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Unbelievable Photos of History You Probably Didn’t Know Exist

Black and white is enough to make most photos look odd. But there is a lot more going on with these photos than just their lack of color. Just a few short decades ago technology was a lot different than it is today. And that changed the way people interacted and worked. Some of these photos are hilarious simply because are they are so archaic. Other photos are unbelievable because it is hard to imagine anyone of any age taking part in these activities.

You will find it hard not to laugh, and not to look twice at what some of these people are doing. Before video games, iPads, and virtual reality, there was just real life and a lot of imagination. These pictures show people making the best of their worlds. They're a great representation of just how kooky past generations were. So, the next time your grandfather tries to tell you how crazy your generation is, you can return the compliment right back at him.

Wheelies Come to Life - 1936

The first wheelie to ever be caught on camera occurred in Ohio in 1936. While some people think that the first photographed wheelie took place in 1943 in Life Magazine, this was published in the Cleveland book, The American Legion. The car popping a wheelie is a Ford Model T.

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Neil Armstrong Sheds a Tear- 1969

Buzz Aldrin snapped this photo of an emotional Neil Armstrong just moments after he became the first man to walk on the moon. It may have been one small step for him, but he obviously felt its impact on the world. The spacesuit Neil Armstrong wore during his trip to the moon is on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

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Baby in a Cage- 1920s

In the 1920s, city dwellers thought their babies needed fresh air, so similar to the catwalks we see on homes today, parents would stick their babies in a cage off the side of their windows. The thinking was fresh air would help build a baby's immune system.

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Mobile Booking Cage - 1920s

Why wait to get to the jail when you could book a thief right away? That was the thought of cops in the 1920s who attached mobile booking cages to the side of their motorcycles. It was one sidecar you didn't want to be in. This particular photo was reportedly taken in Philadelphia, PA.

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Ham the Chimp Lives - 1961

Ham the Chimp was the first humanoid to be launched into space, and when he came back alive, it paved the way for astronauts to soon venture into the great beyond. After Ham's spaceflight, he lived for seventeen years at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

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Creation of Disneyland - 1932

Disneyland was originally planned to be a 16-acre family park. Today it is a massive theme park that draws visitors from around the world. Here is a picture of the park's humble beginnings in 1932. Walt Disney's brother Ron called the idea of Disneyland a "fanciful, expensive amusement park would lead to financial ruin."

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Moonshine Cow Shoes - 1922

Prohibition prevented the sale of alcohol, but moonshiners were still working hard to get their product out to customers. They would often hide in forests and use these cow shoes to disguise their footprints to evade detection by the police. After a newspaper published a photograph of the moonshine cow shoes, the authorities started to pay closer attention to these footprints.

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Women Faced Fines for Short Bathing Suits - 1920

Believe it or not, there was once a time when clothing was regulated, and skimpy clothing was a fineable offense. Police were called out to the beach to check whether or not a woman's bathing suit fell shorter than six inches from the knee. It wasn't until 1937 that men were allowed to go topless on public beaches.

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Animal Therapy - 1956

Animals were first introduced to the world of medical therapy in the mid-fifties to calm patients down. Today you regularly see therapy dogs at hospitals, but when the program started, it was a bit more adventurous with its animal types. Sigmund Freud’s beloved chow chow attended every one of his therapy sessions. In time he noticed his patients were more willing to accept therapy with a dog present.

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German Troops Plant a Swastika - 1941

A sour image that represents a sore spot in world history, this image depicts the German army raising a Swastika over the Acropolis in Greece in 1941. The Greek flag guard, Konstantinos Koukidis, chose to wrap the Greek flag around his body and plunged to his death rather than raise the Nazi flag as his occupiers had ordered.

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NASA Astronauts Practice Water Landings – 1966

NASA prepared their astronauts for space anyway that could, and in 1966, that meant preparing for water landings in the pool of a local Houston hotel. If it had not been for a fire killing the crew of Apollo 1, modern spaceflight might not have ever taken off in the USA. Their tragedy gave the space program more resolve to do their best work.

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Original Helmet Testing – 1912

In the early 1900s, fancy testing facilities didn’t exist, so companies tested their football helmets the old-fashioned way. A man was hired as the test dummy and would ram his head repeatedly into a structure to ensure the helmet held its shape. Plastic football helmets began manufacturing in 1939. The Riddell company believed plastic would protect heads more than hardened leather.

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Sunbathing in a Submarine – 1942

Even in the early 40s, scientists knew that Vitamin D was an essential part of a person’s diet. However, since submarines couldn’t experience daylight, they replicated the experience with artificial rays produced in the sunbathing room. This particular image was taken on the HMS Forth.

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Primitive Boxing- 1897

Today people watch televised boxing on premium cable stations, but in the old day’s makeshift rings were made out of rope and crates and people boxed with their bare knuckles. In essence, it was the UFC before such a thing existed. In 1719, James Figg claimed the first bare-knuckle boxing championship in England. He retained his title until he retired from the sport in 1730.

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Elton John Breaks It Down on a Plane

Elton John playing the piano isn’t that astounding to see, but here the young popstar is delighting his friends while playing onboard his private jet. The private Boeing Jetliner was built to Elton John's specifications for his 1975 US tour.

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Pacific indigenous Get a Close Look at Naval Aircraft - 1943

The locals were quite interested in the American soldiers that would land on their island during World War II. This picture depicts them taking a closer look at the Vought F4U Corsair. The Allied forces practiced Island Hopping in the Pacific Theatre. Effectively, they would leave heavily fortified islands alone and target lesser-defended locals to gain a foothold on Axis forces.

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Albert Einstein’s Messy Princeton Office – 1955

Einstein may have been a genius, but he clearly missed out on the organizational gene. This is a picture of his Princeton desk on the day he died, April 18, 1955. Einstein died of internal bleeding caused by an aneurysm he'd been treating for years.

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Manhattan, New York – 1908

This picture depicts the early birth of Manhattan when it was still an active seaport dependent on shipping activity. You can see the beginnings of the skyline in the background.

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Railroad Pageant at New York World’s Fair

44 million people were in attendance at the Railroad pageant to see the latest innovations in the locomotive technology.

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“The Ice Women” – 1918

Before freezers and refrigeration were an everyday appliance, people had to deliver ice on a daily basis to homeowners to keep their groceries fresh and cool.

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Would You Like Fries with That? - 1963

The original Ronald McDonald was more scary than he was friendly, and this was before ‘It’ came out.

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Shopping with Pets - 1958

Celebrities have always been fans of bringing their pets everywhere with them, but in 1958 Audrey Hepburn took it to the next level by bringing her well-known pet deer, Ip, with her.

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Bailey Circus of Freaks – 1924

The circus was quite a bit different back in the early twenties when people with abnormalities took center stage instead of animal acts.

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Blackfoot Indian Chief Records Native Language at the Smithsonian – 1916

Relations between Americans and Native Americans have always been rocky at best, but this refined Blackfoot Indian Chief agreed to be recorded for posterity at the Smithsonian.

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Cave Inside an Iceberg – 1911

This intriguing grotto was found inside of an iceberg on January 5th, 1911 during the British Antarctic Expedition.

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Neil Armstrong ‘Water Trains’ – 1967

Neil Armstrong practices floating as part of NASA’s water training in swimming pools to ensure that astronauts did not down in the case of a water landing.

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Painting the Brooklyn Bridge – 1914

Not a job for those afraid of heights, a group of painters pose sans restraints from the suspension cables of the Brooklyn Bridge.

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Woodstock – 1969

Woodstock, the most well-known music festival in history, saw massive crowds gather over a period of three days for peace, love, and music.

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Disneyland’s Employee Cafeteria – 1961

Even Snow White has to eat, as this picture depicts the backstage cafeteria where artists could take breaks and grab a quick coffee or bite.

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Primitive Subway at Edgware Road Station – 1862

Watch your head never held more meaning, than on the first underground train located at the London Edgware Road Station.

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Google Opens

Bad nineties fashion marks the beginning of one of the modern world’s most prominent tech giants.

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The Banning of Port Guns – 1860

This two-man gun was designed for duck hunting because it only took one shot to kill more than 50 waterfowl. They were banned in 1860 because bird stocks were unsurprisingly rapidly depleting.

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The Dust Bowl – 1935

Severe draught created the Dust Bowl in 1935. This picture depicts the dust clouds that settled over Stratford, Texas on April 18th, 1935.

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Mobile Library – 1928

The LA Public Library system created a mobile library program that brought patients in the hospital books. It was essentially a bookcase on wheels but was the start of a citywide program.

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Laws Stopped Regulating Women’s Bathing Suits – 1952

Women finally got some freedom on the beach after changes after the war led to regulations that stopped restricting how much fabric should be used in bathing suits. It wasn’t too long after that bikinis would enter the scene.

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Boston Marathon – 1967

Kathrine Switzer became the first registered woman to ever be allowed to run in the Boston Marathon, despite the fact that she faced opposition and physical attacks throughout the entire 26K race.

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Machine Gun Elephant – 1914

During the first World War, soldiers used whatever they could to help increase their aim and attacks. In this case, it happened to be an elephant that was nearby.

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Now Extinct Tasmanian Tiger

The Tasmanian Tiger, native to Africa, is now extinct. It was known for its trademark striped lower back.

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Nevada Transcontinental Railroad – 1968

The picture depicts a Native American looking at over the newly completed transcontinental railroad that would bring development and eventual destruction to his land.

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Abbey Road Reversed

At first glance this may look like the famous Abbey Road album cover, but at second glance the Beatles are walking in reverse. Plus, the keen eye will notice Paul has shoes on.

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Antique Frame

The photo frame was first given to George Turner in 1876. The pictures are of his wife and him.

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Porsche Assembly Line – 1960s

This is a true depiction of how Porsche’s were assembled back in the 1960s. The picture depicts the Stuttgart Factory.

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Benito Mussolini’s Headquarters- 1934

The headquarters of dictator Benito Mussolini located in Italy.

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Chicago Mercury Train – 1936

The futuristic looking Mercury Train was unveiled in Chicago in 1936 in an attempt to get passengers to look back at the rail and away from vehicles.

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Louis Armstrong at the Sphinx – 1961

Louis Armstrong paid a visit to Egypt in 1961 as a cultural ambassador and chose to serenade his wife, Lucille, in front of the Sphinx.

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Kings in One Pic - 1910

Apparently, you don’t have to worry about capturing everyone’s smile when kings are involved. The picture was taken in May of 1910 in Windsor Castle.

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Peasant in Russia Sees Electricity for the First time – 1920

This photograph depicts the very first time a couple of Russian peasants are able to experience electricity.

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Men Drinking Beer in Edinburgh- 1844

This is believed to be the oldest photo of men drinking beer in existence, but it’s a safe bet that there has been beer drinking for centuries.

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WW2 King Tiger Tank – 1944

The King Tiger was the heaviest tank used during WW2 and one of the last large war machines introduced by Hitler.

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Bill and Hillary in the ‘Before’ Days – 1975

This youthful picture of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Clinton was taken at Yale Law School in 1975 while the pair enjoyed a game of volleyball.

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Berlin Wall Construction – 1961

The Berlin Wall in the middle of construction during 1961. It would be decades before the wall was taken down.

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Spray Tan Vending Machine – 1940

Spray tans are all the rage now, but the idea is actually not new. Back in the early 40s all it took was a dime to use the self-serve spray tan vending machine.

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Lifeguards- 1920s

The traditional dress of lifeguards in the 1920s. At the time all lifeguards were male.

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Quarto-cycle – 1939

For some unknown reason, Charles Steinlauf thought that a two-story four-seater bicycle was a good idea. He lauded it as a bike that could hold his entire family, and even allow his wife to sew while in motion.

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Young Pinsetters- 1909

Before the invention of automatic bowling lanes, young boys were paid to reset the pins after the bowler took his turn. In return they were paid in pennies.

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Concentration Camp Fights – 1945

Prisoners at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp beat a kapo, the term for a prisoner who is placed in a leadership role often punishing other prisoners below him.

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Beauty Pageant Winners – 1922

Either these girls take a bad photo, or beauty standards were entirely different in the 1920s.

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Dutch Anti-Aircraft Motorcycle – 1940

This picture was snapped during the German Invasion of May, 1940 and you can see the unique anti-aircraft motorcycle of the Dutch attempting to shoot aircraft out of the sky.

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Civil War Newspaper Delivery – 1863

Newspapers were not always distributed on a daily basis, but vendors did set up at camps throughout the Civil War as they were the best medium of communication.

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Soldier Shooting Pool – 1915

This solider lost both his legs in WWI but was still able make it back to the billiard table as the development of prostheses was underway.

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Times Square in NYC – 1915

It may have been wartime, but Times Square was just as impressive in 1915 as it is today, albeit a lot less crowded.

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Cigarette Vending Machine – 1931

Before the side effects of cigarettes were well known, you could buy an already lit cigarette from a vending machine in England for a mere penny.

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President Nixon Attempts Chopsticks

Former President Nixon appears to be impressed by how his counterpart is able to use chopsticks. Practice makes perfect Mr. President.

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Great San Francisco Fire and Earthquake – 1906

Arnold Genthe snapped this photo of San Francisco after an earthquake ripped the area apart. The earthquake also spawned a great fire that encased a great deal of America’s west coast.

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Saipan Operations – 1944

The photograph captures a Japanese plane after a Saipan battleship shot it down.

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Original Diphtheria Treatment – 1937

An iron lung was the treatment of choice for diphtheria in 1937 at Harvard University.

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Head of the Statue of Liberty – 1886

The Statue of Liberty was assembled in 1886, and it became a game to see who could get th e best photos at different stages of its construction. The head was the most popular item to get a photo of.

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Child Laborers – 1880

These children may look grown up, but this was the average life for many young children that were forced to work in the mines for wages.

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Old Mississippi Steam Boats- 1907

This photo is astounding for two reasons: it is in color and it shows the glory of the old passenger steamer boats. It is also a good representation of the racial disparities between workers and passengers at this time.

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NASA’s Immense Chalkboards

Before you could just scroll down on an iPad, scientists at NASA had to solve long, complex problems. They did this with large chalkboards that required ladders in order to finish equations at the top.

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Manhattan Bridge Construction- 1909

This photograph captures the courage of another photographer brave enough to climb on top of the yet unfinished bridge.

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Titanic Sets Off- 1912

This photo captures the impressive Titanic leaving port in 1912 before it met its tragic end.

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Titanic Boarding Pass – 1912

A picture of an authentic boarding pass purchased by a passenger of the Titanic.

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The Very First Computer

Modern computers are tasked with fitting in your pocket, but the first computer was tasked with fitting in one room. This is a picture of the very first computer, the ENIAC.

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Walton’s 5-10

This original Walton’s Five and Dime Store in Bentonville, Arkansas is now the Walmart Visitor Centre.

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First Hybrid Porsche – 1901

The very first hybrid Porsche, the Lohner-Porsche by Ferdinand Porsche was well head of its time.

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First Female Tattoo Artist – 1907

Although widely accepted today, tattoos were thought to be unseemly and unfeminine back in 1907. This made Maud Wagner even more of a standout as the first female tattoo artist.

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First Interracial Marriage – 1889

Frederick Douglas married Helen Pitts in 1889 becoming the first well known interracial couple. This marriage made both whites and blacks unhappy.

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The Very First McDonald’s – 1948

Today McDonald’s is found in every city and off highway exit, but the fast food giant got its start with just a small menu in San Bernardino, California. It sold hamburgers, potato chips, and orange juice only its first year.

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First Subway – 1965

Subway got its humble start in 1965 under the name Pete’s Subway, even though its owner was Fred DeLuca.

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JFK’s Tea Party – 1960

JFK was known for his cozy family portraits, and this was one treasured memory of his time in the white house. Here he is seen having tea with his daughter Caroline.

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Oldest Aerial Shot of Boston – 1860

This astounding aerial photo of Boston was taken in 1860 from a hot air balloon.

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Star Trek Meets NASA – 1976

The Star Trek crew were visiting the next frontier when they stopped by NASA to see the Enterprise, the first space shuttle. NASA crew members are also featured in the photo.

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Gas Free Baby Strollers- 1938

European citizens were deathly afraid of gas attacks during World War II, but they still wanted to get for their daily strolls. Therefore, the gas free baby stroller was invented to keep infants from breathing toxic fumes.

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Deathly Advertisement – 1944

Malaria was a huge problem in Papua, New Guinea in 1944. Taking Atabrine was very serious, so this promotional item was made to make sure that those affected did not miss a dose.

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King Tutankhamun’s Sarcophagus is Opened – 1924

After laying untouched for 3,000 years, the tomb of King Tutankhamun was opened and inspected by Howard Carter.

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Fearless Advertising

An advertising team displays that the new bulletproof vest truly does work.

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Girl with Prosthetic Legs- 1890

This picture depicts a young girl being supported by prosthetic legs back in 1890.

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Great Depression Tactics – 1930s

The Great Depression led many families to take desperate measures, this young family attempted to auction its four children off to survive.

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Sweden Switches Driving Lanes – 1967

When Sweden first switched its driving lanes from left to right mass chaos ensued, as can be seen by this photo.

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19th Century Alarm Clocks

Alarm clocks were not yet invented in the 19th century, so a man was employed as a ‘knocker-up’ to make sure that customers were awake at a certain time.

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Bear & Honey – 1950

Pooh Bear was not the first bear to enjoy a good cup of honey as this young bear enjoyed some warm honey at a café in 1950.

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Miss Atomic Bomb – 1950

Winner of the 1950 Miss Atomic Bomb pageant.

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Afghan Women Prior to the Islamic-Taliban Era – 1950

Before the Islamic-Taliban took over Afghanistan, women were treated much like their American counterparts. Here they can be seen in casual dress enjoying literature at a public library.

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House Party – 1950

Women in the 1950’s knew how to dress for a party, as can be seen by this colored photo of a house party.

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Pele and Bobby Moore – 1970

This colored shot depicts the pure emotion running through athletes Pele and Bobby Moore following the conclusion of the 1970 World Cup.

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Hindenburg Fire – 1937

The Hindenburg is one of the most infamous disasters known to mankind. This picture depicts when the giant blimp caught on fire on May 6, 1937.

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Duchess Anastasia Smoking

Tsar Nicholas II allows his daughter the Duchess Anastasia to smoke a cigarette.

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Beach Photos – 1912

A picture that is representative of beach styles in 1912 in Atlantic City.

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Marilyn Monroe Loses Her Skirt – 1955

This iconic image was shot in 1955 over a NYC subway gate.

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Article WriterPeg, Heywise Staff

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