1. The Woman Caught in Mid-Sneeze
This 1900 portrait is the perfect example of a photo that deceives. The woman appears to be crying and throwing a tantrum. But in reality, this picture was taken in the middle of a sneeze. Imagine all the great captions this picture can generate.
2. Man Measuring Woman’s Bathing Suit On Beach
This 1920s photo shows a man measuring the length of a woman’s bathing suit from her knee to her thigh. In those days, women couldn’t wear bikinis, and their one pieces couldn’t be more than six inches above their knee. This poor guy would collapse if he caught one glimpse of a modern-day thong.
3. Hitler Practices His Speech
This 1925 photo of Adolf Hitler shows him practicing a speech in front of a mirror. Because he became such a monster, it’s difficult to believe that he was also a human being, prone to bouts of nervousness and anxiety. It shows you how banal evil is, and how the worst humans are still flesh and blood.
4. 1930s Baby Cages
This is a terrifying picture. The cage hanging out over the edge of the high-rise apartment was known as a ‘baby cage.’ Residents used them to give their toddlers light and fresh air. In the 30s, this was considered safe. Today, the parents would be in jail for child abuse, and the kid would be in foster care.
5. Migrant Mother
This is one of the great photos of the 20th century. It was taken by Dorothea Lange in 1936, and it shows Florence Owens Thompson and her two children in San Luis Obispo County. Lange and her husband had fled the Dust Bowl in 1925, but he had died, leaving her with two young children. Thompson died in 1983.
6. Cold Whiskey Dispenser
Yep, in the 1950s, they didn’t offer coffee at work, they just went straight to the hard stuff. This ice cold whiskey dispenser held gallons of whiskey, water and soda, so that on hot days, employees could cool down with a little swig of Jack Daniels. Don’t you wonder about the productivity of an office where workers could just slam back cups of whiskey without limit?
7. Fidel Castro Meets Lincoln
Although Castro became public enemy number one for the U.S., he was once an ally and able to travel to this country. He was apparently a huge admirer of Abraham Lincoln, and in this photo, he seems in awe of the president’s memorial. Note how small and insignificant Castro is next to the towering monument.
8. Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Play Volleyball
This 1971 photo of Clinton and Rodham shows them relaxed and in love. Clinton has that aw-shucks grins that served him so well as Arkansas Governor, and then as President. Rodham has the casual confidence of a strong woman who’s smart, and has everything she needs to be great. This photo shows why these two stuck together through so much turmoil.
9. Muhammad Ali Talks To a Suicide Jumper
This 1981 picture shows Ali at a high-rise window, trying to convince a man not to jump. The man appears to be listening, which is a good thing. But what a moment this photo captures. The man did not end up jumping, and if he’s still alive somewhere, he has one whopper of a story to tell. “Hey grandkids, come over here. Did I ever tell you about the time I wanted to kill myself, but Muhammad Ali saved me?”
10. Audrey Hepburn Shopping With Her Pet Deer
Hepburn was one of the great actresses and humanitarians of her time. But my goodness, a pet deer? This 1958 photo shows Hepburn at a grocery store in Beverly Hills, chilling with her little Bambi. Not sure you can bring a deer into a store these days, but Hepburn’s celebrity probably got her whatever she wanted.
11. Black Mourner Weeps at FDR’s Funeral
FDR was a beloved President, and one of the titans of 20th century politics. His death in 1945 after serving nearly four terms shook a nation that had relied on him for leadership and strength during the Depression and World War II. This black mourner shows the impact FDR had on normal Americans. His grief is raw and real, and the accordion he’s playing indicates that he was probably playing sad music.
12. Bin Laden Posing In His Judo Uniform
The name ‘Osama Bin Laden’ is now burned into the history books next to HItler, Stalin and Mussolini as one of the worst people in history. But in this 1970s photo, Bin Laden (with beard), is just another judo black belt practicing his art. What makes tyrants and despots and villains so fascinating is moments such as this in which they are just normal people. And knowing what they will do later in their lives, adds a tragic dimension to photos taken of them before they went off the deep end.
13. The Beatles Meet Muhammad Ali
Icons meet icons. In 1964, as the Beatles were just beginning their invasion of the U.S., they ran into another soon-to-be-great in Ali. And Ali, as usual, stole the show with his famous clowning, though the Beatles obliged by pretending they were KOd by his powerful right hand. You could easily argue that the Beatles are the greatest band in history, and that Ali is the greatest boxer in history, so seeing them together before they were icons is awesome.
14. Hitler Acts As Best Man For Joseph Goebbels
This 1940s photo shows Goebbels, one of Hitler’s most trusted men, getting married. Hitler is behind Goebbels, his wife and a boy, and unless you know it’s him, he looks just like any other member of a wedding party. Again, it shows how normal bad people are when compared to others, and it confirms that evil isn’t some deviation of human behavior, it’s very much a part of every person. The difference is that some choose to act on their worst impulses.
15. Beatles Final Performance Together
The Beatles broke up in 1969. This was their last concert, performed on a rooftop in London. The band had conquered the known world, and taken the mantle of World’s Greatest Band from the Rolling Stones. But infighting and egos had done them in, and this photo captures the last time the band played as a group.
16. JFK Meets a Teenage Bill Clinton
Clinton always styled himself as a modern-era JFK. This 1963 snapshot shows a teenage Clinton shaking hands with JFK in the early 1960s. Clinton is deferential, and his youth is evident by the acne on his face. JFK is what he usually is in photos, elegant, cool and handsome. Months after this photo was taken, JFK was assassinated in Dallas.
17. Sinatra Gets An Autograph From Lou Gehrig
In 1939, when this photo was taken, Sinatra wasn’t the icon he was going to be. But Gehrig was not only a giant in Yankees lore, he was also only two years away from his death. This dugout picture shows that would-be legends are always seeking out existing legends to model their behavior. Both Sinatra and Gehrig are bonafide legends in their fields, and will be remembered for many generations.
18. Man Slams Into House To Test Football Helmet
In 1912, there were no dummies who could test out a football helmet. So this poor sucker got the job and did it with gusto. Note his perfect pose as he leaps, arms spread wide, and slams his head into the wall. You wonder how many times he had to do this, and being that he’s wearing a leather helmet, whether he suffered brain damage as a result.
19. The Woman Who Got Hit By a Meteorite
In 1954, Ann Hodges was hit directly by a meteorite. In this photo, she’s lying in a hospital bed, examined by her doctor, Moody Jacobs. Look closely and you’ll notice that the meteorite burn resembles a tattoo of a big smooch. Hodges made history by being the first human to ever be struck by a meteorite.
20. Undercover Macy’s Detectives Show Their Backs
In this 1954 picture, a group of Macy’s detectives posed for a photo…but only agreed to show their backs. The detectives needed to maintain their anonymity to nab pickpockets and shoplifters. They might have had better luck by just not posing for a photo at all.
21. LBJ Driving His Amphibious Car
President Lyndon Johnson was from Texas, where everything is bigger and badder. This 1965 photo shows him and two guests drowning…er…driving his amphibious car through a lake in his ranch. The vehicle was made to power through water and drive on land, but unsuspecting guests had no clue that the car was amphibious, which of course lead LBJ to play practical jokes when he hosted visitors.
22. Golf On a High-Rise
The first thing you think when staring at this 1932 photo of a man teeing off a golf ball from a skyscraper is ‘why in the hell did he endanger his child caddie?’ But honestly, what’s the point of this activity, other than hitting a ball into the air and watching it land on someone’s head way below? At least the kid is smart enough to sit and brace himself, unlike the stupid golfer who tops it all by puffing on a cigarette.
23. Foot Guard Falls Out of Formation as the Queen Rides By
When you’re a guard in the Royal Court, you don’t move. Period. This 1970 photo is proof of that, as one of the Queen’s foot guards collapses from exhaustion or illness, and none of his fellow guards move a muscle to help him. Nor does the Queen look particularly concerned as she rides past him. Brutal. The guard could be dying, but duty comes first.
24. Fire On Marlborough Street
This 1975 photo was taken by Stanley J. Forman who won the Pulitzer Prize for it the following year. Forman actually won three Pulitzers for photography, back to back to back. This picture captures a woman and a young girl leaping from a burning building in Boston. The woman died in the fall. The girl survived. This is desperation and horror captured in stark black and white.
25. The Most ‘Beautiful’ Suicide
In 1947, Evelyn McHale, 23, jumped from the top of the Empire State Building and landed on a parked limousine. This photo was taken moments after, with McHale posed almost like a painting. The massive destruction of the limo suggests the force with which McHale landed, but what’s stunning is how preserved her body is, looking for all the world as if she’s just sleeping.
26. Bonnie and Clyde’s Car After Shootout
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are names everyone knows because of their crime spree in the 1930s. This 1934 photo shows the duo’s car moments after the shootout that ended their lives. The shattered windows and bullet-pocked doors attest to the violence of the shootout. There’s nothing romantic about dying in a hail of bullets.
27. Boy Watches TV For the First Time
This 1948 photo shows the shock and awe of a boy who sees a TV for the first time in a store window. It’s the perfect image of a kid whose life will never be the same again, but it does beg the question: where are his parents? The boy looks as if he’s in his Sunday best, so maybe he was on an outing with his family and walked ahead to peer into store windows?
28. American Man Punches South Vietnamese During Evacuation
As Saigon fell to the Communists in 1975, the American Embassy evacuated its citizen as well as South Vietnamese who wanted to flee. This photo freezes a moment in which an American man punches a South Vietnamese man who wants to jump aboard a plane that is about to leave. To put things in context, the plane was heavily overloaded, and had no room for any more people.
29. James Coburn and Steve McQueen Carry Bruce Lee’s Coffin
Bruce Lee was the greatest martial artist of all time. He also trained a number of celebrities, including Chuck Norris, James Coburn and Steve McQueen. This 1973 photo shows Coburn and McQueen as pallbearers at Lee’s funeral. Coburn, in dark shades, and McQueen in denim jacket and tie, still seemed in shock at the passing of their friend.
30. Russian Spy Executed As He Laughs
There are many ways to die. Most people meet death with fear or acceptance, but few do it with amused contempt. This 1939 photo of the execution for a Russian spy is an example of a man who dies on his own terms. The spy may be terrified on the inside, but outwardly, his face is lit up with an ironic smile as his executioner prepares to fire.
31. Three Princeton Sophomores After ‘Snowball’ Fight
This 1893 photo was taken after a snowball fight between freshmen and sophomores at Princeton. Lest you wonder how snowballs can cause these types of injuries, it appears as if students often packed rocks into the snowballs. These three look like they’ve been through a brutal bare-knuckle fight, especially the poor sucker who is standing with a jaw that looks like it’s been stuffed with cotton.
32. Frenchman Lights Winston Churchill’s Cigar
In 1944, the Germans were in full retreat, as the Allies pressed their advantage. This photo shows a Frenchman who had been freed from a nasty camp, lighting the cigar of British PM, Churchill. There’s a powerful human connection in two men fighting for the same goal, no matter their respective class status.
33. Defiant German Communist Moments Before He’s Executed
This 1919 photo depicts a defiant German communist during World War I, arms folded, waiting for the rifles to fire. The fact that this is happening on a public street makes it even more startling. But the picture captures everything dramatic: the commander’s raised arm, the soldiers in position to fire, and the calm soon-to-be dead Communist.
34. First Walmart Store Opens
Even though it wasn’t called Walmart then, this 1962 photo shows the first Walton’s Five and Dime opening. Some 50 years later, Walmart is the most dominant department store in the world, and the Walton family are billionaires. But back in ‘62, Walton’s was just a small, mom and pop store. No one had any idea that the store would spawn multiple websites about the strange people who frequent Walmart.
35. Testing A Bulletproof Vest
In 1923, the Protective Garment Corporation of New York had members of the Frederick County Police Department in Washington D.C. test out new bulletproof vests. A .38 revolver was fired at the vest repeatedly, and witnesses claim that WH Murphy, the man wearing the vest never flinched or looked scared during the demonstration. That right there is what you call total confidence in your product.