These photographers may have never known the significance of the pictures they took and that millions would be marveling at them in the future. From thousands of images, I chose these to give us a rare and fascinating look at how different (and similar) life used to be.
The oldest known selfie. (1839)
People posing next to the Statue of Liberty as it’s unpacked. (1886)
A young girl fitted with prosthetic legs. (1900)
This funny portrait of a woman was taken while she was mid-sneeze. (1900)
A “knocker-up” waking up clients – the early 20th century version of alarm clocks.
Nine kings gather to mourn the death of King Edward VII (1910).
This may very well be the most kings ever photographed at once. Represented are Norway, Bulgaria, Portugal, the German Empire, Greece, Belgium, Spain, Great Britain, and Denmark.
A child being delivered by mail after the parcel delivery service was introduced in 1913. The unexpected practice was quickly outlawed.
Sarcastic photo taken by anti-prohibitionists to mock their opponents in 1919.
A police officer on a Harley and an old fashioned mobile holding cell. (1921)
An early example of “horsemanning”, the 1920’s version of “planking”.
Two winners of a 1922 Beauty Pageant, when beauty standards were much different.
An beach official measures bathing suits to ensure they aren’t too short (1920s)
Suits were not allowed to end more than 6 inches above the knee.
A couple enjoys an old fashioned zipline on a weekend afternoon. (1923)
This bizarre helmet supposedly helped focus by rendering the wearer deaf, piping them full of oxygen, and limiting their vision to a tiny slit. (1925)
A mildly terrifying 1920s full faced swimming mask designed to protect women from the sun.
Hitler rehearsing his speeches in front of a mirror (1925).
Mount Rushmore before it was carved with the President’s faces. (1927)
The LA Public Library’s bookmobile program for the sick. (1928)
A zookeeper gives penguins a delightful shower from a watering can. (1930)
Fashionable life jackets designed to make swimming easier (1931)
A cat poses for a cigarette card, found in Army Club Cigarettes. (1932)
How makers of the famous London Double-Decker buses proved they weren’t a tipping hazard. (1933)
Baby cages for 1930s apartment families who wanted their children to get enough sunlight.
The iconic photo of a concerned pea-picker and mother of seven children during the Dust Bowl (1936)
A paper reports on a revolutionary beauty invention. (1936)
The 1930’s version of a GPS: This auto scrolling map was supposed to help people with directions in real time.
Model T “Elevator Garage” in Chicago. (1936)
Salvador Dalí and Coco Chanel sharing a smoke. (1938)
Babies wearing the gas mask hood system during a 1940 London bombing drill.
WWII soldiers get their last kiss before deployment.
Queen Elizabeth during her World War II service.
A tiny puppy sleeping comfortably between Russian soldiers. (1945)
An Austrian boy couldn’t be more excited about his first pair of new shoes in years. (1946)
A baby bear drinks a bowl of honey in a cafe. (1950)
This clever student uses binoculars so she can read while laying down in her dorm room. (1951)
A man dresses up his dog in a suit, then puts a cat in his lap. (1950s)
An ice-cold whisky dispenser, sometimes found in offices. (1950s)
The winner of the 1950 “Miss Atomic Bomb” pageant.
Afghan women at a public library during the 1950s.
The Afghanistan government was shifting towards democracy in the 1950s and 60s before the Taliban took over. Women could work, become educated, dress casually and use many of the modern day services that men could.
A young Paul McCartney takes a mirror selfie. (1959)
[Colorized] Young women hosting a 1950s house party.
Fidel Castro lays a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial. (1959)
Fritz the bulldog, a TV celebrity, is groomed by a barber. (1961)
Gregory Sukhov takes his pet bear, Mickey, for a walk. (1963)
Similarly, this woman walks her pet lobster.
Young boy attending Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, 28th Aug 1963.
The “TV Glasses” that never quite caught on. (1963)
“The Kiss of Life”. This iconic photo shows a utility worker receiving mouth-to-mouth after being electrocuted. He survived. (1967).
A young Osama Bin Laden with his family in Sweden during the 1970s. He is second from the right in a green shirt.
Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham playing volleyball in 1971.
Although we did everything differently back then, these photos also show that deep down, raw human spirit never changes. Our compassion, ingenuity, curiosity, and perseverance as a species will always stand the test of time.
And I can only imagine what photos we’re taking in 2014 will be studied 200 years in the future…