Last Century’s Most Powerful Images

Andre, the Giant

I just love this! A young boy is completely awestruck by the sheer size of Andre the Giant. Did you know that this guy stands over 7 feet and 4 inches tall? How about the fact that he was both a wrestler and an actor? It’s no wonder he loved him so much.

His most famous role was in the film “The Princess Bride,” where his gigantism, the result of an excess of growth hormone, was well used. It is clear from his expression that this little boy loves this gentle giant, and we fully agree with him!

Albert Einstein

It’s Albert Einstein like you’ve never seen him before! A real treat! Photographed in Nassau Point on Long Island, New York, in 1939. Nobel Prize winner in Physics in 1921, Albert Einstein is credited with developing the theory of relativity. It is impossible to forget his contributions to science.

“For his contributions to theoretical physics and in particular for discovering the law of the photoelectric effect”. Seeing Einstein in such a relaxed and happy state is totally different from how he is usually depicted.

The spray tanning craze of the 1960s

Have you ever tried tanning at a salon? Your local tanning salon is your best bet for getting a tan nowadays. This is the best way to get a tan if you cannot go to the beach. How did they do it back then?

A special place was established in 1949 to darken the skin of men and women. This photo shows a blonde woman using a nozzle attached to a machine to spray her skin with tan color. Incredible! Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Indeed! The only difference is the machine.

Ronald McDonald: The Original

Do you fear clowns? I wouldn’t recommend looking at this photo if you are. You may be afraid of clowns, but can you guess who this is? It’s hard to believe, but this was Ronald McDonald before he became the person he is today. Yeah! It’s him.

This is how he looked in 1963. He was the live logo of the fast-food chain, as we all know. As he waves at the crowd and the photographer, he is holding a tray of fries and drinks. He had a cup nose and face paint that made him look like a clown at the time. We are happy that he doesn’t look like this today.

Queen Elizabeth’s Birthday Procession

There are perks to visiting London. You might have wondered how those guards were able to withstand harsh weather conditions, such as standing under a scorching sun or standing in the pouring rain, if you happened to have been one of the few to experience those stiff guards outside Buckingham Palace.

One of the soldiers fainted during the Birthday Procession of Queen Elizabeth in 1970. As she passed by the soldier, he fell flat on his face. Standing in a heavy uniform on a hot sunny day is indeed difficult; we shouldn’t blame him for losing control.

Raquel Welch and Salvador Dali

Are you familiar with Raquel Welch? She was one of the most desired women in the 1960s, as you can see from the photo. This photo shows Salvador Dali painting a portrait of Welch.

Her stunning looks and figure really do explain a lot about why Dali painted such a portrait of her or why the rest of the world was infatuated with her. Dali kissed her hand after finishing the portrait to thank her for posing for it.

Ham the Chimp

We all know about the first chimpanzee to reach the moon. Who is he? Ham the Astrochimp, also known as Ham the Chimp, appears in the photo. In his time, he was regarded as the first Hominidae to travel to space. Thankfully, he returned back to Earth unharmed after taking off from Cape Canaveral on January 31, 1961.

In case you are also wondering where his name came from, he was named after Holloman Aerospace Medical Center in New Mexico. What a chimp! His fame is well deserved!

Mike Tyson and Robert Downey Jr.

I was amazed to learn that Robert Downey Jr. and Mike Tyson had been friends for years. You can see them posing together in this photo. Mike says he would stay in the city at Steve Lott’s apartment when he wasn’t fighting or training. I frequently visited the Columbus Cafe, owned by Paul Herman and Mikhail Baryshnikov. It was near Lincoln Center on Columbus Avenue.

Among the guests at the Cafe were famous actors, actresses, models, musicians, and athletes. Here’s Robert Downey Jr. at a very young age. The movie “Back to School,” starring Rodney Dangerfield, was playing in theaters. It was a huge success. One of his last movies, “The Judge,” starred Robert Duvall – a powerful film. From Mike Tyson’s words, he truly idolized Robert as a great actor and friend.

Queen Elizabeth

A fascinating find for you, World War II had many significant moments, but one picture we still can’t get our heads around is this one. Did you know that Queen Elizabeth once served in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service?

Who would have expected that the Queen of England would look so dashing in uniform? She drove and serviced trucks for the army during the Second World War. Despite being out of the action, she still looks like royalty in her uniform!

Jimi Hendrix

There is much to learn about Jimi Hendrix in this image. It is particularly powerful because it was taken just a few months before his untimely passing at the age of 27 in 1970. He was a talented guitarist who influenced many people during his reign.

He also performed his own music, making him one of the greatest musicians of all time. For his contributions to music during his career, he was even inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Muhammad Ali

No doubt, Muhammad Ali was the greatest boxer of all time. How did he prepare for each match? Cassius Clay was who he was before he became who he is now.

He can be seen training and posing underwater in this rare 1961 photo taken at the Sir John Hotel, in Miami. It is said, float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!

A roller-skating rooster named Buster

If roller skating was popular back then, you would not believe your eyes when you see this photo. The roller-skating rooster Buster can be seen here. It’s true, there is a rooster named Buster!

The photo was taken on Aug 17, 1952, during a photo session with former Los Angeles Times staff photographer Leigh Weiner during which Buster made his way between a girl’s legs. Buster sure has a way with girls!

At the disco, roller skating

The Disco Era! Roller skating and discos everywhere! We definitely can’t get enough of this photo. Did you know that roller skating originated in the 1930s?

Even though it was introduced during this period, it didn’t become as popular as it was in the 1970s. Thanks to DISCO! Hooray! During the skating craze of the 70s, we can see a young woman enjoying her skating with some neighbors in the same neighborhood. She looks so happy!

A time of Prohibition

Have you ever watched Boardwalk Empire? The photo shows alcohol being poured from a window during prohibition. Any business owner will go to all kinds of lengths to make sure their business succeeds.

This business owner’s idea was sadly cut short. Having discovered the illegal activity inside an apartment, the police had to dispose of the alcohol. Due to parallels people draw between contemporary recreational drugs and alcohol, prohibition was ultimately unsuccessful in the long run.

The MGM Lion

Remember the Lion from Hollywood movies in the late 1980s and 1990s? Take a look at this rare photo of the MGM lion roaring before every movie. It was released in 1928. How about knowing the name of the lion? It’s Jack.

All of MGM’s pet lions were given the name “Leo” except for the real lion. Interesting.

Charlie Chaplin and Helen Keller

Did you enjoy the silent movie era in Hollywood? If so, you’ll enjoy this picture. Pictured here is a young Helen Keller seated with the great Charlie Chaplin.

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During the silent movie era, he was regarded as the golden star. Helen Keller was also blind and deaf, so it is no wonder why Charlie Chaplin became the king of silent movies.

Evelyn McHale

Have you ever wondered what happens to a car when a body is dropped from a building? It seems a little masochistic, but it is bound to cross your mind at some point. Evelyn Mchale is in this photo.

Her body was found on this vehicle in 1947 after she leapt to her death from the top of the Empire State Building, which was almost 102 stories high. This photo was taken by a passerby who just happened to have a camera in his hand.

Pablo Escobar

Many Americans, as well as people from other countries, have always wanted to visit the White House in Washington. Look at Pablo Escobar in this picture! Yes, the notorious drug lord had a son? Hard to imagine, huh?

He too dreamed of taking his son to the White House, just like any other normal person. The photo was taken during a day tour in 1980. Perhaps he’s just a softy after all.

The Statue of Liberty

When the Statue of Liberty was being constructed, did you ever imagine what it looked like? Did you know that it was originally built in France before being shipped to New York?

Here’s a rare glimpse at the statue right before it is shipped and carefully assembled on the pedestal just before it gets shipped. As you can see in the photo, she is holding the tablet with her left hand while the workers are constructing the rest of her parts in 1884.

The Mona Lisa

Have you ever been to Paris? What about the Louvre? The museum has many rare paintings. Its most famous painting is the Mona Lisa. The photo shows her being returned to the museum following the end of World War II. They hid her in the countryside to ensure that she would not be stolen and to ensure that her safety would not be compromised during the war.

There is no doubt that the Mona Lisa is among the most valuable paintings in history. If something were to happen to it, the French would be furious!

Lewis Payne

Which tragedy in US history stands out most to you? This photo was taken as confederate veteran Lewis Payne awaited his execution, after he broke into the home of William H. Seward, the Secretary of State, the night Abraham Lincoln was shot.

It’s kind of amazing that this photo of him was taken, since we all thought not a lot of pictures like this were taken.

Anastasia as she really was

As a child, did you enjoy the Disney film Anastasia? Actually, it was inspired by a true story. Although it wasn’t exactly the same, it was pretty close. Anastasia, the missing daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, is shown holding a cigarette while he playfully holds it to her mouth just before she went missing.

Since Nicholas and his entire royal family were executed during the revolution of 1917, rumors spread about his daughter having survived the slaughter and disappeared.

Missile Test Annex at Cape Canaveral

John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson toured the Cape Canaveral Missile Test Annex in September 1962. As seen in the above photo, it’s hard to imagine both the President and Vice President in the same room with the rest of the administration, let alone getting along.

In fact, this rarely happens, and as you can see, everyone seems to already be in a heated argument. Thoughts?

The Moon, 1972

Do you ever wonder what would happen if you left something personal on a place like the moon? If you leave something on the moon, it will remain there. Astronaut Charlie Duke visited the moon in 1972 on Apollo 16.

He decided to take a photo with his wife and two children before his trip. In addition to his footprints, the photo was left on the surface. In the corner of the photo, you can see the tracks of a lunar rover that he brought along with him.

Americans leave Vietnam

In the 1970s, a lot happened. History has witnessed many significant and dramatic moments.  As you can see in the photo, America’s departure from Vietnam was considered one of the saddest and most heartbreaking moments of the 1970s.

Many people tried to flee the country and escape, but they were punched and kicked when they tried to board the last helicopter.

What’s Behind the Picture

Do you like the Beatles? Do you remember their album cover with the pedestrian crossing? Here’s a little secret: the Beatles had to retake the iconic Abbey Road cover a few times before it was exactly right for the cover in 1969.

Alamy Stock Photo

Wait a minute, they’re going the wrong way in this photo! Take a look at this photo of Paul, George, Ringo, and John making their way back across the street for another take. This shot must have gone through quite a few bloopers before getting the right one.

Atomic Bomb

What would an Atomic Bomb look like when it explodes? We see this photo of the Bikini Atoll nuclear testing program, which consisted of 23 nuclear devices detonated by the United States between 1946 and 1958. While it seems scary that the bomb was detonated so close to neighboring islands, these weapons were tested both on and over the reef.

Getty Images Photo by Universal History Archive

It all began with Operation Crossroads in July 1946. The radiation, mainly from cesium-137, rendered all the islands inhabitable. The Marshall Islands consist of 23 islands in the Pacific Ocean, including the island of Bikini Atoll. We don’t see photos like that every day.

Among America’s greatest creations

The creation of Mount Rushmore was one of the greatest achievements of the United States. Originally, it was even supposed to be much larger. Gutzon Borglum is seen looking at the scale model in this photo.


Sadly, the project to develop this scale model was never completed due to lack of funds.

Rainey Bethea

The last public execution known to have occurred in America is depicted in this rare picture. Rainey Bethea was the last person to be hanged in this manner on August 14. As the sheriff of Davies County at the time, Florence Thompson was to hang Bethea, so it was a matter of personal interest and controversy. A former Louisville policeman, Arthur L. Hash, was offered to pull the trigger for her, and she willingly accepted.

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The Americans were disappointed because hash showed up drunk on the day of his execution and missed his shot. Everyone was sad that day!

The Statue of Liberty

Here’s another view of the Statue of Liberty, this time just with her head. An amazing photo shows a young child and a woman as they stand beside her face as it is being assembled in France. It was being prepared for shipment to New York so that it could be displayed as a gift to the United States.

Alamy Stock Photo

While this has been one of the greatest moments in history, it seems a little disconcerting to only take a photo with the statue’s head. The photograph was taken in 1885, which also shows how women dressed back then. What a rare photo!

Elvis in his uniform

Who could forget the reign of Elvis Presley, the Rock and Roll King? I bet it’s hard to imagine him in uniform after all those cool outfits, right? He is seen in this rare photo wearing his military uniform, walking somewhere on the base with other soldiers.

This photo was taken in 1958, quite some time before his career shot to fame. He seems like such a young man in this photo, and we’re not used to seeing him like this. It’s refreshing.

Charlie Chaplin

Can you imagine Charlie Chaplin before he became a star? He is so used to his signature mustache, hat, makeup, and attire, but in this rare photo, he looks completely raw. Before he became famous for silent movies, we see him at 27 years old in 1916.

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Among other things, he was a writer, filmmaker, composer, and writer before he became famous for his silent films. His comedic timing helped him rise to fame during the silent film era in Hollywood, and he continues to be so to this day.

Hindenburg Disaster

This is not a photo of the Titanic. This photo of the Hindenburg Disaster was actually taken on May 6th, 1937, although it looks very similar. As the German airship docked at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst in New Jersey, it caught fire while carrying many passengers.

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The fire killed 36 people, but fortunately 62 people survived. Photographs, newsreels, and eyewitness testimonies from the event were recorded and broadcast to this day. Taking this type of photo was extremely rare. Incredible!


Have you ever been to Disneyland? Where do your favorite Disney characters go to eat? In this picture, we see the Disneyland workers getting their lunch during break time in 1961 in their own worker’s cafeteria.

It may seem like the best job in the world, but it can also be quite tiring. However, we see that they still enjoy what they do, as they all look happy!

London, 1940

A little girl is pictured in this photo as she sits on the ruins of her destroyed home, holding her favorite doll. It’s an emotional photo, and for good reason. It’s filled with emotions. London had just been bombed in 1940.

Getty Images Photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive

In World War II, the German army bombed the city as a part of the Blitz. Hopefully, this little girl is okay.

Berlin Wall

What was the Berlin Wall made for? In this photo, we can see the Berlin wall as it was being constructed back in 1961. West Germany and East Germany were separated by this wall. German Democratic Republic built it to cut off the western part of the city. This was a physical and ideological barrier.

Getty Images Photo by Keystone

As you can see from this rare image, the eastern side is working on building the wall while the other side is wondering what is going on.

Bathing Suits

In the 1920s, there was a specific person appointed by every beach who had the authority to measure every woman’s bathing suit to ensure that it was long enough and not considered indecent. This can never happen today.


When you think about it, back then women’s attire at the beach was very strict; if it was considered too short, she would be fined a lot. The feminist in all of us rejects this idea, and we are quite certain there will be people opposed to it if it were to happen at present.

Martin Luther King Jr.

History’s most iconic role models include Martin Luther King Jr. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. is seen in this photo with his son on the front lawn of his home, picking up a burned cross from the ground. Since he is a calm and loving individual, he removed the cross from his lawn after it was burned there by white supremacists.

Getty Images Photo by Bettmann

It did not seem to bother him much to remove the cross from his lawn, and he did it while his son watched.

Rules of the Road

Is it true that Sweden used to be like England, where drivers were permitted to drive on the opposite side of the road? In 1967, Sweden changed its traffic laws to be more like the rest of the western world, allowing them to drive on the other side of the road.

The situation looks like it’s headed for disaster, but they hit a few snags (pun completely intended). In the photo, you can see how there was a huge traffic jam after the country switched from left to right-hand driving in their country. It’s crazy, but it’s a little hard to believe that such countries could allow such laws like these to be placed without getting into an accident.

Boston Marathon

Did you know that during the 1967 Boston Marathon, a bunch of organizers flagged down Kathrine Switzer? Indeed! That’s true. Those people can be seen in this photo preventing her from crossing the finish line. However, in spite of their desperate attempts, they only failed, and she became the first Swiss woman to cross the Boston Marathon finish line.

Getty Images Photo by Bettmann

Today, none of these sexist situations apply, and no woman is prohibited from attempting such a feat. Well done!

Ahead of the Iceberg

We see here another photo of the R.M.S Titanic as it sailed from South Hampton to New York City. This magnificent ship had been scheduled to set sail on April 10th, 1912, and on April 14th, 1912, just a few days after leaving South Hampton, it hit an iceberg and sank. It was believed to be indestructible, but an iceberg pierced a hole in the frontal area of the ship and made it sink.

Getty Images Photo by PA

At exactly 11:40 P.M., the ship struck an iceberg and sank, killing over 1,500 people on board due to a lack of lifeboats. What a tragedy! The boat carried 2,224 people, and only a few survived. How sad.

Defeat of Japan

Who could forget this momentous occasion in history? This photo has been proven to be one of the most viewed kissing scenes on the internet around the world. It was the V-J Day or otherwise known as the “Victory over Japan Day,” which marked the end of the Second World War.

Getty Images Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt

On August 14th, 1945, as the victory announcement was made, this sailor grabbed a total stranger and kissed her in Times Square in New York City. Who was it that took the picture? Well, his name is Alfred Eisenstaedt and he just happened to take this photo at the right time and place.


One of the rarest photos in history, this photo was taken in 1945 when the Jewish prisoners of the internment camp were finally liberated from Nazi control. The allied forces reached them just in time.

According to the top part of the image, “The photograph below was taken by Major Benjamin at the moment when the first refugees at the train became aware that they were free and started moving toward our troops.” What a sight!

First picture taken with a cell phone, 1997

In 1997, there were no cameras phones, and the internet was still in its infancy. However, Philippe Kahn changed all that. Kahn was developing technology that could instantly share images as a software entrepreneur. Despite a crude setup, Kahn managed to capture Sophie’s first moments and transmit them instantly to over 2,000 people.

Even though he had given birth to something life-changing of his own, nothing can change the fact that he was overjoyed when his own daughter was born. The very first mobile phone camera was created when Kahn wrote some code on his laptop and attached a digital camera to his flip camera. Using his technology, Sharp released the first integrated camera phone in Japan after some refinements.

Wipe Out! 1938

Introducing surfing to California in 1931, Tom Blake was a trailblazer in the surfing world. Blake would go down in history for creating the first hollow surfboard. Blake transformed a Hawaiian tradition into a worldwide sport that became enormously popular. Here we see a group of surfers learning the ropes.

It is one of the few sports that has its own culture and lifestyle. Originally from Polynesia, and adopted by high-class Hawaiians, it soon spread to Americans, Australians, and other countries. Blake did not stop with the surfboard, however; he also developed the first “torpedo” rescue buoy and rescue paddleboard.

The First Walmart, 1962

In Sam Walton’s mind, all he could think about was the American Dream. Walton’s Five-and-Dime was opened in 1962. Who’d have thought it would become a mega-franchise? Taking his time to build his brand and empire, Mr. Walton knew that slow and steady wins the race. The unremarkable store grew into a major American supermarket from humble beginnings, as shown in this photograph.

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On July 2nd, 1962, the first store opened in Rogers, Arkansas, at 719 West Walnut Street. The Wal-Mart Stores Inc. business boomed within a decade of opening this discreet store. At one point, Sam Walton was the richest man in America, and the company became one of the world’s largest corporations by revenue. Walmart has a revenue of $500 billion today. Wow, isn’t that incredible?

The End of World War II

The good news was announced by Truman to the United States of America. It was only right for him to inform his country about Japan’s surrender as the wartime president. The world celebrated. There was no doubt that Hollywood is known for its big parties, so it only made sense that a big bash would be held to celebrate this victory. It would have been quite the spectacle inside the numerous clubs, as well as the debauchery.

The streets were filled with joy, banners were waved and loud songs were sung. At this joyous historical moment, the streets were strewn with celebrations – no rain could dampen their celebration. The golden age of Hollywood was the 1940s, or the “Roaring Forties.” Gleeful images instantly make you feel a part of their joy and happiness.

Let’s go LBJ!

Lyndon Baines Johnson became the 36th President of the United States only hours after tragedy struck one of the world’s most powerful nations. Johnson became president in 1963, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The image captures the moment when Johnson insisted that the former president’s wife accompany him to Washington just hours after losing her husband.

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Lady Bird Johnson described the scene as follows: Jackie Kennedy remained composed, “immaculate…and exquisitely dressed.” Known for her ethereal grace and elegance, the former First Lady maintained decorum even during an extremely distressing and heartbreaking occasion. She kept her cool in a time of crisis because she realized the eyes of the American people were on her.

Case Study House No. 22, Los Angeles

Doesn’t Los Angeles look pretty good from up there? The photograph Case Study House No.22, is perhaps Julius Shulman’s greatest achievement. Shulman took photographs of Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House in the Hollywood Hills in May 1960. Los Angeles is visible through the glass of the home.

A graceful simplicity is captured here, softening what many would consider harsh angles and structures. Shulman placed two glamorous women atop their glass pedestals, looking out over the cosmopolitan kingdom, to emphasize the house’s elegance and minimalism. Living in Hollywood Hills sold the American Dream and the promise of stardom perfectly.

The consumer society

Our modern world seems incapable of slowing down as a result of mass consumption and consequent excess. These feelings and ideas are perfectly captured in Andreas Gursky’s century-turning photo. The image depicting 1001 consumer products, aptly titled ’99 Cents’, ironically became the most expensive contemporary photograph sold at one point.

It is a collage of images taken in a discount “99 Cents only” store in Los Angeles and stitched together with graphic design software. You can create an illusion of sorts by concentrating on the photo. As the consumer pokes their heads among the shelves, the endless rows of merchandise become a colorful mixture of reality and fiction — the image sold for a record-breaking $2.3 million at auction.

1953: The Kennedy Wedding

Jacqueline Bouvier married John F. Kennedy at just 24 years old. She was 12 years younger than him! Around 2,000 fans gathered outside the church, while 800 people attended a beautiful reception at Hammersmith Farm, a 300-acre farm owned by Jackie’s stepfather. There is no doubt it was a fancy, elegant event. In her own right, Bouvier was a socialite, and Kennedy had just been elected to Congress.

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The wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was filled with grace and beauty. Hugh Auchincloss, her stepfather, gave her away in an ivory silk gown with a portrait neckline and a bouffant skirt. Immediately following the reception, the couple left for their honeymoon in Acapulco, Mexico. The look of glee and mirth on the couple’s faces is priceless. Sadly, however, this was to last only 10 years before tragedy struck Jacqueline and the United States of America.

Coke or Coca Cola? 1950

Coca-Cola brought its carbonated drink to France after the Allies won World War II. While the rest of the world had been enjoying the fizzy drink for decades, France was left out. At first, it was met with skepticism, but soon became a joyful celebration. The men in the photo clearly look at the unknown substance with suspicion.

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In 1945, a clever ad campaign tapped into the sentimentality of the French, with salesmen wearing boiler suits to remind Parisians of the Americans liberating Europe at the end of the war. Coke is now called “La Rèvolution du Froid” or “The cold revolution.”

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Written by Dustin Gandof

Dustin Gandof is a writer for BeGitty, a website about news and entertainment. He is interested in a lot of things including the production of music. In college, he studied at North Carolina State University.

A collection of 64 rare historical pictures