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Learning about history is a continuously interesting, never-ending adventure. What makes it even more exciting is exploring the past through authentic photographs. These historical photos, coupled with the fascinating stories behind them, allow us to take an intimate glimpse into the lives of people long gone. They provide a tangible link that connects us to these unfamiliar faces and teaches us about their dreams, fears, and brave decisions that changed the course of history.

Our team here at Bored Panda absolutely adores discovering golden nuggets about the old days, and we’re thrilled to bring you plenty of vintage photos that correspond with them. Today’s post will serve as a captivating archive of some rarely seen photos filled with unstaged and genuine scenarios from the past.

So, let’s take a look at some historical moments—both big and small—that may just help us see the world in a different light. Continue scrolling, upvote your favorite rare pictures, and tell us in the comments which ones you love the most and why. Then, if you’re interested in broadening your mental horizons even further, check out our earlier piece about historical photos that might change your perspective.

#1

In 1969, When Black Americans Were Still Prevented From Swimming Alongside Whites, Mr. Rogers Decided To Invite Officer Clemmons To Join Him And Cool His Feet In A Pool

Cop and a man sitting on chair with their feet in a mini pool

years_in_photos Report

#2

On February 8th, 1943, Nazis Hung 17-Year-Old Lepa Radić For Being A Yugoslavian Partisan During World War II. When They Asked Her The Names Of Her Companions, She Replied: “You Will Know Them When They Come To Avenge Me."

Person adjusting a rope on a woman's neck near a tree

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#3

One Of The Earliest Photos Showing A Native American With A Wolf - Unlike The Myths Created About Wolves By Settlers, Indians Maintained A Close And Respectful Relationship With Wolves

Man and a wolf near a tent in the forest

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The best thing about stumbling across historical pictures like these is how much they spark our interest. Many of us immediately feel the urge to do a few Google searches, quickly click on hyperlinks, and dive headfirst into the world of knowledge, all to learn more about these past eras, long-gone events, and people who created something out of them.

It’s amazing how old photos can lead to hours of research about something you might not even have known existed before. By exploring historical events through old photographs, you have a chance to interpret and enhance your perception of the world in a visual way. You’re suddenly presented with new information about how individuals lived back then and how their actions molded our society.

#4

Harlem Grocer Standing In Front Of His Store, 1937

Man with an apron standing near a small grocery store

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ellyross avatar
Eastendbird
Community Member
1 year ago (edited) DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I don't know why I like this picture so much, maybe it's the casual pride of ownership in his stance.

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#5

Three Lads Play To The Camera, Jamaica

Three young and happy boys standing near a fence

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#6

Jewish Prisoners After Being Liberated From A Death Train, 1945

Multiple people coming out of a train wagon

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“Photography can definitely be a powerful tool in understanding history,” Jo Romero, a writer, sketcher, and founder of the blog Love British History, previously told Bored Panda. “It gives us that link between us and people in the past—we can look into the person’s eyes in a photograph and it creates that human connection between us.”

#8

Japanese Couple Taking A Mirror Selfie, 1920s

A couple taking a mirror selfie with a camera

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#9

Mother And Daughter Taking A Walk In New York City, 1970

Mom and a daughter with afro hairstyle in a park

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“From a photograph too, we can see body languages and poses within a group of people or the way a scene is laid out, and this is much more than we could ascertain from reading a book,” Jo added. “Photographs help make history seem more real. They’re like a viewfinder into the past!”

And we can’t help but agree. Of course, oral traditions, artifact collection, and volumes of manuscripts and documents are essential sources of information for historical periods. But there’s something about old photographs that enhances our understanding of history. With each and every closing of the camera shutter, a moment is recorded and frozen in the past, and uncovering these gems makes them seem even more real.

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#10

Bobbi Gibb, First Woman To Run The Boston Marathon In 1966, She Ran Without A Number Because Women Were Not Allowed Into The Race

Man with a blanket sitting in an armchair

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#11

" Please, God, Please, Don't Let Me Be Normal". Sigourney Weaver's High School Yearbook Picture.1967

Persons High School Yearbook Picture

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#12

22-Year-Old Wasp Pilot Shirley Slade In Her Flying Helmet, Goggles, And Gloves, 1943

A pilot smoking a cigarette

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“We have so much we can learn from the visual evidence that we have, whether that’s a portrait of a person or a snapshot captured of a group or scene,” the blogger pointed out that history is an extremely varied topic. Jo added that visual media helps make the past seem more accessible and that we can see old photos like we see historical artifacts. “They add interest and give us context.”

According to Jo, it’s one thing to read about your great-great-grandfather on a page, but seeing a photograph of him and looking into his eyes is completely different. She believes that “photos of people or scenes evoke a much stronger emotional reaction, and it’s great that they can be used alongside written sources for context. Not everyone wants to learn just by reading, and using different visual sources can help keep our interest and curiosity up and make the topic a lot more engaging.”

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#13

Photograph Showing Inventor Charles S.l Baker And His Assistant Demonstrating Heating/Radiator System. 1906

Two men posing near a radiator heating system

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moconnell avatar
M O'Connell
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The actual heat source was mechanical friction inside the cylinder. The concept was that any mechanical power could be used to generate heat (waterwheel, windmill, compressed air, anything) as opposed to just burning fuel.

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#14

A Jewish Hanukkah Menorah Defies The Nazi Swastika, 1931

A Jewish candle on a windowsill with a view throught window

On Hanukkah 1932, just one month before Hitler came to power, Rachel Posner, wife of Rabbi Dr. Akiva Posner, took this photo of the family Hanukkah menorah from the window ledge of the family home looking out on to the building across the road decorated with Nazi flags.

On the back of the photograph, Rachel Posner wrote in German (translated here): Chanukah 5692 (1932)
"Death to Judah"
So the flag says
"Judah will live forever"
So the light answers. -.

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#15

Bride Leaving Her Recently Bombed Home To Get Married, London, Nov 4, 1940

Bride exiting a bombed building on her wedding

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As Anna Pegler-Gordon, an associate professor at the University of Michigan, explained in a piece called Seeing Images in History, we rarely spend time exploring pictures that illustrate history. Most of the time, we focus on the written content “because of the way that images are presented in many historical texts and also because of the way that historians are trained to view images—as illustrations of written history rather than sources of history themselves.”

But this seems to be changing, as Pegler-Gordon mentioned evidence of a “visual turn” in learning and teaching the subject in the last few years. It looks like more academics and historians now give more attention to visual images. 

By using history pictures to teach, the professor noticed that students often see media as more accessible than written records. “Students themselves mention that images make the past seem more accessible, giving concrete shape to a world that sometimes seems intangible,” she added.

#16

The Real Meaning Of "Keep Calm And Carry On." Milkman During The London Blitz 1940

Milkman walking on a street full of building debris on the street

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uncannyi avatar
Uncanny
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

A vital job.People needed that milk for their restorative cups of tea after a less than ideal night.

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“The learners who arrive in our classrooms today are not only immersed in technology, but also in visual ways of learning. They appreciate the immediacy of the image, which often conveys information more quickly than a primary document written in an unfamiliar, or even a foreign, language.” Another benefit is that this immediacy leads to a shared experience of viewing a picture together that can contribute to a lively group discussion.

Moreover, students are often advanced readers of graphic media, and with proper guidance and support from their teachers, they can truly enjoy the process of looking at and analyzing historical visual representations.

#21

Showgirls Playing Chess Before A Show , 1958

Three women playing chess in a swimming wear

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“However, visual images are also inaccessible for the same reasons that they are accessible. The apparent legibility of the image hides its historical construction, the ways in which the image was made, distributed, and read at the time it was produced and since.” Pegler-Gordon added that to become better at reading images, we must become informed about the history and the theory of images.

#22

"Easter Eggs For Hitler" Two African American Gi's Pose At Easter Time With Personalised Infantry Shells. Ww2, 1940s

Two men holding an infantry shells with sunny messages on them

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livlisbon84 avatar
Olivia Lisbon
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Though ironically they often weren’t treated much better at home than they would have been treated by Nazis…

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#23

David Isom, 19, Broke The Color Line In A Segregated Pool In Florida On June 8, 1958, Which Resulted In Officials Closing The Facility

Swimming pool with multiple people swimming in it

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ange_marsden avatar
Ange Marsden
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is really brave - less than a decade after the Anacostia Pool Riot

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#24

Susan Kare, Famous Apple Artist Who Designed Many Of The Fonts, Icons, And Images For Apple, Next, Microsoft, And Ibm. (1980s)

Susan Kare laying in an office chair

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Once we arm ourselves with knowledge, historical photos can be a great tool to expand our mental horizons even further. “We establish a connection with not only the subject but also the photographer, so we see exactly what they saw through their lens that day as if we’re seeing it now and are part of the scene in a way,” blogger Jo Romero added. She concluded by saying that discovering the past through historical photographs simply makes it seem “much more relatable to us and we want to discover more.”

#25

Couples In A Bar, 1959 Pittsburgh

Three couples sitting in a dinner at the table

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amybuck2005 avatar
Nathaniel
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I hope they did not get c**p for being "mixed-race" couples. There is one race, the human race.

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#26

The Two Kashmir Giants Posing With The American Photographer James Ricalton, 1903

Two super tall men posing near a small American man

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What is the Oldest Historical Photo?

The oldest photograph takes us back to a time around 1826 or 1827. A French inventor named Joseph Nicéphore Niépce captured an image titled “View from the Window at Le Gras” at his country estate in Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, France. This photo required an exposure time of about eight hours. 

It stands as a legendary moment in the history of humanity, marking the first successful attempt to permanently capture a scene from nature. This image paved the way for modern photography and also serves as a reminder of the lengths to which pioneers went to capture a moment in time.

#28

Shooting The Original MGM Logo, 1928

Two men with filming gear filming a real tiger

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John Carr
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This lion was born in Dublin Zoo...... https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leo_the_Lion_(MGM)

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#29

That’s A Genuinely Happy Looking Family, USA, 1959

Happy family of four sitting at the dinner table

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#30

Marina Ginestà, A 17-Year-Old Social Activist, Journalist, And Translator, On The Rooftop Of The Hotel Colón In Barcelona In 1936

Young woman with a gun on her back standing on a roof

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What is the Most-Seen Picture of All Time?

The title of the most-seen picture of all time might surprise you—it’s not a work of art, a historical event, or even a celebrity snapshot but rather an image of a green hill and blue sky dotted with clouds.

“Bliss,” photographed by National Geographic photographer Charles O’Rear in 1996, gained its fame as the default desktop background for Microsoft’s Windows XP operating system. This iconic image has ended up on the screens of computers around the world, becoming an inadvertent yet pervasive piece of visual culture. It’s estimated that billions of people have seen the historical photo.

#31

Learning To Ride A Bicycle, 1961

Man teaching a small kid how to ride a bike

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#32

An Ojibwe Native American Spearfishing, Minnesota, 1908

Native American in a boat in the middle of the lake spearfishing

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silverfox44995 avatar
chiizu !!
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I love photography because you get to see these little captured moments in time. I'm watching a person from 1908, it's incredible to just feel so close to something that happened over a century ago

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#33

No Dog Biscuits Today, London, 1939

Small girl with a dog reading a sign of the grocery store

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#34

Dad: Let's Take A Picture That Will Make Mom Angry. 1970

Two small kids holding beer cans in their hands and cigarettes in their mouth

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#36

A Chippewa Indian Named John Smith Who Lived In The Woods Near Cass Lake, Minnesota Claimed To Be 137 Years Old Before He Died In 1922. Photo Taken In 1915

Picture of a man whe lived till he was 137 years old

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#37

Not Everyone Likes Bikini, Miami Beach, 1980s

People laying in the beach and a woman with a sign standing near them

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ssnx01 avatar
Chich
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

If people like you are in heaven why the f**k would I want to go there?

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#38

Paris - 1950

Old and colorful picture of Paris

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dwheater avatar
David Wheater
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Hollywood has been lying to us, the Eiffel tower can't be seen in the background of every picture of Paris.

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#39

Central Park, New York City, 1973

Man teaching his son how too ride a bike in the park

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#40

New York Children Sleeping On The Fire Escape To Keep Cool At Night. Early 1900 ‘S

Two young kids sleeping in a buildings shaft

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ssnx01 avatar
Chich
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

It must have been awful in cities in that heat with no AC. Toss in the number of draft animals in use and wowzers! The heat and smell must have been something.

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#41

Zuya Hiyaya (Goes To War) And His Daughter, Sicangu, 1905

Native American getting ready for the battle with his daughter

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livlisbon84 avatar
Olivia Lisbon
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

She doesn’t look too happy about her dad’s name - but I’m not sure Sicangu is his daughter’s name. Zuya Hiyaya was chief of the Sicangu Lakota people. It means burnt thigh, apparently.

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#42

A Dude Gets Arrested For Growing Marijuana In The Mid 70s

Man arrested by a police officer who is holding a marijuana plant in his hands

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#43

Couple Viewing The Apollo 8 Spacecraft Launch, 1968

A couple watching a rocket taking off into the space

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#44

New York City, September 11th, 2001

A picture of a boy on a bridgr in New York City on 2001 September 11th

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Sonja
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Did they know at the time the photo was taken abou what's happening, or find it out just after that?

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#46

A Teenager At An Elvis Presley Concert At The Philadelphia Arena In Philadelphia (Pa), April 6, 1957

Multiple people sitting in an Elvis Presley concert

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#47

French Riviera, 1974

Old couple in a beach looing at a woman who is taking her top of

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#48

New York City’s Subway System, 1980

Multiple young women sitting in a New York City’s Subway

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Corey Smith
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

BP had a whole gallery of NYC subway photos: https://www.boredpanda.com/hell-on-wheels-new-york-underground-photography-80s/?page_numb=1

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#50

Teenagers At A Party In 1947, Tulsa , Oklahoma.photo By Nina Leen

Teenagers celebrating at the party

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Note: this post originally had 65 images. It’s been shortened to the top 50 images based on user votes.

Where Can You Get Other Historical Photos?

If your appetite for the past hasn’t been satiated yet, you’re in luck! We’ve put together collections that are nothing short of a time traveler’s dream. 

Check out our dedicated pieces on the history of photography and get up close and personal with some of history’s most iconic personalities. These collections are your gateway to understanding not just the people and places of yesteryears but also the remarkable journey of photography itself.