Rare Historical Photos And The Story Behind Them
By | July 9, 2018
A man standing on the first cables during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, with the Presidio and San Francisco in the background (1935).
A blast from the past! Since time machines have not yet been invented, our only way to peer back in time, at people and events in the distant past and the not-so-distant past, is to look at photographs that were taken at the time. We hope this gallery of photographs help you to reminisce, help you learn something new, and help you draw connections between our past and our present.
It took some guts to work on the construction of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. In the 1930s, there was an unwritten rule regarding high-steel bridge construction projects like this one…for every $1 million in cost, the engineers should expect one fatality among the workers. But the $35 million Gold Gate Bridge had an impressive safety record with only 11 deaths. A huge net suspended under the work site is credited with saving at least 19 people. Those 11 construction worker deaths are overshadowed by the more than 1,500 people who have thrown themselves off the bridge, making it the top suicide bridge in the world.
Annie Edson Taylor was an American schoolteacher who became the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel on her birthday, October 24, 1901.
Annie Edson Taylor had hoped to become rich with a unique publicity stunt. She planned to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She has a barrel custom built for her that was water tight and padded. She even sent the barrel over the falls with a cat in it as a trial run and, to her delight and the cat’s, the feline survived the plunge. So on October 24, 1901, the 63-year old former teacher climbed in the barrel and had her friends secure the lid. She was left adrift just above the falls where the current would pull her over. An awaiting boat pulled her out immediately after she went over the falls and the battered and terrified woman was found to be alive and uninjured.
Anna Nicole Smith and oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall on their wedding day in 1991. Anna was a 24 year old stripper when she met the 86 year old billionaire.
An odd couple, indeed! Anna Nicole Smith was a young and beautiful stripper when she met her future husband, an 86-year old billionaire. The couple claimed to be deeply in love as Anna tried to dispel gold-digging rumors. Their marriage was short-lived. On August 4, 1995, Anna’s husband passed away. What followed was a lengthy court battle over Anna’s share of her late husband’s fortune. Anna Nicole Smith was soon reunited with her husband. She died in 2007 of a drug overdose in her hotel room in Hollywood, Florida.
Buying cigarettes from your hospital bed, c. 1950s.
As crazy and counter-productive as this seems, it is true that hospital patients could buy packs of cigarettes from their hospital beds. They could even smoke them in their hospital rooms! Before the surgeon general’s warning linking tobacco smoking to cancer, heart disease, and a host of other ailments, the medical field didn’t regard smoking as a threat to health. On the contrary, they noted that smoking helps to calm a stressed person and curbs appetites, so they considered cigarette smoking to be a good thing.
A Traffic Cop with a manually operated traffic signal, Philadelphia, 1922.
Shortly after the automobile first hit the streets, cars started crashing into each other. Very quickly, it became clear that there needed to be rules and systems in place to make sure people weren’t driving their cars into other cars or people or buildings. Traffic signals were invented to tell motorists when to stop and when to proceed through an intersection. In the days before electric traffic signals, the only option was to have manual signals, like the one shown here, that were changed from ‘stop’ to ‘go’ by a traffic stop operator.
Marilyn Monroe in Korea to entertain thousands of soldiers, right after marrying Joe DiMaggio in San Francisco and jetting off to their honeymoon in Japan. (1954)
After Marilyn Monroe and baseball player, Joe DiMaggio, wed in California in January of 1954, the newlyweds flew to Japan for a honeymoon. While there, DiMaggio had to attend some baseball clinics and the starlet used that time to fly to Korea by herself to entertain the U.S. troops stationed there. Monroe later said that the solo trip did wonders for her confidence. She felt accomplished in that she could travel internationally by herself. While in Korea, she performed ten shows over four days, so she felt bolstered by the success of the shows and that she conquered her own stage fright.
Frank Lentini, born with a parasitic twin had 3 legs, 4 feet, 16 toes and functioning sets of genitals
Frank Lentini, of Sicily, was born with a strange condition. He has a parasitic twin attached to his body, giving him three legs, four feet, and two sets of genitalia. The partially formed twin was fused to Lentini’s body at the pelvic bone. Lentini came to the United States when he was only 8 years old and landed the only job available to him…a side-show attraction in a circus. He joined the Ringling Brothers Circus first, but eventually worked for every large circus in the United States.
John Lennon sniffing coke in a Hard Days Night, 1964.
Not that kind of coke! Well, at least not in 1964. It was well-known that former Beatle John Lennon was a habitual drug user throughout the late 1960s until his death in 1980. His cocaine use was acknowledged by his first wife, Cynthia, and others who were close to the musician. In fact, there were reports that Lennon was scheduled to have plastic surgery to repair a septum that was destroyed by cocaine use but that he was killed just days before the surgery when a gunman shot him down outside his New York City apartment building, the Dakota.
The Historic U.S. Route 50 is a major east–west highway, known as “The Loneliest Road in America.”
Looking at this picture, it is easy to see why Route 50 is often called “The Loneliest Road in America.” The highway runs from coast to coast, from West Sacramento, California, to Ocean City, Maryland, but it passes through some large expanses of vacant, desolate country. It was “Life” magazine that dubbed it “The Loneliest Road in America” in its July, 1986, issue. The name caught on and Nevada now uses it as a marketing slogan for the highway.
An unknown man with an alligator gar that he caught in Moon Lake, Mississippi back in 1910.
The alligator gar is often called a living fossil because the fish have not significantly changed or evolved in a hundred million years. Found in the freshwater lakes and rivers of North America, the alligator far takes its name from its resemblance to the American alligator. The animals have a digestive system that is similar to the shark and a respiratory system that allows it to breathe in and out of water. One of the largest fish in North America, the alligator gar can grow as long as ten feet in length.
Shaquille O'Neal (7' 1) being dwarfed by Robert Wadlow, the world's tallest man, who was nearly 9 feet tall.
To give some perspective on how tall Robert Wadlow was, this picture shows a wax model of Wadlow, located in a museum, with the real life basketball player, Shaquille O’Neal, standing next to it. At 7”1”, O’Neal is not used to looking up to anyone, but you can see hear that Shaq is nearly two feet shorter than Wadlow at his tallest point, 8’11’.
A photo of the Starship Enterprise model and the men who built it in 1965.
When Gene Roddenberry pitched his idea for a space based television series in the mid-1960s, he simply described the Starship Enterprise as a ‘United States ship.’ When the show was picked up for production, the art director, Matt Jeffries, was tasked with making a realistic-looking, futuristic starship model. The unique design of the space craft has stood the test of time and variations of Jeffries’ model are still being used in the spinoff TV shows and movies still today.
A woman stands near the 1906 ground rupture in Marin County. The rupture was the result of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
The 1906 earthquake that destroyed much of San Francisco created a noticeable gap all along the San Andreas Fault line. The San Andreas Fault is located at the boundary between the North American Plate and the Pacific Plate. Identified in 1895 by a U.C. Berkeley geologist Andrew Lawson, it was named after the San Andreas Lake created by the fault. After the 1906 earthquake, Professor Lawson was able to determine that the fault line extended all the way to the southern part of California. Following the Great Earthquake, the fault line was clearly visible, as shown in this image.
During a promotional party for Sophia Loren in 1957, Jayne Mansfield makes an appearance at Sophia Loren's table. What an appearance!
This photo was taken at the same 1957 promotional party as the famous photograph showing Jayne Mansfield and Sophia Loren sitting at the table together and Sophia Loren was caught giving Mansfield major side eye! That image is often referred to as the first photographic proof of side eye. The truth is there may have been a bit of jealousy going on between the two stars. Sophia Loren was the hottest Hollywood celebrity until she was upstaged by the beautiful newcomer, Jayne Mansfield. And as this photo shows, Mansfield wasn’t shy about flaunting her assets. Loren did not seem happy to share the attention with the new blond bombshell.
6 year old Robin Williams with his beautiful mother Laurie in 1957
It is easy to see that comedian Robin Williams got a huge chunk of his talent from his mother, Laurie McLaurin Williams. Known as Punky to her friends and family, Laurie Williams was an actress, storyteller, model, artist, and accomplished tennis player. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Punky appeared in TV commercials in the 1950s, but devoted most of her time to her family and to her volunteer work. She was married to Robert Fitzgerald Williams, Robin’s father, who was a Ford Motor Company senior executive. She passed away at age 78.
Creepy close up look at a mother wolf spider carrying her young. They can grow to 7 and live for up to 14 years. They carry their young on their backs for 9 weeks and their young nuzzle on tiny milk pipes on the mothers legs.
Most species of spiders simply lay their eggs and move on, never sticking around long enough to know if their hatchlings survive. But the wolf spider is the exception to this rule. They carry their egg sacs around with them, attached to their abdomen by the spinnerets. After the spiderlings hatch, they crawl onto their mother’s rear abdomen. The mother wolf spider can then care for her babies for several weeks until they are big enough to hunt for themselves. The wolf spider is the only known spider species who is this involved in the care and upbringing of their offspring.
Jimi Hendrix (age 19) during his time as a paratrooper in the US Army, 1961.
A wild and rebellious youth, a 19-year old Jimi Hendrix was twice arrested for joyriding. The judge gave him a choice…the army or jail. Hendrix chose the army and enlisted on May 31, 1961. He trained to be a paratrooper and even earned the Screaming Eagle award for his paratrooper skills. As a soldier, however, Hendrix was undisciplined. He often failed to show up for inspections and was caught sleeping on the job. He was a terrible marksman and disrespectful to his commanding officers. On June 29, 1962, Hendrix was deemed unsuited for the military and given an honorable discharge. Lucky for the music world that he was.
John Matuszak becoming Sloth, in the movie The Goonies in 1985.
One of the more lovable characters in the 1985 film, “The Goonies”, was Sloth, the giant, deformed brother of the Fratelli’s, the bumbling criminals that chase the children throughout the movie. It took hours for makeup artists to transform John Matuszak, the actor who was cast in the role of Sloth, into the misshapen, Baby Ruth bar eating, and misunderstood monster. The audience sympathizes with Sloth, who is terrible mistreated by his family…they lock him in chains…and root for him as his helps the Goonies find the treasure and escape.
A father and his little girl riding on their penny-farthings in the 1930s.
When this photograph was taken in the 1930s, penny-farthing bikes were already obsolete. Recognizable by their over-sized front wheel and comparatively tiny rear wheel, the penny-farthing bikes were at the height of their popularity in the 1870s and 1880s until the introduction of the modern bicycle design. The quirky name of this style of bike comes from British coins. The penny is much larger than the farthing, like the wheels on this bicycle. Since the penny-farthing bike had been replaced by the standard bicycle by the time this image was snapped, we can only assume that the father and daughter in this photograph were having fun with an old-fashioned toy.
Before alarm clocks, people were employed to wake workers up with a long stick. A knocker-up was a profession in England and Ireland that started during and lasted well into the late 1920s.
Today, we rely on our alarm clocks or cell phone alarms to wake us up in the morning, but before these items were invented, people still needed to be to work on time. Most large, industrial cities had people working as knocker-uppers. Knocker-uppers carried long sticks with them and went from house to house, rapping on bedroom windows to make sure that their clients got out of bed in time. Knocker-uppers earned a few pence each week from their clients and an extra bonus if they stayed at the window, annoyingly knocking, until they were certain the person was awake and ready to start their day.
Cute photo of a little girl hugging Leo of Reynalton, the six-time champion bloodhound, at the Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham, England in 1935.
Wonderful with children, bloodhounds like Leo, a six-time champion shown here, are often used by emergency personnel to track lost children, missing people, and escaped prisoners. Bloodhounds are ideal for this line of work because they have an innate desire to track and an exceptionally sharp sense of small. In fact, bloodhounds have been used by humans since medieval times to track lost people. Today’s bloodhounds are thought to be descendants of hounds kept and bred at the Abbey of Saint-Hubert in Belgium. Leo looks are loveable as can be in this photo from 1935 and loves getting hugs from his human.
In 1977, The John Denver television special "Thank God, I'm a Country Boy" was aired on ABC.
Born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., the country and folk singer and songwriter quickly adopted the stage name John Denver. In the 1970s, he became one of the country’s best selling acoustic artists and scored hit after hit with some songs as “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” “Thank God, I’m a Country Boy”, and “Calypso”. He appeared in television specials and performed sold-out concerts around the world. He was only 53 when he died in 1997 when the plane he was piloting crashed in California.
In May 1910, European royalty gathered in London for the funeral of King Edward VII. Among the mourners were nine reigning kings, who were photographed together in what very well may be the only photograph of nine reigning kings ever taken.
On hand to attend the funeral of King Edward VII in 1910 were nine reigning kings. Thankfully, someone realized this was a great photo op and gathered the monarchs together for an historic photograph…most likely, the only photograph in existence that shows nine kings all together. They are, from left to right, starting in the back row: King Haakon VII of Norway, Tsar Ferdinand of the Bulgarians, King Manuel II of Portugal and the Algarve, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Prussian, King George I of the Hellenes, and King Albert I of the Belgians. In the front row, from left to right, are King Alfonso XII of Spain, King George V of the United Kingdom, and King Frederick VIII of Denmark.
Mark Twain in 1909
Samuel Langhorne Clemens spent much of his boyhood on the banks of the Mississippi River and his young adulthood working on the riverboats. He even took his pen name, Mark Twain, from a riverboat term for river depth that is two fathoms deep. He even set his most famous literary work, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” on the Mississippi River. Celebrated as a novelist, essayist, lecturer, and humorist, Mark Twain wrote such classics as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Authur’s Court,” and “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Mark Twain was born in 1835 right after an appearance of Halley’s Comet and he always joked that he came in with the comet so he would go out with it too. He died in 1910, the day after the comet returned.
Monowheel from the 1930s was called The Dynasphere.
Believe it or not, this crazy looking vehicle was built based on a drawing made by Leonardo da Vinci! Known as a monowheel, the design for this wheel was patented in 1930 by a British inventor named Dr. J. A. Purves who modeled his design after Da Vinci’s. Purves was confident that his monowheel would be the next big automotive craze…he even said so in an article in “Popular Mechanics” magazine. The monowheel drove just fine, but it had one big flaw when braking or accelerating. The force would cause the driver carriage, with the driver inside, to whip around the wheel, much like when a hamster suddenly stops while running on a wheel. Oops.
Spring Equinox at the Chichen Itza Kukulcan Temple in Mexico. The sun's rays falling on the Mayan pyramid create a shadow in the shape of a serpent to eventually join a stone serpent head at the base of the great staircase up the pyramid's side.
The ancient Mayan people were master astronomers and had complex methods for calculating astronomical events. They were also accomplished builders and constructed some of the tallest structures in the Western Hemisphere. They combined their love of astronomy and architecture often, as seen in the Chichen Itza Kukulcan Temple. When the sun’s rays hit the pyramid during the Spring Equinox, the resulting shadow shows a giant serpent slithering down the great staircase.
The oldest Harley-Davidson in existence was built in 1903. This rare Harley is marked Serial No. 1 and can be seen along with other vintage motorcycles at The Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
America’s most iconic motorcycle company got its start in a shed in Wisconsin when William Harley and the Davidson brothers, Arthur and Walter, started building motorcycles. During this time, there were many motorcycle start-up companies forming, but the quality and craftsmanship of the Harley-Davidson helped it to flourish when many competitors went out of business. The Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee showcases most of the company’s line of motorcycles, including this one, the very first motorcycle the company built in 1903.
The original Moulin Rouge (built in 1889) the year before it burned down, Paris, France, 1914.
This photograph of the Moulin Rouge was taken just before a terrible fire in 1915 destroyed the famous theatre. The building was rebuilt and now boasts a history of more than 120 years of bring entertainment to Parisians. The Moulin Rouge has transformed itself again and again to meet the changing entertainment industry. From cancan girls to cabaret to live music, the Moulin Rouge has seen it all. The iconic theatre attracts more than 600,000 visitors through its doors every year.
A cold and snowy morning in London, 1950s.
England is not known for its wonderful weather. In fact, if it is not rainy and foggy, it is snowy and cold. The hearty Londoners don’t let a bit of bad weather slow them down. This gentleman is cross the snow covered Westminster Bridge that extends over the Thames River in the heart of London. The famous clock tower known as Big Ben watches over them in the background and an iconic London double-decker bus has just passed by.
Robert Wadlow, also known as the Alton Giant and the Giant of Illinois, was 8′ 11″ and the tallest person ever in recorded history, sadly he passed away from an infection at the young age of 22.
Robert Wadlow had a condition known as hyperplasia of the pituitary gland which flooded his body with unusually high concentrations of human growth hormone. As a result, Wadlow was continuously growing. Buy the taller he got, the more strain what put on his bones and muscles. He began using leg braces to help him walk. In 1940, when he was just 22, one of the leg braces rubbed against his skin causing a blister to form. Soon infection set in. He died in his sleep. Had he not died so young, there is no telling how tall he would have become.
Dolly Parton with her husband Carl Dean, they've been together since her first day in Nashville
These days celebrity marriages can feel as if they’ve been put together by the publisher of a magazine you’d see in the checkout counter, but when the Queen of Country met her partner she did it the old fashioned way - in the laundromat. Parton says they met on her first day in Nashville in 1964, and over the course of two years they continued to see each other while her career took off. According to Parton, Carl doesn’t even listen to her music, he’s more interested in British rock bands. Maybe that’s why they work so well together. In 2019 she told Good Morning Britain:
He likes hard rock, he likes Led Zeppelin and bluegrass music, so my music is somewhere in between. He doesn't dislike it, but he doesn't go out of his way to play my records, let's put it that way.
Robin Williams signing autographs and telling stories at a homeless shelter in Boston, 1988. He did this every time he was in the area
When funnyman Robin Williams wasn’t performing onstage or cutting it up in front of the camera he was giving back to people who had significantly less than he did. Aside from serving as one of the hosts of Comic Relief, a program that helped raise millions for those in poverty, Williams gave his personal time to people suffering from homelessness. According to Boston mayor Ray Flynn, whenever Robin was in town they could count on him to come down and spend time with people in need. Flynn told CBS:
He came down to the Long Island Shelter, which is a hospital that I had just built, a shelter for homeless people in Boston, getting them off the freezing streets and he was phenomenal. He was just extraordinary, entertaining all the homeless people and the staff.
Yoda with his creator Ralph McQuarrie
Everyone who saw Empire Strikes Back instantly fell in love with Yoda, the impish little creature on Dagoba who just happens to be the most powerful Jedi in the universe, but if the original version of Yoda made it to the screen it’s possible that the movie may not have made it to theaters. The initial idea for Yoda wasn’t to use a puppet, but to train a costumed monkey to walk around the set. That idea was kiboshed by several crew members who worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey years prior. The primates were impossible to deal with and actors had to be hired to portray the animals. Designer Ralph McQuarrie was brought in to help craft the character we know and love today, but aren’t you a little curious to see Mark Hamil acting with a monkey?
An Ottoman supply lying in the desert, the same place where it was ambushed by Lawrence of Arabia on the Hejaz railway during World War I
World War I was full of daring stories, but one of the most captivating characters of the era was T.E. Lawrence otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia. Throughout his time working with the Arab people, Lawrence helped them systematically take down the Turkish military with his deep knowledge of combative tactics. With the help of Lawrence, he and the Arabic army targeted Turkey’s Hejax railway in order ensure that food, troops, and weapons wouldn’t be able to travel throughout the area. The trains that Lawrence and his men brought down are still lying at a stand still in the desert.
Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy, the perfect couple in a not so perfect marriage
Throughout the decade that Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy were married they weathered the storms of politics and his many, many infidelities. Most famously, Kennedy had a long term side relationship with blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe, but that’s just one of the women he was with throughout his marriage to Jackie. Some of the other women that Kennedy was alleged to have seen throughout his marriage were White House Staff member Priscilla Wear and Judith Exner, a woman who was also tied to mafia leaders Sam Giancana and John Roselli. While Jackie was supposedly aware of these indiscretions, it wasn’t her way to confront someone. Instead she knew that Jack would always return to her.
Colorized photograph of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna in 1887, nearly 20 years before her assassination
Of all the royals of the Victorian and Edwardian era, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna may have led the most tragic life of them all. Born on November 1, 1864 to Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and Alice of the United Kingdom, she married Grand Duke Sergei, a son of Alexander II in 1884 and moved to St. Petersburg before converting to Russian Orthodoxy in 1891.
After Sergei was assassinated in 1905, Elizabeth stopped eating meat, sold her belongings and opened the Convent of Saints Martha and Mary where she helped the sick and elderly of Moscow. However, this didn’t endear her to the new political regime. In 1918 she was arrested on the orders of Lenin and exiled to Perm before she was moved to Yekaterinburg, and later Alapayevsk.
On July 18, 1918, Elizabeth and her fellow inmates were driven to an abandoned iron mine where they were blindfolded and marched to the bottom before being beaten and thrown in the pit. Once their captors were out of the mine they tossed in a couple of grenades for good measure before the mine was set on fire.
Painter Bob Ross nursing a baby raccoon
Bob Ross wasn’t a guy who owned dogs and cats. This soft spoken painter was a free thinker who had a love of out of the box animals. Sometimes Ross brought his fuzzy little friends onto the show, specifically wild baby animals who were going through rehabilitation. When speaking about the animals he brought on the show he reminded his audience to take care of our furry little friends, an attitude that went back to his childhood when he tried to nurse an alligator back to health in his family bathtub and take care of an armadillo in his bedroom. While his mother wasn’t a fan of Ross’ rehabilitating ways, when he finally owned his own home he turned his backyard into an animal rehabilitation center
A couple of well to do undergraduates at Cambridge University, 1926
These stylish Cambridge men walking across their campus were apart of the brotherhood of scholars who attended one of the most well-read schools in the world. Even though the students of Cambridge were incredibly studious, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t know how to have fun. At the time there was a secret society on campus called the “Alpine Society,” who only allowed members to join in if they could climb over the gates of the college while it was locked up at night. Can you imagine trying to climb a gate at any time of the day wearing these kinds of pants?
Women delivering ice in lower Manhattan, New York City, 1918
As World War I was raging in Europe, women had to take on jobs that were once held by men, that includes everything from working in factories to delivering heavy blocks of ice. This kind of job was necessary at the time, long before refrigerators were common place. At the time ice delivery happened around the country, with delivery people bringing large blocks of ice around on carts and in motor vehicles. The women pictured brought ice from a distributor to homes around Manhattan so the ice could be used to chill food. The business slowly phased out as refrigerators and freezers became the norm.
Some spooky skeletons riding horses for Halloween in the 1920s
Just like today, back in the 1920s when people dressed up for Halloween they went all out - they even dressed up their horses. As spooky as these characters look they were probably a part of a parade or maybe even a carnival, so nothing too spooky there. That being said if these spooky skeletons were just riding around in the middle of the night with their whole garb on then that’s a whole other story. Should we bring this look back? Or is it something that needs to stay in the past? It depends on whether or not you own horses.
An 18-year-old Bela Lugosi in 1901, 19 years before moving to America
Young Bela Lugosi was seriously a babe, wasn’t he? After losing his father at the age of 12, Lugosi started working as a miner and laborer until he turned 18 when his sister helped him get a job with a traveling theater troupe. Over the next few years he worked with several different theater troupes where he learned how to act through trial and error until he was brought into the National Theater of Budapest. Shortly afterwards he had to leave Hungary in order because of the country’s government was overthrown. In 1920 he finally came to America where took to the stage where he learned his lines phonetically.
Gas prices in 1939 were ridiculously cheap
Imagine being able to pop down to the gas station and toss some loose change on the counter so you can fill up your tank, that’s how life was in 1939. Obviously thanks to inflation that’s not actually how things worked out, in 1939 16 cents was akin to $2.87 in modern currency, which still isn’t bad, especially if you’re in an era where gas takes up a good chunk of your wallet. As inflation pushed on throughout the 20th century gas prices rose heavily, and by the ‘70s Americans had trouble cutting it out of their regular routine, something that must have been hard to imagine for this gas station fellow back in the 1930s.
Yakini the baby gorilla reacts to a cold stethoscope during a a check-up at the Melbourne Zoo
As if we needed more proof that people are similar to primates, just take a look at this picture of Yakini reacting to a cold stethoscope. We’ve all been in this situation, the doctor reaches into your gown with their frozen stethoscope and suddenly it’s like you’re in Antarctica. Born in 1999, Yakini grew up in the public eye while living at the Werribee Open Range Zoo in Melbourne and now he’s the head of his group. His keeper Kat Thompson said:
As Yakini matured, it was natural he would challenge his father for the position as leader of the group. The challenge took place over several months, but it was very subtle — a battle of wills rather than a battle of brawn. It’s a joy to see the hard work paid off.
One of the final photographs taken of comedy duo "Laurel and Hardy," one year before Hardy's death in 1957
Laurel and Hardy were one of the most beloved comedy duos of the early 20th century with an absolutely absurd amount of short and feature films under their belts. The duo’s final appearance on film was in 1951, but by 1954 things were pretty much over for the men. Hardy suffered a heart attack that year and subsequently lost 150 pounds, he was also suffering from cancer at the time. A year after this photo was taken Hardy suffered from a series of strokes that left him in a coma before he passed away in August of 1957. A week after his partner’s death, Stan Laurel gave an interview about their relationship and discussed his fallen friend fondly.
The 1930 Steam Line KJ Henderson motorcycle was beautiful but impossible to ride
Doesn’t this look like the kind of motorcycle that a superhero would ride? As cool as this bike looks, the 1930 Henderson Model KJ Streamline was fairly impractical and hard to hard. It’s hard to believe that this bike was being produced at the age time as the much more workmanlike Indians and Triumphs. Of course, those bikes were much easier to maneuver and they were less expensive to produce. Even so, the Art Deco look of this bike is something to be marveled over. At the time, the bike’s curved panels were hammered into shape in a similar shape to the Chrysler Airflow.
Author William S. Burroughs loved to chop things up, from sentences to pumpkins
As an author of avantgarde work like Naked Lunch and Junkie, William S. Burroughs was one of the most out there pop culture figures of the 20th century. This beat poet legend spent most of his life experimenting with various drugs, shooting whatever gun he could get his hands on, and practicing magic on an every day basis. Supposedly Burroughs often placed curses on people who he felt had crossed him. He believed that behind reality there was a spiritual world to which humans were allowed to tap into.
The same way that he liked to chop up pumpkins with a hatchet at Halloween, he liked to cut up sentences until he created fascinating poems. He explained:
I would say that my most interesting experience with the earlier techniques was the realization that when you make cut-ups you do not get simply random juxtapositions of words, that they do mean something, and often that these meanings refer to some future event. I've made many cut-ups and then later recognized that the cut-up referred to something that I read later in a newspaper or a book, or something that happened ... Perhaps events are pre-written and pre-recorded and when you cut word lines the future leaks out.
Playwright George Bernard Shaw outside of his writing hut which could be rotated to face the sun whenever he required
While living in “Shaw Corner” in the Hertfordshire village of Ayot St Lawrence for 40 year, Shaw wrote the play for which he was most beloved. Even though he kept a study in his home, complete with a Remington typewriter, most of Shaw’s writing was done in the shed at the bottom of his garden that he referred to as “London.” Aside from its interesting name, Shaw’s writing hut had a special construction. It was built to be rotatable, so Shaw could point his window towards the sun in order to work in natural light for as long as possible. A report in the 1932 Modern Mechanix magazine read:
Mr. Shaw has a plan to keep the sun shining on him constantly while he works. He has constructed a small hut on his grounds that is built on a turntable. When the morning sun shifts, he merely places his shoulder against the side of the hut and gives it a push so that the warming beams fall through his window at the correct angle. Mr. Shaw’s plan to keep the sun shining on him is a simple health measure, and not a wanton eccentricity. The author has spent most of his life out of doors, but when he moved to London he didn’t get as much sun as he thought he needed. Hence the hut.
Cowboys having a cold one at a saloon in Tascosa, Texas
We often think of cowboys drinking in saloon, playing cards, and loading their six shooters, but it’s rare to actually see a photo were something like that is happening. One of the first things that you’ll notice is how different these cowboys look from those that you see on TV. They’re not wearing small, stylist hats, but tall hats that allow air to star inside and keep their heads cool. They’re also all wearing chaps in order to keep their legs from being too roughed up from riding. We may think of guys like Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef when we think of cowboys, but this is the real deal.
A Moroccan Jewish woman dressed in traditional clothing, 1900
Like many of the people who lived in Morocco in the early 1900s, the Jewish people were heavily influenced by French culture, down to their language, foods, and last names. German explorer and photographer Hermann Burchardt took many of the first photos of the early 20th people living in areas like Morocco and Yemen while practicing their faith. While traveling through Europe, Burchardt spent a year living with communities of Jewish people while photographing them and studying their customs and communities. The stark images of these people were revelatory and they provided the first existence of the Yemenite Jewish community.
Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine, the inspiration for the Joker, in "The Man Who Laughs"
Paul Leni’s silent film, The Man Who Laughs, is a German Expressionist film that’s so drenched in gloom that it’s often clarified as a horror film rather than a melodrama. The film stars Conrad Veidt as Gwynplaine, the star of a freak show in a traveling carnival thanks to the permanent grin that was etched across his face as a child. Veidt’s look in the film is famous not only for being incredibly creepy, but for inspiring the look of the Joker from DC’s Batman. Early images of the Joker are clearly indebted to Veidt, down to his hairstyle. While the character has changed over the years, he’s always got a touch of The Man Who Laughs in him.
Goldie Jamison Conklin, a member of the Seneca Native American tribe and model for the Cattaraugus Cutlery Company
As a member of the Seneca Native American tribe, Conklin lived on the Allegany Reservation, in South Western New York in her early years, but these pictures of the beautiful young woman changed her from a girl on a reservation to a full on model. These photos taken of Conklin were a part of the Cattaraugus Cutlery Company of Little Valley, New York’s marketing campaign behind their “Indian Brand” knives, and they each show her in traditional headdresses and outfits. Not much else is known about Conklin aside that she passed away in 1974 after a very long life.
Retired teacher Antonio La Cava and "Il Bibliomotocarro," that he drives across southern Italy
For people who don’t live in a major city, it can be hard to find a good book, that’s why folks like Antonio La Cava are truly inspiring. This retired teacher has been dricing his "Il Bibliomotocarro" across south Italy since 2003 and bringing books to the children and adults. Whenever he strops he plays an organ in order to let people know that he’s arrived, and then he lets anyone around browse through his books. While speaking about why he drives books from town to town La Cava explained:
A disinterest in reading often starts in schools where the technique is taught, but it’s not being accompanied by love. Reading should be a pleasure, not a duty.