is any memory that the event or script even occurred or existed. Sorry Hollywood but your sorry sack of junk is destroying an entire world of neat stuff.

  • Guest

    .. did anyone else notice.. the “face” in the prohibition picture, where the liquor was being poured.. it was weird. Anywho, I really enjoyed all of the pictures, just seeing how things have changed over time is just amazing to me.

  • JC

    I don’t think that last picture was suicide. I think it was murder. Notice the stockings at her ankles.

  • veronica

    Im really glad to be able to see such beautiful pictures and kind of see people from that era live through those images!

  • EmilyOswald

    Those photos were amazing. Incredible how much of history you could capture with just one of those.