Most Beautiful Colorized Images In History
By | July 31, 2019
Colorized picture of Walt Disney proudly showing a map of his first theme park called "Disneyland" .
What is it about color that gives us a more broad understanding of the past? Is it simply the added depth that it brings to the photo? Or does it become easier to contextualize the visuals that we’re looking at when they’re not black and white? Whatever it is, the following photos were once lacking color, but thanks to some very patient digital editors they’ve been updated to reflect modern photographic standards.
Not only do these colorized photos of the early 20th century bring a new understanding to the past, but they’re just cool to look at. Whether you’re curious about historical figures whom you’ve only seen in black and white, or major world events that occurred before color photography, we’ve got you covered. Let’s go.
In the 1950s most amusement parks were filled with roller coasters, creepy vendors who were working on their own, and alcohol was prevalent; Walt Disney felt that these parks weren’t good for the whole family, and he wanted to create a space where everyone felt safe. By the late 1940s Disney already had a handful of characters who are still popular today (Donald Duck, Pluto, Goofy, and Mickey), so it made sense to build Disney’s park around them. Disney felt that he could bring the characters to life in a way that made kids happy while giving parents a fun place to explore. Disney explained his idea as a way to say thanks to the families who helped keep his business afloat:
The one thing for me... the important thing... is the family, and keeping the family together with things. That's been the backbone of our whole business, catering to families… The park means a lot to me. It's something that will never be finished, something I can keep developing.
After a $17 million construction, Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955 with 26 attractions including the King Arthur Carrousel, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, and Snow White's Scary Adventures.
Albert Einstein at home in Princeton, New Jersey, 1940.
Albert Einstein may have been one of the most fascinating minds of the 20th century, but he still faced intense racism from anti-Semitic groups in Germany throughout the 1930s. In 1933 he took a trip to America to see if he could find a better place to live, and although he visited Pasadena, California he found a better with in Princeton, New Jersey.
He returned to Germany in ’33 but he didn’t stay long. In October of the same year he returned to America with his wife Elsa, his secretary Helen Dukas, and his assistant Dr. Walther Mayer. He settled in Princeton with his family and began work in the “Institute for Advanced Study” where he stayed until his death in 1955.
"Light it up!" US Marine Dwayne L. Boice burns out a weapon's emplacement at Wolmido Island, on September 15, 1950.
As war was ripping Korea in half the United Nations did their best to support the South Koreans as they battled against the communists to the north. On Sept. 10, 1950 the US military stepped in to relieve the United Nations, and in order to do that they burned up much of Wolmi, an island off of South Korea, in order to neutralize anything that could be used as a weapons hold. The military attacked with planes carrying napalm as well as with soldiers taking care of things on the ground. One solider explained to the New York Times:
The mission was to saturate the area so thoroughly with napalm that all installations on that area would be burned.
Colorized photo of the Hoover Dam under construction (1935).
Built on the border of on the border between Nevada and Arizona, the Hoover Dam is one of the most majestic pieces of man made beauty ever constructed. Started during the Great Depression, thousands of workers came to the area in hopes of making a better life for themselves while working their fingers to the bone.
The sheer amount of manpower behind the dam was important for keeping the construction ahead of schedule. By 1935, 3,250,000 cubic yards of concrete was used to create the dam before crews finally finished pouring it on May 29, 1935, long before the dam’s dedication on September 30, 1935.
Danish explorer Peter Freuchen and his third wife, Dagmar Cohn -1947.
When someone looks this cool then you know they’ve got some great stories. Peter Freuchen is one of those guys who’s seen it and done it all. Born in Denmark in 1886, Freuchen started out his life like a normal upstanding citizen. When he was in his late teens he went to school for medicine but found that this wasn’t the life he wanted to lead, instead he sought adventure.
In 1906 he traveled to Greenland before taking a dogsled 600 miles to hunt and to trade with Inuits. The coat he’s wearing in this photo is actually made from a polar bear that he killed while on the hunt. It perfectly fits his massive frame. By 1910 Freuchen was lecturing about the Inuit culture before taking another trip across Greenland that found him stuck in a blizzard and buried in snow. He finally dug himself out of the ice by using a knife made from his own feces. And that’s why he’s the best dinner guest anyone could ask for.
Lee Miller soaks in Adolf Hitler’s bathtub! The only female combat photographer in Europe during World War Two. She is pictured in Hitler’s Munich apartment on April 30, 1945.
Before she was a photojournalist traveling through war torn countries, Lee Miller was a successful fashion model living in New York City. During a stay in pre-war Paris she worked with surrealists like Cocteau and Man Ray before she decided to change her profession and hop onto the other side of the camera.
Miller attached herself to the 83rd Infantry Division of the US Army which brought her to Germany where she photographed the atrocities of Dachau before going to Hitler’s apartment in Munich. In the photo Miller’s boots are covered in the mud of the Dachau concentration camp, which turns the whole thing for a surreal image to a big F You to the leader of the Third Reich.
After her time as a war correspondent she retired to her farm in Sussex, England where she languished in obscurity while hanging out with the likes of Pablo Picasso while preparing surreal meals like blue spaghetti and green chicken.
Henry Behrens, the smallest man in the world dances with his pet cat in the doorway of his Worthing home, 1956.
Even though Henry Behrens was the smallest man in the world in 1956, standing at a height of 30 inches, it’s clear that this is a huge cat. At just over two feet tall Behrens was a part of “Burton Lester's midget troupe,” which might sound like an existence that’s not exactly PC, but in the ‘50s it was one of the few ways in which smaller people could make a living.
Behrens clearly lead a nice life, and he had a cat that put up with his shenanigans. Aside from his small stature and large cat, Behrens lead as normal a life as possible where he cooked and cleaned like the rest of us even while referring to himself as “Colonel Peewee.”
Norman Rockwell After the Prom - Reference photo 1957.
This reference photo for Norman Rockwell’s “After the Prom” not only shows how realistic his paintings are (for a minute you thought this was the painting didn’t you), but it’s also an illustration of Rockwell’s keen eye for detail. Even though Rockwell is obviously supremely talented, his wok wasn’t considered to be “artistic” during his lifetime, with many of his contemporaries labeling him an illustrator more than a serious artist.
That being said, it’s clear that even though Rockwell was interested in showing the simplicity of small town of American life, he was also seriously dedicated to making his work look as real as possible - something that wouldn’t only be appreciated after his death.
Building the Statue of Liberty, Paris, 1881.
After the Statue of Liberty was proposed by Édouard René de Laboulaye, president of the French Anti-Slavery Society in the late 1800s it took decades to finally finish. The statue was meant as a memorial to the independence of the United States, built by workers from France and the US as a way to unite the countries.
The designers chose Columbia, the personification of the United States, as the perfect figure for the statue while combining her with Libertas, the goddess of freedom. The pieces of the statue were built in France before they were moved via steamer to America where the various pieces were constructed in order to form the statue that thousands of people still visit today.
"West meets East" - Two german brothers, separated by The Berlin Wall, meet again during the “border pass agreement” of 1963.
When the Berlin Wall was put up in 1961 it curbed a major crisis between the Soviet controlled areas of Germany and the more capitalist West Berlin. No one was a huge fan of the wall, but as JFK said, “a wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.” When the barricades went up no one was allowed to pass through the checkpoints and entire families were cut off from one another. Imagine being separated from your friends and loved ones for an unforeseeable future simply because you live one mile away from an arbitrary border.
With the border pass agreement of 1963 regulations were put in place in order to allow people in the West to visit their relatives in the eastern part of the city. It would be decades before the wall was torn down for good and Berliners could truly roam free.
"The Rat Pack" in New York - early 1960s.
This colorized photo of the Rat Pack hanging out and carousing in the early ‘60s gives the viewer the feeling that they’re actually hanging out with Sinatra and the boys on a late Las Vegas night. When the group got together, whether onstage or off, no one knew what was going to happen. The group improvised their shows and they got up to the kind of trouble that you could only get into before everyone was walking around with a camera in their pockets.
Frank may have been the leader of the group, but he couldn’t have put on a show a day without guys like Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Peter Lawford backing him up. Viva Las Vegas indeed.
Clint Eastwood working on his 1958 Jag XK 120 (1960)(Colorized)
This photo was snapped a few years before Eastwood really hit it big in Hollywood. Of course, he had to go all the way to Italy to get his first major hit in A Fistful of Dollars. Before that he appeared in b-movies like Tarantula and as a second (or third) fiddle to stars like Tab Hunter in the war film Lafayette Escadrille.
Aside from his film appearances Eastwood was also a mainstay on television western like Death Valley Days and Rawhide. All of that TV must have been pretty good money, how else could he have afforded such a swanky ride?
Major Donald James Matthew Blakeslee from Ohio became the first flier in history to shoot down an enemy plane with the P-47 Thunderbolt - 15 April 1943.
Some colorized photos really put the viewer in the action, and this snapshot inside Major Blakeslee’s cockpit feels so real that you want to reach out and touch his goggles. In 1943 Blakeslee was flying a P-47 Thunderbolt with the 335th Fighter Squadron. During his time flying with RAF Blakeslee flew 240 combat hours and ended up with three confirmed victories. Blakesless was open about his love of flying into combat and often joked:
You dead-eye shots take all the fun out of it. When a guy like me is motoring along and has to start hosing them down to see where the bullets are going, that's when it's fun.
Otto von Bismarck died on July 30 in 1898.
This is the look a man who’s seen things, who’s lived a life, who’s spent more time in battle than than he has at home. Bismark was a foreign affairs genius who was the founder and first chancellor of the German Empire, which lead him to be an authoritarian throughout his rule. After decades of control over the country, the election of 1890 pushed Bismark out of power and he resigned rather than leading the country into a major civl war. In spite of his major wealth, in the last years of his life Bismarck issued terse rebuttals to the government than followed his reign.
Colorized photo of a room aboard the Titanic.
When we think of traveling by sea by ocean liner we often think of tiny rooms that are closer to prison cells than they are fanciful getaways, but the Titanic was an entirely different beast. For riders who were cruising in the first class section there was no expense spared. The boat’s interior was more akin to the palace of a foreign dignitary than a cruise ship, with opulent craftsmanship meant to awe its riders as they floated in a state of placid passivity.
The most wealthy of riders on the Titanic had the ability to purchase tickets for multiple suites that were connected to one another. After doing so they could open the interconnected doors and create a massive suite.
The last known photo ever taken of Franz Reichelt, an Austrian-born French tailor, who is posing here in a parachute of his own design, before jumping off the Eiffel Tower.
Everyone has a dream, and even though some of them may sound outlandish we still chase them with the fervor of a dog chasing tires. Franz Reichelt saw the future. He understood that he could save the lives of his peers and people he never met by using air resistance, he just didn’t know exactly how to do it.
With air travel becoming a normal way of life in the early 20th century, Colonel Lalance of the Aéro-Club de France offered a prize of 10,000 francs to anyone with the ability to create a working parachute. Reichelt was a tailor and he used his knowledge of fabric to create foldable silk wings and something called a “parachute-suit” that fit like a normal flight suit but with an added canopy, and rubber lining.
On the morning of February 4th, 1912 Reichelt revealed that he would jump from the Eiffel Tower to prover the efficiency of his parachute-suit, saying, “I want to try the experiment myself and without trickery, as I intend to prove the worth of my invention.” At 8:22 am he leapt from the Eiffel Tower and sank through the air like a stone.
Royal group, including Kaiser Wilhelm II and Edward VII, in the Crimson Drawing-Room at Windsor Castle, November 17, 1907.
The intricately colored photo shows a veritable who’s who of the European patriarchy only a mere seven years before the world would be cast into war with the assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand. This photo shows members of the English royal family hanging out with the royal family of Russia including King Edward VII, the Princess Beatrice of Great Britain, Grand Duke Vladimir of Russia, and German leader Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Even though it was nearly a decade before war broke out in Europe, it must have been a tense day in the Crimson Drawing-Room. Not only were most of these people at odds, but they had to stand completely still while a the photo was taken. And you think your family photos are bad.
Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali - March 1964.
In February 1964 the boxer formerly known as Cassius Clay was indoctrinated into the Islamic religion and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. He and Malcolm X became fast friends, but as X separated himself from Elijah Muhammad, Ali broke off his friendship from the political leader. Before the two could reconcile X was assassinated in the middle of a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem on February 21, 1965. Ali wrote in his autobiography:
Turning my back on Malcolm was one of the mistakes that I regret most in my life. I wish I’d been able to tell Malcolm I was sorry, that he was right about so many things. But he was killed before I got the chance… Malcolm and I were so close and had been through so much.
Troops from the 101st Airborne with full packs and a bazooka, in a C-47 just before take-off from RAF Upottery Airfield to Normandy, France for “Operation Chicago". June 5, 1944.
Every time soldiers in World War II went into a mission they were aware that it could have been their last. “Operation Chicago” was just one of three missions carried out by the 101st Airborne Division that put them directly into harm’s way. Aside from bringing more men into Normandy, the mission also saw the military bringing in serious firepower.
The men made their way into France via Dakota C-47s and Waco gliders around 4am. While the operation was a success, the infantry lost 500 men, including General Pratt, second in command of the division. Another operation occurred a day later and was similarly successful.
Frank Sinatra arrested on charges of seduction and adultery - Mugshot from November 27, 1938.
Everyone has seen Frank Sinatra’s mugshot from 1938, but looking at it in color brings an entirely new layer to the myth of old blue eyes. So what was Sinatra arrested for, brawling? Rum running? Nothing so exciting. The singer was arrested after he was found sleeping with a woman “of good repute” under “the promise of marriage.”
Ultimately the charges against Sinatra were dropped when it was revealed that the woman was married at the time that she was sleeping with the singer. That’s not the first time Sinatra came up against a morals charge, but that kind of thing amplified his mythology rather than dampen it.
German commando captured in American uniform is prepared for execution, 23 December 1944.
There’s no good form of execution, but the firing squad must be a truly excruciating way to go out. Following the end of World War II German soldiers did whatever they could to escape capture in Europe, including dressing as American soldiers and attempting to blend in. American soldiers were especially disturbed by this behavior, and most of the men they found hiding were put in front of the firing squad.
To discover hidden German troops the American soldiers asked the troops questions that they thought only Americans would know. Specifically the wanted to know about state capitals and sports trivia.
Colorized photo of a gorgeous Dolly Parton.
From the daughter of a poor Appalachian family to the world’s number one country star, Dolly Parton is truly one of the most successful performers who’s ever lived. In 1977 she transitioned from a purely country artist to a more pop oriented performer who consistently scored crossover hits, and a year later she scored a Grammy win for “Here You Come Again.”
Throughout the late ‘70s Parton appeared on shows with Cher and Carol Burnett, showcasing her range of comedy and musical talent. Her biggest hit came when she performed the theme song to 1980’s Nine to Five which reached number one on the country chart and two adult-contemporary charts.
The statue of Lady Justice - The Old Bailey - London, In 1937 the statue was re-gilded in preparation for the Coronation of King George V.
Hands up, who wouldn’t have realized that this was a colorized photo if we wouldn’t have told you? The work done on this snapshot is so well done that it looks as if it was taken by a time traveler. Sculpted by F. W. Pomeroy, Lady Justice hangs nearly 200 ft above the road, which allows it to have an awe inspiring effect on its viewers.
Standing atop Old Bailey, the statue was added in 1907 after a massive fire made renovations a necessity. One of the most interesting things about this version of Lady Justice is that she’s not blindfolded like her statued counterparts across the world. It seems in England that justice isn’t blind.
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, 'The Master of Suspense', date unknown
During his time in the director’s chair Alfred Hitchcock directed dozens of films, beginning in the 1920s with the lost film Number 13. However, it’s for his latter films for which he’s remembered. Whether you prefer Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, or Psycho, he’s made films that invade the viewers mind create an unease like any other director of the era.
Hitchcock’s obsessions were characters who were accused of crimes that they didn’t commit and the self destruction of good people who get into cahoots with the wrong people. He rarely stopped working, and at the time of his death he was working on a script called The Short Night. Unfortunately he passed away from kidney failure on April 29, 1980 in Bel Aire before finishing the film.
Amelia Earhart poses in the cockpit of her plane, 1930s
While we mostly think of Amelia Earhart as a cautionary tale, she was was much important than that. As only the 16th woman to receive a pilot’s license, Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928 and the first person to fly over both the Atlantic and Pacific. She was an adventurer at heart, and never stopped reaching for greatness until she disappeared while trying to circumnavigate the globe from the equator in 1937.
Researchers believe that Earhart’s final mission was snakebite from the start. It’s likely thatcher plan wasn’t fueled properly and that she ran out of fuel 35 to 100 miles off the coast of Howland Island.
Colorized photo of The Beatles in Hamburg, Germany in 1960. (From L-R) John Lennon, George Harrison, Pete Best, Paul McCartney, and Stuart Sutcliffe.
Before they were the Fab Four, The Beatles were the Fab Five. Well, they were’t exactly fab yet but there was definitely five of them. Rather than kick around industrial Liverpool the group decided to accept gigs in Germany where they performed continuously, working on their sound and attempting to figure out their roles in the group.
Initially the band included drummer Pete Best and drummer Stuart Sutcliffe, but when Sutcliffe took off to work on his painting guitarist Paul McCartney took over bass playing duties much to his chagrin. Best stayed in the band until the group auditioned for George Martin at EMI Studios in Abbey Road, London. Martin decided that the group was aces except for their drummer. He told the lads from Liverpool that they needed someone who could actually keep time. Paul McCartney wrote:
George took us to one side and said, 'I'm really unhappy with the drummer. Would you consider changing him?' We said, 'No, we can't!' It was one of those terrible things you go through as kids. Can we betray him? No. But our career was on the line. Maybe they were going to cancel our contract.
It was a big issue at the time, how we 'dumped' Pete. And I do feel sorry for him, because of what he could have been on to; but as far as we were concerned, it was strictly a professional decision. If he wasn't up to the mark – slightly in our eyes, and definitely in the producer's eyes – then there was no choice. But it was still very difficult. It is one of the most difficult things we ever had to do.
Charles Lindbergh in the open cockpit of the airplane at Lambert Field, St. Louis, Missouri in 1923.
When the name Lindbergh comes up most people think of the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, an awful blight history, but nearly a decade Charles Lindbergh’s child was kidnaped he was prepping for his first solo flight in 1923. After making that flight he worked as a daredevil pilot, performing at fairs around the country. He also flew for the U.S. Army in 1924 and trained as an Army Air Service Reserve pilot. Four years after this photo was taken Lindbergh became the first pilot to make the flight from New York to Paris without making any stops. The trip constituted more than 3,600 miles, and upon arriving he was greeted by more than 100,000 people.
Union Soldiers taking a break,1863.
Woah, this colorized photo is definitely a shock to the senses. Imagine seeing more snapshots from the Civil War era is pristine color. It’s definitely a new look at history. With two years left to go in the Civil War, the Union soldiers were in an emotional valley, however after a series of bloody battles with the Confederates in July of that year the Union gained control of the Mississippi River, dividing the southern army.
At the time, technological developments were coming along to allow for the mass production of tintypes and these allowed for photos from the war to become a normal viewing experience for Americans on both sides. After an exhibit of the war photography the New York Times wrote:
[The photographer] has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it.
Mugshot of Lee Harvey Oswald dated November 23, 1963.
The final days of Lee Harvey Oswald could be referred to as a whirlwind if they weren’t so tragic. On November 22, 1963 Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy as he rode through Dallas, TX in an open-car motorcade. After escaping the book depository he used as a vantage point Oswald shot a police officer and hid in a movie theater. As he’s not the master of disguise he was caught 30 minutes later.
A day later he was booked into the system, on the 24th while he was being moved from the Dallas jail to a more secure area he was shot by Jack Ruby, the owner of a few strip joints in the Dallas area. There are a number of theories surrounding the death of Lee Harvey Oswald, and while they’re interesting to read about there’s hardly enough space here to write about them.
Bob Dylan, singer, New York, February 10, 1965.
1965 was a watermark in the life of Bob Dylan. Not only did he go electric, but he released the cue card laden video for Subterranean Homesick Blues. That year Dylan headlined the Newport Folk Festival with his first live electric set where he only played three songs. Supposedly the audience, who was prepped for a more folkie Dylan, booed the mere existence of an electric guitar.
’65 was a year when Dylan was writing and performing and the peak of his artistry, and he spent much of his time writing and recording an overwhelming amount of music. By the end of ’65 Dylan was exhausted with the media attention he received for being the nation’s poet and after a mysterious motorcycle incident he disappeared from the public eye and didn’t tour again for eight years.
Self-confessed Boston Strangler Albert DeSalvo is taken into custody after his arrest, north of Boston in Lynn, Mass. - Feb. 25, 1967.
From 1962 to 1964 Boston, Massachusetts was gripped with terror about the next time that the Boston Strangler would act. Also known as the “silk stocking murders,” the victims were all women who had no sign of forced entry into their homes and they were found strangled with household items. Towards the end of the crimes they were found with nylon stocking around their necks.
DeSalvo’s DNA was matched to that found on the final victim of the strangler, but there’s a theory that the crimes were committed by more than one person. However, DeSalvo admitted to the murders while in prison and according to the Boston police the murders ended after DeSalvo’s arrest.
Here's a great colorized photo of actress Susan Peters, 1943.
Taken in 1943, this photo shows Susan Peters taken nine years before her death from chronic kidney infection and pneumonia. At the time of this photo Peters was appearing in films like Andy Hardy's Double Life, and Assignment in Brittany, but while on a hunting trip with her husband she grabbed a shotgun and it discharged into her abdomen.
The bullet lodged in her spinal column, paralyzing her from the waist down. She spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair and continued to act in projects that allowed her to work with her paralysis.
A soldier's farewell to his wife at Penn. Station, New York City, before returning to war. 1943.
The thought that every soldier keeps out their minds when leaving for war is the possibility that they’ll never come back. World War II was one of the most deadly wars of the 20th century, and the fact that there was no way to quickly communicate with friends and loved ones means that family members left at home weren’t able to hear from the boys overseas for months at a time. Katharine Phillips, a war correspondent for the Mobile Register, told PBS:
The most worries we had about the war was just death. We just never knew when we’d lose someone that we loved. Our best friend. The boy that was the brother of your best friend. We lived in constant fear of the telegrams. Each day we would read the lists in the newspaper to see if we could identify the names that were there.
Fritz Haber - Nobel Prize Laureate & "Father of Chemical Warfare "
As Germany’s leading physical chemist during World War I, Haber was on call throughout the fighting in order to create stronger and more deadly chemical weapons for use by the army. As the fighting increased Germany called on Haber to come up with crazier weapons. When the military wanted tear gas, he figured out how to make it. Haber even devised a way to turn chlorine into a weapon.
Following the end of World War I in 1918 Haber was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on nitrogen fixation which helped create weapons as well as produce fertilizers.
Pablo Picasso 1954.
Picasso is one of the most influential and popular artists of the 20th century. Throughout his life he changed styles from a painter who’s work focused on austere subjects to a painter who completely changed the way viewers thought about a subject. He’s most well known for his work with cubism, but he only worked in that style for 10 years.
By the 1950s Picasso had ditched paint altogether and was focusing on sculpture while appearing in films like Jean Cocteau's Testament of Orpheus. His most well known sculpture is known as the “Chicago Picasso,” which is a 50-foot high abstract shape that’s been interpreted as an animal, or woman. He refused to be paid for the project and donated it to the city.
Mafia boss Charles 'Lucky' Luciano in exile in Sicily, Italy, December 31, 1948.
What do you do when you’re an imprisoned crime boss and the U.S. government comes to you and asks for your help with the war effort? If you’re Lucky Luciano you find a way to commute your sentence so you can get out of jail while helping the U.S. military keep the New York docks safe. While working with Luciano, the military enacted “Operation Underworld” in order to make sure no German or Italian agents entered the US through the New York waterfront.
In 1946 Luciano’s sentence was commuted and he was deported to Italy. Supposedly whenever he encountered an American who recognized him he was happy to take a photo and sign autographs.
New York in the early 1900s.
New York City has always been the center of the western world, even at the turn of the century the city was filling with aristocrats and people looking to make their way in the world. In 1900 the city was still getting used to having gas lamps and the slow change from residential streets to a city full of skyscrapers.
Office buildings went up on Lower Broadway and across the city, towering over the many buildings that existed in the era for a generation. At the time New Yorkers were unsure about the modern buildings, but now these buildings are a way of life.
Colorful outfits on these flight attendants back in 1965.
The stylish, mod inspired outfits of the 1960s were one of the best things about the cigarette smoke drenched flights of the greatest decade. These outfits were emblematic of the space age down to their ice cream colored skirts and their head wraps. The outfits were simple and crisp, and they looked good whether they were walking down the tarmac or the aisle of a jumbo jet.
The ‘60s were the era of women wearing go-go boots on an airplane while men in suits sucked down martinis on their cross-country work trips. Modern outfits may be more functional, but they don’t look anywhere near as good.
Wearing of the green- Lucille Ball looking glamorous in this colorized photo from the '40s.
Lucille Ball always had a fascinating look, she didn’t look like the rest of the Hollywood starlettes of the era and that’s what made her stand out. Before she changed the comedy landscape with I Love Lucy, Ball was busy appearing in comedies by the Marx Brothers and for pictures by RKO. While many people would have found disheartening she persisted and became one of the most famous people on the planet. Ball later explained that she got to the top of mountain with persistence and hard work:
Luck? I don't know anything about luck. I've never banked on it, and I'm afraid of people who do. Luck to me is something else: Hard work — and realizing what is opportunity and what isn't.
Christopher Robin and his fiancee Lesley de Selincourt - 21st April 1948.
The son of author A.A. Milne, Christopher Robin was the basis of his father’s most beloved creation Winnie The Pooh. Robin had a hard time growing up with a famous father who mined his life for stories, and he later said that Milne was often at the Garrick Club while his mother was dressing him in “girlish” clothes. As he grew older he had a distaste for the character who shared his name. He said:
At home I still liked him, indeed felt at times quite proud that I shared his name and was able to bask in some of his glory. At school, however, I began to dislike him, and I found myself disliking him more and more the older I got.
Colorized photo of an 11-year-old coal miner in 1908.
With the coal industry booming in the late 19th century, corporations were looking for as much cheap labor as possible. At the time there were no laws against hiring children, so if they could hold a pickaxe or shovel then they were put to work digging in the mines. By 1910 there were near 2 million children working in the coal mines, but as the NCLC sent photographers around to capture young tipple boys like this the photos began circulating and people were outraged.
It took a few years before labor laws were enacted, but but 1916 the Child Labor Act was put in place and minimum age requirements were enacted and maximum shift lengths were put in place for young workers.
Colorized photo of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII with their family at a wedding in Coburg, Germany, 1894.
The wedding of Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was a major affair in world politics in late 19th century. On April, 19 1894 dignitaries from across Europe, including King Edward VII, Queen Victoria, and Grand Duke Vladimir of Russia, it’s a major get together. This photo is one of only a few that show the entire European royal family (and they were very much a family) together before erupting in World War I. After the wedding Queen Victoria wrote in her journal:
The whole of our large family party were photographed by English, as well as German photographers. Many groups were taken, & some of me with Vicky & my 3 sons, & William.
Colorized photo of Vivien Leigh taking a break during the the filming of Victor Fleming’s “Gone with the Wind” (1939).
Gone with the Wind is nothing without Scarlett O'Hara, the southern belle at the heart of the film. Vivian Leigh portrays the character with so much brass that you’d think the whole film was cast around her, that couldn’t be further from the truth. In actuality Leigh was the last person cast for the film, the movie was already filming by the time she was added to the cast.
Leigh nearly lost the part during her first audition because she used her natural English accent rather than the southern accent that she used during filming. The film’s initial director, George Cukor, explained:
She began reading this thing very sweetly, and very, very clipped... So I struck her across the face with the rudest thing I could say. She screamed with laughter. That was the beginning of our most tender, wonderful friendship.
Colorized photograph of a photographer busy at work at the Jersey Shore in 1912.
There’s nothing quite like a day at the beach. Today you and your friends can whip out your camera phones and get as many pictures as you want of your waterfront fun, but in the early 20th century beach-going friends had to rely on photographers using view cameras to capture their memories. With one of these photographers all you had to do was slip them some cash and get your photo taken.
Of course, anyone getting their photo snapped had to wait until the photos were processed and printed which could take a while if you were dealing with a lazy photographer.
Construction of the Cologne Cathedral in 1855.
When the foundation of the Cologne Cathedral was laid in 1248 the builders had no way of knowing that their work wouldn’t be finished in their lifetime. Initially the work on the cathedral ended in 1473 when the south tower was completed. That seemed to be that until the 19th century, but when the original plan for the façade was discovered the Protestant Prussian Court decided to complete the chapel according to the original plans.
632 years after the construction of the cathedral began Germany’s largest cathedral was brought to an end, making it the tallest building in the world for a few years until the Washington Monument was finished.
Dining with Hans von Luck. A photo caption in the album reads - “With Tommy flyers at Fécamp, 12 Juni 1940”.
Most soldiers don’t want to be in the middle of a war. High ranking officers would rather discuss game theory than actually get into the muck, but World War II was an all hands on deck situation. Hans-Ulrich Freiherr von Luck und Witten, known as Hans von Luck, got his start in the German army in 1929, an by the time the second world war broke out he was commanding a unit in the 7th Panzer Division.
In June of 1940 he became captain of the 3rd Panzer Group of Army Group Center and was sent to Moscow, but after complaining that it was too cold he was moved to Africa where he had a friendly ceasefire with British troops until 1945. Following his time in North Africa he was moved back to Russia where he was captured by the Soviet army. He spent five years as a prisoner of war and was generally liked by everyone who met him.
Flight-Lieutenant R H A Lee, after being awarded the DSO and DFC, and Flying Officer K H Blair, after being awarded the DFC, by King George VI at RAF Hornchurch, Essex. 27 July 1940
The DSO and DFC are prestigious military decorations of the United Kingdom, they’re earned through bravery and sharp action while in the line of duty. Richard Hugh Antony Lee joined 85 Squadron of the RAF in 1938 and as soon as war broke out he was dispatched to France. After the 85's first victory in 1939 he was awarded the DFC, and on May 10 1940 was awarded the DFC after bringing down a Hs126.
Lee was a seriously tough soldier, on May 11, 1940 he was shot down and captured by German forces before escaping and making his way back to his squad. His final mission was spent with 85 Squadron in pursuit of an enemy formation. No one knows what happened to him and it’s presumed he was brought down on August 18.
190A-8, Melsbroek, Belgium. (Brown outlined in black). Burned and looted, September/October 1944
This long abandoned plane has definitely seen better days. It’s propped up but it’s clear that the propellor was smashed in by a crash landing, or at the very least a nasty fall. These planes were already basically sepia toned in their paint job so colorizing this photo must have been an odd job especially with the gradient.
What happens to pilot who survive this kind of crash? Do they simply walk away and do their best to get home? Or do they try to assimilate to the world around them? Most of this plane looks intact so it’s likely that whoever was piloting the plane survived, maybe they took the photo.
Women in a "tableau" pose, imitating Henry Mosler’s painting, "The Birth of the Flag" - 1917
“The Birth of the Flag” was painted in 1911 by Henry Mosler, and while this photo was taken six years later it’s clear that this was a fast turn around for what passed as a meme in the early 20th century. Today kids are doing the mannequin challenge and crying while they dance on Tik Tok, but in 1917 girls everywhere were posing with the American flag and copying Henry Mosler paintings.
People have always wanted to be a broader part of culture, whether that’s taking part in a current social media challenge or doing something more wholesome and patriotic like these ladies. It’s interesting to know that we never change.
The RMS Titanic in color, 1912.
Constructed early in the 20th century, the Titanic’s keel was laid in 1909 right next to its sister ship The Olympic. The unsinkable ship was built as a home away from home for the world’s wealthiest people. The first-class amenities were unlike those on any other ship, and the second-class accommodations were just as good if not better than the first-class sections on other ships.
The Titanic was launched on May 31, 1911 but it wasn’t considered seaworthy until April 1912. Sitting at 52,000 tons when its weight was displaced, the massive ship took its maiden and only voyage on April 10, 1912.
Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich Romanov aboard the Imperial yacht Polar Star, c.1907.
The last Tsesarevich and heir apparent to the throne of the Russian Empire, Alexei Nikolaevich, Tsarevich was the youngest child and only son of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Unfortunately he suffered from hemophilia for his entire life, a congenital disease that causes internal bleeding and slow blood coagulation. Anna Vyrubova, one of the Empress’ closest helpers remembered:
It was endless torture for the boy and for each of us… he was screaming from the pain all the time, and we had to close our ears while taking care of him.
Supposedly the only person who could help the boy was the Siberian mystic Rasputin who allegedly hypnotized the child until he felt better. He passed away at the age of 13 when his entire family was executed in the cellar room of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg.
Girls play the guitar. USSR 70s.
Is there anything better than a group of kids just having fun and not worrying about the rigors of real life? The USSR in the 1970s wasn’t easy. Communism was still the main government of the day, but it was waining at the height of the Cold War. The country was in the throes of chaos as the Communist party tried to exercise total ideological control over the country’s inhabitants.
Soviets did their best to ignore the more dour facts of life by hanging out and trying to have a good time with one another. The real resistance to overbearing communism was fading joy wherever they could, especially among friends and maybe even a guitar.
Eutaw Street in Baltimore, Maryland. (1955)
Downtown Baltimore is home to Eutaw Street, where people go to see the Orioles play during baseball season or just stroll around the streets in search of a cold drink on a hot day. In 1950s the street was much more quiet than it is today. Lined with residences and large brick buildings, the area was also a great place to go in search of fresh fish.
This photo shows just how much an area can change in just a few decades. Some places that seem like they’ll house families forever can just as easily become major hotspots in the blink of an eye.
Lieutenants Bobby de la Tour, Don Wells, John Vischer & Bob Midwood of the 22nd Independent Parachute Company, set their watch on June 5, 1944, at RAF Harwell Base.
It’s safe to say that everyone was on edge the day before the Battle of Normandy began. How could they not be twitchy and nervous before entering into one of the most dangerous frays of World War II? Even though things were about to turn upside down during D-Day these gentleman were making sure that the were coordinated down to the second.
The 22nd Independent Parachute Company were an integral part of Operation Tonga, a mission that was carried out in early hours of D-Day. Unfortunately many of these men never found their landing coordinates due to bad weather and heavy anti-aircraft weapons.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower addresses American paratroopers prior to D-Day.
Before the US military descended on the beaches of Normandy for D-Day, they were met by General Dwight D. Eisenhower who gave them words of impassioned encouragement. He spoke to men whose boots were hitting the ground and released a memo for everyone to read. He said:
You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination pf Nazi tyranny over the oppressed people of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.
LCT with barrage balloons afloat, unloading supplies on Omaha for the break-out from Normandy.
Setting up barrage balloons has its advantages and disadvantages. They’re used in order to raise cables that create a collision risk for the enemy, making an approach nearly impossible. On D-Day the 320th Antiaircraft Balloon Battalion took to Omaha beach and set up the large kite balloons in order to slow down the Luftwaffe’s attack.
Unfortunately many long range German artillery fighters bombarded the ships with gunfire and many of the soldiers simply had to cut their kites loose in order to give the long range fighters less of an easy target. The battle wasn't easy for anyone during D-Day, especially those soldiers who were busy working these massive kite balloons on the beach.
Martha Gellhorn, The Only Woman Who Landed in Normandy on D-Day.
Martha Gellhorn was a war correspondent who continually fought to make sure that she was in the middle of the action. Not happy to sit on the sidelines and report on human interest stories, she ensconced herself with the military and on June 6, 1944 she snuck onto a hospital ship and hid until it started sailing across the English Channel. Upon arriving in Normandy she helped assist the medical teams while taking as many notes as she could. She wrote in Colliers:
Everyone was violently busy on that crowded, dangerous shore. The pebbles were the size of apples and feet deep, and we stumbled up a road that a huge road shovel was scooping out. We walked with the utmost care between the narrowly placed white tape lines that marked the mine-cleared path, and headed for a tent marked with a red cross… Everyone agreed that the beach was a stinker, and that it would be a great pleasure to get the hell out of here sometime.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill & U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Marrakesh, French Morocco, 24 January 1943, following the Casablanca Conference.
Following the end of the Casablanca Conference in Marrakesh Winston Churchill and FDR spent a few days together exploring the city that Churchill loved so much. FDR wanted to go home as soon as the conference was finished, but Churchill insisted that the two explore the area. He wrote “Lets us spend two days there. I must be with you when you see the sun set on the Atlas Mountains.”
The lost weekend occurred on January 23, 1943 when the two men arrived at the Villa Taylor where they went to the top of the tower to look at the expanse of Marrakesh. Churchill’s doctor later wrote, “We stood gazing at the purple hills, where the light was changing every minute.” FDR left the next morning while Churchill stuck around for another day.
Astrid Kirchherr, the Woman Who First Photographed the Beatles - Self Portrait, 1960.
Born in Hamburg on May 20, 1938 Astrid Kirchherr initially wanted to study fashion before she found her real love in taking black and white photos. From 1959 until 1963 she worked with Reinhard Wolf and she became involved with the existentialists while watching a band called the Silver Beetles play at the Kaiserkeller club. She kept coming back to see the band and brought her camera with her, eventually she took some of the earliest promo shots of the band. Kirchherr described their early look:
The Beatles were dressed like teddy boys, with these very, very pointed shoes which we in Hamburg had never seen before, We were fascinated with those, just like they were with our things. And their very tight trousers and little tiny grey jackets. They didn't have many clothes, of course. And their hair was combed back with sideboards.
Kirchherr went onto say that it was Stuart Sutcliffe who was brave enough to “get the Brylcreem out of his hair,” and was followed by the rest of the band in adopting their famous mop tops.
HM Submarine URSULA returns to port after successful patrol - December 11, 1941, GIBRALTAR.
According to their records, on December 11, 1941 the HMS Ursula was ordered to return to Gibraltar in order to patrol the Bay of Biscay. There were reports that German ships were in the area and the submarine was needed to keep an eye on their ships. The sub worked as an anti U-Boat ship, so they were in high demand throughout World War II.
The sub was finally decommissioned on May 30, 1944 and it was transferred to the Soviet Union. The sub put in a lot of underwater time during the war and played a major part in securing a win for the Allies.
Crossing The Storm, October 1940 by John Vachon.
This colorized photo from 1940 shows the calm in the middle of a storm in America’s heartland. It’s one of many photos taken by John Vachon that show a real look at the iconography of America. While he took quite a bit of street photography that summed up city life, this country side photo evokes a feeling of anticipation.
Taken in McHenry County, North Dakota, "Crossing The Storm" evokes the dread of country life more than any Cohen Brothers film can. Can’t you smell the moisture in the hair and the hot wind moving across the fields? Now that the photo has some color it genuinely looks like the countryside when a storm is brewing.
Classy Campers, somewhere in USA, 1915.
When you go camping, don’t you want to go classy camping? These camps were ready and waiting with all the amenities that men and women were looking for in the early 20th century: musical instruments, canoes, and everything needed for a weekend party. On Saturdays the classy campers took part in regattas that used canoes driven by motors and propelled by sails.
Aside from the instruments and row boats there’s a gramophone at the camp, which no doubt played some of the most jaunty tunes of the era, maybe “Camp Town Ladies” or “A Little Bit Of Cucumber.” What fun.
Watching the boat races, Palm Beach, Miami in 1906.
The second annual Palm Beach Regata was held in 1906 from January 30 to February 2. According to Lloyd E. Brown it was the “most successful winter racing event” in two years. Fans of boating hung maxed and relaxed while watching a long weekend of racing. According to Brown:
The closing day of the regatta was by far the most successful, bringing out the best that was in the speedy flyers. The contest for the Dewar Shield was the main feature of the day, it being won by H. L. Bowden's Mercedes, victor in both heats, although her time was a disappointment to those gathered at the carnival and expectant for new world's records.
Bath Suit Fashion Parade, Seal Beach, California, July 14, 1918.
Who doesn’t love a fashion parade? Any excuse for the lovely gals of Seal Beach, California to get int their swimsuits, ballet shoes, and weird boots and show off their outfits is a good one. It’s likely that this fashion suit parade wasn’t a city-wide event, but rather an archaic version of what we know as “duck face” or many other photo trends of the 21st century.
Note the strange crouch, the grimacing faces, and the oddly bent legs, they’re taking part an early meme that’s honestly a little confusing to look at even when it’s in full color.
L.A. river drag racing in the 1950s under the old 6th St Bridge.
Drag racing in the 1950s was a major part of life for young people in the Los Angeles area. Many racers lived in the Valley, met at Bob’s Big Boy, and drove into the city to race. In some instances they had to burn rubber to get back home before they were caught by the 5-0. Former drag racer Tommy Iwo told the LA Times:
At Bob’s you’d choose somebody off and then head over to the River Road. We’d race and get out of there in a hurry. If somebody called the L.A. cops on us, we’d scoot back across the river to Burbank… It wasn’t a money deal. We didn’t race for pink slips. It was a matter of pride. You’d race and go back to Bob’s Big Boy
Karstadt department store on Berlin’s Hermannplatz, built in 1929 - it was a real feature of Berlin’s skyline, especially when lit up at night!
It’s unfortunate that this structure no longer exists, but the original Karstadt department store on Berlin’s Hermannplatz was at one point one of the largest structures in the city. It cut across the Berlin skyline and it was downright futuristic compared to many of the other buildings in the area. Designed by architect Philipp Schaefer, the original Karstadt was 233 feet high and it had an underground section.
Aside from its underground area the structure had elevators and escalators that connected each of the floors. This is normal in modern malls, but in 1929 this kind of idea was downright futuristic.
French and American soldiers at the altar of St. Joan of Arc Church (Basilique du Bois Chenu) near Domrémy, France. 9/15/1918.
The Joan of Arc Church or the Basilique du Bois Chenu outside of Domrémy, France overlooks the village of Domrémy, the birthplace of Joan of Arc. The church was built on top of the area where Joan of Arc prayed in the Chapelle Sainte-Marie. The new structure was designed by architect Paul Sedille in 1881 and it served as a safe meeting place for soldiers during World War I.
The two sets of troops often worked together throughout the last half of 1918, with the French troops supporting the American. If the troops look relaxed in this photo it’s because it was snapped a few months before Germany signed the Armistice on November 11, 1918 ending the first World War.
REGENT STREET, LONDON. 1960. The tradition of decorating Regent Street with Christmas lights began in 1954 after the Daily Telegraph reported that London looked 'drab' at Christmas.
Doesn’t London look lovely at Christmas? The lights, the decorations, they all work together create the perfect winter wonderland in the middle of the city. This wasn’t always the case in London, in 1954 an article in the Daily Telegraph called London at Christmastime “drab,” which threw the city planners into a tizzy. After tea time the Regent Street Association put together an idea.
The Regent Street Association raised money and put up lights to show off how great the city could look and a few years later Oxford Street followed suit and put up their own lights, transforming London into one of the most beautiful cities to see at Christmas.
A meal on wheels - France, 1917.
We’ve heard of eating on the go, but this is ridiculous. These two Frenchmen (and a very cute dog) are enjoying a light lunch while riding on the back of a flatbed truck. This might be one of the most mysterious photos of the early 20th century, was this a normal way for people to eat in France? Or were these men working on this truck before they decided to take a break, bust out the table and wine and have some lunch.
This photo really is astonishing, regardless of what the men are doing. Whoever snapped the pic had the foresight to snap it before the men passed by. It’s truly a wonderful look into the past.