Rare Historical Pictures Reveal A Different Side To The Past Than You Already Knew
By Lyra Radford | November 29, 2016
One would expect history to be a pretty solid subject after all isn’t it merely a retelling of what’s occurred? Yes and no. History is a retelling, but because it’s based on facts and new facts come to light every day, it can never be static.
History is always being written and rewritten. Just when you think you’ve got the story straight, it changes course, growing richer the deeper it’s probed. Unexpected, amusing, and shocking. Collected here are some rare photographs that captured snippets of history.
Rain of mortar
Captured using a long exposure is what appears to be a beautiful light show. What’s really here is a nightmare. There are mortar rounds firing through the night sky and was taken in 1917, during World War I. The injuries sustained by survivors who took a mortar shell hit were pretty horrific and left scarce treatment options. What little could be done wouldn’t happen until out of the trenches, which often took days of suffering.
Just a couple of mimes in Central Park
The photographer just happened upon two mimes in Central Park back in 1974. It took about 30 years for him to realize he’d captured a little piece of Hollywood history. It was a young Robin Williams practicing mime and clown work, which is considered the basis for all comedy.
A vampire mummy heart
The only (known) person struck by a meteorite
Believe it or not, a woman named Ann Hodgens was struck by a meteor in late November of 1954 and lived to tell the tale. Ann said she was napping that afternoon when suddenly a large rock smashed through her ceiling, clobbered her radio, and bounced into her side. And she had the hunk of space rock (weighing in at 8.5 pounds) and a massive bruise to prove it!
The KKK at a carnival in Canon City
Talk about creepy. The Ferris wheel, an international symbol for lighthearted fun on a summer’s day full of the living embodiment of hate. This grotesque imagery of Klansmen out and in full hooded attire was not the rare spectacle one would assume. This was actually pretty common in Colorado during the 1920s. The Klan openly endorsed Senator Rice Means, the governor, Clarence Morley, was a Klansman. And Denver Mayor Benjamin Stapleton also had KKK connections.
Lieutenant Custer with Union Troops
Pictured here are Union troops with the infamous Lieutenant Custer in 1862, just prior to the battle that would cost his life. Custer was known for his vicious tactics as a soldier during the American Indian Wars. In a battle that became known as “Custer’s last stand,” he was scalped by a Cheyenne warrior.
Colonel Anthony Biddle was basically a ninja
The famous expert in hand-to-hand combat expert, Colonel Anthony Biddle, would often order those he trained to try killing him with bayonets. Legend has it, Biddle was so skilled, he would swiftly and almost effortlessly disarm all of them each and every time.
Robert Wadlow, tallest person in history
Pictured here is the tallest (recorded) person in history, Robert Wadlow. Taken in April of 1937, Wadlow was just 19-years-old at the time and standing at a height 8 ft 7 in. He went on to grow another 4 inches before his death three years later. This particular genetic abnormality, referred to as “Gigantism,” rarely allows those afflicted to live a full life. This is because the heart and organs also enlarge and simply cease to function as they should at a certain point.
Mt. Pinatubo volcano eruption
This powerful image of a pickup truck, whose occupants are literally fleeing for their lives, was captured in the Philippines, on June 17, 1991. The terrifying mass of bone-charring ash in the background is pyroclastic flows from the Mt. Pinatubo volcano. With the speed of a jet engine, it rumbles towards the truck, threatening to engulf its occupants.The effects of which, are similar to being in the path of a nuclear weapon.
B-17 Bombardier Selfie
Captured in one of the rare color photographs of the era, is a B-17 Bombardier heading toward Germany during WWII. Considering the rarity and expense of color film back in the 1940s, and the haphazard angle (common today) of the photograph, it may have been taken by accident.
Louis Armstrong plays for his wife in Giza
Believe it or not, music was pretty unique to America during the Cold War, so unique in fact, that the United States would send Jazz musicians abroad as ambassadors. Jazz was said to represent the harmonious fusion of African and American culture. It demonstrated what it meant to be in the ‘melting pot’ of the world. In 1961, as an act of cultural diplomacy, Louis Armstrong went to Egypt with his wife Lucille. From this trip was the birth of this iconic photo. Louis playing the trumpet for Lucille in Giza, at the foot of the Great Sphinx.
Guard falling flat on his face in front of the Queen
Unfortunately for this British foot guard, someone managed to immortalize the image of him passing out in front of Queen Elizabeth II during the 1970 "Colour Parade." Contrary to popular belief, British guards are not robots. Standing for hours on end locks their legs, restricts blood flow in the Femoral artery, and in doing so, restricts oxygen to the brain which makes this embarrassing scene far more common than you’d expect.
The last public execution in the United States
Public executions were not only legal but also a form of entertainment for people across the globe. The United States decided to put a stop to these macabre gatherings in 1936, but not until after the hanging of Rainey Bethea. Bethea had confessed to the rape and murder of a 70-year old woman named Lischia Edwards and was put to death on August 14, 1936.
Truck bomb aftermath in London
Extreme duck hunting
Talk about overkill, this is called a “Punt Gun” and no it wasn’t some kind of military weapons experimentation, it was used for hunting ducks. It launched about a pound of shots and took out 50 birds in a single swoop. It’s no surprise these things were banned by the late 1860s. Could have used one of these in Nintendo’s Duck Hunt. Take out that giggling dog once and for all.
Alcohol being poured out of a window during prohibition
During prohibition, authorities tried to rein in all the new illegal activity – which was mostly the production and distribution of alcohol. When they happened to find a thriving underground alcohol business, they’d simply dump it all out onto the streets! Pictured here is one such wasteful moment in history. Out the window floods gallons upon gallons of profits.
December 5th, 1933: The night Prohibition ended
While the intentions of prohibition were to help prevent crime and drunken-related tomfoolery, just the opposite happened. They merely gave people more laws to break. Speakeasies flourished, bootlegging became its own form of organized crime, and shady homemade moonshine was often dangerous. Needless to say, there was much to celebrate the night prohibition ended.
Wrong ship Sherlock
For those who ever wondered what would happen if a Navy plane accidentally landed on the wrong carrier, the pilot never hears the end of it and his plane gets graffitied. This way everyone they cross paths with, will know of the blunder and can keep all the heckling alive.
U.S. intelligence produced possible Hitler disguises
When you have a monster of a man such as Adolph Hitler it’s hard to imagine him finally being extinguished–especially by his own hand. Because of this, conspiracy theories about Hitler’s suicide being staged quickly flooded the world. In fact, there are those who still believe he escaped, after all, evil never dies. U.S. Intelligence did a mock up of all the possible ways he could have disguised himself.
Happy space chimp makes headlines
This gleeful primate is Ham the Astrochimp. He was the first hominid to visit outer space–and he lived to enjoy his newfound fame. Prior to being sent up on January 31, 1961, he was known as #65. He was renamed HAM after returning. Officials thought if a “named monkey” died in space, it’d make them look worse. His name, HAM, is an acronym for the lab where he trained for his mission — the Holloman Aerospace Medical Center.
To be Ringo Starr for a day… or ten
This man sitting alone, looking somewhat shocked is coming down from the high of fame. Jimmie Nicol was asked to fill in for Ringo Starr of all people when he got tonsilitis. This took Jimmie on a 10-day tour throughout Australia with “The Beatles.” Then he went home, back to his regular life. One day he’s touring with the biggest band in the world. Then, suddenly he’s photographed in the Melbourne Airport looking like he’s not sure what just happened.
Photo ops on the moon
In 1972, during the Apollo 16 mission to the moon, astronaut Charles Duke got the opportunity to not only explore the moon’s surface but also make his mark. While up there, he took out a family photo encased in plastic, set it on the moon and photographed it. Then he left it there. To this very day, a photo of Duke, his wife, and two sons, is sitting on the moon. Pretty awesome.
LIFE spotlights the AIDS epidemic with an image of a father and his dying son
Pictured here is a father comforting his son on his deathbed. This was during the AIDS epidemic of the early 1990s and this image published in LIFE Magazine in November of 1990, helped change how people viewed AIDS. While sadly, there is still a stigma attached to the disease there is a better understanding of it growing and its treatment. Because of the Ryan White act, all United States citizens with HIV now receive government assistance.
Hiroshima – Before and After
It was during the final stage of World War II when President Harry S. Truman gave the approval to drop nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August of 1945. These attacks killed around 130,000 people and still remains the only time in history where nuclear weapons were used.
Allied forces mock Hitler… because why not?
With his tiny mustache and all that madness, how could anyone pass up the opportunity to mock him from his own balcony at the Reich Chancellery. Pictured here are Allied forces at the end of WWII celebrating the final victory over Nazi Germany with a little mockery. The photo was taken on July 6, 1945.
Adolf Hitler, quite possibly the most notorious madman of all time. How could he not be after launching World War II and committing mass genocide among so many other atrocities. So, the ear-to-ear grin on this Soviet soldier, carrying a Hitler head just after capturing Berlin in 1945, is really quite heartwarming.
Before Mount Rushmore
It’s hard to imagine it, but the faces of the founding fathers of the United States weren’t always etched into what’s now known as Mount Rushmore. Once upon a time it was simply a mountain as can be seen in the picture above. Mount Rushmore wasn’t the established until 1925.
Tesla and his Magnifying Transmitter
This electrifying contraption is the Magnifying Transmitter created by the inventor and electrical engineer, Nikola Tesla. The Magnifying Transmitter was Tesla’s advanced version of his coil transmitter and was intended for wireless transmission of energy. Pictured here is Tesla conducting experiments in his laboratory.
Great minds thrive in clutter
Pictured here is the chaotic work environment of Theoretical Physicist Albert Einstein. It’s often said that great genius thrives in chaos, perhaps Albert was living proof of that. This is how one of the greatest minds of all time left his office in Princeton, New Jersey right before dying of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, on April 18, 1955.