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Pictures illuminate the shadows of history, revealing the forgotten people and places that otherwise may have faded into oblivion. They help us make sense of the past and, in turn, allow us to understand the present.

So we at Bored Panda decided it would be a nice idea to explore the subreddit 'Rare Historical Photos' — it has 40,000 members constantly digging through the archives and sharing their best finds. Prepare to be transported through time!

#1

Ojibwe Woman, Ponemah, Minnesota, Photograph Taken By Roland W. Reed C.1908

Ojibwe Woman, Ponemah, Minnesota, Photograph Taken By Roland W. Reed C.1908

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#2

A Seaman's Request For An Extraordinary Leave Of Absence, 1967. Reason: “My Wife Is Planning To Get Pregnant This Weekend And I Would Like To Be Present.”

A Seaman's Request For An Extraordinary Leave Of Absence, 1967. Reason: “My Wife Is Planning To Get Pregnant This Weekend And I Would Like To Be Present.”

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But who needs history anyway? Some people wonder why we should bother studying it when we could be preparing for the future instead. But think about it: can we be ready for what's coming if we don't know what's happened before? The past gives us all kinds of insights that can help us tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. Without that knowledge, we could be in for some tough times.

As American historian and journalist Eric Alterman pointed out, since our political discourse is increasingly dominated by sources who care nothing for truth or credibility, we come closer and closer to the situation that Walter Lippmann warned about a century ago, in his seminal 'Liberty and the News.'

"Men who have lost their grip upon the relevant facts of their environment are the inevitable victims of agitation and propaganda. The quack, the charlatan, the jingo ... can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information,” he wrote.

#3

Renowned Photographer Walter Chandoha Created One Of His Most Famous Photographs Of His Daughter Paula And A Small Kitten Smiling At The Camera At The Same Time, 1955

Renowned Photographer Walter Chandoha Created One Of His Most Famous Photographs Of His Daughter Paula And A Small Kitten Smiling At The Camera At The Same Time, 1955

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#4

A Police Officer Playing Duck Duck Goose With Children In New York, 1970

A Police Officer Playing Duck Duck Goose With Children In New York, 1970

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#5

A GI Shares His Rations With Two Italian Children, 1944

A GI Shares His Rations With Two Italian Children, 1944

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Historian Daniel Bessner agrees. "If Americans don’t seriously invest in history and other humanities disciplines, we encourage the ahistoric ignorance ... Progress depends on studying and arguing about the past in an open and informed manner."

According to Bessner, this is especially true nowadays, when people use history to fight over which vision of the country will dominate the political scene.

#6

A Former Prisoner Points Out The Most Brutal Guard. Germany. 1945

A Former Prisoner Points Out The Most Brutal Guard. Germany. 1945

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#7

A Baby Lamb Snuggles Up To A Sleeping Boy, 1940

A Baby Lamb Snuggles Up To A Sleeping Boy, 1940

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#8

Girls Sent Home From Mckinley High School For Wearing Slacks And Blue Jeans, Chicago, 1946

Girls Sent Home From Mckinley High School For Wearing Slacks And Blue Jeans, Chicago, 1946

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Anna Listler
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Eternal respect to the people who paved and continue to pave the way for gender equality

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#9

The Oldest Indian, John Smith, Managed To Live In Three Centuries At Once, Being Born In The 18th Century, Living Throughout The 19th Century And Dying In The 20th Century. It Is Alleged That He Lived For About 137 Years

The Oldest Indian, John Smith, Managed To Live In Three Centuries At Once, Being Born In The 18th Century, Living Throughout The 19th Century And Dying In The 20th Century. It Is Alleged That He Lived For About 137 Years

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Dr. Darren R. Reid, who earned his Ph.D. from the University of Dundee and is now a lecturer at Coventry University, explained to Bored Panda for our earlier publication on historical pictures that images are an incredibly important part of how we understand the past.

"They give us a distinct look into how people and societies viewed themselves and each other," Reid said back then. "In the medieval period, for example, Jesus and the saints were often depicted as physically larger than ordinary people — not because they were believed to be taller, but because they occupied a higher status in the minds of the artists who produced these images, and the audiences who consumed them. In later centuries, Europeans (and their descendants) looked to the classical world for inspiration, spending huge amounts of time (and money) on images that were both increasingly realistic and idealized."

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#10

A Dog Says Goodbye To His Fallen US Soldier Friend. Afghan War, 2004

A Dog Says Goodbye To His Fallen US Soldier Friend. Afghan War, 2004

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#11

Vancouver's First Official Lifeguard, Joe Fortes, 1905. Fortes, Who Was Born In Trinidad And Tobago, Was Credited With Saving Dozens Of Lives And Was Known As "Old Black Joe"

Vancouver's First Official Lifeguard, Joe Fortes, 1905. Fortes, Who Was Born In Trinidad And Tobago, Was Credited With Saving Dozens Of Lives And Was Known As "Old Black Joe"

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#12

Shy Young Woman Smiling For The Camera 143 Years Ago

Shy Young Woman Smiling For The Camera 143 Years Ago

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Reid added that "Native Americans and American colonizers were frequently depicted in classical poses — all deliberate choices that show us how many people perceived the invasion of the Americas and the genocides that occurred there."

"They also include important details (such as items of clothing, hairstyles, etc.) that help us to picture the past. For modern people, this means we can more accurately imagine, and perhaps, empathize with the very different folks who came before us."

#13

Portrait Of A Family. Georgia, USA, Circa 1900

Portrait Of A Family. Georgia, USA, Circa 1900

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#14

The Ship "Queen Elizabeth" Arrives At The Port Of New York. On Board Are Soldiers Returning From World War II, 1945

The Ship "Queen Elizabeth" Arrives At The Port Of New York. On Board Are Soldiers Returning From World War II, 1945

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#16

Five-Year-Old Albert Einstein, 1884

Five-Year-Old Albert Einstein, 1884

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Darren R. Reid highlighted that developing an eye for visual storytelling allows us to detect when someone's trying to bend the narrative.

"The invasion of the Americas was frequently sanctioned and/or driven by governments, but it was the acts of 'ordinary' people that made it possible, and across that continent, a huge body of work was produced to justify, even encourage some really terrible acts," he said.

"American comic books and movies depicted Native Americans as simple, brutish, and savage. This helped to justify genocide and colonization as it was ongoing — and justify it, long after the most violent part of the process was complete. For a great example, check out the awful depiction of Native Americans in Disney’s Peter Pan. They helped to justify the colonial project to generations of children, right up to the present day."

#17

This Is What The Empire State Building Looked Like Against The Background Of Other Buildings, 1941

This Is What The Empire State Building Looked Like Against The Background Of Other Buildings, 1941

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#18

Abraham Lincoln In 1861 And 1865. A Noticeable Four-Year Contrast Against The Backdrop Of War

Abraham Lincoln In 1861 And 1865. A Noticeable Four-Year Contrast Against The Backdrop Of War

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Smiley MG
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Oohhh!!! Looks like he went from age 30-ish to age 70-ish real quick

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#19

An Old Fisherman Photographed In Bergen, Norway In 1902 By Anders Beer Wilse

An Old Fisherman Photographed In Bergen, Norway In 1902 By Anders Beer Wilse

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#20

New York, 1958. Dancers In A Nightclub Play Chess. Smartphones Haven't Been Invented Yet

New York, 1958. Dancers In A Nightclub Play Chess. Smartphones Haven't Been Invented Yet

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Natasha Arruda
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

... Thanks for clarifying that smartphones hadn't been invented. I was SO confused. /s

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Today, 66 percent of the global population and 97 percent of the U.S. population use the internet where they are under a constant barrage of content. Hopefully, places like the subreddit 'Rare Historical Photos' will help them navigate the overwhelming amount of information.

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#21

Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau Carries The Country's Future Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Under His Arm. Ottawa, 1973

Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau Carries The Country's Future Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Under His Arm. Ottawa, 1973

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#22

With Her Husband At War, Mom Works On The Car, 1944

With Her Husband At War, Mom Works On The Car, 1944

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Javelina Poppers
Community Member
2 months ago (edited) DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

That's the kind of woman my daughter turned out to be. She spent hours under a car with me when she was little, strictly out of curiosity. Today she can change her own oil and brakes and changing a flat tire is child's play to her.

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#24

Man With Down’s Syndrome, 1890s

Man With Down’s Syndrome, 1890s

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#25

Young Couple Standing At A Speed Limit Sign. Oklahoma, 1920s

Young Couple Standing At A Speed Limit Sign. Oklahoma, 1920s

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#26

Republican Party Supporters And Democratic Party Supporters Fight With Snowballs In Front Of The Capitol. January, 1921, Washington, USA

Republican Party Supporters And Democratic Party Supporters Fight With Snowballs In Front Of The Capitol. January, 1921, Washington, USA

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bob12
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is how politics should be done - with a good snowball fight.

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#27

Queue For The Premiere Of The Star Wars Film. Vancouver, 1977

Queue For The Premiere Of The Star Wars Film. Vancouver, 1977

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Kit Springs
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I went to the Denver premier, it was a long line there too. It was awesome.

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#28

Early Use Of A Selfie Stick In The 1940s

Early Use Of A Selfie Stick In The 1940s

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#29

American Soldier Returning Home From The Great War, Ca 1918-19

American Soldier Returning Home From The Great War, Ca 1918-19

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#30

A Youthful Marine, Da Nang, Vietnam, August 3, 1965

A Youthful Marine, Da Nang, Vietnam, August 3, 1965

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#32

Goodyear Illuminated Tires, 1961

Goodyear Illuminated Tires, 1961

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Tessa
Community Member
2 months ago (edited) DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

They probably don’t last long, but I would love to have these on our car and on my bicycle!

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#33

Pictured Is Paul Overby, One Of Two Drivers Trapped In The Cab Of The Truck. He Is Pulled By A Rope In The Pit River Bridge Over Lake Shasta Near Redding, California, May 3, 1953. Both Overby And His Partner Hank Baum Were Rescued Before The Car Plunged And Caught Fire

Pictured Is Paul Overby, One Of Two Drivers Trapped In The Cab Of The Truck. He Is Pulled By A Rope In The Pit River Bridge Over Lake Shasta Near Redding, California, May 3, 1953. Both Overby And His Partner Hank Baum Were Rescued Before The Car Plunged And Caught Fire

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#34

A Typical American Family In 1950s, Detroit, Michigan

A Typical American Family In 1950s, Detroit, Michigan

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John
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I was born in Detroit and lived for a few years in a house that was almost exactly like the one pictured. Detroit is still full of them.

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#35

Airmail Pilot, William “Wild Bill” Hopson Of The U.S. Mail Service In Omaha, Nebraska, 1926

Airmail Pilot, William “Wild Bill” Hopson Of The U.S. Mail Service In Omaha, Nebraska, 1926

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#37

A Victorian Home Being Moved Via Horse Power. San Francisco, California, USA. 1908

A Victorian Home Being Moved Via Horse Power. San Francisco, California, USA. 1908

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Jennik
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

The big Victorian villa I flatted in as a student was moved like that. It used to be next to the local university and was moved by horse and dray to a suburb about 4 km away in 1902. Apparently it operated as a brothel for a while (a decade before I moved in!). It had a ghost in the living room and another one on the front porch. I met my partner when we both rented separate flats on the lower floor; after a year we moved into the very large flat upstairs with other flatmates and 37 years later we are still together (in our own home)

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#38

Service At The Track Restaurant In Los Angeles, 1950s. Food Was Delivered Via Conveyor Belt Directly To Cars

Service At The Track Restaurant In Los Angeles, 1950s. Food Was Delivered Via Conveyor Belt Directly To Cars

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#39

A Lady Walks Around Renting Out Books As A “Walking Library.”

A Lady Walks Around Renting Out Books As A “Walking Library.”

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#40

Cab Drivers In Madison Square Garden, New York, 1900

Cab Drivers In Madison Square Garden, New York, 1900

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Tayler
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Hansom cabs, named after Joseph Hansom who promoted them though they were designed by John Chapman. The drivers sit behind the cab.

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#41

Drexel Institute Girls’ Rifle Team. Philadelphia, USA

Drexel Institute Girls’ Rifle Team. Philadelphia, USA

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#42

Crossing Over The Thames. Photo By René Groebli, 1949

Crossing Over The Thames. Photo By René Groebli, 1949

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#43

People Sit On A Curb Amid Confetti And Papers After Celebrating The End Of World War II In New York City On August 14, 1945

People Sit On A Curb Amid Confetti And Papers After Celebrating The End Of World War II In New York City On August 14, 1945

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#44

Downtown Boston, 1910

Downtown Boston, 1910

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Ray Ceeya (RayCeeYa)
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Damn that's cool. I wonder if I can get a high res version because I'd love that as my desktop background.

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#45

A Fashionable Young Woman Exiting A NYC Streetcar In 1912

A Fashionable Young Woman Exiting A NYC Streetcar In 1912

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#46

A Gentleman Tips His Hat To A Group Of Ladies, 1920s

A Gentleman Tips His Hat To A Group Of Ladies, 1920s

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#47

Photo Of Marilyn Monroe First Wedding, She Was 16 Years Old, 1942

Photo Of Marilyn Monroe First Wedding, She Was 16 Years Old, 1942

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Tayler
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

She had been through several foster homes, where she was sexually abused. She married the neighbor's son to avoid being sent back to the orphanage. The photos of Norma Jean when she was discovered at a wartime factory show a young woman with thick, curly reddish brown hair.

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#48

Passengers Onboard The Staten Island Ferry. New York, USA. 1895

Passengers Onboard The Staten Island Ferry. New York, USA. 1895

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Synsepalum
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

No cell phones. I wonder if distant folks lamented the advent of newspapers.

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#49

John D. Rockefeller Gifting A 5-Cent Coin To A Child, 1929

John D. Rockefeller Gifting A 5-Cent Coin To A Child, 1929

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#50

Little Leonardo Dicaprio And His Parents George And Irmelin, 1976

Little Leonardo Dicaprio And His Parents George And Irmelin, 1976

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Note: this post originally had 78 images. It’s been shortened to the top 50 images based on user votes.

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