75 Astounding Historical Snapshots

By Alex Conde, Amber Healy and Robin Mei - October 12, 2018
Credits: The look of a child whose world had been silence until this moment. Photo: Jack Bradley / Reader's Digest

75. Kathrine Switzer Runs the Boston Marathon

Credits: Many people weren't thrilled with a woman running the Boston Marathon back in 1967 and one race organizer stepped in to prove it.

On race day, K. V. Switzer stepped up to the line, bib number 261 affixed to a gray hooded sweatshirt, ready to take on the Boston Marathon.

Once the starter’s gun went off, Number 261 bobbed along with the pack of runners until one noticed that the K. stood for Kathrine, not Kevin or Ken.

Kathrine Switzer had to hide her gender because women weren’t allowed to run in the Boston Marathon in 1967 and her presence caused quite the scandal. Men, both runners and officials, pushed and shoved her, grabbed her and did all they could to disqualify her from competing.

It didn’t work.

She completed the race with the help of her boyfriend who helped block her from officials, registering a time of 4 hours and 20 minutes. She ran again in 2017 with the same number, which was retired in her honor after the race. Her time was a little slower, but the completion was just as sweet. It wasn’t until 1972 that women could run the Boston Marathon, officially and under their own names.

Amber Healy

Source: Woman Attacked for Running the Boston Marathon in 1967 Is Running It Again, 50 Years Later

74. George W. Bush Hears the 9/11 News

Credits: Andy Card whispers the news about the 9/11 attacks to George W. Bush while a classroom of children look on as history unfolds in front of their eyes.

It’s a moment etched in our collective memory if you were alive at the time of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.

President George W. Bush is seated on a small plastic chair at the front of a Florida classroom, reading a book to children. Behind him is a chalkboard.

While reading a book, the president’s chief of staff, Andy Card, stepped up, whispered the news in the president’s ear.

Bush’s expression goes blank. He continued reading the book, saying later he didn’t want to upset the children.

As soon as the reading event was finished, he was rushed out of the classroom to tend to the most important event of his presidency.

Amber Healy

Source: Student Recalls Classroom Moment When Bush Heard 9/11 News

63. The Iron Lung in Use

Credits: The iron lung wasn't pleasant to be in but it could keep you alive.

Most people would cringe at the thought of having to live a substantial period of their life confined to a metal tank.

For people suffering from polio — the crippling disease which often paralyzes muscle groups in the chest — the iron lung provided a much-needed service, allowing its occupants the closest thing to a natural breath that they could experience.

These respirators were indispensable in a time when polio outbreaks in the 1950s caused more than fifteen thousand cases of paralysis a year in the United States alone.

The machine works by creating a pressurized box — drawing oxygen into the lungs by creating a vacuum. Many people only needed to use these artificial respirators for a few weeks until their lungs recovered.

Some people were not so lucky, requiring these contraptions for the entirety of their life — sometimes for a few hours a day, sometimes indefinitely.

Thanks to the anti-polio vaccine, the iron lung is virtually now a relic of the past, with only a handful of septua/octogenarians still using these medical devices.

Alex Conde

Sources: The Iron Lung and Other EquipmentAmerica’s last iron lung users on their lives spent inside obsolete ventilators

53. The Death-Defying Children's Playground

Credits: From the early 1900s until the past 20 years, playgrounds weren't really fun unless a kid could get hurt.

Parents love to tell kids how things were so much different when they were younger. Wooden toys! Nails all over the place! Walking barefoot over long distances in the snow – uphill!

One of those claims is true, however: playground equipment wasn’t always brightly colored and placed above rubberized material or other substances to make for a safe landing.

Playgrounds used to be little more than a swing set and some kind of monstrosity constructed out of metal tubes and bars with the occasional ladder and slide. It’s like a monkey bar set on steroids.

This photo is from a playground near Dallas, Texas, taken around 1909, according to the Dallas Municipal Archives. It cost the city around $8,500 to build. This would likely never get past the design phase today.

Amber Healy

Source: Is This a Photograph of a Playground from 1900?

73. The First Primate in Space

Credits: Don't let the cute name fool you - this chimp was a pioneer.

Can humanity ever really appreciate all animals have done for us?

It’s more than just providing food and clothing materials, it’s the sacrifices made in the name of science and improving our health and well-being that can move all of mankind forward in tremendous ways.

Take Ham, for example. Before people went into space, there was Ham, a chimpanzee who became the first primate in space in 1961. He competed with 40 other chimps for the flight, learning to respond to commands and training to flip switches and levers based on light cues.

His reward for successfully learning a sequence, while on the ground, was a banana; when he came back to Earth after a successful suborbital flight, he received an apple. He was retrieved from the Atlantic Ocean with just a bruise on his nose from a bumpy reentry and then retired to a nice cozy life at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Amber Healy

Source: Heroes of Space: Ham the chimpanzee

16. Bathing Suit Police

Credits: In the the early 1900s it was a fine line between spending a day at the beach or a night in the slammer.

Evolution and adaptation are everywhere—including fashion, and especially in the world of swimwear.

In the 1900s, the bikini was nowhere to be found, and women were expected to wear long, unrevealing one-piece bathing suits. Back then, even bare legs were a little too risqué for some people.

These standards were actually held up by law, and those deemed to not be dressed modestly could be charged with indecent exposure.

Two decades later, in 1922, the “bathing suit police” (under the direction of law enforcement agencies) started issuing warrants for too-short bathing suits. Women were not allowed to publicly wear swimsuits shorter than 15 centimeters (6 inches) above their knees.

Robin Mei

Source: The Laws of Bathing Suits

21. Breaking Down the School Segregation Borders

Credits: The Little Rock Nine needed an armed escort to even step foot in their school.

It’s incredible to think that students were screamed at, spit on, swore at and physically and verbally threatened, just for trying to go to school.

That it was less than a century ago is chilling.

Elizabeth Eckford, in the white top and checkered skirt, who was one of the Little Rock Nine, tried to go to school in September 1957.

Because she, and her eight classmates, were African American and segregation was the de facto law of their land, they were turned away from Little Rock Central High School by the National Guard.

When they were finally given permission to go to class, they had to be escorted in by the 101st Airborne Unit. Just to go to school.

This was three years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in the legendary Brown vs. Board of Education decision, that separate but equal school facilities for African American students were insufficient and that schools could not legally be segregated.

Amber Healy

Source: Brave Hearts: Remembering the Little Rock Nine

72. Martin Luther King Jr.

Credits: King stood for many things for many people, and he was constantly reminded that some groups would never tolerate that.

The pace at which our world is evolving is a bit daunting, and it’s easy to forget how recently certain events have happened.

This photo, taken in 1960, shows Martin Luther King Jr. removing the remains of a 1.2-meter-high (four foot) burnt cross. This cross, a symbol of the Klu Klux Klan, had been set alight on his lawn.

Beside him is his son, Martin Luther King III, who was two years old at the time. While we have come a long way, the time of burning crosses isn’t just within living memory — it’s entirely possible the people who did are still alive.

Alex Conde

Sources: Cross Burned on Martin Luther King Jr’s LawnMartin Luther King, Jr., pulls up cross that was burned on lawn of his home, as his son stands next to him, Atlanta, Georgia

6. The Berlin Wall Baby

Credits: When there's a wall manned with armed guards ordered to shoot anyone on site who attempts to cross it, holding your baby high is the only way to have it seen by people on the other side.

When the Berlin Wall was built in August of 1961, a sometimes deadly divide was created that changed life for every citizen in Germany’s capital city.

Berlin was split into halves, with each side of the concrete and barbed wired blockade having its own streets, bus lines, buildings, and rivers.

Many areas of the city straddled both sides of the wall – including neighborhoods.

Life in Berlin was changed overnight. In the wall’s early years, West Berliners were not allowed to visit East Berlin or even East Germany for that matter.

This image, taken on May 9, 1961, captures a scenario faced by many Berlin residents of the time. A separated family attempts to hold their newborn child up for their loved ones on the other side of the wall to see.

Robin Mei

Source: Residents of West Berlin show children to their grandparents who reside on the Eastern side, 1961

71. Albert Einstein Rides a Bike

Credits: He was witty, smart and named his boat 'Useless.' No wonder we like him so much.

In some ways, history has been a bit unfair to Albert Einstein.

While justifiably considered a genius for his theories of Special Relativity and General Relativity (among other things), Einstein was a witty fellow who was reported to have an excellent sense of humor.

One example of this is that he loved sailing, but was reportedly never any good at it — and perhaps in recognition of this, he named his boat Tinef (a Yiddish word that translates as “useless”).

In one of his many popular quotes, Einstein said “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

Alex Conde

Sources: 10 Things About Albert Einstein You Didn’t KnowAlbert Einstein Biographical, Albert Einstein Quotes

13. The Bullet Proof Vest Test of 1923

Credits: Jesus Murphy! WM Murphy suits up and takes two bullets at close range.

During the 1920s and 1930s, the bulletproof vest became a very much needed asset for law enforcement agencies.

In that time there was an enormous spike in crime and heavily armed criminals with shotguns, pistols and the occasional automatic rifle.

In 1923, the Protective Garment Corporation of New York had a live demonstration of their first lightweight vest at the Washington City police headquarters.

Aiming to prove that it would save lives, two representatives of the Protective Garment Corporation stood 3 meters (10 feet) apart,

With the help of a gun-wielding assistant, WH Murphy took two .38 caliber bullets to the chest and later handed one of the crumpled slugs to an officer, completely unharmed.

Robin Mei

Source: Testing a bulletproof vest, 1923

62. The Advancement of Beauty Care Extremes

Credits: If someone wanted to change their look by getting their hair done differently in the 1920s, there was a potential high price to pay besides the dollar cost.

Women have always been willing to go to great lengths for beauty. If a woman had naturally straight hair but wanted a little more bounce and curl, they had very few options.

They could tie bits of rags around their hair when it was damp and hope it set well as she slept.

For a more long-lasting solution, starting in the 1920s, they could go to their beauty parlor and have themselves hooked up to a permanent wave machine.

These terrifying-looking devices combined current and chemicals to alter their hair. Invented by Charles Nessler in Germany, the fad took off among women who didn’t love the shorter flapper-style hair or to rely on a hairpiece.

It took all day and cost $1 (around $15 U.S.) but many women found themselves with burned hair and scalded scalps.

Amber Healy

Source: 1930s Permanent Wave Machine

70. The Hindenburg Disaster

Credits: The Hindenburg crash became one of history's unforgettable nightmares.

Just over 80 years ago, this photograph was captured of the LZ 129 Hindenburg zeppelin’s final flight.

On May 6, 1937, the rigid-framed hydrogen-filled German airship caught fire and crashed in Lakehurst, New Jersey, while landing.

Arriving 12 hours late due to strong headwinds and stormy conditions, the ship was scheduled to return across the Atlantic as soon as possible.

Investigations concluded that the mix of weather conditions, the wet ropes acting as conductors when hitting the ground, and the ships highly flammable hydrogen gas combined to create a perfect storm.

It is believed a spark of electricity ignited a hydrogen gas leak, and this was all that was needed for the combustion to begin.

There were 62 survivors of the 97 people on board and this preventable tragedy claimed the lives of 36 people: 22 of them crew members, one ground crew member and 13 passengers.

Alex Conde

Sources: The 80th Anniversary of the Hindenburg Disaster and the End of the ZeppelinThe Hindenburg disaster, 80 years on: a ‘perfect storm of circumstances’

52. Salvador Dali Walking an Anteater

Credits: If you're a surrealist painter and you need an animal to walk an anteater is a fine choice.

Did Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali really have a pet anteater?

That was the rumor…but it seems he was just photographed walking one through the streets of Paris, France, in 1969. You know, as one does.

André Breton brought surrealism to the forefront in 1924, with his Le Manifeste du Surréalisme and soon, painters like Dali were embracing the movement.

We know that Dali created a bookplate called “André Breton le tamanoir” or “André Breton the Anteater.” Apparently, it was a nickname given to him by his fellow surrealists.

Whether walking the anteater was a stunt with some social comment or an homage to Breton, we may never know.

What we do know is that the photograph was taken three years after Breton’s death and, oh yeah — that anteaters are pretty freaking cool.

Alex Conde

Source: Salvador Dalí Takes His Anteater for a Stroll in Paris, 1969

17. Harold Whittles Hears for the First Time

Credits: The look of a child whose world had been silence until this moment. Photo: Jack Bradley / Reader's Digest

Can you imagine how it feels living your life in total silence?

No music, no laughter, no sound of the wind nor the song of the birds. Nothing. But when a person is born deaf, the absence of noise probably “sounds” quite normal.

Harold Whittles was born without hearing and lived his life completely unaware of the sound for years.

Then, his doctor introduced him to a new gadget, the hearing aid, which allowed the first wave of sound to come into this little boy’s ears and open a whole new dimension of senses.

Photographer Jack Bradley captured this incredible moment which was immortalized in the 1974 edition of Reader’s Digest.

Robin Mei

Source: Harold Whittles hearing sound for the first time, 1974

1. The Deadly London of 1952

Credits: Extended freezing weather and a heavy reliance on coal led to a disaster in London.

On December 5, 1952, a prolonged London cold-snap forced residents of the city to burn coal non-stop to stay warm.

This combined London’s heavy industrial output and a temperature inversion caused by a high-pressure system — the air 300 meters (1000 feet) above the city was much warmer than at ground level — into a dense toxic smoke that attached itself to the already pea-soup fog that London was known for.

The unbreathable smog blanket lasted for four days (which felt more like night since no one could see more than a few feet in front of them in some places).

It stretched for nearly 50 kilometers (30 miles) and the nausea-inducing yellow air turned out to be loaded with sulfuric acid, sending 150,000 people to the hospital.

An estimated 4000 people were killed during the fog and an additional 12,000 people went to an early grave as a direct result once the deadly mixture finally lifted.

Alex Conde

Source: London’s Deadly Acid Smog Crisis of 1952

61. An Early Suffragette Poster

Credits: Women across America took posters like these as a rallying cry for being given the same rights as men.

We all know the ongoing struggle for equal rights women have had to endure.

It all came to a head with a very simple, yet extremely important, demand — the right for women to vote.

The suffragette movement began in 1897 when  Millicent Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage.

The organization encouraged women across the country to fight for their basic rights through various forms of activism and public protest, a social strategy still needed today.

Robin Mei

Source: Suffragettes

50. The Long Hair Saga for Women

Credits: It can be a pain to look after, but women were initially pressured into having long hair and the trend stuck.

Hair has always been a means to express how nurtured, healthy or even powerful you are.

Nowadays there a billion hair products, all of which are meant to make a consumer’s hair shine, change its color or even boost its volume (according to the commercials, at least).

Many women love long hair. It’s not uncommon for a person to have to grow their hair for years to be satisfied with its length.

But, why? Why do so many women love long hair?

The root of long hairstyles dates back to the Romans and ancient Greeks when it was deemed that all women should wear their hair longer than men.

It was the beginning of another round of physical appearance expectations set upon women. The longer the hair, the bigger the glory—maybe then, but definitely not now.

Robin Mei

Source: Now You Know: How Did Long Hair Become a Thing for Women?

27. The Hollywoodland Sign

Credits: Before it was the self-proclaimed capital of the film industry, Hollywood (and its famous sign) was all about real estate.

Before there was the iconic Hollywood sign, there was Hollywoodland.

Real estate has always been a driving force behind Hollywood’s economy, and in 1923 Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler needed a way to advertise his upscale suburban housing development.

What better way than with an outdoor ad campaign announcing that you too could lead a beautiful lifestyle in Hollywoodland.

Chandler paid $21,000 (about $250,000 by today’s standards) for the billboard, and it shone brightly over the growing Los Angeles Metropolis until 1949 when ownership of the sign passed to the city and the letters spelling “LAND” were removed.

Each of the original letters were approximately 13.5 meters (45 feet) tall, 9 meters (30 feet) wide, and supported by scaffolding, piping, wires and telephone poles.

The sign was only meant to grace the hills of Hollywood for about 18 months, but due to the glitz and glam of the movie industry today it stands as one of the most recognized showbiz landmarks in the world.

Alex Conde

Sources: The Hollywood SignA Sign Is Born: 19238 Things You May Not Know About the Hollywood Sign

51. Cocaine as a Cure-All

Credits: Before it became the root of all evil in the war on drugs, cocaine was a go-to ingredient for many remedies. Image: SPL / Barcroft Media

From the mid-eighteenth century until its federal control under the 1914 Harrison Narcotics Act in the United States, cocaine was in heavy rotation as a cure-all in both over the counter and prescription medicines.

In many parts of the world, coca-wines, such as the popular Vin Mariani, or Metcalf’s Coca Wine, were enjoyed, perhaps a little too much. Cocaine also sported celebrity, and in some cases, papal, endorsement.

Likewise, several medicinal products containing cocaine as a main ingredient could be purchased for everyday use by adults and children alike.

Are you a singer, orator, or a teacher who needs to be heard? Stave off a sore throat and perform at your peak with cocaine throat lozenges.

Toothache got you or your teething child down? Never fear, have a cocaine tooth drop — 15 cents for a package of relief. And before Novocain arrived, dental procedures would include cocaine as an anesthetic.

Alex Conde

Source: Vintage Pharmacy Ad Promoted Cocaine Toothache Drops

10. The Painful 'Art' of Footbinding

Credits: Footbinding was cruel, unusual and it undoubtedly hurt.

This Chinese cultural practice which began in the tenth century gained popularity after the Mongols invaded China in 1279.

Footbinding became one of the ways to express Han identity; a source of Chinese pride, signaling an ethnic superiority.

However, the deliberate breaking and folding of a girl’s feet between the age of four and six — sometimes as young as three, to as old as twelve — carry much darker origins.

As with many female beauty practices (think Victorian corsetry), the practice of molding a woman’s foot into a slender tiny triangle was shaped by both the desire to retain power and male erotic appeal.

Why? The way a woman whose feet had been bound walked was thought to produce a tighter hip, thigh and vaginal area.

This aesthetically-based rite of passage, endorsed and carried out by generations of women, was banned in China in 1912 but did not really end until the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

Alex Conde

Sources: FootbindingWhy Footbinding Persisted in China for a Millennium

30. World War I Tear Gas Victims

Credits: Britain's 55th (West Lancashire) Division spent WWI on the front lines. Photo: Wellcome Library, London

War is hell, and there are thousands of pictures to prove it.

The British 55th (West Lancashire) Division spent World War I deep in the trenches and fighting with distinction along the Western Front throughout the Great War.

In the midst of the 1918 Battle of Estaires, the 55th was struck by a German attack that saw the men getting bombarded with tear gas.

This photo was taken as the troops stood in line waiting for medical attention, one hand on the shoulder of the man in front of them to assist those that could no longer see because of the gassing.

Robin Mei

Source: The Dreaded Gas Warfare of World War One

68. The Berlin Wall Comes Down

Credits: As the Berlin Wall came down people grabbed whatever they could get their hands on to take a chunk out of it.

It was one of the most disruptive and distinctive constructs of the 20th century: The Berlin Wall cut in two one of the world’s great cities, separating families in the name of trying to defeat communism.

By all accounts, it was a failure, as one side prospered and the other side withered under a rigid government. From August 1961 through November 1989, the wall stood there, stoic and intimidating.

The division of Berlin started earlier, with blockades in the 1950s, with stretches of violent and scary outbursts. In July 1961, some 16,000 East Germans fled through Berlin; on August 12, 2,400 people defected, the highest single-day total for individuals moving out of the communist state.

When the wall finally started to crack, at the end of the 1980s, it was a triumph, leading to tearful reunions and that iconic moment with Michael Hasselhoff singing’ ‘bout freedom.

Amber Healy

Source: Berlin Wall

15. Pigeon War Heroes

Credits: This living, breathing drone lost his leg in World War ! during an aerial spy mission over Germany.

Some of the most important public servants during World War I weren’t men in the trenches or women keeping the home fires burning.

They were the carrier pigeons, with cameras strapped to their chests, flying over cities and towns as they took photos at pre-set intervals.

First used in Germany to photograph cities, the war effort led to the breeding of a specific type of pigeon, with mottled feathers to be invisible to the enemy’s guns as they flew overhead, taking photos of troop positions and surveying damage.

At one point, the U.S. Army had more than 1,100 pigeons not just for photography but to carry messages back and forth.

Amber Healy

Source: Pigeons are Bred with Camouflage for War Service

29. The Knocker Upper

Credits: Pea-spitting sharpshooters were the original alarm clocks.

If you lived in Britain in the pre-alarm clock days, especially if you needed to be up and out the door to a factory job in a northern mill town, you may have employed the services of a “knocker upper” to ensure you did not sleep in.

This profession could be performed by men or women and often ran in families — not completely becoming obsolete until reliable alarm clocks became the popular norm starting around the 1950s.

A pea shooter or a long stick akin to a fishing rod, sometimes made of bamboo, would be used to rap on the client’s bedroom window at a set time — loud enough to be heard by the client, but not by people who had not already paid their fee to the knocker.

Alex Conde

Source: Knocker uppers: Waking up the workers in industrial Britain

69. Wilbur Wright Performs a Fly-By on the Statue of Liberty

Credits: Orville and Wilbur Wright blazed a skyward trail for the aviation industry, and this image sums up the freedom of flight nicely.

As a national monument, the Statue of Liberty has seen a lot of history.

She was dedicated on October 28, 1886, a gift from the nation of France. As was to be expected, its arrival made quite a media splash.

In 1909 the Wright Brothers (specifically Wilbur) were tapped to fly over New York’s Hudson River as part of a celebration that would also include over 40 naval vessels.

While the moment took place in front of a symbol of nations united in friendship, it was also the backdrop of an ongoing bitter feud between the Wrights and fellow aviator Glen Curtiss, who also performed.

Curtiss was being hailed by some as the “Champion Aviator of the World,” while the Wrights were suing Curtiss for patent infringement.

Alex Conde

Sources: Wright Brothers, Liberty Enlightening the Worldd, Wilbur Wright Circles The Statue Of Liberty

67. Elvis Visits the White House

Credits: When you're Elvis Presley everyone expects you to show up with blue suede shows, which is perhaps the reason he brought Nixon a handgun instead.

Photoshop has nothing to do with this one; this is a genuine, official White House photograph of none other than Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon.

The shot was taken in the Oval Office on December 21, 1970, and reportedly the meeting arose from a rather spontaneous visit by Elvis to Washington.

The reasoning behind Elvis’ impromptu drop-in? ‘The King’ wanted a badge from the federal Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs to add to his impressive collection of police badges.

Elvis scribbled a letter to President Nixon while en route to Washington, explaining that he would be of service to the country in any way he could and that he really just wanted a federal agent’s badge. Oh, and that he would love to meet him.

The letter was passed from the entrance gate of the White House to Egil “Bud” Krogh, a Nixon Aide (also an Elvis fan). Krogh managed to get the letter to White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, and the meeting was set-up.

Elvis made an immediate impression by presenting Nixon with a Colt .45 pistol and, in the end, he got his Narc Badge — proving that sometimes a zany idea pays off. Having the first name Elvis might have had something to do with it though…

Alex Conde

Source: When Elvis Met Nixon

66. Cars in the Sky

Credits: The flying car's 1917 debut wasn't so much about taking to the skies as it was hopping around on the ground.

From attempts at a gliding horse cart in the 1700s to the enchanted Flying Ford Anglia 105E Deluxe (Harry Potter, anyone?), humans have been attempting to bring personal motor travel to the skies for over a century.

In 1917, Glenn Curtiss, known to some as the father of the flying car, staked his claim with a three-winged, 4 bladed, aluminum autoplane—which just kind of hopped around.

The 1930s gave us the Dymaxion and the Windmill Autoplane; the Autogyro AC-35 and the Waterman Arrowplane, along with the Gwinn Aircar.

Of those that actually accomplished flight, speeds on land were generally unimpressive, and let’s just say that detachable wings, in general, is a very bad idea.

Even the Ford motor company mulled over the idea of putting an aero car into production in 1970, but fears about the market size put the kibosh on the plans.

Several attempts — some of them even achieving Federal Aviation Administration certification — have been made over recent decades, but with heightened safety regulations and increasing costs prohibiting mass production it doesn’t look like we will be flying to work like the Jetsons any time soon.

Alex Conde

Sources: How Flying Cars Will WorkWho first thought of and recorded the idea of flying cars?A History of the Flying Car

65. Robert Cornelius' Selfie

Credits: Was it the first in history? Cornelius had to sit perfectly still for minutes to get this pic, so for his sake we hope he gets to hold the title.

Long before we adopted “selfie” as a legit expression of taking photos of ourselves, Robert Cornelius took the world’s first selfie in 1839.

This photography pioneer and amateur chemist was born in Philadelphia in 1809. At that time, taking pictures could be an incredibly hard and tedious job.

Fortunately for Cornelius, the American inventor Joseph Saxton approached him and requested that he makes a special silver plating for his device, the daguerreotype.

This was also the moment when Cornelius developed his interest in photography and decided he wanted to give it a try.

The first-ever selfie was taken in Robert’s family store where he had to sit completely still for minutes in order to take one historic shot.

Robin Mei

Sources: Robert Cornelius’ Self-Portrait: The First Ever “Selfie” (1839)Robert Cornelius: The man who took the first selfie in the world in 1839

64. The Painful Price of Fashion

Credits: It may have been fashionable in Victorian times and still have its fans today, but back then the corset took fashion to the extreme.

Corsetry and the act of training the waist into a desired shape has a long and complicated history.

Many have come to associate and recognize the corset as a staple in the wardrobe of proper Victorian dress.

Intended to reshape the waist in a flattering display of femininity, the goal was to lessen the stomach region, increase the bust and achieve an ideal hourglass form denoting youthful, sexualized desirability. Curves are all about the hip to waist ratio, after all.

The corset has had its detractors — not just from women or those in feminist circles (to be fair, there are some feminist arguments for the use of corsets).

Reasons for avoiding corset-wearing include health concerns such as severely restricted movement, bruising, pressure on organs, and digestive issues.

Those who argue for the corset claim that, if fitted properly, this garment can reduce pain, provide back support and add confidence to a person’s closet.

Alex Conde

Sources: Everything You Know About Corsets Is FalseHistory Of CorsetryThe History Of Corsets Is More Complicated Than You Probably Think

60. The World's First Photograph

Credits: Being the first to do something doesn't always happen instantly, as Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce found out.

The world’s first photograph was taken during the Victorian era in 1826 by Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce, who created an image by exposing a small pewter plate to sunlight.

It was not a quick process—the exposure time for one picture took 10 hours according to some experts,  while others suggest it might have taken days.

The one thing they all agreed on? The sun’s rays were vital to the process.

The resulting image is of Niépce’s yard as snapped from a window inside his house. At the time, Niépce branded his creation a heliograph.

Robin Mei

Sources: Niépce’s View From The Window, The Making OfMilestones, Rivalries and Controversy, Part I

59. Private Wojtek, the Saluting Bear of WWII

Credits: Wojtek the bear was rescued as a cub and trained to help out the soldiers in the22nd Transport Company’s Artillery Division.

As far as cult heroes go, nothing tops a 250 kilogram (550 pound) cigarette-smoking, beer-drinking brown bear.

As the story goes, an orphaned bear cub was found in April of 1942, in the Iranian mountains by a group of Polish soldiers en route to Egypt during the Second World War.

The soldiers had been liberated from their Russian captors and were going to fight for the allies; they took in the cub in and treated him like family, nursing him with condensed milk from a vodka bottle.

The bear, named Wojtek, quickly became a morale booster for the 22nd Transport Company’s Artillery Division in the Polish 2nd Corps.

Wojtek was made an official soldier with a serial number, given the rank of private, taught to salute, and traveled everywhere with his division—including to the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy in 1944.

When the war was over, not wanting to send the bear back to Poland to become a symbol of communism, Wojtek was sent to live with other Polish soldiers on a farm in Hutton in Berwickshire in Scotland.

Eventually, he was transferred to the Edinburgh Zoo where he lived until his death at the age of 21, in 1963.

Alex Conde

Source: The Bear Who Became a Cigarette-Smoking, Beer-Drinking World War II Hero


58. The IMSAI 10 Megabyte Computer Ad

Credits: Even the cheap disposable cell phone you got for your clumsiest kid packs more of a punch than this early personal computer ever could.

If you had 20 grand kicking around, would you shell it over for a computer packing 10 megabytes of storage?

We didn’t think so.

We’re not here to make fun of this print campaign, but c’mon—it’s bragging about the number of keys on the keyboard (62, in case you’re wondering).

While today’s higher-end computers are offering terabytes of this and 4K displays of that for $6000, in today’s dollars you’d be paying $24,973.13 for those aforementioned 10 megabytes under the hood.

This offering from IMSAI was promised in other promotions to help lead computer lovers head-on into the ’80s with its 30.5-centimeter screen (12 inches), which would have been a jaw-droppingly beautiful black and white display.

Robin Mei

Source: The 10MB Computer System Only $5995, 1977

57. World War One's Christmas Day Football Ceasefire

Credits: Sport united the front for a fleeting moment, and for a spell men from both sides could stop being soldiers.

It was Christmas Eve, 1914. The Great War had begun in July, and many thought it should have already ended by now. The trenches of the Western Front in France were quiet.

Unplanned ceasefires had been occurring all along the front as early as December 18th, but something phenomenal was about to transpire between the British and German sides.

In what has perhaps become the most memorable Christmas miracle of all time, a truce of sorts was called by soldiers on both sides of the line on Christmas day.

Fighting stopped, and for one day — against the orders of the British and German High Commands — hundreds of soldiers fraternized, shook hands with their enemies, sang songs, exchanged presents, beer and food, and enjoyed a short-lived peace.

Not surprisingly, when language is a barrier, game and sport can bridge the gap, and no-man’s land played host to a number of melee matches of football between the two sides.

Hundreds of men exchanged their guns that day for the chance to kick a ball. It may have stemmed from a willingness to disobey authority, but this is the type of rebellion that warms the heart.

To think, all it may have taken was one person to call across the gap, “Tomorrow is Christmas; if you don’t fight, we won’t.”

Alex Conde

Source: The truth about the Christmas Day football match

56. Maoris Prepare for Battle in WWII

Credits: The Maoris fought side-by-side with other Allied nations, but these troops performed a traditional haka to get themselves ready for battle.

Members of the Maori tribe from New Zealand were called upon to help fight the bad guys during WWII.

They were known to be incredibly well-trained soldiers, recruited by the Allies to protect northern Africa and other regions from the Axis powers.

As soldiers died, reinforcements were sent up from their New Zealand homeland, earning a reputation as being fierce and exceptional.

Some 3,600 men were called up to serve between 1940 and 1945. Some 649 of their soldiers were killed, representing 10% of the 6,068 men from New Zealand who served in the Middle East and Europe during the war. Another 1,712 were wounded.

Before going into battle, Maori do a traditional dance called a haka, showing off their prowess and might.

It’s a series of slaps, grunts, foot stomping and coordinated movements intended to intimidate their enemies.

Amber Healy

Source: Maori Battalion haka in Egypt, 1941

55. Kuwait's Oil Fields Burn

Credits: Rather than let anyone else have access to Kuwait's oil reserves Saddam Hussein ordered them to burned.

On August 2, 1991, Saddam Hussein led Iraqi forces across the border in order to invade Kuwait.

For decades, the two nations carried on a dispute over oil production in Kuwait’s territory. With this unexpected move by Hussein’s army, Kuwait was forced to back down as its forces fled to Saudi Arabia.

Iraqi forces then began a purposeful scorched earth policy that saw Kuwaiti oil fields being set alight and left to burn.

Why exactly this was done is still a question up for debate. With Coalition forces on the move and drawing closer, it was thought the massive smoke plumes would act as a smokescreen for Hussein’s troops on the ground.

Others think this was a tactical move on Hussein’s part that breaks down to this basic idea:

If I can’t have this oil, neither can you.

Robin Mei

Source: Watch this haunting 70mm clip of Iraqi forces burning oil wells in a scorched-earth policy

54. The Empire State Building's View From the Top

Credits: 'The Empire State Building's outer design is said to have been inspired by the shape of a pencil. We're not making this up.

If you know anything about the City of New York, then you are no doubt familiar with the Empire State Building.

Once the tallest skyscraper in the world (a title it lost to the World Trade Center), on May 1st, 1931, President Herbert Hoover officially opened this architectural classic with the ceremonious press of a button, illuminating the Empire State Building’s interior lights.

It sounds impressive and the gesture looked great on camera, but the truth is Hoover was just slapping his hand on a button as he sat in the White House with the cameras on him while someone in the New York threw on the power.

Upon its completion after just one year of construction (thanks to upwards of 3,500 well-paid workers toiling away daily) the Empire State Building stood at 102 stories and 443 meters (1,454 feet) tall.

Robin Mei

Source: Empire State Building dedicated

49. Buzz Aldrin Snaps a Space Selfie

Credits: Long before the idea had caught on around planet Earth, Aldrin was taking pics of himself in orbit.

Years before he was the second man to set foot on the moon, astronaut Buzz Aldrin made history, doing something most people now take for granted.

He took a selfie.

But his was a little more unusual and with a much more special and rare backdrop. Aldrin was on a spacewalk at the time, in 1966, when he turned his camera around, with the Earth swirling just beyond his left shoulder, and snapped an image.

It was part of the Gemini 12 mission and one of NASA’s first series of flights dedicated to testing out extravehicular activities.

He might not have been able to make videos or play the guitar from space, as Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield did decades later, but this spaceman took one incredible photo.

Amber Healy

Source: Buzz Aldrin reminds world he took first space selfie

48. Abandoned Russian Space Shuttles

Credits: Next to a functioning launchpad sit the ghostly remains of a bygone era of the Russian space program.

Never forget that the space race was really about communism versus democracy, or at least Western practices thereof.

The Soviet Union might have put people (men and women!) in space first, but the United States succeeded in reaching the moon first, considered nearly impossible just a few years before.

When NASA retired the Apollo missions and went on to introduce the shuttle program, that caught Moscow’s attention.

They developed the Buran program, similar in design to shuttles, but after one flight, the whole thing was called off.

The shuttles remain: Two nearly completed vehicles and one rocket remain in hangars 2,414 kilometers (1,500 miles) southeast of Moscow, next to the launchpad still used to send supplies to astronauts on the International Space Station.

Amber Healy

Source: Two abandoned Soviet space shuttles left in the Kazakh steppe

47. The Boston Molasses Disaster

Credits: Molasses and horrendous engineering skills combined to decimate a Boston neighborhood.

What happens when you hire a man who lacks an engineering or architectural background to supervise the building of a 15-meter-tall (50 foot), 27-meter-diameter (90 foot) storage tank?

On January 15th, 1919, the North end of Boston, Massachusetts, found out just how destructive a 7.5-meter-high (25 foot) wave of molasses is when the Purity Distilling Company’s storage tank containing the sticky substance exploded.

Nearly 9.5 mi;;ion liters (2.5 million gallons) of the viscous sweetener reached speeds of up to 56 kilometers per hour (35 miles/hour), knocking buildings from their foundations, trapping people and causing general havoc.

Over one hundred people were injured, 21 people were killed and one man was even swept into the Boston Harbor.

Molasses fits into that class of liquids known as non-Newtonian fluids — when you apply pressure, it moves more freely.

It took 80 thousand man-hours to clean up the spill (using salt water and a lot of patience), and damages were valued at the equivalent of about one hundred million of today’s U.S. dollars.

Alex Conde

Sources: The Deadly Molasses Flood that Wiped Out a Boston NeighbourhoodIncredible physics behind the deadly 1919 Boston Molasses Flood

46. Apollo 11's Moon Bootprint

Credits: Behold, the wonders of Buzz Aldrin's lunar bootprint, from the first mission the moon.

In July 1969, the world stood still and held its collective breath as NASA launched three men into space with the singular goal of reaching the moon.

For several minutes, people were transfixed, staring at their televisions or glued to their radios, watching, waiting, hoping for the moment when a human being set foot on a piece of rock in space for the first time ever.

When Neil Armstrong bounced down that ladder and proclaimed his “one small step,” it was a massive celebration and sigh of relief.

He was followed onto the surface of the moon by Buzz Aldrin, whose footprint remains as it does in this photo, gray and sandy-looking on the face of our closest celestial body.

Amber Healy

Source: Apollo 11 bootprint

45. The White House Gets Gutted

Credits: All it took for the White House to get some much-needed reno work done was having president almost fall through the floor.

The White House — it’s a sign of freedom. Democracy. The American way.

On the other hand, it is still a high-security complex that needs a little TLC from time to time.

President Harry S. Truman decided to completely renovate the White House during his second term in office, a massive undertaking required to stop the need for gluing the aging building back together.

The straw that broke the camel’s back (and nearly Truman’s as well)?

Truman almost fell through the floor of a second-floor bathroom when the when he stepped out of the tub.

Between the years 1949 and 1952, the White House was completely taken apart and rebuilt completely.

Robin Mei

Sources: The Last White House Gut JobThe Renovation

44. Mount Rushmore's Secret Room

Credits: As if it weren't already impressive enough, Rushmore has a big secret hidden behind those heads.

George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt: they were all presidents of the United States, and they all share space on Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota.

That is not all that resides at this most famous of landmarks. Inside Lincoln’s giant noggin’ is a secret chamber.

Mount Rushmore’s sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, had big plans for this vault: an enormous bronze eagle with an 11.5-meter (38-foot) wingspan, a 243-meter (800-foot) staircase, and a hall of records.

All of this was intended to preserve America’s finest moments and historical events from 1776 to 1906. Sadly, his vision was never fully realized (Borglum died in 1941).

Although inaccessible to tourists and the public in general, behind a 544-kilogram (1,200-pound) granite slab, in a titanium repository, rests a biography of the man who designed and created the four famous faces, sculpted panels with the words to the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence.

The History of Rushmore, along with the reasons why Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln were chosen is also included. We think Borglum would have approved.

Alex Conde

Source: This secret room in Mount Rushmore is having a moment

43. Lady Liberty in Pieces

Credits: She stands proud now, but the Statue of Liberty came boxed like a model kit when it arrived it America.

While Lady Liberty now resides on Ellis Island, she wasn’t born an American citizen. The Statue of Liberty had quite a journey to get to her current home, and it started in France.

Construction began in France as the statue was intended to be a gift to America, celebrating the friendship between the two nations and the 100th anniversary of American independence.

In order to come to America, the statue was taken apart into 350 pieces and transported over on the French ship Isere in 1885.

Greeted with great fanfare upon her arrival, Lady Liberty then sat in storage for a year while the base she was to stand on was constructed on Ellis Island.

Alex Conde

Sources: Statue of Liberty Fast FactsThe Statue of Liberty Arrived in New York in 350 PiecesStatue of Liberty – A Brief History

42. Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge

Credits: The bridge that looked impossible to build on paper turned into an engineering marvel in real life.

The Golden Gate Bridge is not just the most famous landmark in the city of San Francisco, it’s one of the most recognized bridges in the world.

Construction on the bridge began on January 5, 1933, and it took it four-and-a-half years to be completed.

The bridge opened to traffic on May 28, 1937, holding the title as the longest suspension bridge in the world.

But what really makes this bridge so unique? From the viewpoint of engineers, the Golden Gate’s design is indeed an architectural masterpiece.

It’s no wonder the American Society of Civil Engineers called it one of “Seven Wonders of the Modern World.”

But in the eyes of the public, this bridge is one of the most vibrant and picturesque locations on the West Coast, thanks to its majestic color and incredible surrounding landscape.

Robin Mei

Sources: 85 years ago, construction began on the Golden Gate Bridge8 Interesting Facts About The Golden Gate Bridge In San Francisco

41. The Golden Gate Bridge Opens

Credits: When the Golden Gate Bridge was nearly set open for vehicle traffic, pedestrians had the chance to check everything out first.

It’s a modern marvel and a beloved tourist attraction.

The Golden Gate Bridge was built in the 1930s to connect San Francisco with Marin County, a massive suspension bridge that got its orange color because it was the cheapest paint.

The day before the bridge opened to cars for the first time, it was opened to pedestrians. Some 20,000 people walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on May 27, 1937, a leisurely walk across the bay.

When it opened, the bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, a span of 1280 meters (4,200 feet).

It was also designed to be a flexible bridge, considering the windy conditions and the weight of the cars crossing it daily; the bridge can move 4.5 meters (15 feet) vertically and more than 8 meters (27 feet) from side to side, which also helps it stay reliable during earthquakes.

Amber Healy

Source: The Golden Gate Bridge

40. Miracle Mike, the Headless Chicken

Credits: Mike the chicken took an axe to the noggin and lived to cluck about it. Photo: Bob Landry / LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

This really is the story of the proverbial chicken with its head cut off.

His name was Mike, and while Lloyd and Clara Olsen were preparing chickens on their farm for market on September 10th, 1945, something miraculous happened.

Usually, when you cut off the head of a chicken, the brain is disconnected from the body and often, the neurons use the remaining oxygen to send a signal down the spinal column.

The result? A chicken that appears to run as their legs continue moving.

In Mike’s case, he got lucky; the brain stem remained intact when the hatchet hit, and about 80% of his bodily functions were preserved. There must have been a well-timed blood clot, because Mike did not bleed out — he survived for another 18 months.

The Olsens cashed in on the headless bird, taking him on tour around the US—feeding him with an eye dropper directly into his esophagus and cleaning mucus from his throat with a syringe.

Unfortunately for Mike, that syringe was left back at the sideshow one night in the spring of 1947, and death finally came for him in a Phoenix motel room.

Alex Conde

Sources: Miracle Mike: the Headless Chicken Who Wouldn’t DieThe chicken that lived for 18 months without a head

39. George Washington's Dentures

Credits: No teeth, or ugly fake teeth? Washington chose the latter.

When George Washington became the first President of the United States in 1789, he only had one tooth left in his head.

Poor diet, disease and genetic factors may have led to his lack of choppers, but thankfully, New York dentist Dr. John Greenwood was on hand to fashion George a pair of his very own false teeth.

Even though dentures of the day could be quite painful, missing teeth is not very presidential. Washington suffered through several pairs of fake teeth over his lifetime, fashioned out of various materials including human and animal teeth, ivory from a hippopotamus, lead, brass screws, gold metal wire and springs.

So, what’s with the legend that says Washington’s teeth were made of wood?

Some experts think the red wine he often drank worked its way into cracks and fissures in the natural crevices in the materials the fake teeth were made of, discoloring the over time.

Alex Conde

Sources: False TeethGeorge Washington Didn’t Have Wooden Teeth—They Were Ivory

38. The First Underground Train

Credits: London, England, holds the distinction of putting public transit under its city streets.

The construction of the first underground railway in the world, located in London, England, started in 1860.

The Metropolitan Railway was in charge of building a tunnel from Paddington to Farringdon Street. The biggest part of this project was financed by the City of London.

The original idea for an underground train came from Charles Pearson, London’s City solicitor. Pearson would pass away in 1862, just months before his idea came to fruition.

This first underground train to travel through the ‘tube’ connected London with stations at Euston, Paddington and King’s Cross.

On January 10, 1863, this underground railway was opened to the public following a day of official ceremonies that saw London’s political and financial elite take a ride.

Over 30,000 people waited for hours to get their chance for a ride through the new transit system built beneath their city’s bustling streets.

Robin Mei

Source: First Day of the London Tube

37. The First Modern Olympic Marathon

Credits: The man the marathon is named after died at the end of his run. These marathoners from the first run in modern times fared a little better.

We all know that the Olympics began in Greece centuries ago.

We also know the marathon is an incredible feat of endurance, a 42 kilometer (26.2 mile) race named for a man who ran from Marathon to Athens to declare the Greeks had won a battle there and then promptly died.

That’s the legend, anyway. But the marathon wasn’t an Olympic sport until the 1896 Olympics, considered the first in the modern era.

The winner, a Greek man named Spyros Louis, became a legend in his own right, his name coming to mean vanishing or speeding away. He wasn’t much of an athlete but loved celebrating and dancing and, of course, a pretty great runner. It turns out he also loved the ladies:

He entered the games in order to impress the aunt of a young woman he fancied in order to prove his worth.

Amber Healy

Source: The Winner of the First Modern Olympic Marathon

36. The World Wide Web's First Picture

Credits: Witness the photo that started it all, featuring a particle physics parody pop band. We know - it's amazing no one has heard their music.

Ah, the early days of the World Wide Web… The creation of Tim Berners-Lee (then a software consultant at CERN), WWW was originally a medium for exchanging information about physics research, and only supported plain text.

In 1992, while developing software that could carry GIF images, Berners-Lee asked his colleague Silvio de Gennaro for a few images he could upload.

Although there is no real way to know for certain if this photo was indeed the absolute first to be uploaded to the web, it is the one history remembers.

Its contents: a photo-shopped image of Les Horrible Cernettes, a particle physics parody band headed by CERN in-house 3D graphics artist Michele De Gennaro.

Alex Conde

Source: The Story of the First Photo on the Web

35. The First Underwater Portrait

Credits: In the year 1899 we got an amazing photograph and the inspiration

Ever get jealous of people who lived in the 1800s?

They lived in a world of mystery and grand developments, with random bursts of technology that didn’t necessarily change their daily lives but certainly made things feel magical.

Take this photo, for example. Credited to Louis Marie Auguste Boutan, there are several incredible things here.

There’s a diver in a nifty and scary looking pressure suit, the kind that sit on the bottom of fish tanks now.

There’s the underwater camera itself, among the first of its kind and just after photography became something accessible to more people.

The photo, taken in 1899, is believed to be of biologist and oceanographer Emil Racovitza by Boutan in the South of France. It’s also believed to be the first underwater portrait.

Amber Healy

Source: This is the World’s First Underwater Portrait, Taken in 1899

34. The First 'Don't Drink...Period' Poster

Credits: Those that wanted alcohol consumption severely limited had to rely on word of mouth until the first anti-drinking posters were produced.

According to a group of scientists, the oldest proof of a deliberately fermented beverage goes back 9,000 years.

That means the human race has a very long love affair with alcohol and its teetering after effects, but that wasn’t always considered a big problem.

The first official anti-drinking ‘campaign’, better known as the temperance movement, was introduced by churches in the early 1800s.

The aim of these well-organized groups was promoting moderation and even the complete abstinence of alcohol consumption, which later resulted in prohibition in America.

But the first documented campaign with anti-drinking content was probably made in Australia with the series of photos known as “The five stages of drunkenness.”

Dated between 1863 and 1868, these photos are believed to have been produced from a New South Wales temperance group that coincided with the 1866 “Drunkard’s Punishment Bill.”

Robin Mei

Sources: Temperance movement , The 5 Stages of Being An Aussie Drunk 1863-1868

33. Construction of the Eiffel Tower

Credits: It took almost two years to complete and an intense construction process but the Eiffel Tower was worth the effort.

Built in Paris in honor of the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution and to celebrate the World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower was the result of more than 100 artist submissions and would serve as the entrance to the grand exhibition.

Winning bidder Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel was a renowned architect and bridge builder, but more of the credit should be given to Maurice Koechlin, a structural engineer who perfected Eiffel’s design.

It took 22 months to build, assembling more than 18,000 pieces after transporting them from Eiffel’s shop in Levallois-Perret on the edge of the city.

There were up to 300 employees working on the great tower at any given point putting the pieces together.

When completed, in March 1889, members of the press were guided up to the top of the tower by stairs; the grand opening coincided with the start of the fair on May 6 of that same year.

Amber Healy

Source: Eiffel Tower under construction, 1887-1889

32. An Early Sketch of Mickey Mouse

Credits: Walt Disney's iconic mouse didn't start out looking the way he does today, and back then you could call him Mortimer - not Mickey.

Never has an artist sat down with pencil and paper, sketched out a character and perfected the idea on the first attempt. Never.

Not even the great Walt Disney, creator of Mickey Mouse, one of the most iconic and recognized figures in the world.

In 1927, Disney created a rabbit character for Universal Pictures, a critter with a round face, floppy ears and a big button nose.

The following year, when Disney went to work out his contract and with a very popular and profitable character in his back pocket, Universal informed him they’d bought out all his employees and the rights to the rabbit (not named Bugs, by the way).

Instead of taking a lower salary, Disney started working on a new character, using smaller ears and a slightly more rounded midsection.

One short name change later – from Mortimer to Mickey – and a classic childhood staple was born.

Amber Healy

Source: Mickey Mouse

31. Horse Diving

Credits: Before television, entertainment came in the form of horses jumping off of 21-meter-high platforms into a pool of water.

If you liked diving, and you liked horses, then you might have been one of the many people who flocked to a fair during the latter part of the nineteenth century to see one of the high-diving horses with their bathing suit-clad riders.

Plunging up to 21 meters (70 feet) from a platform into a pool of water, these stunts were performed by daredevils (usually women) for public entertainment—those who had a fear of heights or water need not apply.

During the 1880s and the first part of the 20th century, horse diving was a popular tourist attraction in cities such as New Jersey and Toronto but perhaps never as memorable as on the boardwalk of Atlantic City.

The Steel Pier operated until the 1970s when animal rights activists and welfare advocates demanded an end to the practice.

Alex Conde

Sources: Horse Diving: 21 Vintage Photos Of The Cruel, Forgotten “Sport”

28. The First Digital Calculator

Credits: It didn't come close to fitting in your pocket, but the Harvard Mark I was still an impressive technological breakthrough.

Look at your smartphone.

You know it’s got an incredible amount of computing power – people love to say there’s more computational capabilities in our pockets than was used to send men to the moon – but contrast and compare your phone with this beast of a machine.

That’s the Harvard Mark I, the largest electromechanical calculator ever built. It’s the digital calculator. It filled an entire hallway. And it was ready for action in 1944.

The Mark I was 15.5 meters (51 feet) long and 2.5 meters (8 feet tall) and weighed 4535 kilograms (five tons).

By the 1980s, calculators were about the size of a deck of cards, weighed less than that and ran on solar power. Technology is awesome.

The price tag on the Mark I is equally remarkable: IBM built the calculator for about $200,000 U.S. (approximately 2,868,625 in today’s dollars) and donated another $100,000 (1,434,312) to Harvard for its operating expenses.

Amber Healy

Source: IBM’S ASSC introduction

26. The Moon's Family Photo

Credits: Astronaut Charlie Duke made sure to leave his family's mark on the Moon's surface.

In addition to the American flag and Buzz Aldrin’s footsteps, there are a few odds and ends on the surface of the moon to show that humanity has been there.

Perhaps the most heartwarming evidence of people on the moon is a photo left by Charles Duke in April, 1972. Duke was the youngest person on the moon, just 36 at the time, and the lunar module pilot for the Apollo 16 mission.

He was also a husband and father, so when he had the chance to do something incredible, he took it, leaving a family portrait on the lunar surface.

It’s a very ’70s photo, with wide ties and striped pants and big hair, but it’s a touching gesture, from one Earth family to the larger universal one. He then took a photo of the photo on the surface of the moon, just to prove to his two sons that he did it.

On the back of the photo, Duke wrote, “This is the family of astronaut Charlie Duke from planet Earth who landed on the moon on April 20, 1972.”

Amber Healy

Source: There’s a hidden message on this family portrait that an Apollo astronaut left on the moon

25. The 1970s' Gas and Oil Shortages

Credits: No gas meant massive line-ups at the pumps, amongst other things.

If you weren’t around in the mid-1970s, you’ve probably heard about how bad things were in the United States.

Not only had the nation lost the war in Vietnam, there was the little matter of President Richard Nixon.

In the midst of all this, there was an embargo on oil shipments to the U.S. from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as a way of retaliating for the U.S. supplying the Israeli military.

Other countries also saw their oil and gasoline supplies dwindle to next to nothing. This led to long lines at gas stations as people tried to fill their tanks, or even just get a few gallons to get buy.

Prices for what was available skyrocketed. The price of a barrel of oil rose to four times the original value, all while the value of the U.S. dollar plummeted. Things didn’t normalize until early 1974.

Amber Healy

Source: Oil Embargo, 1973-1974

24. The Yellow Press

Credits: L. M. Glackens didn't hold back in his portrayal of a certain newspaper-owning tycoon. Image: The Library of Congress

The modern era’s complaints and arguments about “fake news” are nothing new.

In the late 1800s, entire newspapers were filled with outright made-up stories, things with not even a shred of basis in fact.

Yellow journalism even started wars, like the ones the U.S. and Spain fought in Cuba and the Philippines. Some of the worst offenders were men who made their names in real news and accurate reporting.

Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of The World, and William Randolph Hearst, continually tried to outdo each other. The term “yellow journalism” came from a cartoon strip, Hogan’s Alley, and its main character, the Yellow Kid.

The strip first appeared in the World, but Hearst won the strip in a bidding war, but Pulitzer hired a new cartoonist to draw the character too.

Amber Healy

Source: U.S. Diplomacy and Yellow Journalism, 1895-1898

23. The Plastic Surgery Patients of Dr. Harold Gillies

Credits: Gillies preached to doctors-in-training to use their eyes first, then their scalpel. Photo: findmypast.com

In the early years of the 1900s, a bright young surgeon learned he was really, really good at reconstructing faces.

Harold Gillies is considered the father of plastic surgery, specializing in treating nasal deformities. He earned his reputation performing surgery on soldiers injured during WWI and, during WWII, he made a private wing of an English hospital into a plastic surgery unit.

He practiced there for more than 20 years, operating on patients while his students looked on from a theater-style balcony above.

He taught that the first tool any plastic surgeon needed was their eyes, not a scalpel.

Amber Healy

Source: Sir Harold Gillies

22. Mommy Pulls a Tooth

Credits: Mother the tooth puller was the alternative to sending your kid to someone else to do the deed, like a barber.

It’s no wonder people are terrified of the dentists, as the history of dentistry is paved with some really horrifying cases and practices.

A century ago, you would really need to pray for good teeth and some magical genetics to avoid going to the local tooth doctor.

In those days, dentists were not trained physicians, they were actually skilled laborers. There was no tooth fairy for youngsters to have an incentive to lose their baby teeth and anesthetics were very rare.

As a result, people had to endure major procedures with no painkillers. In Europe, you could even find barbers who practicing medicine and performing surgeries.

Of course, at that time the mortality rate was off the charts. With new dental tools slowly being developed, dentistry for the patients became significantly less horrible but it’s still something people tend to avoid today

Robin Mei

Source: 31 Creepy Pictures From The Early History Of Dentistry

20. Painting the Eiffel Tower

Credits: It dangerous work being that high up trying to paint the Tower, and these men didn't bother with any sort of safety precautions.

Let’s talk for a moment about daredevils.

The first image or name that comes to mind might be Evil Knievel in his flashy suit and motorcycle, or maybe it’s a mustachioed man in an old-fashioned bathing suit preparing to go over Niagara Falls.

Consider, for a moment, these men, painting the Eiffel Tower high above Paris without a net or any kind of safety harness.

The tower is made of iron and needs thick coats of heavy paint in order to prevent rust from forming. This photo is believed to be from 1932, when the tower was a few decades old.

Unlike the Golden Gate Bridge, the tower has been painted a few colors in its history, from red-brown to the current bronze.

Whenever it’s been painted, the work has always been done with an effort to use a color that can be shaded slightly differently at the top to ensure it looks to be one uniform shade from grass to sky.

Amber Healy

Source: Behind the Picture: Painting the Eiffel Tower

19. Los Angeles Oil Field

Credits: Los Angeles and the surrounding area may be known for the glitz and glam of movie making, but a century ago it was more about getting your hands literally dirty.

The city of Los Angeles is known today as the home of Hollywood and being the entertainment capital of the world.

However, in the late 19th century the City of Angels was only a small industrial town with a population of barely 50,000 people.

Los Angeles’ early growth can be directly linked to the discovery and drilling of some of the most productive oil fields in American history.

By 1930, the area surrounding L.A. and several other California locations produced nearly one-quarter of the world’s oil output.

Although many of the wells have since been capped, some of the oil rigs in the Los Angeles area are still productive but have been architecturally camouflaged to blend in better with their surroundings.

Robin Mei

Source: The Urban Oil Fields of Los Angeles

18. The World's First Subway Opens

Credits: The grand tour of New York's City's first subway, January , 1904. Photo: AP Photo / NYC Transit Authority

The Big Apple!

It may not hold the title of world’s first underground subway (that honor belongs to the London Underground in 1863), or even the first in North America (Boston’s 1897 MBTA Subway) — but it does win the distinction of being the largest system in America.

While perhaps not technically a subway, it is interesting to note that Alfred E. Beach built a 95-meter-long tunnel (312 feet) under Lower Broadway, transporting passengers via a giant fan, between 1870 to 1873.

The first official New York City subway system, however, opened on October 27th, 1904.

The Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT) ran along 14.6 kilometers (9.1 miles) of track through Manhattan—from City Hall to 145th Street and Broadway. The inaugural trip cost riders 5 cents.

Alex Conde

Sources: New York City subway opensNew York City Transit – History and Chronology

14. 'Rooftoppers' With a Death Wish

Credits: We guess this is what people had to do in order to amuse themselves before video games were around.

If this photo doesn’t make your heart stop, then nothing will!

This amazing photo was taken in New York on the 86th floor of the Empire State Building in the midst of a fad sweeping across America in the 1930s that took photography to new and extreme heights.

It wasn’t enough to simply perch yourself on a ledge or precariously lean out a high window. No, these ‘rooftoppers’ and ‘sky walkers’ were all about theming their stunts, dressing up and then snapping a picture.

As seen here, professional acrobats were playing right along. While some individuals took to insane heights dressed as golfers or held picnics on steel girders, these gentlemen performed their act hundreds of feet above the ground.

Of course, all of this was illegal. And no—there are no pictures of police handing out tickets hundreds of meters in the air.

Robin Mei

Sources: The Golden age of Dangerous SelfiesPicture of the Day: Vintage Acrobatic Insanity

12. The First Color Photograph

Credits: It took years to formulate a plan and hours of work, but the result were the first baby steps towards color photography. Photo: James Clerk Maxwell /Thomas Hutton

According to the James Clerk Maxwell Foundation, Maxwell had mapped out a basic plan for creating colored images in a paper published by the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1857.

Jump ahead to 1861 and Maxwell enlisted the help of photographer Thomas Hutton. Under Maxwell’s direction, they took three monochrome images of the same object and overlayed a tinted slide on each image that was either red, blue or green.

The images were then superimposed together onto a screen, forming a composite single image with all of the colors combined.

Those combined colors perfectly mimicked the color of the ribbon they used as their subject

Robin Mei

Source: The First Colour Photographic Image

11. The Empire State Building Gets Struck by a Plane

Credits: A foggy New York City night and a military bomber combined in this Empire State Building disaster.

On July 28, 1945, people on the streets of New York City looked up in shock after a plane flew into the Empire State Building.

A B-25 Mitchell bomber carrying two pilots and a passenger was flying from a suburb in Massachusetts to LaGuardia Airport in the city when it ran into some very thick fog.

Their view obstructed, air traffic controllers tried to reroute the plane to Newark. The flight deck warned the pilots that they’d be going through Manhattan and that the Empire State Building was shrouded.

Unfortunately, their words weren’t enough; the plane hit the 79th floor of the building, causing the fuel to explode and killing 14 people in the process.

The force of the blast was so strong, one of the plane’s engines was blown into a penthouse apartment across the street. The damage was estimated at nearly $1 million; that would be worth about $10.5 million in today’s U.S. dollars.

Amber Healy

Source: Plane Crashes into Empire State Building

9. The Last Picture of Titanic Above Water

Credits: Three days after this photo was taken Titanic and over 1,500 lives would be lost forever.

The story of RMS Titanic is one of the most famous tragedies in naval history. We’ve talked about the iceberg, now let’s discuss the ship.

Built between 1909 and 1911, the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic was considered to be the safest ship in human history up to that point.

Titanic’s journey started on April 10th, 1912, when it sailed out of Southampton, England, but lasted only four days. On April 14th, lookout Frederick Fleet spotted an iceberg dead ahead and tried to warn the crew, but it was too late.

The ice struck the Titanic on the starboard side of her bow. It took it less than three hours for the whole ship to sink into the ocean.

Francis Browne, an Irish Jesuit priest, took this final picture of Titanic afloat on its maiden voyage after it dropped him and other passengers in Queenstown, Ireland (now known as Cobh).

Robin Mei

Sources: Titanic Timeline: An OverviewThe last photo of the Titanic afloat, 1912

8. The Titanic Iceberg

Credits: The iceberg that drifted its way into the history books. Photo: Stephen Rehorek

Approximately 3,000 years ago, an iceberg began a slow drift from waters off the coast of Greenland to where it would eventually make its deadly mark on history while floating through the North Atlantic.

That night of infamy occurred on May 31, 1911, when this iceberg struck the Titanic (or the Titanic struck it) and caused the ocean liner to sink, taking with it the souls of 1,503 passengers and crew.

The photo seen above was reportedly taken by Stephen Rehorek while onboard the MS Bremen, on April 20, 1912,

Red paint still marked the ‘berg where it made contact with the Titanic. Although it was estimated to be upwards of 30 meters in height in places (100 feet) above the water, it would be the last thing this iceberg would be known for.

Scientists know that while the waters of the North Atlantic are extremely cold, they’re not chilly enough to support an iceberg of this size for long.

It is estimated that Titanic’s icy downfall would have been a melted memory before the start of World War One in 1914.

Robin Mei

Source: What Happened To The Iceberg That Sank The Titanic

7. The Newspaper Boy Delivering the Titanic Disaster

Credits: Youngster Ned Parfett broke the news of the Titanic's sinking while standing out the offices of the White Star Line.

This picture features a young newsboy standing outside the White Star Line offices in London holding an Evening News poster with a ‘Titanic Disaster Great Loss of Life’ headline splashed across it.

It was taken on 16 April 1912, just one day after the Titanic’s tragic sinking.

Just 16 years old when this picture was taken, Ned Parfett would be killed six years later while serving with the British army in France.

Robin Mei

Source: Titanic Newsboy and a Military Medal

5. 1970s Afghanistan College Girls

Credits: It's easy for people today to think that all women in Afghanistan had to follow a strict religious code of conduct, but there moments of relief for some.

This early 1970s picture of Afghanistani women reading on a bench with fully exposed legs crossed is an example of how things once were in a country known today for doing everything it can to oppress women and rob them of their basic human rights.

However, what this photo doesn’t show are the millions of women of the time, who unlike the leg-crossers in this picture, lived in rural areas and poorer cities who followed guidelines more in line with what we think of Afghanistan today.

Yes, this photo does illustrate the fact that at a point in its history, Afghanistan allowed some women more freedom.

The key word here is ‘some.’

Robin Mei

Sources: Are old photos of ‘westernised’ Afghan women driving Trump’s foreign policy?It Didn’t Always Suck To Be A Woman In Afghanistan

4. London's Tiniest Shoe Store

Credits: Necessity is the mother of invention, especially in the retail world.

If you were ever wondering how small a proper store can be, then this shoe shop in London is a fairly decent example.

This photo, taken in 1900, features the unnamed shopkeeper in his 1.2 square meter (13 square foot) in his very modest retail outlet.

Even though it’s hard to picture, but shops not unlike the one featured here were not uncommon to see along crowded city blocks in England’s major cities.

In the late 20th century, the UK economy was becoming centered more and more around the impact, and perks, of industrialization. The benefits had a trickle-down effect, with services and consumer goods fueling smaller, independent business owners.

Robin Mei

Source: The Smallest Shop In London Circa 1900

3. Wooden Bathing Suits

Credits: For those who weren't strong swimmers, and need a little help in the buoyancy department.

A short-lived trend in the late 1920s, wooden bathing suits were part of a trend in swimwear that was designed to help people who felt less comfortable in the water.

The suits were made of spruce and apparently helped keep less confident swimmers afloat (German inventors did the something similar with bicycle tires).

The women in the photo are the “Spruce Girls”, who modeled the suits at product events for wood companies.

Despite their efforts, we still can’t imagine the suits were terribly comfortable, in the water or out of it. This is definitely another example of a situation where fashion did not equal comfort.

Alex Conde

Sources: 1920s wooden bathing suitsWooden bathing suitsHistory uncaged: wooden bathing suits

2. Machu Picchu's First Photo Opportunity

Credits: It was a happy accident when a Yale archaeologist and his mule stumbled upon Machu Picchu in 1911.

If you scour the text and research papers surrounding its discovery, one of the new seven wonders of the world might have been a royal estate.

Some scholars believe Peru’s Machu Picchu (‘old peak’), a sacred city built around 1450 for the Inca king Pachacutec, might have been just that.

And it was found almost entirely by accident after a contingent from Yale University, originally on a hunt for the Inca stronghold Vilcabamba, were informed by a farmer of nearby ruins.

American archaeologist Hiram Bingham and his team of explorers arrived at the foot of Machu Picchu by donkey in 1911. One of Bingham’s first tasks was taking this picture.

Robin Mei

Source: The first photograph upon discovery of Machu Picchu, 1911

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