27 Historical Photos With Incredible Stories To Tell

When people say that a picture is worth a thousand words, they’re not exaggerating. Just one picture can tell a powerful story that might have shaped the world as we know it today. These are 30 historical photos that have a shocking story behind them – and you probably don’t know most of them!

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

#27. Up in the Clouds

Influencers today have much to envy from the girls in the picture: gorgeous clothes, stylish accessories, and pure glam. It’s hard to believe that these girls aren’t passengers from the plane, but are in fact flight attendants, and looking this glamorous was actually a big requirement to get the job.

Photo: Courtesy of Reddit

Back in the 1960s, flying was super expensive and only wealthy people got to do it. That’s why the flying experience was over the top, and flight attendants had to look the part. They had to be in their 20s, weigh no more than 132 lbs, and most shockingly, be single. Oh, and they had to retire when they turned 32. Hello, patriarchy!

#26. Man Down

Queen Elizabeth II‘s guard is famous all around the world – and for good reason. Not only do they have those funny hats, but they are also famous for having to stand still and not even flinch or speak for hours on end. Now, imagine having to carry that huge hat over your head, a machine gun, and stand still under the hot summer sun…

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

A photographer caught this very rare moment in the Color Parade in 1970 when one of the Queen’s guardsmen passed out just as she was passing by. Nobody knows what was the exact cause of his problem, but the hot weather might have been the culprit. Or maybe he was too nervous to see the Queen up close?

#25. The Hindenburg Disaster

Nowadays, anyone can snap a picture anywhere, anytime, but back in the 1930s, managing to get a sudden event on camera was extremely rare. That’s why this picture of the Hindenburg disaster is a historical wonder, and it marked the end of the airship era. Zeppelins were a common way of transportation during that time, but the Hindenburg crash eliminated airships completely.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

On May 6, 1937, this passenger airship suddenly caught on fire as it was trying to dock. Out of the 96 passengers on board, 36 were killed. To this day, nobody knows what caused the fire, and some people believe it was intentional (although there’s no evidence proving that). Most experts believe it was a technical failure.

#24. The Mestiza De Sangley

This mysterious portrait of a gorgeous woman with luscious hair wearing traditional garments is a total enigma because nobody knows who this woman actually was. The picture was taken by photographer Francisco Van Camp in the late 19th century in the Spanish Philippines, and her beauty has made it famous.

Photo: Courtesy of Joyscribe

The picture gained popularity and people quickly labeled it the Mestiza de Sangley. The term mestizo de Sangley was used to refer to people of Chinese descent in the Spanish Colonial period (16th-19th centuries). The intriguing woman is regarded as the Mona Lisa of the Pacific Islands by many.

#23. Uniform Change

This one is… interesting. As we mentioned before, being a flight attendant in the 1960s was a big deal, and landing a job at an airline was like winning a beauty pageant. That’s why rumors that Swedish Airlines were looking to give their flight attendants very sexy uniforms started spreading like wildfire.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

Swedish Airlines decided to take the rumor as an opportunity for publicity, and famously got this picture of Birgitta Lindman, a Swedish stewardess, measuring a showgirl’s skirt as a joke. Although many people would’ve loved the rumor to be true, it would’ve been impractical and… kinda problematic.

#22. The Chin Tattoo

You’ve heard of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but get ready for The Girl with the Chin Tattoo, a real story about a very peculiar girl who lived in the 19th century. Olive Ann Oatman is commonly known as the first white woman to have a tattoo – and a face tattoo, mind you – but the story behind it is pretty tragic.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

Her family was ambushed by a Native American tribe, and Olive and her sister were kidnapped. She then spent years in captivity living with the natives and was eventually sold to another tribe. Luckily for her, she was adopted by the chief of the tribe, who gave her the tattoo to show she had gone through puberty. She was eventually liberated, but the tattoo remained on her face forever.

#21. Perfect

Actress Jamie Lee Curtis became famous after her debut in John Carpenter‘s horror blockbuster Halloween, in 1978, and later went on to star on a series of horror movies, which earned her the title of Hollywood’s Scream Queen. But in the 80s, Curtis decided to try something new and started doing romantic comedies.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

This iconic picture of her incredible body in a revealing leotard shows her in all her 80s glory and was taken during the filming of Perfect, which she starred alongside John Travolta. The movie was about an aerobics instructor who falls in love with a reporter investigating health clubs. It doesn’t get more retro than that!

#20. Fighting For Freedom

This famous mugshot shows Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, a civil rights activist who was arrested for her activism to promote equality in the 1960s. In light of the Civil Rights Movement, Joan decided to drop out of college to join the Freedom Riders, which was a group of black and white activists that protested bus segregation in the south.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

During one of their protests, one of the buses they were riding was set on fire, but Joan managed to escape. Although their protest was non-violent, they were arrested, and Joan was actually put on death row for two months. Luckily, she was released, and she spent the rest of her life fighting for what she believed in.

#19. Space Invaders

Space Invaders is one of the most influential and popular video games of all time. This 1978 arcade game became an immediate commercial success back in the day, and it was at one point the best-selling video game and highest-grossing entertainment product. Thus, you can imagine that playing this game was a big deal.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

This legendary photo shows the National Space Invaders Championship of 1980, where over 10,000 people participated. And just look at those huge screens! This event was actually the first large-scale video game competition in the world, can you believe it?

#18. Presidential Look

We know that being president isn’t an easy job, but if you look closely at before-and-after photos of presidents, you’ll notice something odd: most of them age incredibly fast while in office. This odd phenomenon has shocked people over the years, but we are yet to find an explanation for it.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

These two pictures of Abraham Lincoln show how much he aged in just four years. He was just 52 years old when he became president, yet it seems as though he aged at least a decade. When studying several presidents’ medical records, Dr. Michael Roizen concluded that the overwhelming levels of stress of the job cause presidents to age twice as quickly as normal people.

#17. All-White School

Before segregation was outlawed, white people and black people couldn’t ride the same bus, go to the same school, and couldn’t even marry each other. There were also separate water fountains, restrooms, restaurants, and other public places. But even after segregation ended, black people faced hostility when trying to integrate into places that were formerly only reserved for white people.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

This picture shows Dorothy Counts, a young girl who became the first black person to attend Harding High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, which was an all-white school during segregation. Sadly, Dorothy was constantly harassed by white students in and out of school and had to be escorted for her safety.

#16. Boxing Day

There was a time when boxing was the most popular sport in the United States. In fact, its popularity peaked from the 1920s to the 1950s and was enjoyed by both men and women alike. Boxers made twice as much as baseball players, while now the sport barely gets any mainstream attention.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

This iconic photo from Sports Illustrated was taken in the 1930s, and it shows a group of women boxing on a rooftop. It was taken at the Ball Building, Paramount lot in Hollywood, where many popular films were made at the time. This picture is representative of Hollywood’s golden age, which coincided with boxing’s.

#15. Babe Ruth

George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr. was a baseball legend that changed the sport as we know it today. During his career in Major League Baseball, which spanned 22 seasons, he broke several records, and eventually became one of the greatest sports heroes in the United States.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

One of his greatest achievements was the fact that he hit 714 home runs during his career. This picture shows Babe hitting his 700th home run on Friday 13th, 1934, a year before he retired. However, his record for hitting the most home runs wasn’t broken until 1974. He passed away in 1948.

#14. Legs For Days

No, this is not an optical illusion. The man with those fabulous legs is Robert Wadlow, the tallest person who ever lived. Also known as the Alton Giant and the Giant of Illinois, Wadlow reached 8 ft. 11.1 in (2.72m). Unlike most people, who stop growing when they reach adulthood, Wadlow kept on growing due to his condition. Although he always had a smile on his face, his abnormal hormone growth made him live in constant pain.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

By the time he reached his twenties, Wadlow could barely feel his legs and feet and needed braces when walking. However, he never let his condition ruin his mood, and enjoyed the fame that his great height provided him. Sadly, he also suffered from an autoimmune disorder, and he passed away at the age of 22 after an infection spread through his body.

#13. MLK And The Burned Cross

Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights activist who became the leader of the civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. He is remembered for his fight against discrimination without the use of violence. During this time, King received countless threats and faced many attempts against his life, and was even arrested during a protest.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

This photo shows MLK removing a burned cross placed in front of his house by the KKK. It became famous because of how nonchalantly he removes the burned cross from his lawn, still maintaining his nonviolent stance. Not only that, but his attitude shows that he was so used to receiving death threats, that it didn’t affect him one bit.

#12. Prison Break

This picture was famous during the 1950s because of its bizarre nature. It looks as though a man was in a roller coaster and his cart sort of detached and threw him in the air, but the real story is far from funny. At the time the picture was taken, prison inmates didn’t get the most humane treatment, especially if they were on death row.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

Prison used inmates for all kinds of dangerous things, for example, making this death row prisoner test if a safety-net worked or not by making him slide off a ramp and hopefully land on the net. They figured that, since the man was waiting for the electric chair anyway, it wouldn’t be so bad to put him up for the task. Luckily, he survived!

#11. The Hippomobile

This picture calls for many questions, the biggest one being how? This random man somehow got a hold of a hippo and managed to make it cooperate and drive him around in a carriage he specifically built for this purpose. Although they look super cute, hippos are actually one of the deadliest animals out there.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

In fact, hippos are extremely aggressive toward humans and kill about 500 people every year. At one point, they were considered the most dangerous animal in Africa. However, considering how cars are contaminating the environment, riding a hippo might be a greener option.

#10. Bill Gates And The Data Tower

No, Bill Gates and the Data Tower isn’t the newest young adult fantasy novel in the market. It’s actually a legendary photo of the creator of Microsoft showing how much data can be stored in a CD. The picture became popular all over the world, as people were amazed by the power of the newly-invented device in 1994.

Photo: Courtesy of Imgur

You can imagine that, at the time, this picture was mindblowing, and it served as a genius market strategy that made everyone run to the store to get hold of a CD. Before CDs, people had to store their data on several floppy disks and huge hard drives which had very little memory. Now, imagine if he made a tower of all the money he’s made!

#9. Abandoned Asylum

This super creepy picture isn’t from a horror movie set – it’s a real abandoned asylum, and it has a tragic story behind it. The Pennhurst Asylum became notorious in the 1960s after a news report uncovered that patients at the institution were kept in inhumane conditions. The scandal surrounding the asylum was at the center of the human rights movement that revamped healthcare concerning the mentally and physically ill. But it doesn’t end there.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

After the asylum closed down, it became a favorite site for fans of the paranormal, and many claim that the place is haunted. The state of Pennsylvania decided to profit off of it, and the place is now a major tourist attraction, operating like a haunted house, and tourists can even book ghost hunting tours.

#8. Being Civil

The American Civil War changed the United States as we know it today. Of the many battles that were fought during the war, which spanned from 1861 to 1865, the most famous one is the Battle of Gettysburg. It was the battle with the most casualties, and it is known as the war’s turning point.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

On the 50th anniversary of the battle, the 1931 Gettysburg reunion took place. It was the largest veteran reunion in the world’s history, and it brought together veterans from both the Confederate army and the Union. This image captured the moment when the former enemies shook hands as a symbol of peace.

#7. Barrel Mountain

In 1920, the United States had the crazy idea to ban alcohol, and the prohibition lasted until 1933. Needless to say, it didn’t go well for prohibitionists. Not only did people not stop drinking, but the illegal production and trade of alcohol became a serious concern for the government because it couldn’t be kept under full control, as this picture shows.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

This massive tower of barrels consists of an insane amount of liquor barrels that were confiscated by the government. Shortly after this picture was taken, the barrel mountain was burned, and sadly, we don’t have a picture of that. This practice came to an end, however, because the economy literally crashed thanks to prohibition.

#6. Just Two Buddies Sailing

This looks like an ordinary photo of a group of friends enjoying a fishing trip in the open sea, right? Well, actually, the two men you see in the center of the picture are Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who led the Cuban Revolution during the 1960s. The two met in Mexico City and decided to sail together aboard the yacht Granma, which is the one in the photo.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

The pair and a few other men sailed to Cuba intending to overthrow Fulgencio Batista, a dictator backed by the United States who was in power at that time. The revolution turned out successful, but Che was captured and executed in Bolivia in 1967. Fidel, on the other hand, gained power over Cuba and ruled until his death in 2016.

#5. Boom

Luckily, volcanic eruptions don’t occur very often, but when they do, it can be a real disaster. Such was the case of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines, in 1991, which was the second biggest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. The eruption resulted in high-speed avalanches of ash and gas, a massive cloud of volcanic ash, and giant mudflows.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

The eruption also caused thousands of small earthquakes in the area surrounding the volcano, and thousands of tons of toxic gas were released into the air. Luckily, the government predicted the eruption and evacuated the area before, saving over 5,000 lives. Although there were no casualties, the Philippines still has to deal with the consequences of the eruption today.

#4. Some Things Never Change

This picture seems funny nowadays, but back in the prohibition days, the right to drink was a real concern for many people, who took to the streets to demand that the government lift the ban on alcohol once and for all. Thousands of people all over the country protested, but sadly, it didn’t help much.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

What happened during prohibition was that gangsters who illegally smuggled and produced alcohol became insanely rich – the famous Al Capone was among them – and even police officers participated in the business. Out of 7,000 arrests, only 17 ended in convictions, proving once more how unsuccessful prohibition was.

#3. The Astrochimp

Forget Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, Ham the Chimp is the true American hero we must all remember. In the early years of space engineering, scientists were too afraid to send people into space without testing the equipment first, so, unfortunately for them, they sent different animals to test the spacecrafts.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

Ham was the first ape to go to space, and he took off to infinity and beyond on January 31st, 1961. He received intensive training for two years before his mission, where he learned to do simple tasks responding to lights and sounds. His mission was successful and he returned to Earth safely after 16 minutes and 39 seconds.

#2. They See Me Rollin’

This cool, unfazed dude is Alfred Hitchcock, the legendary film director that changed cinema forever. Known as the Master of Suspense, Hitchcock directed over 50 feature films released over 60 years, his most famous piece being Psycho, which was released in 1960. Can you believe that even though he was one of the most influential directors of all time, he never won an Oscar?

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

But that fact never seemed to bother him. As you can see in the picture, he was extremely confident and always did his own thing. So confident, that he just decided to pose for a picture on a random bike at the Cannes Film Festival.  Why? Cause it’s Hitchcock!

#1. Brigitte On The Beach

French actress and singer Brigitte Bardot was one of the most recognizable faces during the 1950s and 1960s. She appeared in movies such as And God Created Woman, Contempt, and A Very Private Affair, and quickly became a sex symbol of her time. Although she decided to retire from the spotlight in 1973, she is still an important pop culture icon.

Photo: Courtesy of Direct Expose

Photos of her at the beach in Cannes, France, shocked the world and became instantly iconic. Her talent, charm, and natural beauty are what made her stand out from the crowd. However, she got tired of all the attention and retired from acting and singing, and became an animal rights activist instead.

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    Angeles

    24 - Argentina.

    She's a journalist and a website developer based in New York.

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