There are certain moments in history that stay with us. They are the moments when we witness a world champion in the making, a piece of technology that will change our lives forever, or an event that is so beautiful or shocking that we can’t get it out of our minds. These photographers managed to catch some of those moments years before smartphones and digital cameras made it simple to snap every moment in real-time. From a massive snowstorm that basically shut down New York City to the creation of America’s war machines — these photos will really stick with you after you’ve seen them.
Cassius Clay at 12 Years Old in 1954
A very young Cassius Clay, AKA Muahammad Ali, posed for this photo when he was just 12 years old. Ali started his boxing career in a unique way. After someone stole his bike he told a police officer he was going to “whoop whoever stole it.” That policeman wanted to help the young man channel his aggression. He soon introduced the young boy to boxing and the rest is history.
Models Pose in Wooden Swimsuits in 1929
The Gray Harbor lumber company put out this ad in an attempt to promote their various products. Each model was personally fitted with a custom wooden bathing suit. The bathing suits were made out of spruce wood. They couldn’t have been very comfortable, but wood floats so they might not be the worst idea in the world. What about the massive exposure to possible splinters, though?
Al Capone’s Prison Cell in 1929
Al Capone was housed as the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia in 1929. During his stay, he convinced some of the guards to work for him. They smuggled in various goods which allowed the mobster to live with a level of luxury other prisoners were not close to receiving. His cabinet radio would be the equivalent of having a big screen TV in your jail cell these days.
Experimental Russian Tsar Tank in 1914
In 1914, engineers in Russia attempted to build a massive tank unlike anything the world had ever seen. It was a “trike style” machine that required two massive 27-feet-tall wheels on a track. The smaller wheel on the back of the vehicle was estimated to be just five feet tall. The enormous wheels were supposed to help Russian soldiers climb over large objects. Instead, incorrect calculations led to the machine’s weight skyrocketing while its power output was far too weak.
California Drought Brings the Skateboarding Craze of the 1970s
A massive heat wave and drought swept across California in the 1970s. That drought led to in increased number of empty swimming pools, drainage ditches, and other concrete surfaces that were not filled with water. Those concrete surfaces became areas where skateboarders could thrive. While skateboarding had been around since the 1950s, it was the era of the drought that really helped this sport take off. A movement was formed and a sport iconized.
The First Moulin Rouge in Paris Before it Burned Down in 1915
The infamous Moulin Rouge is pictured in 1914. It was the first location for the venue and it would burn down just one year later in 1915. There was a short circuit in a storage room, which quickly spread to the rest of the building. The entire iconic building was lost to the blaze, leaving nothing but a rubble pile of waste behind. The business launched in 1889 by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller. They were also owners of the Paris Olympia.
Model Nena von Schlebrügge – Mother to Uma Thurman – Posing in 1963
Nena von Schlebrügge was photographed in 1963 by Norman Parkinson. She posed with a famous statue of the Sphinx. The photo would go on to appear in Great Britain’s high society publication, Queen Magazine. What many people might not know about this beauty is that she is the mother of Hollywood Actress, Uma Thurman. There is a lot of beauty running through their DNA.
The Great Blizzard of 1947 Brought New York City to a Near Standstill
On a blustery New York City day in 1947, a massive amount of snow fell in 24 hours. The city was hit with 25 inches in 24 hours. The snow started at 3:00 am and continued into the following night. There were only a few inches in the morning but by midday the snowfall turned into a massive blizzard. This photograph shows many vehicles stuck exactly where they were abandoned for a short period of time.
Open Air Schools in the Netherlands in 1918
Tuberculosis was a very serious situation around the world in 1918. In the Netherlands, officials were worried about sending children to single-room schools because they would be placed in an environment where spreading the disease was highly likely. Instead, they found semi-rural areas and began teaching children outside — even in the winter. They believed the open air, good ventilation and exposure to the sun would be a nice change for school-aged kids.
Famous Girls in the Window Photo in 1960
Famed photographer Ormond Gigli pulled off this award-winning photo before the brownstone buildings at East 58th street in New York City were torn down. Gigli heard the buildings were about to disappear and he rushed to assemble a group of 43 models for his shoot. It’s the last known photo of the building before it was demolished.
The Streamlined Chrysler Airflow and Union Pacific’s M-10000 Train in 1934
The Chrysler Airflow became the first vehicle to use streamlining, which helped it reduce fuel assumption while also increasing speed. The Union Pacific M-10000 was the first streamlined passenger train and also the first of its kind to use an internal combustion engine for power. In this iconic photo, two symbols of American craftsmanship and ingenuity are pictured side-by-side.
Chess Grandmaster Bobby Fischer Playing 50 Games at Once in 1964
Bobby Fischer is the most well-known chess prodigies in history. In 1964, he agreed to play 50 chess games against 50 people at one time. He claimed 47 victories, two draws, and one surprising loss. At the time of this photograph, he was the Grandmaster and the World Chess Champion.
Assembly Line for the B-24 Bomber in Ft. Worth Texas in 1943
This photograph revealed the inner-workings of United States Air Force Plant 4. It was one of many locations at the time where military equipment was fully assembled. This plant located in Ft. Worth Texas was used throughout the 1940s to manufacture the B-24 bomber. The plant is still used today and is the workplace for about 17,000 workers.
Sewer Gang Hard at Work in London in the 1950s
Employment with the London Sewer Gang was considered the worst and hardest job in the 1950s. Workers were sent into the disgusting drainage system under the streets of the famous British city. They were tasked with making sure that the city’s sewage system didn’t back up and flood the streets. For all of their hard and disgusting work they earned around $6 per week.
A Giant Man-Made U.S. Shield Made Out of 30,000 People at Camp Custer in 1918
This photo is interesting for many reasons. First, because 30,000 officers and men at Camp Custer in Michigan were asked to help make it a reality. Second, because it was photographed for the purpose of boosting American patriotism. Third, that patriotism was photographed by a British photographer, Arthur Mole. Mole had a 70ft tower constructed at the site so he could get this angle.
First Class Gym Aboard the Titanic in 1912
If guests wanted to use this first class gym on the Titanic, it was made available to them. The gym required a first class ticket and a one shilling fee to gain access. It actually included some electric-powered machinery such as an electric camel, horse, and cycling and row machines. The room included a physical education instructor who was essentially the weight lifting lifeguard for the facility.
New York City Swimmobile in the Late 1960s
Officials in New York in the 1960s came up with an idea to bring swimming to underprivileged areas. They built pools in the back of large trucks and drove them to poor areas. They would then park the giant vehicles and allow people to swim for free. At the end of the day, the “swimmobile” would drive back to its parking garage.
A Food Truck Way Back in 1919
Food trucks are all the rage at the moment, but they have been around for almost 100 years. This 1919 photograph shows off a Ford Model T that was set up to serve sandwiches. Customers could walk up to the food truck and pick the prepared sandwich, fruits, and even beverages that they wanted for their meal. These days, food trucks are modernized with full kitchens but this was still impressive for the turn of the century.
A 19-Year-Old German Pilot Lands a Plane Next to the Kremlin in 1987
Mathias Rust was sent to jail for one year in 1987 after he decided to land his single prop plane right next to the Kremlin in Moscow. During his 500 mile flight, he was warned that failure to turn around would lead to military action. Soviet military defense systems didn’t cause him any harm and Soviet fighter pilots decided not to take his life during his historic (and ballsy) flight.
A Custom Vehicle Built for Tsar Nikolai II of Russia in 1917
This caterpillar-tracked, front ski vehicle was created by engineer Adolphe Kégresse. The vehicle was manufactured for the Tsar of Russia Nikolai II in 1917. It is believed to have been the first off-road vehicle ever manufactured. This vehicle appears to be a Rolls Royce, which was a favorite of the Tsar’s, alongside his collection of Mercedes and Packards. This is definitely the craziest car we have ever seen.