Absolutely! It’s astonishing how much access we have now to capturing moments compared to the past. Those historical photographs are like time capsules, offering us a unique window into bygone eras. Each image holds a story, and it’s remarkable how a single picture can convey so much about the context, emotions, and significance of a particular moment in history. What’s your favorite historical photo?
Those old photos from the 1890s show a couple laughing between pictures, which was really rare back then. Unlike today when we take lots of photos quickly, back then, each one was important. And it’s super unusual to see people smiling in Victorian portraits—they usually look serious. These pictures are like secret treasures, catching a happy moment in a time known for serious poses. What do you like most about these photos?Back in 1890, taking a photo took a really long time—up to fifteen minutes! Smiling for that entire time would’ve been tough. That’s why most pictures from that time show serious, unsmiling faces.
In 1944, Walter and Werner were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the biggest Nazi concentration camp during World War II, where more than 1.1 million people died. Auschwitz was known for tattooing Jewish prisoners upon arrival. Surprisingly, Walter and Werner arrived on the same day and were given sequential tattoos, just ten numbers apart: A1828 and A1838. Despite being in the camp together, they didn’t meet until seventy years later during a reunion.
Iranian Women Protest Against The Hijab Law
Iran used to be more modern, where women could go to college, work, and choose whether to wear a hijab or not. But over time, the laws changed, and now there are still protests happening in Iran against rules that restrict women’s freedom. This has been going on since 1979, and even in 2022, not much has changed.
Even after more than forty years of these protests, the people in Iran can only hope and pray that things will eventually get better and change for the good.
This cool photo of David Bowie and Iman is special because it shows something rare among celebrities: authenticity. They kept their relationship very private despite being famous. Iman said in 2014 that she fell in love with the person David Jones, not the famous David Bowie. Bowie, she explained, was more like a persona.
In the 1990s, Bowie and Iman were introduced on a blind date arranged by his hairstylist. They tied the knot only two years later and enjoyed a 26-year relationship until Bowie passed away unexpectedly in 2016.
First Woman to the Moon
In this rare 1969 photo, Margaret Hamilton, a software engineer, stands next to what’s believed to be the code for the Apollo moon landing. She led the NASA software team that made the historic moon landing possible. Despite her crucial role, she didn’t become as well-known as Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin. Hamilton was a pioneer as a ‘software engineer’ even before that term was widely known.
“Dr. Teasel Muir-Harmony, curator of the Project Apollo collection at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, highlighted her pioneering contributions in both software engineering development and as a woman in the workplace, taking on such pivotal roles in these programs.”
The Italian Way
Sophia Loren’s talent and beauty defined an era of Hollywood. Renowned for her curves, she championed authenticity and famously said, “I’d rather eat pasta and drink wine than be a size 0.” Beyond her iconic silhouette, she won an Oscar for “Two Women,” breaking barriers and leaving an unforgettable legacy in cinema.
Sophia Loren earned the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance in ‘Two Women’ and amassed numerous accolades throughout her career, securing five Golden Globe wins among various nominations.
Bernie and Birmingham
In this seldom-seen image from 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama, Bernie Sanders, then a young protester, was apprehended by police during a nonviolent demonstration. The protest, aligned with Dr. Martin Luther King’s efforts, unfolded in a city marked by deep racial divisions at the time. Sanders would later become a US senator and a presidential candidate.
Dr. King’s utilization of marches, boycotts, sit-ins, and engagement with the global media resulted in the successful push for desegregation in Birmingham through a nonviolent direct action campaign.
Under the Radar
This seldom-seen image is featured in Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell’s 2020 book titled ‘A Photographic History of Men In Love, 1850s-1950s’. The book showcases a collection of poignant photographs, some captured discreetly, depicting couples during an era when same-sex relationships were prohibited. These images offer a rare insight into the lives of men from diverse backgrounds, providing a glimpse into their concealed and private worlds.
The book expresses that these photos, spanning between 70 to 170 years, endured the passage of time and now reside in their care. They view these images as unexpected survivors from a bygone era, preserved relics from a world that is just starting to embrace their significance.
Spiky on the Outside, Soft in the Middle
This heartwarming moment captured at a Pride event in 2009 shows the softer side of punk culture. A punk rocker, often associated with toughness, kneels down to accommodate a little boy’s curiosity about the spikes on his jacket. The joy on the boy’s face contrasts beautifully with the ease and amusement visible on the punk’s face, reminding us of the shared humanity beneath external appearances.
This punk, adorned in a leather jacket, boots, black attire, and a mohawk, embodies authenticity and showcases the idea that our outward appearance is merely superficial.
Dolly and Dean
Dolly Parton’s husband, Carl Dean, remains a mysterious figure to many. Their elusive appearances together have led some to doubt his existence, but indeed, he’s very much real. The couple’s remarkable privacy might just be the key to their enduring 56-year marriage. They met when Dolly was 18, married two years later, and have remained devoted to each other ever since.
Dolly and Carl celebrated their 50th anniversary by renewing their vows, with Dolly humorously mentioning, “I’m dragging him kicking and screaming into the next fifty years!” It’s a testament to their enduring love and playful spirit after five decades together.
The Ways We Remember
The image captures a poignant memorial along the Danube riverbanks in Budapest, Hungary, consisting of sixty pairs of iron shoes. These symbolize the tragic fate of the Jews in Budapest during World War II. In 1944, the Arrow Cross, aligning with Hitler’s Nazi ideology, initiated the deportation of thousands of Jews to concentration camps. Shortly after assuming power, this regime orchestrated the murder of 600 Jews, with many being rounded up and shot at the Danube riverbanks, a haunting reminder of the atrocities committed during that time.
More than 100,000 Jews from Budapest tragically lost their lives during the Holocaust, marking the loss of over 50% of the city’s Jewish population. The iron shoes serve as a solemn tribute to those who perished solely because of their religious identity.
At the Hour of Our Death
This powerful photo won a Pulitzer Prize and was taken by Héctor Rondón during a rebellion that happened in Venezuela in 1962. The picture shows chaplain Luis María Padilla holding a soldier who got badly hurt in the El Porteñazo rebellion against the government. About 700 people got hurt, and sadly, 400 people died in this short uprising. But even though many fought, the rebellion didn’t succeed in overthrowing the government.
Rondon’s photograph titled ‘Aid from the Padre’ claimed both the 1962 World Press Photo of the Year award and the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in 1963.
German Red Cross Nurses During WWI
When we study World War I, we usually don’t see many pictures of German nurses caring for injured soldiers. But finding this photo gives us a special peek into their lives. Even in such a tough time, these women showed kindness by helping soldiers get better. This picture was taken in 1915, when most nurses were volunteers, choosing to help out during the war.
Witnessing images like this one helps bring history to life, allowing you to feel a stronger connection to the emotions captured at the moment the picture was taken.
Anne and Margot Frank
In 1940, two sisters played joyfully in the sand at Zandvoort, a beach in the Netherlands. But their lives changed drastically just two years later. Rules targeting Jews started in 1942: they had to wear yellow stars, were limited in where they could go, lost their jobs, and couldn’t attend public schools. To avoid being taken away, the Frank family hid in a secret room behind the father’s office in Amsterdam.
For two years, the Frank family, joined by two other families, stayed hidden in the annex. Their hiding place was revealed, and they were taken to Westerbork and later to Auschwitz, where their mother passed away due to starvation. The girls’ tragic deaths were documented in Bergen-Belsen in 1944.
To Vax – It Wasn’t a Question
Two boys, one virus. The child on the left – unvaccinated, and the child on the right – received the vaccine. Before the smallpox virus was eradicated thanks to vaccines, as many as 9 in 10 babies died after contracting it. Smallpox was a life-threatening disease that involved pus-filled blisters all over your body. Smallpox survivors were often left blinded and terribly scarred. Although her name is not widely known, smallpox was eventually eradicated thanks to Lady Mary Montagu.
The smallpox vaccine originated from the concept of inoculation. Mary Montagu, a smallpox survivor and the wife of the British ambassador in Constantinople, observed the Turkish practice of ‘variolation’ and had her own children inoculated. Although the British medical community later acknowledged the effectiveness of this method, they failed to credit her for introducing it.
Bringing Our Boys Home
This incredible photo captures the RMS Queen Elizabeth ship arriving at New York harbor in 1945, filled with returning US soldiers from Europe. Departing Scotland on August 6th, 1945, it reached New York on August 11th, 1945. The ship appears crowded, potentially due to soldiers gathering on deck for the arrival in NY or because Eisenhower chose to bring more soldiers home together rather than using multiple ships for fewer soldiers.
The original picture was captured in black and white, but the method or vantage point used to take this aerial photograph isn’t evident. Royston Leonard is credited for this colorized version of the photo.
This photo tells an unbelievable story that’s not a myth or legend but a real incident. During a Soviet Antarctic expedition, surgeon Leonid Rogozov fell ill and recognized symptoms of acute appendicitis. Stranded with no means of evacuation, he made the daring choice to perform surgery on himself, without general anesthesia, in less than ideal conditions.
He ensured assistants were present, sterilized equipment, and had a plan in case he lost consciousness during the procedure. It lasted nearly two hours, but Rogozov succeeded. Upon returning to Russia, he was celebrated as the epitome of societal strength and determination.
This photograph of two innocent children holds a somber connection to a grim chapter in American history. After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, fearing an invasion, President Roosevelt ordered the internment of all Japanese Americans along the West Coast, irrespective of their citizenship status. Taken by Dorothea Lange at the Raphael Weill School in San Francisco, the photo titled ‘Lunch Hour’ portrays these children just before the evacuation of Japanese American residents from the area commenced.
Over 112,000 Japanese Americans were relocated to internment camps, enduring up to three years of dehumanizing conditions and losing their homes, jobs, and lives.
An Electrifying Kiss
You never know when CPR skills will come in handy! In this astonishing photo called “Kiss of Life,” two utility workers, Randall G. Champion and J.D. Thompson, were maintaining electricity lines in 1967 when Champion accidentally got shocked and lost consciousness. His coworker acted fast, climbing up and performing mouth-to-mouth to revive him. The photographer, Rocco Marabito, happened to pass by, called for an ambulance, and captured this extraordinary moment.
That day, Thompson rescued Champion, and Rocco Marabito received the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography for “The Kiss of Life” in 1968.
Navajo Indian Mother and Two Children
This peaceful and lovely photo portrays a Navajo mother with her children. Given the erasure of Native American history, encountering a picture like this feels like a treasure. The adobe home behind them, the patterned blanket she holds, and their attire all contribute to the scene, offering a glimpse into their life in the 1900s.
The exposed patches of foundation and cracked walls in the background provide insight into the condition of their homes, offering a glimpse of their living environment.
The Long Road to Liberation
This incredibly rare photo captures a poignant moment in history, as Allied forces liberated concentration camps in Poland and Germany at the end of WWII. The genuine joy on their faces contrasts the harrowing reality for survivors, facing immense trauma and a difficult path to recovery. Returning home, many discovered their families and friends had been killed, their communities destroyed, and their homes taken by others. Reparations and healing were distant prospects, signifying a long and challenging journey ahead for these survivors.
The accounts given by Allied soldiers who freed the camps unveiled the complete horrors inflicted by the Nazi regime, serving as eyewitnesses to the atrocities of the Holocaust.
Running for Her Life
During her training with her college’s cross-country team in 1967, Kathrine Switzer joined the men to run the Boston marathon, despite the ban on women participating in the 26-mile race. As she ran, an organizer, enraged by her presence, attempted to remove her number and force her out of the race. Switzer persisted, finishing the marathon and later became an advocate for women in sports.
After five years, the Boston marathon officially allowed women to participate. Kathrine Switzer reflected, “I knew if I quit, nobody would ever believe that women had the capability to run 26-plus miles. If I quit, everybody would say it was a publicity stunt. If I quit, it would set women’s sports back, way back, instead of forward.”
When this photo was released, the 95-year-old woman in the hospital bed held the record as Italy’s oldest COVID-19 survivor. However, a 101-year-old man from Rimini, Italy, has since recovered. Additionally, the world’s second oldest person, aged 117 in France, also survived the virus. Sister Andre, a French nun, achieved a full recovery in 2021 after contracting COVID-19.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Italy has endured significant suffering, with more than 165,000 deaths recorded across the nation.
A Daily Dose of Good Dairy
Before the advent of robotic or mechanical devices, cows were milked by hand. This photo showcases a historical aspect, reflecting a slower era when farmers or milkmaids, typically women, manually milked cows. These individuals often not only milked the cows but also engaged in making butter and cheese. The image also captures other farm animals, such as the cats pictured, interacting in this traditional farming setting.
During the 1930s, cows were milked using mechanical pumps, limiting milking to twice a day. With robotic machines, cows can be milked 5-6 times daily, a significant increase. It’s highly unlikely that cats are permitted anywhere near these modern milking systems!
The Russian Female Pilots Who Bombed Nazis
These formidable women were part of the Russian all-female pilot gang, known as the “Night Witches,” who bravely bombed Nazis during the night. Comprising mostly young volunteers, many in their late teens or early twenties, their age didn’t hinder their courage and fearlessness. Despite flying old, unreliable planes, they fearlessly swooped in to drop bombs on their targets.
These young women were true heroes, deserving recognition for their hard work, especially considering the limited acceptance of women in the military during that era.
The Aussie Spirit
In this photo, five very thin Australian prisoners of war are seen posing for photographers, reading the paper, and having tea after being freed. It shows what survivors later said about the terrible treatment they faced—starvation, beatings, abuse, and being forced to work. More than 8,000 soldiers died while held captive by the Japanese in Southeast Asia. Almost all Australian soldiers captured were taken to Changi, Singapore, and then to other work camps.
Throughout World War II, Japan took around 22,000 Australian prisoners of war from various parts of Southeast Asia. These soldiers were transported to labor camps spanning the region, including Singapore, Thailand, Burma, and Korea. They were compelled to work on constructing railways, roads, and other infrastructure for use by the Japanese military.
Starving in Uganda
The image captures a Catholic missionary comforting a malnourished Ugandan child, estimated to be around four years old. During the 1980 famine in the Karamoja region of Uganda, approximately 60% of children lost their lives. Despite winning the World Press Photo of the Year award, the photographer, Mike Wells, expressed shame for taking the photo. He revealed that a newspaper withheld its publication for five months and only submitted it for the award later on.
In 1980, food scarcity emerged in the Karamoja region of Uganda amid conflicts with neighboring countries, leading to a severe famine, considered one of the most devastating in history, due to the complete absence of food and resources.
Inside the photobooth, this couple found a space for freedom, which they might have hesitated to express openly outside. In Canada, the decriminalization of sexual activity between men only occurred in 1969, with various legal distinctions lingering, such as differing age of consent for heterosexuals and homosexuals. It wasn’t until 2016 that this law was repealed. Same-sex marriage, however, became legal in Canada in 2005.
During 2017, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered a formal apology to the LGBTQ+ community on behalf of Canada and its government. Subsequently, in 2020, the Police also issued an official apology for their history of oppression spanning several decades.
Kids of the KKK
This powerful image speaks volumes. Captured at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Georgia in 1992, a black policeman discovered a young white child, dressed like a Klansman, observing their reflection in the officer’s shield. The Ku Klux Klan, founded around 1915, is a hate group committed to advancing white supremacy and white rule in the southern United States.
During the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan also established auxiliary groups named the Ku Klux Kiddies, catering to teenage boys, girls, and children.
Love of My Life
Freddie Mercury, a rock music legend, is immortalized as the frontman and songwriter of Queen, celebrated for his captivating stage presence. He’s now remembered as a prominent gay icon over 30 years after his passing. Before publicly acknowledging his sexuality, Mercury was engaged to Mary Austin, seen in this photo. Although their relationship ended in 1976, they maintained a close friendship until Mercury’s death from AIDS in 1994.
Mercury lived a notably private life, choosing not to disclose his AIDS diagnosis to the public until shortly before his passing.
Tears Dry on Their Own
Amy Winehouse’s final concert in Belgrade, Serbia, labeled as her “worst ever” performance in 2011, takes on a poignant tone in retrospect, considering her subsequent passing. Bursting onto the music scene in 2006, Winehouse was a remarkable musical talent, earning multiple awards while facing relentless media scrutiny. Struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, she tragically passed away in 2011 due to alcohol poisoning.
This photo captures one of Amy’s final moments ever captured. During her performance in Belgrade, she struggled with lyrics, halted a song midway, and exhibited peculiar behavior, provoking an angry response from the audience. Yet, observing her in this captured moment, one can sense her distress, sorrow, and isolation. Just a month later, she passed away.
Life Down Under
Steve Irwin, an extraordinary Australian zookeeper and conservationist, was deeply rooted in the world of animal care and rehabilitation from an early age. Throughout his life, he dedicated himself to working with animals. Alongside his wife Terri and children Bindi and Robert, the Irwins gained global recognition for their efforts at the Australia Zoo. This photo captures a sweet moment between Steve and a very young Bindi, alongside a tiny crocodile, showcasing their early connection with wildlife.
Tragically, Steve Irwin lost his life due to an unexpected stingray attack while filming a documentary about Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Presently, both of his children carry on his legacy by actively participating in wildlife conservation efforts.
At times, a photo offers a window into the past, speaking directly to us in the present. This snapshot from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1959 occurred amidst the ongoing civil rights movement in the USA. While the US army had undergone desegregation in 1955, the same year witnessed the tragic killing of Emmett Till for allegedly whistling at a white woman. In this photo, these couples appear at ease in a public setting in Pittsburgh, where they seemingly felt secure. However, in other parts of America like Mississippi, the resistance against civil rights continued to escalate.
Photographer Charles ‘Teenie’ Harris, an African American, drew inspiration from his hometown of Pittsburgh for all of his work, including this photo.
We’re feeling the emotions too. This poignant photo capturing Major Terri Gurrola reuniting with her daughter Gaby gained prominence in the early stages of the Iraq War. Taken at Atlanta airport in 2007, it depicts the heartfelt moment between Gurrola, a military doctor, and her toddler. She had returned home for a brief two-week break after a seven-month assignment in Iraq, unexpectedly extended to two years of service.
“Even today, this picture still brings tears to my eyes. It encapsulates the genuine emotions experienced by military parents.” – Gurrola, 2014
What’s in a Name
David Bowie changed his name from Davy Jones to create a persona that matched his innovative and theatrical style. He embraced alter egos like Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke, reveling in androgynous fashion and pushing creative boundaries.
Furthermore, there was already a pop star named Davy Jones (of the Monkees), so to sidestep any confusion or overlap, Bowie briefly considered changing his first name to Tom before ultimately settling on Bowie.
It’s a Feline Thing
In a surprising look into his private life, the typically reserved Freddie Mercury was a devoted cat lover. At one stage, the iconic musician had over ten feline companions. In a particular residence, each cat, including Tiffany, Dorothy, Delilah, Goliath, Lily, Miko, Oscar, and Romeo, had their own bedroom—a testament to how dearly he held them, treating them as cherished members of his family. While Mercury typically preferred adopting from shelters, he did have one pedigreed cat, a gift from Mary Austin.
Freddie Mercury’s longtime partner, Jim Hutton, portrayed the cats as akin to Freddie’s children. Even while touring, Freddie would call home to talk to them, name songs after them, and deeply involve them in his life.
Discovering previously unknown photos of historical events involves a blend of persistence, luck, and technology. Often tucked away in archives, personal collections, or forgotten corners, these images surface through meticulous research, chance encounters, or digitization efforts. Uncovering these visual treasures not only adds depth to our understanding of the past but also highlights the hidden narratives and untold stories woven into history’s fabric. The quest to reveal these snapshots of bygone moments continues, offering glimpses into events and perspectives that reshape our collective understanding of the world.