Oh, the past. That magical time we keep hearing about, when things used to be better and people were happier. But turns out that the past had its quirks, too. In fact, it was quite a weird time to live in, before the advancement of medicine and technology, and when socially acceptable behaviors were… a bit different.
The photographers who took these 45 photos probably never realized their significance, but you’ll be shocked to see some of the things that people did in recent history. Here is a rare and fascinating look at how weird life used to be.
1. The oldest known selfie (1839).
2. A portrait taken of a woman while she was mid-sneeze (1900).
3. A “knocker-up” waking up clients (early 20th century).
4. 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.)
5. “Pin boys” manually line up bowling pins before automatic pinsetters were invented (1914).
6. A prohibition era sign, speaking out against liquor.
7. A police officer on a Harley-Davidson transports a prisoner in a mobile holding cell (1921).
8. Two girls take a “horseman” picture (1920).
9. Winners of a beauty pageant, back when beauty standards were a bit different (1922).
10. A beach official measures bathing suits to make sure they aren’t too short (1920).
11. A couple enjoys an old-fashioned zipline (1923).
12. The Isolator was a bizarre helmet intended to help the wearer focus by rendering him or her deaf, pumping them with oxygen, and limiting their vision (1925).
13. A full-faced swimming mask helped protect women’s skin from the sun (1920s).
14. Adolf Hitler rehearsing a speech in front of a mirror (1925).
15. The LA Public Library’s bookmobile program for the sick (1928).
16. A zookeeper gives penguins a cooling shower from a watering can (1930).
17. The One Wheel Motorcycle, which reached a top speed of 93 mph (1931).
18. A cat posed for a cigarette card, found in Army Club Cigarettes (1932).
19. This is how makers of the famous London double decker bus proved that the vehicles weren’t a tipping hazard (1933).
20. The iconic photo of a mother who is consumed by her worries and watches over her children during the Dust Bowl (1936).
21. An ‘early GPS’, this auto-scrolling map was supposed to help people navigate in real time (1930).
22. A Model T elevator garage in Chicago (1936).
23. Salvador Dali and Coco Chanel sharing a smoke break (1938).
24. A bicycle that fit a family of four, and even included a sewing machine (1939).
25. Infants wear gas mask hoods during a London bombing drill (1940).
26. WWII soldiers get a last kiss before being deployed (1940s).
27. A puppy sleeps in between Russian soldiers (1945).
28. An Austrian boy is thrilled about receiving his first pair of new shoes in years (1946).
29. A bear cub eats a bowl of honey at a cafe (1950).
30. A dog dressed up in a suit with a cat in his lap for a picture (1950s).
31. An ice-cold whisky dispenser, sometimes found in offices (1950s).
32. The crowning of the winner of the Miss Atomic Bomb pageant (1950).
33. Afghan women, casually dressed, in a public library before the Taliban rule (1950s).
34. Paul McCartney takes a mirror selfie (1959).
35. Young women attend a house party in a photo that was later colorized (1950s).
36. Fidel Castro lays a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial (1959).
37. Fritz the bulldog, a TV celebrity, is groomed by a barber (1961).
38. The Cat Mew machine, designed in Japan to keep away mice (1963).
39. A young woman takes her pet lobster out for a walk (1950s).
40. A young boy attends Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech (1963).
41. “TV Glasses,” a product that never quite caught on (1963).
42. “The Kiss Of Life”, a dramatic photo of a utility worker receiving CPR after being electrocuted. He survived (1967).
43. Young Osama Bin Laden (in the green shirt on the right) with his family in Sweden (1970s).
44. “Face Cones”, a fashionable way to protect yourself during snowstorms (1939).
45. Bill & Hillary Clinton play volleyball (1971).
Although some of these moments captured in time seem completely odd now, we can’t judge them when they’re completely out of context. Even though people did things very differently back then, we can also tell by these photos just how much hasn’t changed. Deep down, our creativity and compassion as a species has stayed the same, and is bound to always stand the test of time. And who knows, what we’re doing today will probably seem completely strange 50 years from now.
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