This article was originally written for our site: yourdailyscience.com
History may have seemed boring when we were studying it at schools and universities – all those books and descriptions simply weren’t good enough to truly feel what it was like living in a different era. But then photography came into play!
Now we have thousands of amazing historical photos that have captured all kinds of amazing things ranging from Marilyn Monroe’s famous dress scene to acrobats performing stunts on top of the Empire State Building.
And now that we can see everything with our own eyes, history seems the most fascinating thing in the world! Here’s a collection of weird, beautiful, and simply breathtaking photos taken throughout human history.
Are These People for Real?
No one would probably allow such a spine-chilling balancing act on top of the Empire State Building today, but things were a little bit different back in 1934. The construction workers weren’t the only ones who climbed the dangerously high frame of the building – acrobats liked to enjoy the view as well!
When the Empire State Building was finished, this 381-meter architectural marvel was the tallest structure in the world. Built during the Great Depression, it was an inspiration for everyone who looked at it.
But it’s one thing to enjoy this amazing structure from afar, and it’s a totally different thing to climb its frame and hang in the air with no support at all. Those guys were really professional!
The Genius at Work
Nikola Tesla was so ahead of his time with his inventions that it’s hard to believe that any of them actually came to life. He experimented a lot with wireless power transmission and, as many people believe, he came up with technology that would have revolutionized the way we use electricity.
In the photo, you can see him working at the Colorado Springs laboratory where he built a huge spark gap transmitter to experiment with electricity. His biggest dream was to create a power source that would be able to transmit electricity by air via long distances.
The photo was taken in 1901, capturing one of Tesla’s many experiments. In 1926, Nikola Tesla was the one who envisioned and described in detail the wireless world we all know and live in today!
The Mark Twain Tree
This is not the first gigantic tree on this list, but we had to add this photo as it is simply mind-blowing how such a huge tree even existed on Earth. The Mark Twain Tree, which used to be located in the Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park, is now just a huge stump.
As the story goes, it was hard to travel and see this amazing gigantic tree in its natural habitat, so some geniuses decided to cut it down and show it in American and British museums. Such a pity!
This 1,500-year-old beauty was cut down by the Army back in 1891, and we sincerely hope humanity has become much more environment-friendly since then.
The Legends Meet
It’s not a secret that David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen, knew each other. But what most people don’t know is that they collaborated quite a lot!
The two genius singers met together at Queen’s studio in Switzerland. David Bowie paid them a visit as a friendly neighbour and suddenly they started fooling around with music. And that’s how ‘Under Pressure’ was born!
The members of Queen later confessed that there was quite a lot of tension between the two leading singers as they each had their own vision of the song they were making. But in the end, they still managed to create a masterpiece.
The Dress That Became Legendary
If you think that celebrities sometimes reveal too much skin with their over the top outfits and barely-there dresses, well, you are right. But that trend started long before Kim Kardashian showed off her bum and Rihanna appeared on the red carpet in a fully transparent dress.
Meet Vikki Dougan, the very actress that served as an inspiration for Jessica Rabbit, the voluptuous cartoon character from the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The redhead actress had a beautiful physique that was fully exploited by Hollywood.
They even dubbed her 'the Back' for her revealing dresses with a low-cut back that she was wearing for various events due to her manager. But despite her good looks and provocative dresses, she didn’t become an A-list actress after all.
Photographing the Impossible
The 1850s were the time when spiritualism and the love for everything occult gained immense popularity. It was the time when people gathered for spiritual séances to commune with the dead, asking questions and trying to speak with deceased relatives.
The fascination with death is not a new thing, but something changed at the beginning of the 19th century when two sisters who lived in New York announced that they decided to speak with the spirits and, after a short séance, they received a reply that used 2 taps for ‘no’ and 1 tap for ‘yes.
Thus, spiritualism was born as a form of both hobby and religion. Of course, photographers couldn’t stay away from such a mysterious topic and did their best to capture the most impossible things that were happening during the séances.
The Ultimate Alien
1979 is the year all sci-fi lovers remember fondly as it was the very year when the first-ever movie of the Alien franchise saw the light of day. The Alien has been terrifying the viewers for over 40 years now – quite a spectacular age for a character from the horror movie!
Well, not many people know that inside the first Alien there was an actual human being – Bolaji Badejo. At the time he was cast to play the xenomorph, he was just a graphic design student from Nigeria who was hanging out at a pub.
Badejo was cast to play the role of Alien just like that! If that’s not the work of Providence, then we don’t know what is. After him, the role was played by tall basketball players, gymnasts, mimes, and acrobats.
The Duchess of Lightning
This photo looks like the most dangerous thing in the world! Can you believe this woman riding a horse like that? Well, of course, it’s no ordinary woman – it’s Sonora Webster Carver, a professional entertainer and one of the most famous female horse divers in the world.
If you think riding horses is dangerous enough, then how about riding them to the 40-foot-high tower and diving into a huge pool filled with water? That sounds quite dangerous, well, because it is.
Sonora Webster Carver made a huge name for herself, travelling all over the country with her spellbinding act. She loved horses more than anything, but alas, during one of her divings she hurt her eyes and went blind. But that didn’t stop her from performing for another 11 years!
The Grid Girl
If you aren’t much into car racing then you might have never heard of the term ‘grid girls’ and just how important they were for car racing.
Grid girls were mostly supermodels who got hired to do the promotional work, take part in advertisements, as well as hold umbrellas for the drivers while they were waiting for the race to begin. Most drivers wore tight leather suits and it was important for them to maintain healthy body temperature before the start of the race.
Of course, companies always preferred to hire striking women as grid girls. In the photo, you can see Carol Lang posing for a photo in front of her boyfriend's drag car in the '70s. She was dating Gary Dyer of Dyer's Blowers.
The Beauty Machine
Max Factor’s infamous ‘Beauty Calibrator’ might have the word ‘beauty’ in it, but there was definitely nothing pretty about this technological innovation. It just looked like some creepy medieval torture device!
Well, if we ignore the utterly disturbing look of this device, Max Factor did create something that was truly special – a gadget that allowed to measure a woman’s face within one thousandth-of-an-inch! If you are wondering, why on Earth someone would want to do that, then the answer would be – to correct any ‘imperfections’ a woman had with the use of makeup.
You see, Max Factor had his own understanding of beauty and even developed special measurements of the perfect face. Thus, he could correct a woman’s face according to these measurements, and for that, he used the Beauty Calibrator.
When Mona Lisa Went Travelling
It’s so weird to see the famous masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci out of the Louvre – it seems that the painting has been there forever! But despite what we may think, there was a time in Mona Lisa’s history when the painting went for a short trip.
During WWII precious paintings like Mona Lisa were taken out of museums and placed in various chateaus and abbeys. But they didn’t stay in just one place, there were constantly on the move to be even safer!
This photo captures Mona Lisa coming back to the Louvre Museum after a lengthy trip over several castles, chateaus, and abbeys until she finally reached home in 1945.
The Submarine Armor
This piece of technology might look like some retro robot from a sci-fi movie, but in fact, it was a real invention created by Chester E. Macduffee for deep-sea diving. Yes, along with the dreams to go as high up into the sky as possible, some people also dreamt about going as deep as one can even imagine.
Chester E. Macduffee built his amazing submarine armor in 1910 – more than 100 years ago! In that suit, a person went down into the ocean to a stunning depth of 212 ft.
That armor had a robotic hand that was operated by the diver and he could actually pick something up from the ocean floor. The other hand was equipped with an electric lamp that allowed actually seeing something underwater as well!
Visiting the Taj
Selfies in front of the Taj Mahal are the most common thing today, but it hasn’t always been like that. You’d be surprised that the first-ever person (that we know of) who took a selfie in front of the famous building was none other than George Harrison from the Beatles.
Yep, it was the year 1966, he got curious about the mysterious Eastern country and went travelling there. And just like many tourists after him – he stopped by the Taj Mahal to take a selfie with an actual camera!
Remember, there were no smartphones with handy cameras back then, so he used a film camera with a fish-eye lens to create this masterpiece. And we love it!
The End of Zeppelin Era
Before the Wright brothers built the first-ever plane to conquer the sky, it was filled with other types of flying machines that were considered safe at that time. Dirigibles weren’t exactly fast, but they could carry a considerable amount of people for long distances. It was air travel at its finest!
Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin developed a passion for air travel back in 1874 – that’s when he decided to build a vessel that could soar up in the sky, carrying people from one place to the other.
The first-ever zeppelin was constructed in 1900, starting an era of mind-boggling air travel. But alas, after the Hindenburg crash in 1937 the humanity turned away from dirigibles and started developing other means of air travel.
The Sphinx and the Jazz Legend
Usually, when we think about the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Giza we imagine those relics just standing peacefully covered with the sands of time and thousand-year-old mysteries.
But how about playing some jazz in front of the ancient statue? This amazing photo captured Louis Armstrong, the legend of jazz and soul, playing the trumpet to his wife, Lucille, back in 1962.
This photo is just so incredible! And to think that two legends of such scale actually got to meet – the ancient statue that’s been standing there for thousands of years and one of the biggest jazz legends in the world.
A Macabre Creation
If you’re wondering how people used to have fun in Alaska more than 100 years ago, well, here’s the answer – they made snowmen! Just like everywhere else in the world, when you have an abundance of snow and some free time, this is what you would do.
Still, it was the year 1902 and the whole atmosphere of this shot seems just too creepy. This snowman, built standing on Muir Glacier in Alaska, looks nothing like the sweet and cute figures we like to build these days, using a carrot for a nose and some buttons.
This is like a huge creepy man that just happens to be made out of snow! And those empty eyes seem to be staring right into your soul.
In the Memory of Horses
It’s not a secret that World War I has taken around 8.5 million lives of soldiers and more than 13 million lives of civilians during the years that it lasted. But people weren’t the only victims of this horrendous conflict that lasted for more than 4 years.
Thousands of horses died in the combat and many more served the needs of the army, carrying weapons, food supplies, and sometimes even wounded people. Without the horsepower, the Army wouldn’t have been able to function at all!
In 1917, the men from the United States Cavalry unit came together to pay tribute to all the horses that have perished during WWI. They created a form of a horse’s head to commemorate the service of those brave animals.
Is It a Bird? Is It a Plane? No, It’s…
It’s actually a tetrahedral kite designed by none other than Alexander Graham Bell back in 1908. Most people know this brilliant engineer for inventing and patenting the telephone that revolutionized our communication, but he was so much more than that.
Bell was also very fascinated with aerodynamics and spent most of his time toying with various forms of kites. And those weren’t the ordinary kites kids like to send to the sky these days!
Bell was fond of complex designs and tetrahedral shapes with pyramids inside. He experimented with such kites along with his assistants, and even built a gigantic kite that could take a person up into the sky!
The Grizzly Giant
If you think that gigantic trees exist only in legends and fairy tales, well, here’s the proof that they exist in the real world as well. If you take a close look at this photo, you will notice tiny people on horses under the huge tree.
The U.S. cavalry soldiers posed for this photo in 1900, commemorating the giant tree for generations to come. And it still stands today!
You can find this huge tree, named the Grizzly Giant, in the Yosemite National Park. The tree is 209 feet tall (around 63 m) and is one of the most famous giant sequoia trees in the park. Its exact age is unknown, but it’s estimated to be around 3,000 years old.
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is still one of the greatest engineering marvels ever created – it’s just so iconic! Built in 1889, the Eiffel Tower has been standing for decades virtually unaffected by the passing seasons with rains and sun constantly influencing the metal.
It’s not that the Eiffel Tower was completely unaffected by corrosion, but its creator, Gustave Eiffel, has thought everything through and created a schedule of repaints that would protect the tower’s metal from oxidization.
You may be surprised to find out that the tower gets repainted every 7 years. Yes, that’s quite a lot! And due to the tower’s structure, the job has to be done manually – one of such painting jobs is captured in this photo that was taken in 1924.
Marilyn Monroe’s Moment
There is hardly anyone in the world who hasn’t at least heard the name of Marilyn Monroe – she’s one of the most iconic female celebrities of the century and a woman that has created her very own distinct style that is now followed by many.
This photo captures one of the most iconic moments in pop culture history when Marilyn Monroe stood on top of a subway grate and let her dress get blown up into the air.
But not many people know that it was a real spectacle with thousands of fans watching her create this amazing scene. It was made to create even more hype around the actress, and it worked!
The Beginning of the Atomic Age
Three weeks before the Little Man and the Fat Man bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, obliterating thousands of lives and turning the two cities into dust, there was an atomic bomb test the marked the beginning of the Atomic Age as we know it.
An atomic bomb called The Gadget was an implosion device developed for the Trinity test that was conducted 100 miles from New Mexico. At that time, the engineers had no idea how the whole thing would work – some even estimated that the bomb could ignite the Earth’s atmosphere.
As the bomb was dropped in the middle of the desert, the shockwave was felt 100 miles away from the place of the bombing. It was then and there when Oppenheimer remembered the famous line from the Hindu sacred text, Bhagavad Gita: “Now I am Become Death, the destroyer of worlds”.
Trick or Treat?
Just imagine going down the street and meeting this spooky fella on the night of Halloween. We would have run away faster than lighting!
Well, back in the day they definitely knew a thing or two about creepy costumes and weird designs – most of the vintage photos of Halloween we see on the web are beyond spine-chilling. But this person went as far as taking a photo of their unique pumpkin-inspired design!
Of course, we are grateful for this because otherwise, we would have never seen what spooky Halloween costumes people wore hundreds of years ago. But now we know, and this can’t be unseen.
The Easter Island Statues
There’s hardly a person on planet Earth who hasn’t seen the mysterious statues of the Easter Island. They are considered one of the later wonders of the ancient world and still pose as many questions as 100 years ago when they were first discovered.
Historians believe that humans inhabited the Rapa Nui Island (also known as the Easter Island) as far back as 1200 BC. They still have no idea how they build these huge statues that just seem impossible for that era!
Archaeologists believe the statues were built around 1,000 AD, but that doesn’t really explain how it was technologically possible. Imagine their surprise, when they started digging up the heads of the Easter Island statues and uncovered they actually had bodies underneath!
Circus is… Fun?
Circus has been around for hundreds of years. It is believed that Phillip Astley, a former Cavalryman, started the whole era of the modern-day circus when he built a circular amphitheatre and opened up the first circus in Europe.
While the idea might have seemed fresh at the time, it was far from original. Different types of circuses have existed for as long as humanity needed some entertainment: the Chinese juggled, various African cultures did acrobatic dancing routines, and Ancient Greeks had rope dancing.
Well, Astley put all those ancient entertaining practices together, added some amazing horse riding stunts that he knew himself, and created something truly enjoyable. In the photo, you can see a contortionist from the 1900s balancing just using his teeth.
Chilling on Top of the World
If you know anything about the history of furniture, then you’ve probably heard about Michael Thonet and his No. 14 chair. Well, it’s not the chair that was so remarkable, but the bentwood technique the designer created to make it.
The bentwood technique revolutionized furniture manufacture, and the chair you see in the photo has become one of the most recognized 19th-century chair designs.
Of course, the inventor of the world-famous chair had no idea it would be used for such a unique and spine-chilling balancing act on the rooftop of a building. We feel vertigo just looking at this photo!
The Drowned Mona Lisa
No one knows what really happened to this girl nicknamed The Unknown Woman of Seine, but what we do know is that her posthumous facial expression became a real object d’art back in the late 19thcentury.
Think it’s a bit too macabre? Well, maybe the fascination with death isn’t as big these days as it used to be, but when it comes to art – nothing is too weird or too frightening. As the legend goes, the unknown young woman drowned in the Seine, hence the name, but her after-death face expression was so divine that someone ordered a plaster cast of it.
Soon, the souvenir shops all over France were selling copies of her posthumous face. And not only France but the rest of Europe was fascinated with her as well!
The Bear Man
If you think Arctic exploration is a feat worthy of a hero, well, then you are right. Peter Freuchen, the man in the photo wearing a polar bear coat, is not just an explorer, journalist, and anthropologist, but a real survivor as well.
Once he got trapped inside a cocoon of ice during one of his Arctic expeditions and had to make a tool out of his own frozen feces to get out – a survival trick he learned from the Inuit tribe. After that, he had to crawl for several miles to reach his base camp.
In the photo, you can see Peter Freuchen posing with his wife, Dragmar Cohn, a fashion illustrator who worked for Vogue. The two seem to be quite an impressive pair and the photo captures just how weird and beautiful they look together.
If you think that driving a four-wheel vehicle is somehow too boring and safe for you, then you can always switch to a bike and get your adrenaline going. But for some engineers even that wasn't dangerous enough!
A Swiss engineer named M. Gerder came up with a 'brilliant' idea to create a Motorwheel - a vehicle with just one wheel that had the driver perched inside this very risky-looking construction. Naturally, this design wasn't accepted too well as it was just too dangerous to drive something like this.
But we have to admit, this Motorwheel does look kind of cool! It's quite a futuristic design, but you'd be surprised to find out that it was created in 1931.
The Most Famous Kiss in History
Usually, when we think of kisses, we imagine something very pleasant - like a kiss between two people who are in love or a kiss between a mother and a child. The last thing we imagine when we think of kisses is two Socialist leaders sharing a smooch.
Yet this is exactly what happened back in the day when members of Socialist parties met for various events. It was a form of greeting the historians now call 'the Kremlin kiss'.
On the photo you can see a picture of a graffiti made by Dmitri Vrubel on the Berlin Wall in 1990. It depicts a world-famous photo of Erick Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev sharing a kiss back in 1979.
Humpty-Dumpty Sat on the Wall
How about some Halloween costumes from the 1900s? We realize that things were a little bit different more than 100 years ago, but looking at the way people dressed for Halloween and other festivities really makes all those differences very obvious.
But they liked to dress in weird and freaky costumes just as much as we do today! It’s just that their imagination worked in a different way and they came up with looks that would be considered creepiness overload today.
This one is not all that creepy, but it just looks so unusual! If you’ve read Alice in Wonderland then you know the character of Humpty-Dumpty. Today no one would even think of dressing as that character! We love it so much.
When talking about samurais we usually imagine those fierce male warriors from feudal Japan who were exceptionally skilled swordsmen with razor-sharp katanas. Well, not many know that there were female warriors as well!
Historians don’t talk about them much because most of them have never heard about them. And yet, those were skilled female martial artists, known as onna-bugeisha, who were part of the Japanese nobility.
Long before the samurai even emerged as a class, women were trained in houses all over Japan the art of tantoujutsu and how to use naginata. Empress Jingu was one of the most prominent female warriors in the history of Japan, who used her skills to promote the economic growth of her country.
The Times Square Kiss
Kissing is one of the most intimate things that happens between two people who are in love. But sometimes people are so overtaken with emotions that they kiss each other despite the huge crowd of people walking down the street.
This is one of the most famous kisses in history as it marked the end of WWII - on the day when Japan announced about its surrender, a sailor went down the street and, overfilled with joy, kissed a nurse he met out in the street. They were complete strangers!
Alfred Eisenstaedt, a journalist and a photographer, happened to be right there at that very moment, yielding a Leica camera. He captured the couple kissing and it became one of the most memorable photos of the century!
The Statue of Liberty's Head
The Statue of Liberty is such a well-known landmark that we don't expect to see anything striking or unusual on it. But there's one detail most people never notice, simply because they can never get a look at it - it's the head of the Statue of Liberty!
The photo was taken from the top of the Statue of Liberty's flame back in 1930, which has been closed to the public for decades because of an explosion on an island nearby.
And if you're wondering what are those waves on the head of the Statue of Liberty - that's her hair! This photo, offering a look at the Statue of Liberty from such a peculiar angle, is really one of a kind.
John Travolta and the Princess
We all remember Princess Diana with great fondness, but not many people realize that she was acquainted with John Travolta, who got famous back in the day playing one of the leading roles in the musical Grease.
This photo was taken in 1985, when the First Lady Nance Raegan, wife of President Raegan, organized a party at the White House and invited Princess Diana and Prince Charles to mingle with the Hollywood crowd.
Travolta remembers how Nance Raegan asked him to dance with Princess Diana as she was a big fan of Grease, and so he invited her for a dance. According to John Travolta, he was very nervous, but the Princess seemed to be on cloud nine.
A Kiss We Do Not Miss
Kissing is one of the most natural things in the world when it comes to people who love each other. But sometimes two people come together who have no relation to each other whatsoever and seeing them kiss becomes quite a cringe-worthy experience.
We don't want to sound judgmental or anything, but seeing two members of Socialist party sharing a big smooch is not something we would like to see every day. Or any day, for that matter.
Yet this is exactly what happened in Socialist countries back in the day! Sharing a welcoming smooch was no biggie, in fact, it was a sign of a certain level of relationship between different members of the Socialist parties. The smooch was accompanied with three traditional hugs. This is the very photo that inspired a famous graffiti on the Berlin Wall.