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15+ Historical Pics That Showed Us Parts Of The Past We Never Knew

When we have enough years between us and a historical event, it becomes a littler easier to get the gist of what happened during it.

For instance, although both World War I and World War II likely seemed chaotic and unpredictable at the time, it’s not difficult to get a general sense of how they began, progressed, and ended. Of course, we know we could drown in information about both of those times if we went in for a deeper study but the point is that we could do more than stare blankly if someone asked us about them.

However, that doesn’t mean that a historical photo can’t completely take us by surprise. And when we do find out the story behind it, it can give us a whole new perspective on what we thought we knew.

1. Back in 1960, Geraldyn M. Cobb could be seen undergoing a series of tests to determine her fitness to enter the space program.

Reddit | ibkeepr

This one, for instance, was a tilt table designed to uncover any heart defects she may not have known about.

As The New York Times reported, Cobb finished in the top two percentile of all those tested, but she was sadly blocked from going to space because she was a woman.

Although Congress held an inquiry to decide whether women could be astronauts in 1963, they apparently favored John Glenn’s argument that “The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order” over Cobb’s argument that “We see, only, a place in our nation’s space future without discrimination.”

2. He’s pretty hard to recognize with this much hair on his head and no goatee, but this was Vladimir Lenin at four-years-old with his sister Olga.

Reddit | grumpy-techie

According to the BBC, he was born to a well-educated family and was simply going to study law but both his older brother’s execution and the radical thinking of some of his peers at university would obviously set him on a different path.

Such thinking would eventually get him expelled, but he nonetheless earned his law degree in 1891.

3. This dog named Taru was deployed among Finnish forces during World War II and one of his duties was apparently delivering messages.

Reddit | Vilzku39

Here we can see him with his trainers, a father-son duo who shared the name Rantanen.

4. While it wasn’t completely unheard of to replace lost limbs with at least a rudimentary proesthetic, they weren’t mass produced until after World War I.

Reddit | Crazyrussianstudio

According to CNN, 4,000 U.S. military personnel had to have limbs amputated, while over 64,000 Germans were in the same boat.

This led both nations to develop mechanical limbs like the ones we see here. While American production was standardized around a model known as the Carnes arm, orthopedists, engineers and scientists in Germany came up with over 300 designs for artificial limbs.

5. The further back in time we go, the more likely we are to see parenting practices that many people wouldn’t even dream of today.

Reddit | SerjUSA

For instance, it seems that at least one Los Angeles family during the 1910s saw nothing wrong with their young child playing with a congregation of small alligators.

6. If the scenery through those windows seems familiar, it’s because that view doesn’t show us the part of New York City that changed.

Reddit | earthmoonsun

As the New Yorker further outlined, this was the Windows on the World restaurant that was on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

This restaurant could count Grace Kelly and Andy Warhol among its visitors and if men didn’t wear a jacket like the gentlemen you see here, they couldn’t be seated.

7. This tank seems a little incomplete, but that’s because it wasn’t all assembled at once.

Reddit | Warspotnet

What we’re looking at here is a Medium Tank M3 being driven in Detroit from the factory that built it to a place of service where it can get its main gun installed.

8. Unless you’re a bigger military history expert than I think, you probably won’t be able to guess which army these men are serving with.

Reddit | iossif_le_nocif

As F. Patrikeeff wrote, these men were members of the Asano Brigade, a force of predominantly Russian soldiers who served under the Imperial Japanese Army.

They were likely deployed to defend what was then known as the Empire of Manchuria, a state that Japan had previously invaded and that apparently had a sizable Russian community.

9. While these two seem pretty happy, the play they’re putting on was part of a much more serious conference.

Reddit | RomanticCry

These are Mira Zigrin and Georges Skrigin of what was then known as Yugoslavia and they were members of the National Theater of Liberation. This performance was apparently part of the 2nd meeting of the Anti-Fascist Council for the National Liberation of Yugoslavia in 1943.

Skrigin would later write the book on how theater and politics can intermingle with War and Stage.

10. This probably seems like a pleasant fishing trip and those who put it together are likely hoping it’s pleasant enough to be helpful.

Reddit | Paul-Belgium

That’s because it was actually a therapeutic trip for American soldiers who developed PTSD after fighting in World War I.

Of course, that was known as “shell shock” at the time.

11. What we know as the French Revolution was actually only the first of them, as France wouldn’t see the end of its monarchy until close to a century later.

Reddit | GarbageBath

After the final defeat of Napoleon the royal family of France would see its return as King Louis XVIII took the throne.

However, both he and his successor Charles X would have much more tumultuous reigns than their forebears and assassination attempts were fairly common.

Although Louis-Philippe came to power as the King of the French rather than the King of France to appeal to the nation’s middle class, his reign was considered anachronistic and he developed a reputation for inactivity.

By 1848, he would be pushed out by yet another revolution and France would never be ruled by a king again.

12. While we might see some intentionally absurd photos showing a scene like this in modern times, it was a serious attempt to beat the heat back in 1926.

Reddit | ibkeepr

We’re apparently looking at a business owner and his secretary working from a Berlin pool in July.

Although a look at the temperatures of the time may not suggest this was necessary, it’s not like those numbers would tell you how humid it was.

13. Here we see a barrage of anti-aircraft fire as searchlights look on during the 1942 Battle of Los Angeles.

Reddit | JustSomeDude049

If you don’t remember learning about this battle during your World War II unit in history class, that’s because there was technically no enemy to fight.

As Smithsonian Magazine reported, a coastal radar system installed in California picked up a potential enemy aircraft approaching the city, which prompted the firing we see here.

However, there was no sign of any aircraft after the “battle,” which likely meant they had just shelled a stray weather balloon.

14. Here we can see a victory celebration outside of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal after the end of World War I.

Reddit | PeJae

As we can see, the centerpiece of that celebration is a large pyramid, but what isn’t so obvious was that this structure was made entirely of captured German helmets.

15. What we’re witnessing here is the world’s first commercial flight in 1914.

Reddit | ibkeepr

This saw pilot Tony Jannus fly a businessman named Abram Pheil from St. Petersburg, Florida to Tampa in an hour-and-a-half.

The privilege of being the first person to fly this way was auctioned off, which meant that Pheil ended up paying $400 (over $8,500 in today’s money) for his ticket.

16. Although it’s unlikely that the average citizen could get one, riding lawn mowers were around as early as 1903.

Reddit | disinventor

As we can see from this one mowing the lawn of the U.S. Capitol at the time, they were powered by steam rather than gas or electricity.

17. If you see weird stone huts jutting out from the walls of a castle, this little diagram should clearly explain their purpose.

Reddit | Biotech786

As we can see, some castles went above and beyond the more primitive chamber pot and featured long shafts that gave the owner’s waste a path to the ground.

We can also see that it was somebody’s job to shovel it.

18. This is apparently how tightly packed a mine elevator could get at this Belgian coal mine at the turn of the century.

Reddit | immoleight__me

However, most of the workers we’re seeing here were likely from Italy, as the governments of Belgium and Italy reached an agreement that was supposed to have Italy send over masons and other skilled craftsmen.

However, the workers who arrived were apparently less skilled than promised, so they were instead put to work in coal mines.

19. This photo shows the upcoming execution of Lepa Radić, a member of the Yugoslav Partisans, a resistance group fighting against the axis powers in WWII.

Reddit | Moontouch

The Germans offered Lepa a way to avoid being executed, saying she could go if she gave them the identities of the groups’ leaders and other members.

She replied saying she was not a traitor and that her comrades would reveal themselves when they avenged her death.

20. Some people get all the luck in the family. On the left is Swedish opera singer Kristina Nilsson, who made it big due to her voice and escaped her family’s impoverished life.

Reddit | eam2468

On the right is her sister, Anna Katarina, who remained a farmer’s wife. Anna was 16 years older than her sister, which aids in them looking so wildly different but the wealth gap is evident regardless.

This photo was taken in 1900.

21. As the tides of fashion shifted, some people took notice, like the men here right when shorter skirts were becoming more popular in 1965.

Reddit | vintageeveryday

I always find it fascinating to see what clothes would be considered provocative in the past given what people wear today. Skirts just above the knee, two-piece bathing suits, and tank tops, oh my!

22. An artist at work, this is Salvador Dali painting ‘The Face of War’ in 1941.

Reddit | crazyrussianstudio

The focus in his gaze is almost mesmerizing but I’m also impressed that he painted in a full suit. That’s a confident man.

23. If you thought a couple-hour bus ride was rough, A route from London, England to Calcutta, India used to exist until the ’70s.

Reddit | Paul-Belgium

It was the longest bus route in the world, run by Albert Tours, and it went like this: UK – Belgium – Germany – Austria – Yugoslavia -Bulgaria – Turkey – Iran – Afghanistan – Pakistan -India.

24. This is the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a regiment of almost entirely Japanese-Americans, in France, 1944.

Reddit | Paul-Belgium

They were the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American warfare, earning 18,143 awards in less than two years, including 21 medals of honor.

25. In this amazing uniform, that of the Life Hussars, is Princess Louise of Prussia in 1909.

Reddit | GaGator43

Princess Louise was Kaiser Wilhelm’s only daughter and her wedding to Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover is said to be one of the last great social events of European royalty before WWI.

26. A group of French trench raiders in WWI, posing with their blades and seeming ready for action.

Reddit | gumball-2002

The sheepskin was likely used for warmth but there’s no denying it gives them a sort of furry, monstrous look.

27. A family whose town was used as a local base during the Vietnam war following evacuation orders to escape a bombing by US forces, September 7, 1965.

Reddit | BrianSDiaz

Captured by photographer Kyōichi Sawada, he would go on to win the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for photography for this exact picture, titled ‘Flight to Safety.’

He was killed in Cambodia in 1970, making him one of 135 photographers that would lose their lives during the Vietnam war.

28. A personal story, this user found this photo while looking through his great-grandfather’s belongings and a written caption said this was ‘our Bunkercat.’

Reddit | Tomtom1599

The photo was taken in Belgium during the invasion of France, and as you can see the cat was sat up in a boot for the rather silly photo. Good to know funny cat pics has always been a cultural staple.

29. This is the first generation of Mexican naval infantry officers graduating from the Heroic Naval Academy in Veracruz, Mexico, 1959.

Reddit | TommyS09

When someone asked why they added the word ‘heroic’ before ‘naval academy’, the uploader returned to answer, “In Mexico, the title ‘Heroic’ is given to City-states or military units for acts of bravery in war situations, in this case the Heroic [in front of] naval academy was given because of their participation in the U.S. invasion of Veracruz in [April] of 1914.”

30. This magnificent collection belonged to the old Public library of Cincinnati before it was demolished in 1955.

Reddit | earthmoonsun

A loss of beautiful architecture, many of the reasons for demolishing it were that it wasn’t originally built to be a library.

It was designed to be an opera house first, but when that fell through it became a library, which led to some issues like poor ventilation that resulted in rapid disrepair of the building.

31. At the 1904 World’s Fair, William Avery demonstrated gliding for the first time.

Reddit | rockystl

To think where this simple demonstration took us. From building upon it until full human flight was possible, to the ability for us to go gliding as a hobby today rather than it being a singular feat of human innovation.

32. A photo of the Silent Parade that took place in New York in 1917, organized by the NAACP to promote civil rights.

Reddit | Paul-Belgium

Someone in the comments gave a transcription of the brilliant sign at the front, which reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

If of African descent tear off this corner.”

33. In 1864, a young ‘powder monkey’ was photographed aboard the U.S.S. New Hampshire off Charleston, South Carolina.

Reddit | GaGator43

powder monkey was a boy, anywhere between eight and fourteen years old, who would carry gunpowder to a ship’s various artillery.

They were picked for the job based on speed and height, needing to be short and fast so they could move through the ship efficiently.

34. The former King of Italy, Umberto II, casting his vote during the referendum on the abolition of monarchy on June 2, 1946.

Reddit | BetelgeuseInTheSky

Seeing as he was exiled not long after, I think we can all take an educated guess as to which way he voted.

35. The Austro-Hungarian Archduke himself, Franz Ferdinand dressed as a sarcophagus in 1894.

Reddit | FatiaNegra

There’s something about his dead straight look forward that’s undeniably funny. A great costume too!

36. Here we see the Beatles in Greece, where they almost had a series of islands all to themselves back in 1967.

Reddit | Paul-Belgium

According to the NME, this would have given them ownership over the island of Leslo and the four smaller islands that surrounded it.

Although they did actually purchase the islands for for the equivalent of $122,415, it only took a few months before they got bored and sold them to somebody else.

37. Artist Frida Khalo dressed as a young man in 1926.

Reddit | prosperarena

In the examination of her life, it became known that Frida would often embrace her masculinity and challenge gender norms. These photos were also taken by her father, who clearly supported her endeavors.

38. The popularity of the Klondike gold rush. This lineup of people are all headed north to the Yukon, 1898.

Reddit | noblinkin

Though profitable for some, the gold rush was a dangerous gamble. I was likely to either coming back empty-handed or worse, falling victim to one of the many avalanches or simply the elements.

39. The first look at the face of the Statue of Liberty after being unpacked.

Reddit | prosperarena

The statue was completed in Paris, France in 1884, which means it had to be dismantled and shipped to America. It came apart into 350 pieces, which were shipped by boat in 214 separate crates.

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