A picture is worth a thousand words: The most interesting and astonishing historical photos

how did women’s swimwear look in the first Olympics? What are some odd habits soldiers performed during war? What did the pride parade look like back in 1970 and how did people react to the opening of the first McDonald’s in the Soviet Union? The phrase a picture is worth a thousand words has never been more accurate – these historical photos portray the most curious and extraordinary events in the world’s history and express the interesting stories behind them in just one picture.


Construction of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, 1970

After watching the new series we’re all familiar with the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the worst nuclear disaster in the world’s history. Since the disaster that occurred in 1986, the plant as well as the adjacent city that was populated by its workers are abandoned.  

The photo was taken during the construction of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the 1970’s in Ukraine.

The League of German Girls waving Nazi flags, 1938

The league of German Girls was part of the Nazi party youth movement, also called the Hitler Youth. With the beginning of World War Two, participation in the organization became mandatory.

This image was taken in Vienna and captures the young participants of the League of German Girls cheering in support of the German annexation of Austria, in 1938.

Vikki Dougan, “The Back”, 1957

The name Vikki Dougan probably means nothing to you, but what about Jessica Rabbit? That’s right – Dougan was the inspiration behind the notorious character of Jessica Rabbit from the movie Who Censored Roger Rabbit?

Dougan was a model and actress back in the fifties, and other than being the inspiration behind Jessica Rabbit, she was the one who started the trend of back-less dresses, and thus earned the nickname “The Back.”

Woodstock festival, 1969

The iconic music festival from 1969, until this day one of the largest in the world, marks a critical moment in the history of the United States, as it symbolizes the counterculture generation of the 70’s.

This photo captures the crowd during the festival with a banner conveying the core message of peace and love among all, including animals.

British swimming team in the 1912 Summer Olympics

The Olympics were inspired by the ancient Olympic games of Greece from the 8th century BC. The modern Olympics began in Athens in 1896, with the contests undergoing palpable changes throughout the years.

One of these changes, quite naturally, involves the women’s attire style. This image shows the British swimming team at the Stockholm Summer Olympics in 1912.

Charlie Chaplin with his third (and last) wife, 1943

Oona O’Neil was the lucky lady who got to be Charlie Chaplin’s last wife, after his two other failed marriages. They met when she auditioned for a role in one of Chaplin’s films.

It was love at first sight and the two got married shortly after their first meeting, when Chaplin was 53 years old and Oona was only 18. The couple’s love was stronger than it seemed, and though everyone believed the marriage was bound to fail, they stayed together until Chaplin died in 1977.

Propaganda parade to promote physical fitness in the former Soviet Union, 1956

Parades to promote physical fitness were annually held in Moscow with the purpose of preparing people for heavy labor and possible wars. Those parades were a legacy of the Stalin era.

As you can see, the image captures the fittest athletes leading the march in Moscow, 1956. It sure is a creative way to encourage exercise.

A woman using a tanning vending machine, 1949

In our days we’re more aware than ever to the harming consequences of tanning and sun exposure. But in the past it wasn’t common knowledge, and as it turns out a tanning machine was a popular solution for women seeking to pamper up.

The tanning vending machine was invented in 1949 in Chicago, naturally, a country that doesn’t get a lot of natural sunshine. The vending machines was placed around public places.

FIFA World Cup, 1930

Not only sports fans can enjoy this picuture – one of the world’s most celebrated sports championship these days, the inaugural FIFA World Cup took place in Uruguay in July 1930.

This photo was taken at the world cup tournament in 1930 and shows the celebrating Uruguay team.

An act of kindness on Dutch Liberation Day, 1945

To mark the end of Nazi Germany occupation, the Dutch celebration day occurs every year in the 5th of May in the Netherlands.

This photo captures an act of kindness on the day of the liberation in 1945 – American soldiers take Dutch children to dance. Now here’s something you don’t see everyday.

Sweden changes driving lanes, 1967

Traffic is always an issue, no matter the country or the year. In 1967 Sweden changed the driving lanes from left to right and people struggled to adapt to the change.

This photo was taken on the day of the change and captures the chaos created by the change of lanes.

The invention of the American football helmet, 1932

The beloved national sport goes back to 1869. The helmet, though, was invented only in 1932 and tested in a surprisingly funny way.

The photo shows the testing of the helmet, where the person who invented is hitting his head in the wall in order to test it. that’s after asking the people around him to hit his head with a bat.

Kathrine Switzer running at the all-male Boston Marathon, 1967

It’s easy to forget that no too long ago, women were excluded from the most basic activities, such as running. In 1967 the Boston marathon was an all-male marathon, meaning that women weren’t allowed to participate.

Kathrine Switzer was determined to challenge this old tradition and send a message to all women out there, and she did. This photo shows the race officials trying to remove her from the course two miles into the race.

The Titanic Gym, 1912

Titanic might be one of the greatest movies of all times, buy what they failed to show you in the movie was the highly impressive gym the ship had!

At the exact time the ship hit the iceberg and tragedy ensued, one passenger, a physical instructor, was in the middle of his exercise. Devoted to his job, he remained at his post and went down with the ship.

Soldiers playing football in World War 1, 1914

Around Christmas 1914 World War 1 entered an unofficial ceasefire, “the Christmas truce,” along the Western Front. Towards Christmas, French, British and German soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings.

Football has a way of uniting people, and this case wasn’t any different. A friendly football match occurred between the soldiers in the day before Christmas.

The founders of Microsoft, 1975

Though today it seems as if the computer has been around forever, way back when the founding of Microsoft was a revolutionary thing.

In 1975 two young students and childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen sought to create a central processing unit, something that was never done before. That was the beginning of Microsoft, and since then it’s all ancient history.

World War 2 Victory in Europe day, 1945

V-E Day, or Victory in Europe day, celebrates the surrender of Nazi Germany and its allies in World War 2. It started with a spontaneous celebration after the announcement of the German surrender on My 7, 1945.

This photo shows the massive crowd of the celebrations in 1945 in Trafalgar square in London.

Opening day of the first McDonald’s in the Soviet Union, 1990

Until the 1980’s, the communist Soviet Union banned anything that was Western and associated with capitalism, so when the first branch of McDonald’s opened in Moscow in 1990, it was an extraordinary event.

The first McDonald’s in the Soviet Union opened in January 31, 1990, and as the photo depicts, it was much anticipated. The anticipation can be excused, since this wasn’t only the first American chain to make it to the Soviet Union, but the first fast food chain.

Summer of love, 1967

The summer of love depicts a phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967 in the U.S, mainly in San Francisco, where young flower children, or hippies, congregated in the streets by the masses.

This photo was taken during the summer of love in San Francisco. These events expressed a reaction against the conformist and materialist values of modern life.

A bookmobile in Canada, 1960

Libraries these days are pretty much ghost towns, but in the past, they were a rare product, and people were lining on the street waiting for them. Pretty much like ice cream trucks.

The traveling libraries were incredibly popular in the mid-20th century in the U.S and Canada. This photo was taken in Canada during the 60’s.

Marilyn Monroe’s first marriage, 1942

The American icon didn’t have an easy life. During her short life, Monroe was married (and divorced) three times.

This photo shows Monroe on her wedding day with her husband, when she was only 16. This marriage was proposed to prevent Monroe from having to go back to yet another foster family.

Filming the MGM lion, 1928

You know the roaring lion you see at the beginning of movies? His name is Leo, and he’s the official mascot of the film studio MGM. This photo shows the filming of the logo in 1928. Seems kind of dangerous to us.

But Leo wasn’t there from the beginning; since 1916 the production company used seven different lions in the filming of the logo. Leo, the current lion, is in use since 1957.

Shaquille O’Neal holding Bill Gates, 1995

This might be the oddest pair you’ll ever see – Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates and NBA star Shaquille O’Neal having a special moment together.

The picture was taken after Bill Gates endowed O’Neal with his first computer (Microsoft, of course). It’s also known that the NBA player helped Gates promote Microsoft products. What a strange and lovely friendship.

The wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, 1947

If you were impressed by Meghan and Harry’s wedding, you should’ve been there for princess Elizabeth’s wedding.

This photo was taken on the morning of the wedding in November 1947, the same morning Philip had been made Duke of Edinburgh.

Paris flooded, 1910

Nothing can compete with the last winter, which was one of the coldest ones the world had seen yet, but the winter of 1910 in Paris is a close runner-up, when after months of high rainfall, the Seine river was flooded.

The capital of France was flooded through tunnels, sewers and drains. The city wasn’t unfamiliar with winter floods, but this was an astonishing event.

American soldiers with a Japanese skull, 1944

A common act of entertainment during wars was saving the enemy’s skulls. The soldiers kept these as trophies and would sometimes even send them to their girlfriends waiting for them back home! How romantic.

This photo depicts the American soldiers in 1944, during World War Two, resting with a token of their latest victory – a Japanese skull.

Protesters swimming in the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool, 1970

On July 4, 1970, president Nixon held a support rally, which had the opposite effect than what he intended. He hoped to increase the support of his administration, but it backfired.

The picture portrays the angry crowd, which saw the rally as a ‘pro-Vietnam war’ event and jumped in the pool in protest.

Twiggy, 1960s

The fashion industry has its ups and downs, but there’s no doubt that it’s a big part of the western world’s history and still plays a major role in our lives.

This photo shows the first English model Dame Lesley Lawson, better known as Twiggy, the model that revolutionized the fashion world.

A Papua New Guinean native helping an injured Australian soldier, 1942

Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels was the name given to the Papua New Guinea natives as they were known for their curly, fuzzy hair and for their kindness.

This picture depicts both their curly hair and kind nature – it was taken on Christmas day 1942 and shows a Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel guiding a wounded Australian soldier.

Albert Einstein, 1951

This one you probably know – it’s perhaps Einstein’s most famous photo, and quite flattering as well. What you perhaps didn’t know is that it was taken on his 72nd birthday, succeeding an event held to his honor in Princeton university.

Einstein stuck out his tongue to the photographer documenting the event, hoping the photographer wasn’t fast enough to capture it. Unfortunately for him but luckily for us, the photographer proved him wrong.

A soldier getting a haircut in World War Two, 1942

We had some peculiar sightings from wars, such as soldiers playing football or saving skulls as souvenirs, but this is a particularly interesting one – a soldier getting a haircut during a break between missions.

This photo shows a pilot of the Royal Air Force getting a haircut, enjoying a book and smoking a pipe during his break.

Children’s playground, 1900

What in first glance seems like a complex construction, is a children’s playground. Apparently, children’s playgrounds used to look like super complex Ninja Warrior courses.

That’s what all the children’s playgrounds looked like at 1900’s, quite different than the playgrounds we’re used to these days.

New York Guardian Angels, 1980

Everyone needs a guardian angel, including the crime-ridden city of New York in the 80’s. In New York of the 80’s crime rate was off the roof, and citizens decided to take the law to their own hands.

These were unarmed volunteers that operated in New York’s subway – one of the most dangerous spots in the city back then – and kept out an eye for crimes.

The invention of the hair dryer, 1890

No, it’s not an alien machine operating on her brain – it’s the first ever hair dryer. A lot less elegant than the one we know, right? But still, that’s what people used to dry their hair.

The picture shows the first hair dryer, invented by a French stylist (what else?) in 1890. It was decades of using this cumbersome machine before progressing to the hand-held dryer that we all know and love.

The great depression, 1931

The great depression was the worst economic collapse in the history of the modern world, lasting for over a decade.

This photo shows a common sight of these harsh days – unemployed men waiting in line for free soup.

Rat catchers, 1900’s

Next time you complain about your job, remember that some people hunt rats for a living. A very important yet underrated profession in the 1900’s was a rat-catcher.

They were especially popular in Europe, where rats spread diseases such as the black plague. As important as it was, they had a dirty job, which included mostly hunting for rats inside the sewers.

First Vikings game in London, 1983

Every proud American watches the NFL religiously, but only a few were around to watch the first Vikings game of the NFL in London.

The Vikings in London were mistaken to be an actual group of Vikings rather than football players. Their intimidating size didn’t help with the confusing name.

The Beatles concert, 1961

The band playing in the background of this photo is no other than the legendary Beatles, before they became legendary.

This photo was taken in 1961 at one of the band’s less successful concerts, as you can see in the picture. Only 18 people showed up to this concert.

The Human Owl Martin Laurello, 1930’s

Back in the thirties, before smartphones, people did some crazy stuff for entertainment. The German-American performer Martin Laurello could turn his head 180 degrees and made a career out of it!

You must admit, it is rather extraordinary; not many people can put this talent on their resume. No one really knows how he pulled it off, but it probably has something to do with being born with a slightly bent spine.