54 Amazing Images With Little Known Stories From History
Extreme tree pruning crew from the late 1800s.
When you look back at history there are moments that you can’t help but feel like you’ve lived. Big, sweeping, epic moments that are etched in stone. But even more fascinating are the stories that exist between the bullet points. These jaw dropping photos that tell the unknown stories are sure to amaze. Click ahead with fervor and plow through pictures and anecdotes about everything from World War II to Madonna, and even the early years of Walt Disney.
That’s not all we have. There are eye opening looks at Mother Nature, natural disasters, and indigenous people that you’d never see unless you ran into HD. Keep some eye drops handy because there’s a lot to learn and photos that will astound. Onward!
A photo from a time when men put their lives on the line to prune trees and looked cool doing it. Pruning trees in the 19th century was a big time operation and took teams of men to pollard the upper branches of trees in order to create a more dense head of foliage at the top. Although in some instances the pruners were simply trying to to keep trees from becoming a hazard.
It took an entire team to work on a tree this size because it would be a major undertaking for one or two people. Can you imagine how heavy the branches are that are holding the men on the top of the tree? Hopefully they’re not afraid of heights.
A steelworker just hanging out during the construction of the Empire State Building in 1930
If there’s one thing that history can teach us it’s that steelworkers are some of the bravest people to ever walk the earth - or walk above it. While working on the Empire State Building. One question many people have when they see photos like this is how they were captured. The photos look as if they were taken by someone floating in mid-air, and that’s kind of how it happened.
Photographer Lewis Hine was brought onto document the construction of the Empire State Building, and as the construction got higher he had to figure out new ways to capture the workers and the building. Hide stood in a specially designed basket that swung out 1,000 feet above Fifth Avenue and he snapped pictures of the building as well as “work portraits” of the workers.
Nurses showing a set of triplets to their surprised father in a New York hospital, 1946
You get the feeling from this picture that if this new dad had been presented with twins he would have been a little exasperated but okay with the prospect of raising two children when he wasn’t expecting it, but the idea that he has triplets has completely flummoxed him. While he’s certainly the most exciting part of this photo, the nurses holding the babies are also a ton of fun.
These are people who see crazy things all day and you get the feeling that this is a serious bright spot for them. Never mind the guy who’s holding up the passed out dad, do you think he was hired at the hospital just for this reason?
A man promoting himself during The Great Depression. (1930s)
The Great Depression absolutely wrecked the American spirit. After the stock market crash of October 1929 millions of investors were wiped out, and this immediately stalled factory jobs, which in turn made sure that farms didn’t have any way to sell their goods. If you had a job during the Great Depression you were lucky.
The fellow in this photo is a emblematic of many Americans at the time who were exquisitely skilled but kind no work. It’s not as if he could take off and work as a picker either, he had three kids to take care of. People did the best they could during the Depression, and it took another war to pull the country out of it.
17 year-old Juliane Koepcke was sucked out of an airplane in 1971 after it was struck by a bolt of lightning. She fell 2 miles to the ground, strapped to her seat and survived after she endured 10 days in the Amazon Jungle
On December 24, 1971 Koepcke and her mother were traveling from Lima to Pucallpa, the city with an airport closest to Panguana, to visit their family. Things were going well on the flight until they flew into a thunderstorm. The plane was struck by lightning and started going down, Koepcke remembers the “quiet” free fall into the Peruvian jungle before she passed out as she entered into the trees.
Koepcke landed without her mother and with a broken collar bone. She managed to drag herself from her seat and find a bag of candy to eat for sustenance. She was discovered by forestry workers on January 3, 1972. She’d been in the rain forest for 11 days.
90-year-old Grandma in the Czech Republic passes time by artistically painting houses
Anežka Kašpárková is a 90-year-old woman who lives in the Czech village of Louka and passes her time by painting beautiful murals on the homes of her neighbors. After retiring from agriculture work she started practicing her artwork with high quality paints, guided by the pictures she sees in her head as a guide.
Even though these Moravian paintings in blue-ultramarine are truly a sight to behold Kašpárková is modest about her talent. She explained:
I’m just doing what I like. I try to help decorate the world a bit. I am not an artist. I just do what I like.
An 18 year-old Madonna at the University of Michigan in 1976.
Madonna has always been cool, but before she was the queen of pop she was just a college student act the University of Michigan. At the time she was studying dance in her off time while doing her normal college courses. She even studied at the American Dance Festival during her summers. She only attended the University of Michigan for two years, and in 1978 she moved to New York City.
Even in the Big Apple Madonna continued to study dance, and classes at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. It would be another four years before Madonna really became Madonna.
Troops Storm The Beach Of Normandy On D-Day
On June 6, 1944 156,000 American, British and Canadian troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, a 50 mile stretch of coast in France. This military action was one of the most intense amphibious military assaults ever enacted and in order to get three military forces on board it required months of planning along with a campaign of deception to throw the Germans off of the intended invasion target.
The assault lasted from June 1944 to August of the same year, and by the end of the assault northern France was liberated from the Nazis. This was the beginning of the end of World War II and by the same time next year the war was all but over.
The kids behind the voices of the "Peanuts" characters in the 1960s.
Peanuts creator Charles Schultz thought it was important for the children on the animated adaptation of his comic strip to have the voices of actual children. The kids who were cast for the role were all around the age of their onscreen counterparts, with Cathy Steinberg being only 4 years old when she was hired to play the role of Sally Brown. She was discovered living next door to producer Lee Mendelson.
Similarly, the voice Charlie, Todd Barbee, was discovered thanks to his father, Chuck, who was Mendelson’s director of photography. Even though children voiced most of the roles, Barbee told the Huffington Post that an adult may have filled in for him in one section:
One time they wanted me to voice that ‘AAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG’ when Charlie Brown goes to kick the football and Lucy yanks it away. Try as I might, I just couldn’t generate [it as] long [as] they were looking for … so after something like 25 takes, we moved on. I was sweating the whole time. I think they eventually got an adult or a kid with an older voice to do that one take.
These two photos both feature the same Aldabra giant tortoise named Jonathan. The photo on the left was taken in 1902 and the photo on the right was taken in 2017. Jonathan was born in 1832 and today he is 186 years old.
Jonathan, the oldest known living terrestrial animal in the world, lives on the land of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic Ocean. Born in 1832, Jonathan has seen the invention of the electric guitar, the Ferris wheel, and the moving picture. He lives with a few other tortoises, although he’s yet to produce and offspring.
The life expectancy of a giant tortoise is around 150 years, and even though Jonathan is definitely beating the average he’s still not the oldest living reptile, a tortoise that lived to be 188 years old. You can do it Jonathan! We believe in you!
14 year-old Princess Elizabeth in 1940.
It seems as if Queen Elizabeth has been leading Great Britain forever, but there was a time when she was just a teenage girl, living as the heir presumptive to the throne. As a girl Elizabeth regularly staged pantomimes at Christmas in order to raise money for the Queen’s Wool Fund, a serve that paid for the yarn that formed military garments.
In 1940 Elizabeth gave her first radio broadcast during the BBC's Children's Hour. During the show she spoke directly to the children who were evacuated from London because of the blitzkrieg. In this address she said:
We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well.
A beggar runs alongside a carriage transporting King George V and his friends.
King George V reigned over England from May 6, 1910 until his death in 1936. In that time he saw the country through the first world war, and the removal of the power of the Lords to veto bills. Although he lead England through a turbulent time, he was still had to deal with a country that was filled with people just trying to squeak by.
The King kept his late-Victorian tastes and continued to wear a top hat and ride in a carriage, known as a landau, even though automobiles were becoming more fashionable. Unfortunately for this poor chap looking for a couple of coins, it doesn’t look like anyone’s reaching for their pockets.
Nicknamed 'Methuselah' this Californian bristlecone pine tree was seeded in the year 2833 BC, which makes this tree 4,850 years old.
This tree that can be found in Inyo National Forest’s “Forest of Ancients,”is named after the 969 year old character from the Bible. In 1957 samples from the tree pointed towards the fact that it was 4,789 years old at the time and it’s only getting older. Professor of botany, Robert Mohlenbrock, said of the tree:
Any organism that lived longer than the norm had to have optimal conditions going for it … that would mean moderate temperatures, shelter from extreme weather, and plenty of moisture and nutrients.
Well professor, Methuselah is older than the Egyptian pyramids and even though it lives in a horrible place for a tree it’s still thriving.
Barbara Walters, 1949.
In the modern era Barbara Walters is considered one of the most foremost journalists of the 20th century. However in 1949 she was studying English at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York. She attended college until 1951 when she earned her B.A. and moved to New York City where she worked for an advertising agency until she was able to get a job at a local NBC affiliate.
By 1953 Walters was producing a children’s program called Ask the Camera. She continued to produce at NBC for a couple of years until moving to CBS in 1955 to write for The Morning Show. It would only take six more years for Walters to take a job at The Today Show.
Colorized photograph of Jean Bugatti with the Bugatti Type 41 Royale Esders Roadster in 1932
Ettore Bugatti had a great plan to make some money by selling a really cool car, unfortunately his plan came smack dab in the middle of the Great Depression. He wanted to sell the Bugatti Type 41, also known as the Bugatti Royale, one of the largest cars ever produced to members of royalty. He only wanted to build 25, which he felt would make them must haves.
During the Depression no one was buying huge cars, even members of the European royalty, so Buggatti’s plan went down the drain. Only seven of these cars were every produced, and only six exist because Bugatti wrecked the seventh.
They actually documented the size of the donut hole throughout the years.
First of all, does anyone have a problem with donut holes getting smaller? Specifically, does the fellow in this photo think we should all be eating skinny-minnie donuts? What’s the deal here? It’s possible that there have been some changes made to the donut over time, but it’s more likely that the donut on the far left of this dough-truther’s chart is a “dunking donut” as in it’s meant to dunk, thus the ring is larger.
If there’s any shrinkage it’s because donut machines have started punching smaller holes because they don’t need as much space to dry as earlier donuts. It’s also likely that donut chains across America (Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’) instituted a standard size. That being said, no one really knows why or if donut holes have actually gotten smaller.
The first Siemens vacuum cleaner. (Germany, 1906)
If you think the vacuum cleaner that you have now is a pain in the neck, imagine hauling this behemoth of a machine around the house while you try to suck up crumbs before your next dinner party. At the time Siemens referred to these mechanized monsters as “dedusting pumps” which is a pretty on the nose name that we should start using again.
These machines weighed about 660 pounds(!) and had one horsepower. If you wanted to deduct your home with one of these bad boys you really had to want to do it. Thankfully, a better version of this dedusting pump was on the horizon, and it didn’t weigh as much as a car.
A boy reading in a destroyed bookshop in London, after a night of heavy bombing. October 1940
At the onset of World War II the United Kingdom bore the brunt of the German army, enduring thousands of bombing runs throughout the summer and autumn of 1940. The Nazis attacked military targets just as harshly as they hit normal pillars of regular life. They went after civilian areas and between July and December 1940 about 23,000 British civilians lost their lives.
The people of England did their best to maintain a normal life, but for many people that meant going underground to bomb shelters for days at a time only to return to their favorite places completely blown out. Bombing raids continued throughout the war, making a scene like this unfortunately common place.
A female Lockheed employee works on a P-38 Lightning, Burbank, CA, 1944
Even before the attack on Pearl Harbor, companies like Lockheed were experimenting with allowing women into their factories in order to make up an increased need to support the Allied cause in Europe. Before the attack there were only a few thousand women in the industry and far less on the factory floors. However once the war began the aeronautics industry needed workers.
The increased need for wartime labor allowed women into the industry who never would have been there had there not been a horrific war. This jumpstarted concepts like daycare centers adjacent to factories and smaller manufacturing areas in towns where women weren’t used to traveling to the city. World War II was awful, but it’s that good ol’ American ingenuity that allows people to succeed in times of crisis.
A man browsing for books in Cincinnati's old main library. The library was demolished in 1955.
From 1875 to 1955 one of the most beautiful structures ever created stood in Cincinnati, the old Public library. It had cast iron book alcoves, spiral staircases, checker marble floors, and an honest to goodness skylight - it’s exactly the kind of place a bookworm would want to cozy up and read until closing time. You could probably even find a place to hide so you could stay overnight.
Unfortunately, the funeral bells of time came for the old main. In 1955 Cincinnati constructed a newer building (boo!) a few blocks away and unceremoniously demolished this classic building, completely undoing a beautiful piece of literary history.
A rare 1947 Labatt Brewing Co. Streamliner, one of the amazing trucks ever built.
What do you do when you can’t advertise your delicious beer on a sign or in a magazine? Following the end of Prohibition in Ontario in 1927, beer advertising was banned in the media so the braintrust at Labatt came up with the greatest marketing scheme in history - the Labatt “Streamliner.” This tractor trailer drove beer down the road from town to town rather than moving it by rail, and it also acted as a moving advertisement.
LeBatt tapped Count Alexis de Sakhnoffsky, a Russian-born Count with engineering and art expertise, to help design the streamliner. The design of the streamliners was gorgeous and they definitely had flair. They went out of commission in 1947, but boy do they look cool.
A rare photo showing a 19-year-old Jimi Hendrix during his time in the US Army, where he trained as a paratrooper, 1961
Before he was a guitar god with a head full of acid and fingers full of music, Jimi Hendrix was serving in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army where he trained as a paratrooper. He trained at Fort Campbell, Kentucky after being joining the military in lieu of serving time in prison for car theft. Hendrix wasn’t a fan of the military, and he really hated training. He wrote to his father:
There’s nothing but physical training and harassment here for two weeks, then when you go to jump school, that’s when you get hell. They work you to DEATH, fussing and fighting.
Luckily, he received a discharge and ended up getting back to his guitar.
A young and cool Walt Disney striking a pose in the 1920s.
Before creating the studio that would define Western animation as well as the modern concept of fairytales, Walt Disney was a starving artist with a lot to prove. One of his first businesses was creating “Laugh-O-Grams,” basically modern, animated retellings of fairytales that were mainly played in the Newman Theater in Kansas City.
Disney worked on the Laugh-O-Grams from 1921 to 1923, but the company went out of business before he could complete a 12 minute one reel film based on Alice in Wonderland. In July 1923 Disney moved to Hollywood to be with his brother Roy and to try and sell Alice in Wonderland. It would take another five years before he created his most memorable character, Mickey Mouse.
Adorable moment captured showing police stopping NYC traffic for a cat and her kitten in 1925
It can be tough to get through New York City traffic on your own, let alone when you’re smaller than every car on the street and you’re carrying your kitten along with you. In 1925 this helpful policeman stopped traffic to make sure a mama cat could make her way safely though the city, hopefully to a warm nest where she could relax.
The story goes that photographer Harry Warnecke heard about the helpful officer and rushed to the scene only to miss the initial crossing. So what else was there to do but ask the cop and cat to recreate the scene, apparently they obliged and the rest is history.
Al Capone's free soup kitchen, Chicago, 1931 (colorized photo)
Was Al Capone a ruthless gangster? Absolutely. Did he flaunt his success in the face of the police during Prohibition? Definitely. But as bad of a guy as he was, Capone was also compassionate for those who were less fortunate than him. The Chicago based shelter and food bank was one of the first soup kitchens in the United States, and it helped a lot of people get a warm meal during the Great Depression, which was a rarity.
Sure, Capone did this as a publicity stunt, but that doesn’t mean that his attempt to look congenial didn’t keep a lot of people on their feet. In November and December the soup kitchen served breakfast, lunch, and dinner - a must have during the cold winter months in Illinois.
Albert Einstein in fuzzy slippers (circa 1950's)
Albert Einstein was famous for owning multiple versions of the same gray suit so that he wouldn't have to waste time and brainpower figuring out which outfit to wear every day. By doing this he was able to focus on the important stuff, like the theory of relativity and the meaning of life. It shouldn’t surprise you that the guy who wore the same thing every day liked to keep his feet comfy, hence the fuzzy slippers.
Honestly, when you’re one of the greatest minds on the planet you get a pass to where whatever you want - and that includes slippers that look like they were alive 10 minutes ago.
An arctic explorer offers canned milk to a nursing polar bear, while a cub plays with his leg (Russia, 1980)
In the 1950s Russian soldiers out on patrol had one thing in abundance, condensed milk. On a routine military expedition in the Chukchi Peninsula soldiers came across a vast amount of polar bears who weren’t doing well in the -40 Fahrenheit weather. The bears and their cubs were starving and freezing, so the soldiers did what they could to help the poor animals.
Soldiers tended to open the cans of condensed milk for the polar bears who would proceed to lick it clean and then feed their cubs. When the conditions are as harsh as they are in a Soviet winter then everyone and everything has to stick together.
Infants sleeping in the open air after lunch at a maternity hospital in Moscow, 1958.
What? You didn’t let your kids nap outside in the cold when they were babies? The practice of having children sleep outside in the cold weather isn’t just a one off thing, but rather a normal part of every day life in Russia that stems from an odd tradition. Russian mothers dress their children in a hat and stockings before putting them outside for a nap.
The children will sleep outside on a balcony or in the care of a nanny even in minus 10 degree Celsius weather until they’re ready to go to school. This is likely to prepare them for the harsh conditions of Russia. Does it work? Maybe we should start sleeping outside and find out.
A Classic Hoover Ad From 1953
There’s nothing like getting a fine piece of equipment for Christmas, and when it’s as beautiful as a new Hoover vacuum who wouldn’t want to get one of these bad boys under the tree? Admittedly, the shape is a dead give away so you might want to wrap it in a box rather than wrap it on its own. The ‘60s were the apex of ads like this that insinuated that women absolutely loved doing house work. As out of place as it feels now there’s something inviting about this ad.
The font, the colors, and the actual are of the piece are truly stunning, as is the “P.S. to husbands” at the bottom that lets them in on the little secret of how little this item costs - only $69.99. That’s a steal.
Last prisoners of Alcatraz leaving, 1963
Operating from August 11, 1934 until March 21, 1963, Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary was one of the most imposing prisons in the United States. If you’ve ever visited you know that it still carries a foreboding weight. The prison was built as a way to incarcerate prisoners who routinely caused trouble at other facilities, and with its place in the cold waters and strong currents of San Francisco Bay it quickly became known as escape proof.
Upkeep for the prison was incredibly expensive. By 1961 the salt spray from the water had deteriorated the prison so much that it needed $5 million in repairs. After a 1962 escape attempt the prison was reevaluated and shut down. The prisoners were moved to various Federal prisons across the country.
One of the most iconic photographs ever taken/ Bob Hope, John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Dean Martin, and Frank Sinatra (circa 1975)
How do you get this much star power in one room? By roasting the soon to be President of the United States is how. Well, he wasn’t technically about to be the President, but on the night of September 14, 1973, viewers saw Dean Martin and his cohorts roast the Ronald Reagan, then the Governor of California.
That night was kind of the coming out party for Regan, and it showed that he wan’t as stuffy as Nixon, who’d left a bad taste in the mouth of voters. That night Nixon laughed along at the jokes made about him, and he was not only a good sport, but he made for a pretty fun punching bag.
The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens
On May 18, 1980 Mount St. Helens erupted in Skamania County, Washington. For two months prior to the explosion, a series of earthquakes continually rocked Washington state while St. Helens spewed steam. It was obvious that the volcano was going to erupt, but it was just a question of when. At 8:32 a.m., a magnitude 5.1 earthquake that came from directly beneath the mountain triggered the largest rockslide in history.
Following the landslide, a gas charged, partially molten rock and high pressure blast of steam exploded out of the mountain, following a series of smaller bursts that spewed ash and pumice as lava flowed freely from the mountain. The destruction cost nearly $1.1 billion.
The beautiful fall colors of Maine
Is there any place more picturesque than Maine in the fall? Not only do the leaves on the trees change color, but there’s a chill in the air that reminds viewers of spiced cinnamon and evenings in front of the fire. The foliage is only part of the story when visiting Maine in autumn. The weather is perfect for long hikes through nature and evenings on the lake.
The produce in Maine during this season can’t be beat, with apples, gourds, and plenty of pumpkins available for even the most picky picker. And if that’s not enough for you, there’s always plenty of lobster in the water in the fall.
The Duke of York (later to be King George VI) looks thrilled to be on a slide at the Wembley Exhibition in 1925.
The Duke of York had it pretty tough for a member of the monarchy, not only did he have a terrible stammer, but he really didn’t fair well with going down slides. Just look at this face of dissatisfaction. His stern demeanor likely stems from the fact that the speech he gave at the Wembley Exhibition took him hours to get through because of his speech impediment.
Even though many of his speeches from the war survive, his pre-reign speeches have either been destroyed or hidden. They’re legendarily bad, but the guy couldn’t help it. Once he hired speech therapist Lionel Logue he made it through his impediment and began giving grand speeches to all who’d listen.
The French Alps, Magnificent!
If you’re looking at this picture then you’ve probably come to the conclusion that the French Alps are one of the most breathtaking pieces of land ever shoved out of the Earth. This photo is enough to make you want to take a big breath and of Fresh air and let out a yodel. Although you probably shouldn’t yodel too loud or you’ll cause an avalanche.
The name “French Alps” is deceptive, as only some of the alps are actually in France. Many of them are shared with Switzerland and Italy. They’ve got great spots to ski, and if you’re into hiking or rock climbing you really can’t pick a more picturesque place.
The house that inspired the 1999 film ‘The Blair Witch Project, located in Burkittsville, Maryland
The Blair Witch Project is one of the most intensely terrifying films of the 20th century, and it’s blend of documentary style realism and a creepy backstory that uses an urban legend that could be real despite the fact that it’s similar to so many local fairytales. The house that inspired the film is just one of the reasons this area is so creepy.
First, there’s “Spook Hill” an area that’s supposedly haunted by Civil War era ghosts who supposedly push cars up hills at night, and a creepy figure that makes its way through the woods at night. The house would be figured into most versions of the film, and it’s no surprise that the sight of this house gave nightmares to the filmmakers.
The Montparnasse derailment in Paris, 1895. The train was several minutes late and the driver was trying to make up for lost time as it entered the station too fast. The train air brake failed to stop, causing it to crash through the station wall.
Sometimes it’s just best to get to where you need to go late, but safe, rather than rush through your day and end up crashing through a wall - which is what happened at 4pm on October 22 1895 when the Granville–Paris Express passed the buffer stop at the Gare Montparnasse terminus. The train was late, so the driver gunned it and wasn’t able to slow the colossal vehicle down before everything went to heck.
Thankfully there was only one death and six injuries out of the 131 passengers. At the end of the day things could have been much worse, but even though almost everyone survived the driver was fined 50 francs.
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge in Washington collapsed due to high winds only 4 months after completion in 1940.
In 1940 the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that spanned the Tacoma Narrows strait of Puget Sound between Tacoma and Kitsap completely fell apart at 11am on November 7. The destruction of the suspension bridge was caused by something called “aeroelastic flutter.” Basically, Mother Nature got the best of the bridge when it least expected it.
A survivor of the crash, Leonard Coatsworth, wrote in the Tacoma News Tribune:
Around me I could hear concrete cracking. I started back to the car to get the dog, but was thrown before I could reach it. The car itself began to slide from side to side on the roadway. I decided the bridge was breaking up and my only hope was to get back to shore.
On hands and knees most of the time, I crawled 500 yards [1,500 ft; 460 m] or more to the towers… My breath was coming in gasps; my knees were raw and bleeding, my hands bruised and swollen from gripping the concrete curb… Toward the last, I risked rising to my feet and running a few yards at a time… Safely back at the toll plaza, I saw the bridge in its final collapse and saw my car plunge into the Narrows.
The Vespa 150 TAP (Troupes Aéro Portées) is an Italian Vespa scooter which is modified by creating a hole in the legshield to carry a M20 75 mm recoilless rifle.
So let’s say you’re in the military but you still want to be a greaser, what’s a guy to do? Well you’ve got to get one of these modified Vespa 150 TAP’s so you can take down your enemies in style. Made for French paratroops, the Vespa 150 TAP is an anti-tank scooter, which is kind of the perfect idea when you think about it.
What’s better to take down a lumbering tank than a scooter that has fantastic maneuvering capabilities? Although as cool as they look these babies had to be tough to drive, and they must have been heavy, just take a look at all of that artillery.
"Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." The legendary abolitionist and visionary Harriet Tubman in her later years, 1911.
It’s impossible to distill the life and work of Harriet Tubman into a few paragraphs. Born into slavery in 1820, Tubman escaped to freedom from Maryland in 1849 and began risking her life to help hundreds of people break away from slavery and the plantation system through a series of safehouses across the North.
When she wasn’t helping slaves escape she was working as a cook and nurse for the Union Army. She even spied for the North during the war. After the war Tubman lived outside of Auburn, New York on a plot of land once owned by abolitionist Senator William H. Seward. This is where Tubman spent her final days with her friends and family.
A group of young shoe shiners gather around a Civil War veteran to hear his tales in Pennsylvania, 1935.
Gone are the days of the shoe shine. When you could walk down the street and find any young man with a box and a rag who could make your shoes look as good as new. In the 1930s boot blacks were in most urban areas, and at that time there was also a confluence of the old world meeting with the new world. Holdovers from the 19th century were still hanging out and telling stories about the last half of the 1800s.
It must have been an amazing time for a young boy to be earning a wage as a boot black. Not only were stories of the old world afoot, but the world was changing at a major rate.
Engineers working at a Digital Equipment Corporations (DEC) customer site on a Programmed Data Processor (PDP) computer in California. (1971)
Yes, this is the most ‘70s photo ever taken. Alone, many of the parts of this photo are simply kind of ‘70s, but together - the giant computer, the wide ties, the strange haircuts, the striped pants, and chunky shoes - all of these things make for a very ‘70s photograph. The PDP from DEC went through a series of permutations, and even though it was seen as a “mini” computer it’s still quite big.
In the early ‘70s DEC introduced an 18-bit machine that’d an optional integrated vector graphics terminal. It's amazing to see how far we've come in such a short amount of time.
Photo of a man from Fiji, 1895.
Fiji is an island country in Melanesia, located in the South Pacific and it’s gone through a series of owners in its time on Earth. Once Europeans came across Fiji in the early 1700s they continued to stop by in order stay amongst the Fijans to trade sea cucumbers and sandalwood.
While Fiji has a large amount of sugarcane on the island, Fijans are most well known as some of the best canoe builders in the South Pacific. In the 19th century they used this skill to trade with the Tonga, a group of people from Polynesia. In 1895 Fjji was under British rule and wouldn’t be free until 1970.
Steve McQueen driving his 1956 Jaguar F-Type Convertible in California, 1963.
Of course the guy who starred in Bullitt had a cool car. Or to be exact, he had a lot of cool cars. McQueen drove this Jaguar F-Type Convertible throughout ’63 which is a huge deal, these cars are incredibly rare and it’s supposedly the world’s first supercar. These things are specifically made to tear up the road and leave other motorists in their dust.
McQueen definitely had a thing for driving fast. If something had wheels he would figure out how to drive it as fast as possible, which got him in trouble more often than not. But he didn’t really care because, you know, he’s Steve McQueen.
The ornate Klementinum Library in Prague.
Prague is gorgeous, but it’s possible that the most beautiful set of buildings in the Czech capital city is the Klementinum, a complex of buildings that house the National, University and Technical libraries. The most astounding library among them is the Baroque Library, a structure that was first opened to the public in 1722 as a part of a Jesuit university.
The interior of the Baroque Library has been the same since the 18th century, with its ceiling decorated with frescoes by Jan Hiebl depicting allegorical motifs of education, and portraits of Jesuit saints. The entire building is jaw dropping in its aesthetic pleasures, but even if you're not addicted to architecture you'll find something to love.
"Driving Miss Daisy" and "Cocoon" actress Jessica Tandy in 1943.
Tandy began acting on stage at the age of 18 in London, with roles opposite stage veteran Laurence Olivier. She was well versed in theater and began working in radio and film while still treading the boards. Even though she’s well known for her word from later in life like Fried Green Tomatoes, and Driving Miss Daisy, early in her career she played young women in films like Murder In the Family and Forever Amber.
In 1942 Tandy married Canadian actor Hume Cronyn (Cocoon, The Pelican Brief) and the two were together until her death in 1994. Regardless of the decade, Tandy was always a class act.
An aerial view of the Faroe Islands, which are tucked between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean.
No, that isn’t a matte painting from the cover of a fantasy novel, it’s actually the Faroe Islands, an archipelago between Norway and Iceland. The island has a blink and you’ll miss it quality as far as land masses go, but it should’t be missed because it’s truly beautiful. The island is populated by Nordic people who speak Faroese, a language that’s descended from Old Norse.
They mostly eat meat, seafood, and potatoes, and they specifically like to eat mutton made of local sheep. One brewery on the island has been producing beer since 1888 with exports mainly to Iceland and Denmark, so if you take a trip to the island you can definitely get something tasty.
Riding the chairlift at Jackson, Wyoming in 1955.
Wyoming’s first chairlift on Snow King - the massive mountain in Jackson, Wyoming, was installed using the wheels of an Army pickup truck to drive the ropes. Originally if you wanted to use the lift to ride up Snow King you had to ride in an ore bucket, which is charming but it can’t have been comfortable. The bucket were replaced with single chairs eventually which is only slightly terrifying.
In 1955 the lift on Snow King could move 200 chairs per hour, which is a lot of skiers if every seat was full. In 1958 the single chair lift was done away with a new, double chair line was installed.
Marilyn Monroe relaxing in her home, 1951
Before Marilyn Monroe was the blonde bombshell that everyone knows she was an actress performing bit parts in any film that she could scrounge up. However, the tide turned for her in 1950 when she appeared in The Asphalt Jungle. By 1951 she was the toast of the town after appearing at the 23rd Academy Awards.
The same year she appeared in Home Town Story, As Young As You Feel, Love Nest, and Let’s Make It Legal. These were huge for her at the time, but they were nowhere near as big as the films that would come her way only a couple of years later.
Men protesting prohibition, 1925.
This is what you call a group of patriots. From 1920 to 1933, Prohibition caused a significant amount of chaos in North America after the government made it illegal to produce, import, transport, or sell alcohol. While Prohibition reduced overall alcohol consumption by half during the 1920s, it also created a considerable amount of anger among people who just wanted a drink.
Members of organized crime found a way to make sure people got their liquor, but there was a price. The men in this photo aren’t mobsters, they’re just regular Joes who wanted to let the government know how they feel.
One of the stone carvings on top of Notre Dame, 1910
Notre-Dame de Paris has been standing in one way or another since 1163. Even though it didn’t truly finish construction until 1345, it’s always under some kind of reconstruction, and following the fires of 2019 it’s likely to be under construction for another hundred years. This cathedral has some of the most breathtaking stone carvings in the world.
Known as gargoyles or grotesques, stone creatures intended to protect the church from malevolent spirits, these creatures were added as drainage systems to keep rain water from pooling on the roof and various levels. Art historian Michael Camille says that the cathedral’s gargoyles look alike because they fall apart so easily:
On medieval churches gargoyles rotted so quickly, if they did their job properly and carried off water, that only a century or so after they were made they had to be replaced.
Lady bikers photographed by Loomis Dean for LIFE Magazine in 1949
There’s something about the thrill of the open road that no one can turn away from. If you’ve ever hit the two lane black top on a steel horse then you know the feeling of the wind blowing in your hair as you scream across North America. These women were captured by Loomis Dean, and the photo offers an interesting look at post war America.
This was a time when anything seemed possible, and after winning the war it was as if the only thing left to do was hit the open road and discover yourself. These women are definitely cool, and we hope they kept riding until they ran out of road.
A young woman from the Ouled Naïl tribe in Algeria. (1905)
The Ouled Naïl are a somewhat mysterious tribe of people located in the the Ouled Naïl Range, Algeria. They regularly travel to Djelfa in order to make cattle trades and buy imports. It’s not clear where the Ouled Naïl actually come from, as their origins are specifically oral in nature, with divergent lore on where they come from.
Some members of the tribe claim to descend from Arab tribes who moved into the Algerian countryside a thousand years ago, while some members say they’re from the Banu Hilal of Hejaz. Whatever the case, they have a fascinating tribal lifestyle.
Bathing suit censors with their tape measure at Venice Beach, California in 1929
Who knew that there was a literal fun police patrolling the beaches in the early ‘20s? In the early 20th century deputies referred to as "Sheriffettes" were hired to make their way across the beaches of the eastern seaboard to make sure that women were dressed decently while enjoying their summer.
The bathing suit police would measure suits to make sure they were suitable, and they would also check people on the beach to make sure they were wearing “complete street attire” if they weren’t on the beach. The swimwear fuzz desperately tried to keep everyone modest, but as the decades went on and necklines plunged they finally just had to give up.