22 Stirring Photos That Reveal More About the Past Than Any History Book
We can’t reverse time and change the things that happened. But old photos help us see the past. We can even feel the emotions that the people in the photos experienced and learn more about the stories of the past.
Bright Side turned into a time machine for a little while to tell you some amazing stories about the past through these old photos.
A typical medical examination on a spaceship, 1973
Scientist-astronaut Joseph Kerwin gives an oral exam to Astronaut Charles Conrad, Jr. They have to work in weightlessness and there is a belt on the patient’s leg. It’s the only thing that is holding him down. An astronaut’s health is extremely important, this is why a doctor should always be able to find a way to observe their patient.
Olympic games in Tokyo, 1964
This group of people wearing white clothes are not some VIP spectators. They are special observers for running competitions. The thing is, video was not used to determine the winner of the Olympic games at that time. Around 20 judges were there to make sure that they got the winner right. And the photo-finish was used 4 years later during the Olympic games in Mexico.
A young French woman’s hair is being cut off as a punishment for a connection with the occupation forces, 1944
Women who had personal relationships with the Germans were later shaved bald in public. This was a way for the French to label them. Everyone could see who had betrayed their country during World War II. More than 20,000 women were punished. And the connection with the Nazis was not always the real reason. Some people just used it for revenge or other reasons. People in France try to forget about this shameful period in the history of their country.
Live chess in Saint Petersburg, 1924
This photo shows a fun way to spend free time. This performance was put on in the Palace Square. 2 real chess players, Peter Romanovsky and Ilya Rabinovich, played the game and soldiers of the Navy and the Red Army were the chess pieces. 5,000 people watched the game. As it turned out, live chess is an old and popular kind of entertainment. Our ancestors played it even back in the 15th century.
Stella Liebeck, a woman who got a crazy amount of money in damages from McDonald’s because she spilled hot coffee on her lap, 1995
Stella’s lawsuit against McDonald’s was one of the most debated lawsuits at the end of the 20th century. She bought coffee at a McDonald’s drive-thru in her town. Stella couldn’t open the lid to add sugar so she put the cup in between her knees and pulled the lid off. As a result, the lady spilled the coffee on her legs. She had 3rd-degree burns and she had to have skin grafts.
After that, Stella asked McDonald’s to pay for the treatment. The company only offered $800. Stella filed a lawsuit charging McDonald’s with making dangerous beverages. The jury’s verdict was: $ 2.7 million in compensation. Stella only received $640,000. Since then, people have been debating whether this case was serious and if it really deserved that much attention.
Arches in Japan that miraculously survive a bombing in 1945 and an earthquake in 2011
These 2 photos went viral after they appeared online. Many people thought that both pictures showed the same arch that survived both the 1945 Nagasaki bombing and the 2011 earthquake. It is not exactly known if the first picture shows Nagasaki or Hiroshima but we know for sure that the second photo was taken in Otsuchi. So, the arches are definitely different. But the fact is still thrilling — both arches survived extremely destructive events.
One of the first light bulbs, 1900
This was the first prototype of the modern light bulb. Even now, scientists are still debating who invented this device. Was it Edison, Lodygin, or maybe someone else? Unfortunately, this photo can’t give us an answer to this question. More than that, this photo sparked another discussion. Some researchers believe that it shows the first anesthesia machine.
Banned women bowling, 1900
These women are basically breaking the law by playing this famous American game. In 1895, the American Bowling Congress issued the rules which stated that women couldn’t bowl equally with men.
There were some reasons. In the beginning, the balls were made of very heavy wood. It was really hard for women to even lift the balls. The Women’s International Bowling Congress didn’t exist until 1917. But for the ladies on the photo, heavy balls, uncomfortable dresses, and the rules didn’t mean anything.
Solid air experiment, 1901
The photo of this strange experiment was captured at the beginning of the 20th century. “Solid air” is not a unique chemical, but a piece of ice and this is really obvious for modern people. But for the scientists at the beginning of the 20th century, the studies had only just started. The person in the photo probably decided to check and see if the piece of ice would break or turn into a mixture of gases and evaporate. An experiment is a great way to check.
The first bananas in Norway, 1905
There is a first time for everything and people from this Scandinavian country saw and tasted bananas for the first time at the beginning of the 20th century. The suppliers are even posing for the photo. And now, people in Norway grow their own bananas and other fruit in modern greenhouses.
Passengers being transported over ice to shore in June, 1920
This was how people were transported from the ship to the shore of Nome, Alaska. Because of the thick ice, the ship couldn’t get closer, so the travelers and their luggage had to be transported on dogs. And if the information under the photo is true, people had to do this even in the summer.
Unemployed men are in line to get a free meal at Al Capone’s cafe, 1931
The famous criminal opened this cafe in Chicago. During the Great Depression, every second person in the city was unemployed. They literally had nothing to eat. Al Capone decided to kill 2 birds with one stone: both help the people and restore his public reputation.
The people of Chicago were fed 3 times a day. Al Capone was out there talking to the citizens and the visitors later told the media that they got far more help from the gangster than from the government.
A cow is being painted with white stripes to make it more visible during blackouts in Great Britain, 1941
This was done to protect the animals. During the bombings in the years of World War II, many cities didn’t have electricity, so it was really dark. But after the electricity was turned back on, many animals were hurt in accidents near roads and unfortunately, many of them died. But the solution was simple: just paint the cattle white. It was easy to see white in the dark and nobody would run over the cows.
Dorothy Counts, the first black student who went to a school for white people, 1957
Harding School in North Carolina was the first school to allow children of different races to study together. But society didn’t handle this news very well. Dorothy had a really hard time at this school in the beginning. She was mocked and spat on. And there was an entire group of kids against her at the doorstep.
On the 4th day, her parents didn’t want to let Dorothy go to school. But her courage, confidence, and desire to fight for her rights was stronger. After that, Dorothy went to a different mixed school and finished it.
The rescue of Terry Jo Duperrault, 1961
An 11-year-old girl spent several days at sea without food or water, she had a bad sunburn and she was hallucinating. She was rescued by a crew of a Greek freighter near the Bahamas. It wasn’t until several decades later that Terry Jo Duperrault decided to talk about what happened and even wrote a book.
Terry’s family went on vacation on a boat. But the rest was tragic. During the voyage, the captain of the boat decided to kill his wife to get the insurance money. He also got rid of all the witnesses of the crime — the Duperrault family. Terry survived miraculously and escaped from the murderer on a lifeboat.
Princess Anne visiting her bodyguard Jim Beaton in the hospital, 1974
In March 1974, Princess Anne was almost killed by Ian Ball, a man with a mental disease. He stopped the Princess’s limo that was going back to the Buckingham Palace and started shooting at the car. 3 people were injured in the shootout. Jim Beaton, the bodyguard of the Princess was shot 3 times.
Anne and her husband were miraculously unharmed. Not a single bullet hit them. Ian Ball was charged with attempted murder to the Princess’s bodyguard.
Samantha Smith at a reception in Moscow, 1983
This girl became famous after she wrote a letter to Yuri Vladimirovich Andropov, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Samantha asked him why he wanted to conquer the entire world, if there would be a war between the USSR and the US, and how Andropov was trying to prevent it. The General Secretary gave a detailed answer to the girl and invited her to visit his country.
Samantha saw several cities, and many exhibitions and events, lived in the Artek Children Center and of course, attended a traditional tea party.
A soldier rushes to help a hot air balloon, 1990
At the beginning of the 1990s, the first Balloon festival was held in Leningrad, Russia. It was held in the most beautiful historical places: The Catherine Palace, the Palace Square, and near the Russian cruiser Aurora.
Regular soldiers helped with this festival. For example, this young man in the photo jumped out of the car in order to hold a balloon before it was about to take off. Many soldiers helped to hold the balloon to make sure the spectators would see them for long enough.
A woman hears the news that Nelson Mandela was released from prison, 1990
For almost 50 years, the locals of the Republic of South Africa lived in isolation and had no rights. President Frederik de Klerk actively fought the apartheid regime and wanted to return black people to power. In 1990, he freed the opposition’s leader, Nelson Mandela, from prison and legalized the African National Congress.
It is hard to imagine what these people, who had never known the taste of freedom and equality, felt. The woman in the photo cried when she heard Frederik de Klerk’s speech.
Princess Diana visited the Taj Mahal alone, 1992
The public was in a constant discussion about the relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana, including their cheating, arguments, and a possible official divorce. The spouses already lived separately. On February 11, 1992, Prince Charles indirectly confirmed the speculations. During his trip to India, he left his spouse alone at the Taj Mahal.
Later, Charles would say, “A wiser Prince than me would prefer to visit the Taj Mahal that day with his wife.” 12 years before that, a photo of the Prince was taken in the same place. He dreamed of visiting it with his wife. But they never got to take a picture together.
Young evacuees of Hurricane Katrina, US, 2005
Hurricane Katrina was one of the most destructive natural disasters over the course of US history. Hundreds of thousands of families lost their homes and lived in RVs even as long as a year after the event. The Astrodome Stadium in Houston was a temporary home for 24,000 people. They tried to comfort each other, have a regular life, play, and entertain themselves right on the field.
Israeli schoolgirl shows off the Leonardo DiCaprio sticker on her phone, 2007
In 2007, Leonardo DiCaprio secretly arrived in Israel in order to spend some time with his girlfriend, model Bar Refaeli. However, paparazzi were already on the same plane with the actor and lined up at the house of the model waiting for the famous couple.
But it was not only journalists that were waiting for the actor. For example, this 8-year-old girl dreamed of meeting her idol and so she spent a lot of time near Bar Refaeli’s house. This allowed the girl to get on camera and also become famous, at least for a short time.
Which of these stories seemed the most unexpected to you?