Amazing Photos of Life From the Past
They may have been taken during everyday moments, but these shots are certainly not ordinary. This collection of photographs show individuals in a new light and will certainly stop to notice every detail. Are you ready to travel back into the past? Look at these photos and see how life was in a simpler time before the invention of the Internet and other forms of entertainment we have today.
Andre the Giant, 1970’s
Wrestler “Andre the Giant” (André Roussimoff) greets a little boy in the 1970s. Andre the Giant was born in France to Bulgarian and Polish immigrants. Andre was known as “The Eighth Wonder of the World” for his height and size. His enormous size was a result of a condition called “gigantism,” which caused by excess growth hormone. Andre became a champion professional wrestler and made several memorable movie appearances.
Russian Toddlers Brave the Winter, 1968
Two brave toddlers are dressed in fuzzy warm clothes for a day out in Russia, circa 1968. Russia’s famously cold climate is so brutal it is considered a contributing factor to the military failures of Napoleon and Hitler. Both dictators attempted invasions of Russia, but saw their hopes crushed in the face of difficult conditions.
French Postcard of Skat, 1913
A French postcard showing Europe’s tallest, fattest and shortest men playing a card game in 1913. The men are playing skat, a three-player card game popular in Germany in the 19th century. The amusing card features the men smoking cigars and drinking wine.
English Boy Scouts Fundraise for Titanic Disaster, 1912
English Boy Scouts set up a stand to accept donations for the people affected by the Titanic disaster in 1912. The port of Southampton, England lost a generation of people when the great ship sank. In a city with 100,000 people, one in four died in the Titanic disaster.
Young Girl at Bristol Temple Meads, 1936
A young girl carrying a suitcase asks a train station attendant for directions. The two are standing on a railway platform at Bristol Temple Meads Station in 1936. Bristol Temple Meads is the largest and oldest station in Bristol, England. Its original name, Brunel station, was changed to honor the nearby Temple Meads church, which was bombed during the Blitz in 1940.
Men Climbing the Brooklyn Bridge, 1926
Four daring men climbing the Brooklyn Bridge in 1926. The young men were climbing the top of the bridge as part of a job test for applicants who wanted to be hired to paint the bridge. The original paint scheme of the bridge is believed to have been Rawlins Red, which had anti-rust properties.
Brooklyn Children, 1948
A group of girls and boys having some fun in Brooklyn, 1948. New York City’s most populated borough was very different in 1948. These children grew up rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers, who were the city’s most popular baseball team. Jackie Robinson was signed by the Dodgers just one year earlier, becoming the first African American to play in the modern major leagues.
Ice Cream Merchant in Turkey, 1898
An ice cream merchant and two men watch as a boy feeds his sister a spoonful of ice cream in Constantinople, Turkey, circa 1898. The men are each wearing a fez cap on their heads. The fez is a felt hat that was popular in the Ottoman Empire.
Zeppelin Over Egypt, 1931
Two men watch a Zeppelin flying above the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, 1931. The 4,000 year old pyramids were a popular tourist attraction to Europeans in the early 20th century. At the time, visitors could actually climb the pyramids, an activity that is forbidden today.
Early Recipient with Artificial Legs, 1900’s
One of the earliest examples of a person wearing artificial legs. The photograph, which shows a young girl posing with her doll, was probably taken in the early 1900s. The legs were manufactured by James Gillingham, a boot and shoemaker who started making artificial limbs. Gillingham was known as “Gepetto of prosthetic devices” for his work restoring mobility to more than 15,000 people.
Photographer’s Mirror Self-Portrait, 1920
Three men using a photographer’s mirror to take a self-portrait in New York City, 1920. The men were photographers from the Byron Company who decided to pose together for a photograph on the roof of Theodore Marceau’s studio. Marceau was an important photographer and real estate investor who lobbied Congress for stronger copyright protections for photographers.
Children of Seattle, 1948
Four children hanging out on the stoop and enjoying an apple treat in Seattle in 1948. The Washington state was “the apple capitol” of America. Its heritage is celebrated by The Apple Cup, a trophy presented to the winner of the annual football game between the University of Washington Huskies and Washington State University Cougars.
Dancing in NYC, 1940
A little girl and little boy dancing together in the streets of New York City in 1940. The photograph is by Helen Levitt, one of the most important photographers of the 20th century. Levitt was known for capturing life organically as it happened on the streets.
Turkish Man Makes Home in Tree, 1920’s
A Turkish man makes a new home inside a tree after the Fire of Alaşehir. The city of Alaşehir was known in antiquity as Philadelphia, which means “a city of brotherly love” in Greek.” During the war between Greece and Turkey in 1922, the occupying Greek Army made a hasty retreat, burning more than 70 percent of the city’s buildings.
Boy Receives Hearing Aid, 1974
Five-year old Harold Wittles, photographed at the exact moment he hears his first sound, thanks to a new hearing aid. Harold was born deaf. The photo was published in the February 1974 edition of Reader’s Digest, in the article “Unforgettable moments caught on film.”
Steel Workers above the Waldorf-Astoria, 1930
Two waiters serving two steel workers lunch on a girder above the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue, NYC, 1930. The classic Hotel was still under construction and was taken by a photographer on a second girder.
Swedish Couple, 1934
Swedish couple Helmer Larsson and his wife, Naemi, posing for a photograph in 1934 may have invented the “selfie stick,” literally. Helmer is holding a tree branch in his hand, which appears to be used to prop up a camera.
World’s Oldest McDonald’s Downey, California, 1953
The world’s oldest operating McDonald’s restaurant in Downey, California, 1953. The McDonald’s retained its original look and feel because it was not licensed through Ray Kroc, who bought the franchise from the McDonald brothers in 1961. The Downey location was acquired by Kroc in 1991, but still serves the deep-fried apple pies that the other restaurants phased out.
Sweden’s New Driving Laws, 1967
On September 3, 1967, Sweden changed from driving on the left side of the road to the right side of the road. At 4:50 a.m. on September 3, 1967, with throngs of people lined up to watch, all vehicles on the road were instructed to come to a halt. They were then directed to reposition their cars and traffic resumed at 5:00 a.m., with mixed results.
Three Boys in Jamaica, 1974
Three boys pose for a picture in Kingston, Jamaica, 1974. Photographer Rose Murray lived in Jamaica from 1965 to 1974. She went door-to-door taking photos of people in the Majesty Gardens neighborhood.
American Boy and Masai Prince, 1962
A Life magazine photographer captured an American boy making a trade with a Masai prince in Kenya, 1962. The young prince learned about golf clubs, while the American boy learned how to shoot an arrow. The Maasai are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.
Muslim Woman Covers Jewish Friend’s Star, 1941
Muslim woman Zejneba Hardaga guides a Jewish woman, Rivka Kavillo, and her children down a street in Sarajevo in 1941. Zejneba is covering Rivka’s yellow star with her veil. The Hardagas family hid the Kavillo family in their home, despite living near the Gestapo’s headquarters. The Jewish family survived the war.
California Girls Splashing in the Pacific Ocean, 1970
California girls splashing in the Pacific Ocean on a summer day in 1970. The state was still known for its liberal lifestyle, while reelected then-Governor Ronald Reagan that same year. The diverse state has nearly 900 miles of coastline along the Pacific Ocean.
Times Square, NYC, 1948
This negative shows Times Square in New York City in rare in color, circa 1948. The brightly-lit marquees show advertisements for Pepsi-Cola and Kinsey Blended Whiskey. The old Capitol Theater is seen in the background. The classic theater palace hosted many MGM premieres in the 1940s and 50s.
New Shoes from the Red Cross, 1940’s
A six-year old named Werfel ecstatically receives a new pair of shoes which were given to him by the American Junior Red Cross. Werfel was living in an orphanage in Austria after liberation from the concentration camps in 1946. Werfel was brought to the USA with other orphans after World War II.
Asleep on NYE, 1969
Two couples sleeping on each other on the steps of Grand Central Terminal, New Years Eve, 1969. The New Year’s Eve Ball has been dropped at the stroke of midnight in Times Square since 1907. The photograph was taken by Leonard Freed.
Buzz Aldrin’s One Small Step, 1966
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin taking the first ever space selfie during a trip to space on the Gemini 12 in 1966. Aldrin’s remarkable shot was taken on a spacewalk. The extra-vehicular activity equipment used for spacewalks includes a camera designed just for space selfies that promote NASA’s missions.
Coca-Cola Delivery, 1909
A Coca-Cola delivery truck, circa 1909. The truck includes the timeless Coca-Cola in script font. The 1909 delivery truck has the driver on the right side of the vehicle and features solid wheel axles. The truck was carrying dozens of Coke bottles.
Grand Central, 1941
Photograph of a couple meeting at NYC’s Grand Central Station in 1941. The original negative is in black and white and was taken by photographer Bernice Abbott. Avi A. Katz later colorized the picture.Abbott was part of the “straight photography” movement which emphasized sharp detailed photos that were easily distinguished from paintings and other media.
Lumberjacks on a Break, 1915
Two strong and slim lumberjacks taking a break from felling a big tree near Estacada, Oregon, 1915. Estacada was once a hub for the logging industry near Portland. Taking photos on stumps and in the trees as they were knocked down was a lumberjack tradition.
Disneyland’s Tomorrowland Characters, 1960’s
Vintage Disneyland characters from Tomorrowland posing in futuristic costumes in the early 1960s. Disney’s Tomorrowland opened at Disneyland in 1955. The idea was for the park to represent the future progress of humankind. Its early sets were taken from the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Dr. Vivien Thomas, 1940’s
Young cardiac surgery technician Vivien Thomas in the 1940s. Thomas invented procedures used to treat “blue baby” syndrome. Thomas trained hundreds of surgeons, who were later instrumental in convincing Johns Hopkins to award Thomas an honorary Ph.D.The pioneering Thomas was the subject of a biopic, Something the Lord Made, which aired on HBO in 2004.
Sunday Best for Mississippi, 1947
Two young boys from Natchez, Mississippi grinning broadly in their Sunday best. This 1947 photograph was taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson, who pioneered the art form of street photography, which he said captured the “decisive moment.”
Surfing USA, 1920’s
This photograph from the early 1970’s San Onofre Beach in St. Clemente, California. San Onofre was known as the home of surfing in the mainland USA starting in the early 1920s. Famous surfers as Lorrin “Whitey” Harrison, Don Okey, Al Dowden, Tom Wilson, and Bob Simmons have surfed the waves of San Onofre.
Spring Break for Teachers, 1910
These teachers are on Spring Break in 1910. The ladies are are living it up by hanging out in a field with a wooden chest of local beer for the holiday.
Shopping in Los Angeles, 1960
Three young women heading out for a day of shopping before hitting the beach near Los Angeles. The 1960 photograph was taken by Allan Grant, the legendary photographer for Life who specialized in the entertainment industry. Grant’s photo was originally in black and white.
Estonian Teen Girls, 1930’s
A group of teen girls having a good time for the photographer in 1930s Estonia. The country was hit hard by the same economic downturn that had created the Great Depression in the USA. After a period of escalation, the Soviet Union invaded Estonia in 1942.
Revelers on NYE, 1950’s
Revelers blowing noisemakers on New Year’s Eve in the 1950s. New Year’s Eve celebrations in NYC during the era focused on a night out for dinner and dancing. Guy Lombardo’s shows were the place to be, as the most stylish couples headed to the Plaza for a live concert before the ball dropped.
Bathing Beauties Soak up the Sun, 1940’s
Bathing beauties soaking up the sun on the beach in the 1940s. Although bikinis had been around since the Roman Empire, bathing suits in the early 20th century tended to be modest, covering up most of a woman’s body. The move to the two-piece was motivated by practical concerns: World War II meant worldwide fabric shortages, encouraging fashion designers to use less fabric.
Man in Chicken Suit, 1920
A man dresses in a full chicken suit for Halloween in 1920. The 1920’s saw the establishment of Halloween as a major holiday. Wealthy people threw lavish parties and dressed in expensive costumes. Meanwhile, people living in cities engaged in more rakish behavior. An increase in pranks such as graffiti, broken windows, and increased vandalism caused local police to begin giving out candy as an inducement to good behavior.
Mickey Mouse Club Fans, 1930’S
Mickey Mouse Club fans in the 1930s await a show by the Mousketeers. Each person in the auditorium is wearing the same creepy mouse mask. Before the advent of television, kids formed Mickey Mouse Clubs that met in theaters. The clubs were popular all over the world.
Students in the 1960’s
Students in a 1960s-era classroom struggle to pay attention in class. Although the styles of dress and desks look different, teenage expressions of boredom, confusion, sleepiness, and annoyance remain unchanged throughout the years.
Early IBM Memory, 1956
IBM shipping a 5MB of storage in 1956. In September of that year IBM launched the first computer with a hard disk drive. The drive weight over a ton. Today, 5MB of memory can fit on a drive the size of a thimble.
Miss Idaho Potato, 1935
Miss Idaho Potato, 1935. Not much is known about this beauty queen. Idaho is known for its potatoes, which led to potato companies sponsoring a pageant. Many unusual pageants existed at the time, including the Miss Correct Posture Pageant, Miss Frankfurter Pageant, and Miss Indoor Health Queen.
College Party, 1968
College party from 1968. These college students are getting down to a band that dressed like the Beach Boys. On the dancefloor, it’s all beehives and colorful dresses, while the men are getting down in chinos and skinny ties.
Girls Rifle Team, 1922
The girls rifle team in Central High, Washington D.C. posing with their trophy circa 1922. Girls rifle teams in D.C. have quite a winning history. The George Washington University Girls Rifle Team won the intercollegiate national championship in shooting in 1927, possibly with some of these same high school girls.
PSA Attendants, 1968
Pacific Southwest Airlines flight attendants striking a pose while preparing for takeoff in 1968. PSA was the airline of California between 1948 and 1988. Billing itself “The World’s Friendliest Airline,” PSA painted a smile on the nose of its airplanes, which it called Grinningbirds. The flight attendants switched from miniskirts in the 1960s to hot pants in the 1970s. They were once marketed around the theme of “Long Legs and Short Nights.”
Lumberjacks on a Break, 1915
Lumberjacks taking a break among one of the redwoods in California, 1915. The photograph is by A.W. Ericsson, a Swedish immigrant who moved to America and began working in logging camps and sawmills. After Ericson became a successful businessman, he returned to his roots by photographing the logging industry.
French-wrestler Maurice Tillet and Dorian Leigh, 1940’s
French-wrestler Maurice Tillet posing with supermodel Dorian Leigh in the early 1940s. Tillet was diagnosed with acromegaly, a disease that causes the bones in the skull, hands and feet to be enlarged. Tillet is rumored to be the inspiration for the animated movie Shrek. DreamWorks, the studio which produced the Shrek movies, has never commented on the rumor.
Two Women Sunbathing, 1953
Two women sunbathing while enjoying the view on the Piccadilly Rooftop, London, circa 1953. The ladies are wearing ballerina slippers, which may mean they performed in one of the many revues that dotted London at the time.
A Night in Chicago, 1975
A young couple poses for a picture before a night on the town in Chicago in 1975. They might have been going for dinner and dancing at one of Chicago’s hot nightclubs. Chicago was known for music, comedy and architecture. The Sears Tower had been completed two years earlier in 1973, and was the tallest building in the world when it opened.
Andre the Giant as a Teen
A rare photo of wrestler Andre the Giant as a teenager. The 19-year old wrestler was surrounded by women in towels during a Paris fashion exhibition. Andre was already an astonishing 7 feet, 4 inches tall. He would go on to worldwide fame as a wrestler and actor.
A Mobile Library Break in NYC, 1925
People enjoying a mobile library on their lunch break in New York, circa 1925. New York has a reputation as one of the world’s great literary cities. Such mobile libraries or wagons are still found in Central Park to this day.
Adults at Halloween, 1900’s
A group of adults dressed in costumes for Halloween in the early 1900s. Halloween had been around for centuries, but it became very popular in the early 20th century. Costumes and parties were highly dramatic, often featuring plays and matchmaking in addition to jack-o-lanterns and candy apples. Theme parties like Mother Goose, Alice in Wonderland, or Cinderella were also common at this time.
Men and Women on the Train, 1950
Men and women on a commuter train from the suburbs into New York City, circa 1950. The men are almost uniformly reading the newspaper; like today, no one is interested in chatting to their neighbors on the train.
Birthday Clown, 1965
This birthday clown from 1965 proves that the more things change, the more they stay the same: clown costumes still have the power to be just as scary and unsettling as they are fun and lighthearted.
Weightlifter Paul Anderson Breaks the Record, 1957
Weightlifter Paul Anderson backlifting 6,270 lbs in 1957 for his entry in the Guinness Book of World Records for heaviest backlift. The Georgia native then turned professional, touring the United States raising money for homeless youth in Vidalia, Georgia. Anderson performed many feats of strength on the professional circuit, such as using his thumb to drive a nail through two wooden boards and lifting a platform on which eight men were seated.
Leather Football Helmet, 1912
A man testing the effectiveness of a leather football helmet, 1912. Hardened leather was used in football helmets until the 1950’s, when helmet manufacturers started using polymers for greater padding and protection.
Two Men Shaving in the 1940’s
Two men shaving with an axe in the 1940s. Historically men have used all manner of weapons, creams and stones to deal with facial hair. Egyptians sought to go totally hairless, in part because of the extreme heat. Romans would shave and then use a pumice stone to remove the rest of the stubble. The world’s first safety razor was not invented until Jean-Jacques Perret came up with it in the 19th century.