This article was originally published on HistoricTalk
We wouldn't blame you if history wasn't your favorite subject in school or even among your top three favorites. Sometimes, people in the past feel so different from us that it's hard to relate to the events we learn about. But that's about to change: these rare snapshots show the old days through the eyes of regular people like us, shedding light on the side of history we've never seen before. So let's travel back in time through these unbelievable glimpses of the past.
When the Discovery of Insulin Changed Lives
In a Toronto hospital ward in 1922, a group of children lays comatose and nearing the end of their lives from diabetic ketoacidosis. With their families already believing them terminal, in walked a group of scientists - including the famous duo of Banting and Best, who just that past summer had been working on an insulin extract. They began to inject the children, and as they moved from bed to bed, each child gradually emerged from their coma!
The scientists had spent the summer working on extracting insulin from pig and cow pancreas for the treatment of diabetes. Just try and imagine the parents' reactions in that hospital room.
Mom and Son Celebrate Pride in 1985
Back in 1985, the mom in this photo had nothing but unconditional love - and some excellent homemade T-shirts - for her son on their way to an LGBTQ+ Pride walk. Pride parades and walks began small with community support in 1970, a response to the Stonewall incident of 1969, when police raided a gay bar on Christopher Street, NYC. Fast forward to the Pride parade of 2016 in New York City, which saw 2.5 million attendees!
This awesome mom and son duo with a sense of humor turn history on its head - not all parents in the 80's rejected their LGBTQ+ - and beautifully articulates what unconditional love and support look like.
A Peek Into the Past of the World's Oldest Living Person
Kane Tanaka turned 119 in January 2022, making her the world's oldest living person, according to the Guinness Book of World Records! Kane was born in Japan, where she lives today. She was married at 19, had five children, and worked in her family's noodle shop until age 103. She was due to take part in the Olympic torch relay of 2021 but was worried about spreading Covid-19 to the other residents in her nursing home.
Kane, who has lived through two World Wars, enjoys solving arithmetic problems and playing Othello. To mark her birthday, the Coca-Cola company made Kane a personalized bottle with her name and age on it - apparently, she is still drinking it at age 119.
One of the "Harlem Hellfighters" Cuddles a Dog
Have you ever heard of the Harlem Hellfighters? This may only have been a nickname, referring to the 369th Infantry Regiment who fought in both world wars. Many African-Americans were keen to fight in WWI but were turned away by the US military. In 1917, all decorated soldiers were called up to fight, and the 369th was formed - made up mostly of African-Americans but also men from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the West Indies.
During WWI, the 'Harlem Hellfighters' fought in US uniforms but on French soil. There, they experienced less racial hatred. The 369th is recorded as the unit that served the longest in the frontline trenches and also experienced the greatest number of casualties during WW1.
Dental Patient in 1920 Calls It Like He Sees It
This little fellow clearly felt called to spread the word! This dentist who claimed to be "painless" was apparently far from it, and so this child vandalized his building with the word "liar." Given the dental practices of the 1920s, his protest was more than likely justified. In one area of history that has changed quite dramatically, people used to wait years to see a dentist. Bear in mind that they also didn't have toothpaste back then!
Then when they finally did go see a dentist, there were no painkillers involved! Novocaine and laughing gas were sometimes used after they were introduced in 1905, but not always. For the little graffiti artist pictured, a tooth extraction without anesthetic was just one step too far.
Even Cats Wore Masks Back in the Day
That's right; we're not the first to wear masks during a pandemic! The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, or 'Spanish flu,' which killed over 50 million people, included some markers of our current pandemic - including stores and schools closing, mask mandates, quarantine, and the eventual rollout of inoculations. Masks were made mandatory when the Spanish flu arrived in California, and refusal to wear a mask could result in a fine or jail time.
With the world still involved in World War I, mask mandates were taken seriously in 1918, as evidenced in this family photo by the cat in a teeny tiny cat mask.
Doggy Portraits of the 19th Century
It's reassuring to know that people were still obsessed with their pets even a century ago. The dog in this photograph was obviously loved so dearly that their human simply had to have an early photograph of them - and was even given a prop to pose with! Unfortunately, in early pet photography, animals were often sedated in order to pose for their picture.
As photography only began in 1816 with the invention of the camera, the desire for pictures of pets was a very early trend. The very first photo of a dog was taken in the early 1850s and was entitled 'Poodle with Bow, on Table.'
A Priceless and Timeless Gift
We love this photo from 1955 of a father - or maybe uncle or grandfather - moments before gifting a sweet little boy with a puppy. The photograph truly captures the anticipation of the little boy - dressed in the style of the period; hands clasped together - on the precipice of life before owning a puppy of his own.
The photo is all the more special for its simplicity in comparison to today's world. There is no big white box with a red satin bow, balloons, confetti, or social media 'reveal' - just the simple act of giving.
Marlene Dietrich's Trousers Were Illegal
In 1933, Marlene Dietrich stepped off a train in Paris, France, to considerable controversy, having flown across the Atlantic for a vacation with her husband. Dietrich's style - her fierce suit, short hair, and shoes - reflected the changing fashions for women during that period. But at the time she arrived in Paris, women in France were forbidden - by law - to wear pants.
The urban legend goes that Dietrich was detained, with the story later debunked as inaccurate. Meanwhile, the French ruling that women may not "dress like a man" was eventually overturned, but not until 2013!
The Teen Who Fell From the Sky
Juliane Koepcke was 17 years old when her plane flying from Lima, Peru to the Amazon crashed - leaving no survivors but her. The plane was hit by lightning and broke into pieces, and - still strapped to her chair - Juliane fell 10,000 feet down into the middle of the rainforest. The teenager spent the next 11 days in survival mode, tending to her wounds with gasoline and eating sweets from the pockets of a dead passenger she found while walking.
She walked for days before coming across a small hut where three missionaries found her and eventually took her to the hospital by boat. Out of 91 passengers on board, including her mother, Juliane was the sole survivor. At just 17, she survived 11 days in the Peruvian rainforest alone.
Man's Second Best Friend Circa 1940
This photo from1940 shows how peeking back into history can reassure us that people have always been people. In the picture, a boy lies in a field with a small newborn lamb cuddled up to his shoulder; the boy's eyes are closed in blissful slumber, and the lamb embraces him. That little hoof slung over his shoulder gets us every time!
While we don't know who took this peaceful photograph, someone paused and took a moment to capture this loving scene. They may not have known the word for 'mindfulness' in 1940, but in a world of upset and disarray, with a terrible war breaking out, someone remembered that it's the small things that count.
1970s Civil Rights Protester Looks Like She Could Be in 2022
Power to the People is one rebellion slogan that has definitely not diminished with time! With the police in the background and the elaborate poster calling for rights for gay people, Black people, women, and students, this rare photo makes for one awesome glimpse into history. The photo is likely to have been snapped during Christopher Street Liberation Day in 1970, which marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots. Thousands of people gathered and marched together through New York City in what is now thought of as the first Pride parade.
How does this photo show us a 'different' side of history? What could be more important than knowing that people have always been willing to stand up for basic civil rights!
When Princess Diana Met Blackadder
This photo of Princess Diana and Rowan Atkinson, the British actor and comedian, joking around with each other was snapped in 1984 at a lineup following the Royal Variety Show - an annual charity performance given in the United Kingdom. Both of these now world-famous figures had only just stepped into their spotlights. Diana had married Prince Charles just three years earlier, while Atkinson shot to fame starring in the hit comedy series Blackadder in 1983.
There was quite the celebrity turnout for the charity event, but as is evident from the adoring gazes of all those pictured, Princess Diana was the real star of the moment.
A Pirate's Life For Barack Obama
Halloween in Honolulu! A young Barack Obama in 1964 is pictured here with his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, presumably in Hawaii, where he was raised. The 44th president, and first African-American president, of the United States of America was raised in Hawaii until he moved with his mother to Indonesia when he was six. Stanley Ann Dunham was an accomplished anthropologist who Obama says was the dominant figure in his formative years and had the biggest influence on his life.
She was an accomplished academic and influential parent figure, but apparently, she could also throw a fantastic Halloween costume together - no doubt the cutest pirate Honolulu had ever seen.
Upside Down-Down Under
Who else can hear this little girl's laugh straight out of this photo?! Show us the father who hasn't wanted to boast his "skills" for his children. Sometimes with more than embarrassing effects. Not this dad, though - this one's highly impressive! Snapped in Melbourne, Australia, sometime during the 1940s, this little girl was clearly delighted with the show and the handstand.
There we thought that aerobic gymnastics was a fairly modern sport, but this photo reflects the calisthenics trend that sprung up at the beginning of the 20th century. Its' health benefits were, and still are, widely recognized, apparently even reaching as far as Australia in the '40s!
Memorial for Hachiko the Dog, a National Hero
Right next to Shibuya Train Station in Tokyo, Japan, stands a bronze statue of Hachiko, the Akita dog, whose story is known all across Japan. His owner, Hidesaburo Ueno, adopted him in 1923, and for two years, the human and dog duo was inseparable. Every day, Ueno would leave for work via the Shibuya train station, and Hachiko would wait there for him to return at the end of the day. This was their ritual until one day, Ueno did not return.
Ueno had collapsed at work and died, never to return to Hachiko. Although the dog was transferred to other owners, he made his way back to Shibuya train station to continue to wait for Ueno - a practice the dog kept up for nine years! The story of his commitment and loyalty was published and touched the hearts of Japanese people across the country. Hachiko became famous - even attending the ceremony for his own statue! - until he passed away peacefully in 1935, as is shown in this rare photo.
All the Rage: Anti-Harassment Shoes for Italian Women
Technological innovations for keeping women safe are not a new idea. Check out these shoes, designed in Italy in the 1950s, intended to keep unwanted attention at bay. Look closely, and you'll spy sharp spurs on both the heels and toes for getting rid of sexual predators! Inevitably, press coverage for the shoes was negative (let's not forget that women did not work as journalists in the 1950s), reflecting only on the 'impression' that women wearing the shoes might exude.
Today there are panic buttons, smart nail polish, and wristbands, among many other tools that women can use to protect themselves.
Brrrr It's Too Cold Out To Smile, Mom!
History might be in the past, but one thing has never changed: babies and toddlers have always been cute. And we have a feeling it'll stay that way well into the future. Take a look at these bundled-up toddlers in their cozy-looking onesies in this photograph from 1968. The picture was taken during a freezing Russian winter. It's a good thing they have their warm outfits and adorable cheeks to keep them warm!
If we had to choose, we would definitely vote for the super warm-looking, cozy 'penguin' onesie over a ski jacket and boots any day.
Moral of the Story Is: Ladies, Don't Expect Too Much
Even way back in 1918, this suffragette didn't have many good things to say about marriage. Or any good things, really. In fact, her advice is pretty brutal! According to the anonymous suffragette, marriage was really best avoided at all costs. Let's be honest; a lot of the things she warns the young ladies of 1918 about remain relevant today. Avoid those Bounders, but don't let a Yard Swiller pass you by. Take note, ladies. The suffragettes, of course, fought for women's equality at the time, and tensions were high.
The fact that a flyer like this was published gives us a glimpse into a fractious moment in time - seconds before women officially gained the right to vote in 1920!
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth: A Rare Love Match
How did they do it - almost 75 years of marriage! Unlike most royal marriages whose partnerships are arranged, Queen Elizabeth and the late Prince Philip were a love match. After eight years of dating, they married, and they were loyal companions until Prince Philip's death in April of 2021. We love this photo side-by-side of the royal couple, how gracefully they aged, seemingly no less in love after 70 years than on the day of their wedding.
Maybe one secret to their longevity is how much time the royal couple spent outdoors over the years, not just lounging about back at the palace. Between polo, hunting, and fishing, they put the screen-addicted generation to shame!
The Things She's Seen
This fantastic photo from the 1994 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is serving us iconic looks and costumes - and a totally astonished bystander perspective. The moment the photographer captured in time is a fun dichotomy: the thunderbolt look of surprise on her face stopped in her path and the unchoreographed mass of bodies right next to her.
The Mardi Gras parade behind this photo went down as one of the wildest in history since the parades began in Australia in 1978, with over 600,000 spectators and 137 floats. 1994 was also the year that the Australian network ABC broadcasted the parade for the first time ever!
Oh to Be Young and in Love
The ink stains and creased corners only add to the loveliness of this rare photo from the past - grandparents, captured in their youth. Her white broderie top, his bashful smile, her dimples, their bountiful hair; oh, to be young and flying high on love! The summer after high school graduation - the whole world is at your feet. Could there be any feeling better in the world for a pair of lovebirds in the 1950s?
We imagine this photo living inside a wallet for many years, being taken out once in a while and lovingly gazed at.
Saturday Night Fever
The iconic moment in this photo is a rare sighting of a celebrity and a royal authentically enjoying themselves! Back in 1985, before scripted Instagram reels or TikTok videos existed, Princess Diana and John Travolta danced together at a White House party with pure abandon, with President Reagan and wife Nancy looking on in the background. The 'people's princess' looked beautiful in a long black dress and pearl choker, Travolta dandy in a tux. He can't keep his eyes off of her!
We're just missing one crucial detail - what music was on in the background as this gorgeous duo danced the night away?!
Standing up To, One Salute at a Time
In 1935, the Nuremberg Race Laws were enacted, outlawing - among other things - the marriage of Aryans to Jews. The man in this photo is thought to be August Landmesser, who joined the Nazi Party in desperate hope of employment, but eventually fell in love with a Jewish woman. They were denied the right to marry under the Nuremberg laws but stayed together, had two children until they were eventually forced apart by Nazi race law. His wife was sent to prison and later murdered in a concentration camp in 1942, while Landmesser was forced to pay for his crimes and went to fight in Croatia, where he was killed in 1944.
Whether it is Landmesser in this photo or not, it is a rare moment of history captured from afar: the man who dared stand up to the Nazis.
Paws for Thought in Battle of the Bulge
Look at a sweet moment on the otherwise bloody battlefield of the Battle of the Bulge, 1944. Historians tell us this was the most crucial battle of WWII, which took place during freezing rain and icy conditions. Tanks had to be cut out of ice, veterans recall eating snow to survive, and injured soldiers froze to death before they could be treated. Where did this little fellow come from, we wonder? No doubt, this pup brought a moment of joy to this US soldier during a treacherous time!
The Battle of the Bulge lasted for exactly a month until German forces were forced to withdraw. This photo helps remind us of the people, the personalities, behind the armor and helmets.
A Genius at the Lake
Theories of relativity aside, Albert Einstein himself was a case study. His famous wayward hair came from the self-neglect that happens when you become a parent (he had no time to visit the barber). Fun facts: Einstein loved to sail, enjoyed playing violin and piano to clear his mind, and was partial to all rich foods. While we're used to seeing photos of the famous genius in front of a chalkboard or at his desk, this shot captured him in an everyday moment enjoying one of his hobbies.
According to his biographers, Einstein was indeed the quirky figure we all imagine him to be. One of his top quirks? He hated wearing socks and apparently, rejected them in favor of sandals and fuzzy slippers.
Sleeping Beauty - Shhh Don't Wake Her
Celebrities - they're just like us. Who better to remind us of this than Diana, the "people's princess." People across the world adored Princess Diana; they loved her for being 'just like us.' She showed her emotions openly, giggled with her kids, ran races at school sports days, and did very un-royal, endearing things. Like falling asleep during official royal engagements! We love this photo of her all beautifully dressed up, dozing in her chair.
As it turns out, Diana was pregnant with Prince William here, and like so many expecting mamas, she just had to give in to the sleepiness when it came - no matter the occasion or how many people were watching!
Welcome Home, Soldier!
First published in Life Magazine in 1945, this incredible photo shows movie star Marlene Dietrich kissing an American soldier returning from WWII. The troops on the USS Monticello had fought across Europe and were on their way to even more training when the boat docked in NYC, and Dietrich made her surprise visit to the boys on board. During WWII, the movie star was known for her anti-nazi activism, taking in French and German exiles - and she was clearly very passionate about the American troops!
"I didn’t know, at 23, I didn’t know necessarily that she was the greatest thing in the world. They said she was a movie star; I was in the mood for kissing," Carus Olcott, the soldier pictured, said when he was 96 years old.
There Is No Pressing Snooze on the Human Alarm Clock
Back in the 1930s, there was no snooze button to drag your hand over, half asleep. There was also no alarm clock or phone chime to interrupt your sleep. Instead, for sixpence a day, a 'knocker-upper' was paid to wake people by tapping long sticks on windows, or as in this photo, a pea shooter! At the time, large factories or mills in England would even employ a pea shooter to go around waking their employees!
Mary Smith, pictured here, was a well-known 'knocker-upper' famous in London's East End for her pea shooter. But her profession begs the question - how did she herself wake up?
The Benefits of Baby Duck Therapy
We only noticed the fluffy ducklings at first glance, but the little girl lying prone in this photo encapsulates a rare moment in history - the treatment methods used during the polio pandemic. Today, animal-assisted therapy is common in hospitals but was a new idea in the 1950s. For kids stuck in hospital for long periods of time with infantile paralysis, as polio was known, animals proved to be a happy respite!
While iron lungs were often used on adults who contracted polio, the less restrictive and less invasive 'negative pressure' ventilator called a 'cuirass' was found to be more useful for children.
Birthday Girl In Tehran, 1973
A young woman in a fun outfit, slicing into her birthday cake, doesn't seem to be that significant! But this photo from the 1970s is on the list for a reason - it captures a completely different side of history for the women of Iran. Prior to 1979, women had the right to vote, could wear what they wanted, served in parliament, on local councils, and were part of the workforce. Then came the revolution, and everything changed, including a massive regression of women's rights.
Today, among many other restrictions on women, there are mandatory dress and headscarf regulations for women in public spaces. But the women's resistance movement is alive and kicking and growing in fervor thanks to social media.
Mask Slackers and the 1918 Flu Campaign
Spanish influenza infected a third of the world's population, leaving millions dead. Just as during the current covid-19 pandemic, schools, theaters, bars, saloons, and restaurants were closed, and citizens were asked to wear masks to prevent the spread of further infection. And also, much like today, the mask mandates generated controversy, rebellion, and backlash. Mask refusers were called 'slackers' and faced fines and jail time for refusing to wear masks, even as millions died of the respiratory virus. Sounds familiar.
The original photo was taken by local photographer Raymond Coyne in November 1918 at a train station in Mill Valley, California, and is authentic - historical records show that jail time of 8 hours to 10 days was given out!
Dont Forget the Giant Baguette
Have we not all, at some point, taken a casual stroll through the streets with six bottles of wine and a giant baguette? No? Truthfully, if a picnic requires six bottles of wine, it certainly makes sense that a giant baguette might also be necessary! There are few foods as iconic as a French baguette. Traditionally eaten as a standard French meal with butter, cheese, and wine, it even has its own law - the French Bread law!
France was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1940 and not liberated until August 1944. This photo captures a simple moment in the life of a French woman in 1945 - who knows where she was on her way to, but at least she was no longer living through a war. Vive la France!
The Shape of His Heart
How great is this picture of a picture that someone thought to take? Lockets, much like the photos themselves, are a fascinating window into the past. Traditionally, a picture or lock of hair would go in a locket, although later on, they were also used for recreational drugs and poison! One of the very earliest types of lockets we know about belonged to Elizabeth I, who had a ring containing her own likeness, as well as her mother's, Anne Boleyn.
Lockets show us a rare and beautiful side to history - the idea that people and the past are not lost; we carry them with us.
Love You More Than the Iguana, The Irwins, 1992
This one was a really wild union. Steve Irwin - best known for his wildlife and conservation work - and his wife, Terri Irwin, were the dream team. They had the ultimate "meet-cute," that first meeting of people who are destined to fall in love, when Terri, 27, came from America to volunteer at the Queensland Wildlife Park in Australia, which Steve and his dad had been running for years. Their love of animals brought them together; they married in 1992 and together grew the park into what is today known as the Australia Zoo. It encompasses 1500 acres and employs 600 staff!
Steve and Terri were inseparable, raising two children together and running the Australia Zoo until he died suddenly and tragically in 2006 after being stung by a Stingray's barb while filming a documentary.
Ziggy Stardust Reigns Supreme
At the height of David Bowie's superstardom and with the release of his album 'Let's Dance,' he went on tour - entitled Serious Moonlight - and played some of the biggest global venues at the time. During a hot July, Bowie played three shows at Milton Keynes, UK, in 1983, to some of the biggest crowds ever seen at a UK musical event. From afar, it looks like he's playing with a field of flowers! However, attendees suffered for their dedication and experienced dehydration, heatstroke, and sunburn at the outdoor event.
“I’m an instant star. Just add water and stir,” David Bowie
Tea for Two Koalas
We heard a few things about koalas that should really be shared. Sadly for them, Koalas are not known for being among the more intelligent creatures on planet earth. It's said that when presented with a plate of picked Eucalyptus leaves, their very favorite leaf to eat from a tree, they don't know what to do with them! Given that fact, this photo of a koala lifting a spoon to its mouth, dated around 1900, seems all the more remarkable.
To dispel even more koala-related rumors, they are also not cuddly - koalas can actually be pretty aggressive. And nor are they bear; they are marsupials. Sorry.
Grandma, We Won an Oscar
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon were just 25 and 27 when they wrote the screenplay for Good Will Hunting in 1994. The movie, about an unrecognized genius with a troubled past, was directed by Gus Van Sant on a budget of $10 million but went on to make over $225 million! It won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay the same year - an incredible achievement for two still largely unknown, unemployed actors from Boston.
They both brought their moms to the Oscars as their dates, so it's up to us to guess who they may have been calling.
Keanu Takes Paris
It's no secret that the entire world loves Keanu. The man can do no wrong! The anti-celebrity, ageless actor was pictured here in Paris in 2003. Since his early roles in Bill & Ted's Adventures through to Speed and The Matrix trilogies, Keanu has starred in his fair share of blockbusters. But it doesn't seem to be that which has everyone enraptured. It's off-screen Keanu, known for his giving, generous nature, and soft-spoken way with people.
Let's not pretend that his looks have nothing to do with it - but it's the qualities of poking fun at himself, donating to hospitals, and acts of kindness reported by those who know him that have won him fans all over the world, and sparked the 'Keannussance' - Keanu culture, including hundreds of hilarious Keanu memes!
Fighting for Raising Teacher's Pay, 1930s
Sometimes a picture transcends time. Like this, a man protesting teacher's salaries, which could have been taken in today's modern times rather than in the 1930s. Even in many developed countries, teaching remains one of the most underpaid and yet, at the same time, highly valued professions. A glimpse back at the past reflects how far we have come, how many things have evolved and changed, but also how far we still have to go in so many other ways.
"When we become a really mature, grown-up, wise society, we will put teachers at the center of the community, where they belong. We don't honor them enough; we don't pay them enough," Charles Kuralt.