Historical Photos You Have to See to Believe

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the saying is certainly true, judging by these historical photos. Check out these legendary photos from throughout history and the fascinating facts behind them.

World’s First Selfie

Almost two hundred years before “selfie” became a commonly used term, photographer Robert Cornelius took what was probably the first selfie in history, in 1839. Did you know that the selfie was already a thing of the past? Hundreds of years passed before the term “selfie” became a universal term. Robert Cornelius attempted to take the first perfect self-portrait outside of his family’s store. Unfortunately, it came out fuzzy and off-centered.

Robert Cornelius self portrait

Civil Rights Activist

This is the photo of Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, a civil rights activist and Freedom Fighter from Arlington, Virginia. From an early age, she sought out ways to help in the Civil Rights movement, despite a very racist upbringing. Mulholland took part in. protests, sit-ins, and even spent time in prison for her support of blacks. She was also the first White person to integrate Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi, where she joined the Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Joan Trumpauer Mulholland

Not Just For Men

This is a photo of the gorgeous 1969 Shelby GT500 Fastback “Playboy Pink” Mustang Convertible. Since 1964, Playboy would let out an annual “Playmate Of The Year Cars” edition of its magazine. Pictured here is playmate Connie Kreski. Although this car looks pretty in pink, it would be foolish to challenge her to a race, as it comes equipped with a 428 Cobra Jet V-8 under its hood. That’s a whole lot of girl power right there.

A 1969 “Pink” Ford Shelby Mustang. This is a rare color for this manly muscle car.

Marilyn Monroe WWII

Before she became 50’s pop idol, Marilyn Monroe, she was known as Norma Jeane Dougherty, and she was born in Los Angeles and raised between foster homes and orphanages. In 1944, she decided to help serve her country in World War II by working in a factory assembling drones. The factory where she worked was in Van Nuys, California. The program was eventually shut down when newer technology replaced the guidance system of the drones.

Norma Jeane Dougherty

Young Bill and Hillary

They were both nominated and elected as presidents. Before the 3 presidential elections, and before spending years inside the office and more than a political scandal, Bill and Hillary were living as an ordinary young couple. This was a photo of this couple taken back in the 70s. It looked like they were living just a very simple and happy life at university, far from problems and issues that they are facing right now.Bill and Hillary Clinton at Yale

Lace ‘Em Up

Who says women didn’t get to fight until recent years. These women in Sweden conducted a boxing class on a rooftop in the 1930s. Maybe the world wasn’t as strict with gender roles as we were taught to believe.

Women's boxing class during the 1930s

 

Tearful Reunion

Public execution was a common practice in the United States. However, it eventually ended, and in this photo, you will see that the very last public execution in the country was attended by thousands of people standing there, witnessing the event. This was taken in 1936. Public execution became quite popular in the old days. It was a typical practice in the US. But, it ended in the long run and a photo can make you see that the ultimate public execution done in the United States was participated and attended by thousands of people who stood nearby the stage to see what will happen.

Robert Stirm reunites with his family

 

The Days of Print Catalogs

It is a photo of women who assembled the Sears Roebuck catalogs taken in 1942. Can you imagine yourself working in this kind of setting? This is too far from what we have today, but if you have your friends beside you and all of you are working together, being in this kind of situation will be okay.
Printing press

Expensive Furniture

This picture was taken in 1850, showing people who lounged on the huge Sphinx of Giza in Egypt. What the huge furniture was this. This photo made a lot of people wishing that they can be where this furniture is located and be able to do just like what these people were doing.

1850 Sphinx of Giza in Egypt

Seeds of Revolution

Che Guevara and Fidel Castro talked prior the overthrowing of the famous dictator from Cuba, Fulgencio Batista. This is among the most significant historical pictures collected and kept through generations. This will always be one of the best things to discuss when it comes to history.

Fidel Castro and Che Guevara

Desk of a Genius

Everyone knows who Albert Einstein was. He is so busy with science that his table is always filled with stuff and was quite messy. The messy and chaotic desk photo was taken following his death in 1955, providing a seldom glimpse on the work setting of a real genius.

Albert Einstein's desk the day he died

Bill, Monica, and a Photobomb

Bill Clinton was not just known as a president of the United States, but his name also dragged him to shame. He used to have an affair with another woman working inside his good office. Bill Clinton & Monica Lewinsky pose for the photo before the public learned his affair that hit the airwaves months after. Likewise, the man within the background might have unwittingly designed the photobomb.

Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky

Many Faces of Hitler

At the end of World War II, the US government was concerned about finding Adolf Hitler, whom they believed would try to disguise himself to slip away unseen. Here are some photos they put out of what Hitler could potentially look like, using a number of physical changes and disguises.

Adolf Hitler's possible disguises

End of an Era

The Fab Four made the heartbreaking decision to break up their band in 1969. This is believed to be the last photo ever taken of The Beatles together as a group.

Last known photo taken of the Beatles before the band broke up

Waste of Beer

This image shows bootlegging gone wrong, as a covert alcohol operation’s beer spills out into the Detroit street during Prohibition.

Illegal beer spills into the street during Prohibition

Off With His Head

A Soviet soldier took a very special souvenir in the aftermath of World War II – the head of Hitler himself. Well, the head of a statue, but still.

Soviet Soldier after World War II

Jazz Trance

Blues artist Big Jay McNeely entertains the crowd in Los Angeles in 1953. The crowd is absolutely enthralled with him.

McNeely

Changing the World

During the 1950s, Jim Crow laws were still very much at large, and segregation of Blacks and Whites was the norm. Everything from restaurants, to shops, to water fountains were segregated by color. This is a photo of Dorothy Counts. At the age of 15, in 1957, she became one of the first 4 Black students to be enrolled in an all-White school. It’s no surprise that she faced a lot of harassment going to school each day, but it’s because of students like her that integration was able to begin.

First black student goes to a white school

Stress of the Job

Much has been made of how much older presidents look after their terms are over. This is nothing new, as you can see by the change in Abraham Lincoln after just four years in office.

Abe Lincoln before and during his presidency

Dude Looks Like a Lady

If you’ve ever been to New Orleans during Mardi Gras, you’ll know that a crazier street party has never existed anywhere else. But did you know that it’s been just as crazy since its beginning? Here’s a group of men cross dressing during the 1938 Mardi Gras festival.

Mardi Gras cross dressers in 1938

 

Tragic Return

This poor soldier got home from World War II only to find out that his family had died in the war. The result is one of the most impactful historical photos ever.

Tragic return

Multi-purpose Gas Masks

Gas masks aren’t only for breathing clean air during a gas leak or a chemical attack. This pair of smart soldiers figured out that their gas masks could also be used to avoid crying while peeling onions.

Soldiers wear gas masks cutting onions

First Pro Gamers

The first National Space Invaders Championship in 1980 was a precursor to modern e-sports. Over 10,000 participants competed.

Space Invaders championship competitors

The Beauty Pageant Winners

If you think of beauty pageant winners today, you will probably think of gorgeous fine lady with crown on their head, waving stunningly and confidently before the crowd. But apparently, the beauty pageant standards were quite different back then. This photo was taken in 1922.

The Beauty Pageant Winners

The Lone Man

This photo was taken at the German Army vessel’s launch in 1936 in a ceremony attended by Adolph Hitler. In this photo, a lone man was standing with his arms crossed while hundreds of others women and men around him held their arms up in allegiance and salute to the Nazi Party, as well as its leader Adolf Hitler.

The Lone Man

The Kiss of Life

This is actually a very moving photo that was taken in 1967. It was known as the “Kiss of Life” photo because a utility worker was trying to save his co-workers life. The utility worker was giving his colleague mouth-to-mouth after contacting a high voltage wire. We didn’t know, however, whether this man survived or not.

Kiss of life

The Right Bathing Suit Length

Back in the day, you could not just go to the beach flaunting your body, no matter how gorgeous it is. In this photo, you will see a beach official measuring bathing suits to ensure that they are not too short. This photo was taken in 1920.

Swimsuit check

The Isolator

With the help of an Isolator, the author at work was able to concentrate in his private study. An Isolator was a helmet to help the wearer focus, limiting their vision, rendering them deaf and pumping them with oxygen. In this photo, taken in 1925, the worker was able to concentrate on his/her study.

The Isolator

Dining with Alligators

Everyone knows how dangerous alligators can be, so no one often dare go near them. However, in this photo taken at The California Alligator Farm in Los Angeles, three women were happily dining with a bunch of alligators. This photo was taken in 1920.

Dining with Alligators

A Man and Huge Lumber Stacks

These huge stacks of lumber that were drying in Seattle in 1919 were pretty amazing, isn’t it? However, you wouldn’t really get the right picture by just looking at the photo. Take a look at the man standing in the picture to know how huge these stacks are!

A Man and Huge Lumber Stacks

Medical Bears

If you’re suffering from rheumatism and looking for an affordable home remedy in Romania, you might find yourself lying under a big bear sitting on you. Taken in Romania in 1946, this is one of the common home remedies for healing rheumatism in the place.

Bear medicine

The Eruption

Taken in May 18, 1980, the eruption of the Mount St. Helens’ north face triggered the largest landslide in recorded history. A total of fifty-seven people lost their lives. This photo was taken eleven miles northeast at Bear meadow by Gary Rosenquist.

Eruption of St. Helen

Magnificent View from Space

Many love photos featuring the planets and the space, but this one is just remarkable. Astronaut David Scott taking in the magnificent view from the space. This was during an EVA from the Command Module Gumdrop. This photo was taken in 1969.

Magnificent View from Space

Kids for Sale

Signage about home items, different products, goods and animals for sale is quite a common thing to see even today. However, this photo was a rare one, as a mother put her children up for sale in Chicago in 1948. She knew how embarrassing it was, so she even hid her face in shame.

Children for sale

Filming of MGM Opening Credits

One of the world’s most iconic images is the living logo of MGM where you will see a lion and hear its roar before watching a film. In this photo, you will see the actual filming of the very popular MGM opening credits. This photo was taken in 1928.
MGM studios

The Stunning Titanic Room Before It sunk

Everyone knows the Titanic was a fancy luxury liner but this photo just shows how stunning it was. This certainly looks like a 5-star hotel. This was actually just one of the many classy state rooms aboard the ship.

Titanic bedroom

Astronaut Vladimir Komarov Remains

The soviet military officials viewing the remains of astronaut Vladimir Komarov who fell from space in 1967, making him the very first human to die on a space mission. Komarov was killed when the space capsule crashed into the ground because of a parachute failure.

Astronaut's remains

Boston Marathon

This seemingly odd picture was taken during the Boston Marathon, when one of the men was trying to make sure that Eva Switzer does not run in the marathon. When this picture was taken, marathons were only an event for men. Indeed, she finished the race and became the very first women to do so.

A woman making history

Goodbye Kisses

World War II did not only made a huge impact in the human history but also in the individual lives of many people, especially among those who took part in the battles. This photo is one of the most touching WWII photos. This is a picture of soldiers kissing their girlfriends before they head to the battlefields in 1940.

Kissing their women goodbye

The First England Computer

Now that we have the smallest and most portable computers with innovative features and functions, it is so interesting to see how the very first computer in England looked like. This photo was taken in 1950 when computers had massive wires and seemingly hundreds of buttons.

First computer

The Boy’s New pair of Shoes

This is one of the most interesting and moving historical photos one can probably see. This is an orphaned boy who was so joyful to get a new pair of shoes in post-war Vienna in 1946. This might be the first gift he ever received during that time. Who knows?

Boy gets new shoes

Pleased to Meet You

Queen Elizabeth and Marilyn Monroe meet one another for the first time in this rare photo from 1956.Marilyn meets the Queen of England

Scary Times

This creepy carriage was popular in London among parents who feared a toxic gas attack from Nazi Germany.

Taking precautions in gas of a nuclear attack

Strange Mode of Travel

This man took a lot of chances with a very dangerous animal to rig up a hippo-powered cart that would only take him about as fast as a bicycle could.

Hippo-pulled cart

They Just Want a Drink

Thirsty Americans protest Prohibition in the streets in this 1932 photo.

Protesting prohibition

The Other Knicks

This is the first of many historical photos showing a sports team. It shows the Knickerbockers baseball club in Hoboken, NJ in 1858. They were the first organized professional sports team.

Knickerbockers baseball club

 

How well did she like Ike?

Kay Summersby was a driver and personal assistant to General Dwight D. Eisenhower during his command of the United States and Allied Forces in World War II. An intimate affair between the two has been claimed but never confirmed. Summersby states in her autobiography that she left many of the details of the relationship untold to disguise the level of intimacy in the relationship but she does claim they attempted to have sex twice.

Kay Summersby

Pol Pat Trophies

Pol Pat ruled Cambodia with an iron fist for only four short years. His rise to power resulted in the deaths of at least 25 percent of the Cambodian populace. The major factor in his massive campaign of death was infighting between two factions of the Khmer Rouge. He often presented gruesome trophy collections as intimidation tools.

Pol Pot's trophies

Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan Divorce

Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan were married for nine years from 1940 until 1949.The divorce papers filed by Wyman included affidavits from 17 different women who claimed to have had a sexual affair with Reagan while he was married to Wyman. Reagan attempted to have the divorce case sealed while he was Governor of California but failed.

Jane Wyman

Gerald Ford Pratt Falls

President Gerald Ford was known for a number of famous falls during his Presidency. Ford had been a star athlete in college. The real reason that Ford fell a lot was a knee injury that caused his knee to buckle in certain positions. His staff tried unsuccessfully to manipulate circumstances to prevent Ford from falling in public.

Gerald Ford falling

Jimmy Carter Embarrasses Himself

During a 1977 visit to Poland, President Jimmy Carter addressed then leaders of Poland and their military in Polish. A bit more practice may have been needed by Carter’s interpreter as Carter claimed that he wished to grasp their private parts, wished to leave the United States forever, and then spoke Russian to a country dominated by the then Soviet Union.

Jimmy Carter addressing the Polish army

The Dogs of War

Dogs have played a critical part in every conflict that man has ever inflicted upon himself. While this little photo is obviously posed, it does capture the spirit of the troops and their love of the animals that fought with them. The man’s smile and the glasses are priceless. Humor even relieves the stress of war.

War dogs

Tiny Tank Is a Bomb

The Germans may have been the first to introduce a low-tech version of robotically controlled bombs into warfare. The tiny tank like device is actually a bomb that was designed to explode on contact. This one was captured and the man in it is trying to determine how to defuse the little monster.

Tiny "tanks" were really bombs

German Respect for Stalin

Russia and Germany suffered more casualties during World War II than any other countries. This German soldier is enjoying a moment of disrespect for Stalin and a break from the war. One must remember that a hated enemy was also very much a human being and may well have been a relative.

German respect for Stalin

Easter Eggs for Adolph

Russia and Germany suffered more casualties during World War II than any other countries. This German soldier is enjoying a moment of disrespect for Stalin and a break from the war. One must remember that a hated enemy was also very much a human being and may well have been a relative.

Easter Eggs for Adolph

Bravery Beyond Belief

As a German firing squad prepares to take his life, French Resistance fighter George Blind smiles at his enemies and killers. Blind wears no blindfold and remains defiant to the very end. There is no more fitting tribute to the bravery of the French who resisted the Germans at all costs.

German firing squad

No Religious Strife Here

The Muslims and the Jews have been at each others throats literally and figuratively for over sixty years. Here a Muslim woman in traditional dress protects a Jewish woman from the Nazis by covering the Star of David on her dress. Could we possibly learn something now from these women?

Muslim woman in traditional dress protects a Jewish woman

Forgiveness at Last

Union and Confederate survivors of the Battle of Gettysburg congratulate each other and forgive on the seventy-third anniversary of the battle. Some of the veterans of the conflict from both sides were 14 and 15 years old during the battle. A country divided no more. It is startling how fashion changed.

Veterans make peace with each other

Strangest Segregation Ever

Even zoos were segregated in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. The Memphis Tennessee Zoo was closed to whites once every week so that black people could come to the zoo. The sign is sad and funny at the same time. Makes one wonder if the U. S. is headed backward today.

No whites allowed in the zoo today

Which Side of the Road?

There seems to be a huge chaos in this photo. This was actually taken in Sweden in 1967. This was the first morning after the country changed to driving on the right side of the road from the left side. People seemed to be confused still about who goes to the left and who drives to the right.

Sweden is confused about the new traffic laws

Doing His Duty Comes First


A black policeman protects a member of the Ku Klux Klan during a protest march that turned violent in Austin, Texas in 1983. Consider the conflicting thoughts the man must have had. Apparently, his oath to do his duty overcame his feelings about race. This must have been a real personal struggle.

A black policeman protects a member of the Ku Klux Klan

They call it PTSD now


The mental impairment called post traumatic distress disorder has only recently been revealed as a major cause of erratic and violent behavior in people who have undergone serious trauma. This man’s eyes just tell the whole story after he suffered days of shelling. PTSD was called shell shock then.

PTSD/Shell shock

Dedication to Peace


Thích Quang, a Buddhist monk, burned himself to death in 1963 in protest against the conflict between Buddhists and Catholics in Vietnam. The press had been told that something significant would happen but only a few showed up to see the horrifying and brave sacrifice.

Monk burning alive in protest

The First Television


Television is older than you think. The first working television was developed in 1925. John Logie Baird was the first to put together components that made a transmittable moving picture possible. The British had full television service for those who could afford it at least five years before the U. S.

John Logie Baird and Stooky Bill

Russians Were First in Space


Sputnik 1 was launched in October 1957. This was the first functional and long lived Earth satellite created by man. The development inspired a billion dollar space race between the U. S. and the U.S.S.R. that culminated in an agreement that no country can own space.

Sputnik I exhibit in the Missile and Space Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Draught Beer at Work


The 1950s had an absolutely different view of what was normal for work. Several companies provided machines that dispensed beer, whiskey, and even mixed drinks to tired and frustrated workers in offices and factories. Threats to safety soon put an end to the liquor at work craze. The series Mad Men was not so far from fact.

Draught Beer at work

No More Horse Diving


The Steel Pier in Atlantic City provided a rare and dangerous spectacle in the 1890s. A horse and rider dove almost 90 feet from a steel tower into the ocean. The show continued until the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shut it down. Strangely no horses were ever reported to have been injured.

Horse diving

Think Jail is Tough Now


Ingenious and overworked policemen in Los Angeles combined the looks of their Harley Davidson with a jail cell side car. The jail cell was designed to hold traffic offenders and people who were too intoxicated to drive or walk. Just imagine the court cases about civil rights this would cause today.

Sidecar jail

Legal to Mail Children in 1913


Children could be sent to another location by mail legally in 1913. May Pierstorff was mailed from her parents home to her grandparents home 73 miles away for $0.53. Mailed children could be insured against any damage they sustained from mail handlers. The practice of mailing children was discontinued in 1915.

Mailing children

This might drive one to drink


Prohibition and those who advocate against imbibing alcohol have been with us since man first crushed grapes. Female prohibitionists were a major force in creating the crime disaster that became Prohibition. This troop of ladies from the prohibition era would be enough to scare anyone away from drink and kissing as well.

Prohibition

The Original Zipline


The first zipline was used in South America to cross gorges between mountains instead of walking miles out of the way. Ziplines reached the United States in 1923 and became a carnival favorite. There were nets that provided some safety precautions and the adventurous never were more than 30 feet off the ground for very long.

The Original Zipline

Young Love


Liz Taylor at 17 reading love letters from her then-boyfriend Glenn Davis, a Heisman Trophy winning football player.

Elizabeth Taylor reading love letters

When In France


Alfred Hitchcock poses on a bicycle while in France for the 1972 Cannes Film Festival.

Alfred Hitchcock on a bicycle

Fallout, Fore!


One of the scariest historical photos, this one captures the immediate aftermath of the first ever nuclear detonation test in Nevada.

First nuclear test in Nevada

Keeping His Cool


Elvis was so cool in 1970 that he could even make a mug shot look good.

Elvis Presley's mug shot

Humble Beginnings


Young Robin Williams performs as a street mime in 1974. As with many historical photos, the photographer had no idea of the picture’s significance at the time. It was when Young Robin Williams performed as a street mime and he truly loves what he does. In the same way with most historical images, the photographer did not have any idea about the significance of the photo at that period of time. Robin Williams has been known as an award-winning comedian and actor who left the whole world in shock during his tragic death.

Robin Williams as a street mime

Gonna Need a Bigger Boat


This gigantic manta ray was photographed in 1933 by A.L. Khan. It was said to weigh 500 pounds and it is so big enough that was so rare to be seen under the sea. With its enormous size and weight, this manta ray is said to be a stuff of a nightmare for many. It was really so hard to believe that this kind of aquatic creature can be found under the sea.

Huge manta ray

Crash Landing


This photo shows a farm boy who looked at his back when he heard a cracking sound from the sky. To his surprise, he saw a plane that is about to crash to the field owned by his family. This accident can cause death to the pilot but luckily, he was able to eject just before the plane touched the ground and was safe, far from the burning aircraft. It was truly a terrifying experience that no one will ever want to have.

Plane crash into a field

Last Photo of a Rebel


His name has been found to be something rebellious and that was true. During his lifetime, James Dean was known to be very rebellious that can be judged by his wrongdoings. He loved cars and this photo was the ultimate photo of him with his muscle car. After this photo was taken, he turned his back and died on a deadly car crash that took place sometime in 1955. Everyone cannot imagine that his life will end in that way.

James Dean with his car

Pile of Skulls


Would you believe that piles of skulls can be used to make a fertilizer? Well, this photo will make you believe that it is very possible. This chilling late nineteenth century photo showed a completely staggering pile of bison skills which would be ground up to create a fertilizer.

Pile of bison skulls

Disneyland Opening

One of the most beloved places on Earth, Disneyland in California, was a hit within the very first day. This photo shows the crowd on opening day of the park, in 1955, lining up outside the gate. These people had the privilege of being some of the first to ever see the magical place.

Disneyland opening

Mount Rushmore

South Dakota is most famous for being the home to one of the many wonders of the world, Mount Rushmore. This mountain is so famous, because it has four of the greatest presidents in US historical carved into its rock face, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt. Here are the workers carving out. Washington’s face.

Mount Rushmore

Not Much of an Improvement

It was so hard to believe that the treatment used on the man in this photo showed the state of the art plastic surgery. The man in this photo was a former soldier named Walter Yeo who received the treatment in 1917. This gave hope for someone who is doubting if he or she can still have his or her old look after a tragedy.

First plastic surgery patient

Side Show Circus

A few hundred years ago, people were simply not as big as they are today. Many circuses running throughout the US offered side shows, starring people (not so nicely labeled “freaks”) who looked differently from the norm. There were bearded ladies, little people, and of course, obese people, who people would come from far and wide to see.

Circus sideshow freaks

The Future Terminator

Check out this photo of the young Arnold Schwarzenegger while he showed off his big muscles during the very first bodybuilding competition he joined in Austria. How funny it was to see the young man playing the guitar looked at his enviously while he caught the attention of everyone. He might be wishing that he could have those muscles too, but he cannot find his way to have his wish come true in an instant.

Arnold's very first bodybuilding competition

The Last Public Execution

Public execution was a common practice in the United States. However, it eventually ended, and in this photo, you will see that the very last public execution in the country was attended by thousands of people standing there, witnessing the event. This was taken in 1936. Public execution became quite popular in the old days. It was a typical practice in the US. But, it ended in the long run and a photo can make you see that the ultimate public execution done in the United States was participated and attended by thousands of people who stood nearby the stage to see what will happen.
The United States’ Last Public Execution

Casting Shade

In this photo, Sophia Loren appeared to be giving the beautiful Jayne Mansfield a serious side-eye look. The photo was taken in 1957 and it grabbed the attention of many. A few years have passed and Sophia said that was concerned with the falling wardrobe of Jayne that almost showed her breasts as shown in the photo. In the first glance, you will automatically notice that she looks like insecure of the other woman but when you look at the photo thoroughly, you will understand where her attention was actually at.

Sophia Loren appeared to be giving the beautiful Jayne Mansfield a serious side-eye look