Extraordinary Historical Photos You Won’t Find in Any History Book

Stories w/ Pictures
Aug 11, 2019
11 min read

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Human history is as exciting as it is complex, but thankfully we have photos that help us make sense of things! The first ever photograph was taken nearly 200 years ago,  which means we have almost two centuries worth of staggering visual material about human history to dig through. Of course, it’s packed with all sorts of weirdness and photographic gems that prove we, humans, are a weird, but inventive bunch. Here’s a collection of truly extraordinary historical photos you’ve probably never seen before.

Testing Helmets

You may have seen this photo before with a variety of hilarious captions, but despite the pic going viral not so long ago, not many people realize what they are really looking at.

The most widespread version is that it’s a photo of football helmet testing that was taken in 1912. While the date is quite accurate, what we are looking at is not a rugby helmet, but the one meant to protect the pilots.

W. T. Warren, a British inventor, was testing a new improved helmet with additional padding that would protect the pilots from head injuries during accidents. He chose a very peculiar method of testing the helmet by leaping head first into a hangar wall…

The King of Eccentricity

There isn’t a single person in the whole world who hasn’t heard the name of Salvador Dali. His surrealistic paintings are unique and filled with hidden meanings and his character is just as eccentric as his artwork.

In 1969, Paris was the place where Salvador Dali went out for long walks in the street all dressed up in elegant suits, with a cane in one hand and a leash with his pet ant-eater in another. Yes, that was an image to behold!

Lucky for us, there was a photographer nearby who was able to capture the surrealist painter during one of his exciting walks. Not many people realize just how unusual Salvador Dali’s character was!

Flying Back in the Day

We are so used to flying on planes with gorgeous flight attendants serving us snacks and drinks that we don’t even pay that much attention to the way they are dressed. But that hasn’t always been this way!

Nowadays, flight attendants are dressed neatly and usually sport quite an elegant style with a little bit of carefully made makeup, but back in the day the clothes they wore were much shorter. Of course, not all flight attendants dressed this way, but from today’s point of view this style is unacceptable!

This was the uniform they wore on SAS Airlines back in 1959, just some 60 years ago. Of course, the women looked gorgeous, but those skirts were way too short.

The Tornado Hunter

We won’t surprise anyone by saying that tornadoes have been around much longer than any human living in those areas, but tornado hunting seems like a relatively new thing. Still, that’s not the case!

Judging by this photo from 1989, tornado hunting is quite an old trend and was practiced by both men and women even in the times when there were no handy smartphones and hi-resolution digital cameras.

No matter what time and age we take, looking at such photos just  gives us the chills! That woman is bravely standing in front of a huge roaring tornado instead of simply running away for her life. And it seems so close to her!

Having Coffee with Gators

This is seriously one of the most surreal photos on this list. People used to be so absurdly brave back in the day! Or desperately bored, we aren’t really sure. This was an actual attraction you could enjoy at Los Angeles' California Alligator Farm back in 1907.

Yep, just hop into that cold water swarming with alligators and have the best time of your life. So much fun, right? Of course, the gators were trained not to attack and eat people (at least, not while they were having their morning cup of coffee).

Still, we can’t imagine why on Earth anyone would do that to themselves and consider that some kind of fun. This service existed up until 1953, afterwards it was closed down. People probably found safer ways to spend their weekend!

Sleek and Chic

The ’60s were all about larger-than-life hairdos that became truly legendary over the course of history. And rightfully so! The hairdos from that period used a lot of fixation, which sometimes made them look like helmets made of hair, but other than that they were quite peculiar and, yes, pretty (but not always).

Ladies in 1960’s cared about their hairstyle so much that they even did sports with full on hairdos! We can’t imagine what their hair looked like by the end of this race, but they started off looking like supermodels on a runway.

Now times have changed and athletes would ditch anything that would somehow mess with their sports – be it excessive hair or uncomfortable clothing.

Telephone Booth Squash

The Guinness Book of World Records has inspired so many weird trends that we aren’t really surprised to see something so hilarious and disturbing at the same time. Did you ever wonder how many people could fit inside a phone booth?

Right now phone booths are redundant, but they were quite popular back in the day when there were no smartphones or any mobile phones for that matter. A bunch of people from Durban in South Africa decided to find out about the capacity of phone booths and managed to fit as many as 25 people inside one phone booth simultaneously!

The phone booth craze soon took over the world and students in England, Canada, and the U.S. started trying to beat the record, but the next biggest number of people they could fit was only 15. The South African Guinness World Record remained unbeaten!

Just a Little Bit of Snow

Obviously, snow blizzards have been around for eons, but it seems that things are a bit different now compared to the way snow fell back in the day. Can you imagine a snowfall of this magnitude hitting the city now?

Well, that’s exactly what happened in 1966 when a heavy snowfall hit the United States putting everyone and everything on a long pause. There was up to 38 inches of snow and, as you can see, the power lines in some areas were filled almost to the top!

We can’t believe something like this actually happened, but this photo proves it did. This was one of those ‘killer blizzards’ that happen once or twice in a hundred years, but as usual no one was prepared for the severe impact it had on the country.

The First Ever Selfie

Selfies are such an important part of social media these days that we can’t imagine our lives without profile pictures on our various accounts. Some people are so crazy about selfies that they take them literally everywhere they go no matter what they do!

While that may be a type of slightly irritating norm these days, things were definitely different 80 years ago – that’s exactly when the first ever selfie was taken!

Of course, it wasn’t called a selfie back then and people still used film cameras to take pictures, but it was a selfie nonetheless taken by young Frank Sinatra who was just 17 years old back then. He took a quick picture of himself in the mirror – just like so many people do these days!

The ‘70s Fashion

Nowadays you can wear anything you want without people taking a second look at your bright pink hair, torn jeans, or a wild combination of neon colours. But things haven’t always been like this!

Fashion used to be more uptight in the ‘70s, that’s why it could also be used as a statement to prove a point. The Women Liberation Movement used fashion to the fullest by ditching bras as a sign of protest.

The ‘70s style was already beautiful and this enhancement made it nearly perfect. Later it became a fashion statement like any other without any political subtext to it.

5 MB Storage

Let’s head back to 1956, the time when computers could take the space of a whole room and the storage of mere 5 MB weighed like a small elephant. Seriously, though, just look at this computer!

It required so many people just to transport the thing and inside it housed a hard drive of only 5 MB – that’s like several photos by modern standards, or even less than that.

Right now our smartphones can pack up to 128 GB of data and more, not to mention hard drives that house terabytes of data! Still, back in the day, that was a lot of free space and it cost $3,000 (equivalent to $30,000 today) to lease the whole thing.

Freddie Mercury’s Pet

We’re used to seeing photos of Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the legendary band Queen, on stage singing his heart out to the public, that’s why pictures like this are so special as they give us a glimpse into his daily life.

Meet Tiffany, Freddie Mercury’s cat. The photo was taken in 1988, featuring the two of them just chilling on the couch. It’s so rare to see celebrity photos like this from back in the day!

Tiffany’s facial expression says it all, though – not only cats, but humans as well make that face when someone takes their photo without their permission!

Your Swimsuit Is Too Long, M’Lady

Back in the days when even the thought of itsy-bitsy bikinis didn’t cross people’s minds, women used to wear long full-body swimsuits that were regulated by law. Yes, you read that right!

In 1925, swimsuits were allowed to be only a certain length, everything that was shorter than that was deemed inappropriate. Naturally, there was a swimsuit police, and of course it consisted of men.

Those brave policemen were roaming the beaches measuring women’s swimsuits, making sure none of them were too short (or else…). Apparently, the 1900’s society would go bonkers if women showed a little bit more skin!

Snacks for Polar Bears

The ‘50s were not the most peaceful time and aren’t usually associated with cute photos of people feeding animals, but this is exactly what happened in this picture!

Some Soviet troops were stationed at the Arctic Ocean back in the day and we imagine they didn’t have a lot of fun things to do to pass the time. That’s why this photo makes perfect sense – befriending some polar bears doesn’t seem all that strange when a bunch of humans and bears are the only living things around.

This photo captured a sweet moment of the soldier feeding the polar bear with some treats. It looks both cute and surreal on so many levels!

Dancing on Bottles

This might very well be one of the most surreal photos on this list – maybe because it was based on a dream? Petite 17-year-old ballerina Bianca Passarge has seen herself performing on wine bottles in a dream and decided she could actually do this in reality.

And she did! The young lady had to train for more than eight hours every day to perfect her skills, but eventually she managed to create the performance of her dreams.

What’s even more peculiar is that she was dressed as a cat – with cat ears and fluffy tail to create the ultimate feline look. This is definitely not something we see every day, be it in real life or in a picture!

The King Tut’s Tomb

The Pyramids have always been shrouded in mystery for as long as humanity can remember itself. We have always been drawn to those mysterious shapes and the secrets they held, both inside and outside.

Naturally, the exploration of Egyptian Pyramids started as soon as the scientists gained access to them. Of course, long before that the grave robbers have done a lot of damage, but there were still many wonders to discover.

This photo features King Tutankhamun’s tomb as it was investigated by Howard Carter in 1922. This was one of the places that were untouched by the looters, so the archaeologists were stunned by the sheer splendor and dazzling artifacts they found inside the tomb.

A Sewing Machine Bicycle

Bicycles aren’t usually associated with crazy stunts and weird inventions, but for some people they are exactly that! Back in the day people used to experiment with bicycles more, coming up with some bizarre ways to ride in the city.

This invention is definitely not something we’ve ever seen and, frankly speaking, we believe that it was a real head-turner back then as well!

It’s not just four people driving one huge complex bicycle, they also have a sewing machine installed there, out of all things! The whole construction seems like it came straight out of circus and we don’t think anyone apart from this family could ride it safely.

Elvis Presley on Leave

We all remember the King of Rock’n’Roll for his signature hair and amazing voice that has become legendary, but not many people realize that he also served in the army.

Seeing Elvis Presley wearing military uniform is so unusual! This photo was taken in 1958, when he was on leave and came home to visit his parents, Vernon and Gladys Presley.

This family photo may very well be one of the most awkward celebrity family photos we’ve ever seen, but it’s history! And we bet fans love that this shot exists to remind them of the good old days when the singer was till rocking the stage.

Royal Stripes

It turns out the 1900’s were quite a fun time, especially if you were of Royal descent. There are stories about Queen Mother having exquisite dinners with swan as the main course, but that wasn’t the only thing the Royal Family was famous for back then.

Take a look at this carriage drawn by zebras instead of horses! We have no idea why they thought it would be cool to use wild animals like that, but apparently zebras are not worse than horses when it comes to drawing carriages.

This particular carriage belonged to Lord Walter Rothschild, a zoologist and wealthy aristocrat, who used his carriage to show off wild animals and that they could be tamed just like their more familiar domesticated relatives. It’s a good thing people could see some wild animals, but the whole premise seems just wrong.

The Macabre Mobile

It’s been 34 years since the movie Elvira, Mistress of the Dark came out and became a cult film about the fun and quirky TV horror hostess Elvira. The story tells about her adventures as she inherited the house of her aunt Morgana in the midst of a very prudish community.

Not only did Elvira, Mistress of the Dark gained immense popularity along with Cassandra Peterson, the actress who played the iconic character, but also Elvira’s car became quite a famous item.

The Elvira Macabre Mobile got several modelling deals of its own and was featured in numerous calendars and Elvira-inspired merchandise. This revamped '58 T-Bird convertible just looked so cool!

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