Ever since the camera was invented it’s been a wonderful tool for documenting not just our daily lives, but the history of mankind, from our greatest moments to the worst atrocities.
We’ve collected some of the most interesting images of all time, taken throughout the decades and showing all sorts of visions of mankind throughout the ages.
Operation Dominic nuclear tests
This is a shot taken during Operation Dominic – a series of 31 different nuclear weapons tests carried out by the US during the height of the Cold War. This photo was taken on 11 May 1962 and shows the detonation of Swordfish. This particular test involved anti-submarine missiles and W44 nuclear depth charges designed to deal a blow to Soviet submarines.
Wilbur Wright flies around the Statue of Liberty
Wilbur Wright, one of the brothers made famous for the invention of the aeroplane, caused another sensation with this flight around the Statue of Liberty in 1909.
He had been asked to get involved in special exhibition flights that were being put on in order to celebrate 300 years of New York City. The flight took place on 29 September 1909 and lasted no more than five minutes, but caused quite a stir with onlookers and the press.
High-wheeling down the steps of the Capitol building
The American Star Bicycle was a high-wheeler designed with a small front wheel to prevent it from tipping forward. It was originally built in 1880 and this iconic image shows Will Roberston, a member of the Washington Bicycle Club riding it down the steps of the United States Capitol building.
Photographic proof that even back then people were daredevils on bicycles.
RMS Queen Mary full of troops
During the second world war, the retired British ocean liner, the RMS Queen Mary, was used to ferry soldiers from the States to the United Kingdom to fight for the war effort. Here, the massive ship is seen on 20 June 1945 bringing thousands of US troops home. The decks are certainly crowded.
Lady Liberty under construction
The history of the Statue of Liberty is certainly an interesting one. You’ve no doubt seen plenty of photos of Lady Liberty over the years, but have you ever seen those taken during her construction?
Before it was fully built, parts of the statue were constructed in France before shipping to New York. In 1878, the head was shown off at the World’s Fair in Paris. Several years later, in 1885, crates containing the main parts of the statue were shipped via French steamer into New York and construction began in earnest. The rest is history.
Once upon a time, in the 1980s, the tech brand also had some pretty special clothing on offer to superfans. We’ll certainly mark this one down in the history books.
End of Prohibition
Prohibition ended in the States in 1933, in Cleveland Ohio, the people began celebrating almost immediately. Men were seen dispensing beer from a truck with customers able to call Henderson 8030 for more.
FA-18 going transonic
This spectacular view is a vision of what happens when a high-speed jet goes transonic. It’s known as a vapour cone and is, in essence, a cloud of condensed water which has formed around the plane as it passes through moist air at high-speed. This F-18 was photographed with a perfect cloud as it pushed into transonic flight. This happens at the point where parts of the aeroplane are supersonic while others remain subsonic. Shock waves and water condensation create a magnificent view of mankind’s high-speed travel achievements.
The first supersonic flight happened in October 1947 when a Bell X-1s reach Mach 1.06 (700 miles per hour), but this image is a brilliant homage to how far that technology has come since.
The Bowden Spacelander was seen as a marvel of post-war design. It was originally created by British designer, Benjamin Bowden in 1946 and though many were in awe at the time, it wouldn’t go into production until over a decade later, by which time people weren’t as enthused. Only 500 were made, making it one of the weirdest and rarest bicycles ever made.
Motorola remote control
Nowadays we can control our TV viewing with our voices, smart assistants and more. Technology has come a long way. In the 1960s things were a lot different. There weren’t many TV channels for a start. It was in 1956 that Motorola first introduced its transistorised remote control for television.
Motorola wasn’t the first company to release a remote control – that was Zenith Radio Corporation in 1950 – but it certainly made a push towards convenience in the years that followed. This advert was one of many from that time that pushed the ease of use. No more hassle of getting up to change the channel.
Quake II contestants in Lan Party mode
Before superfast broadband, PC gamers got together with their hefty machines and large CRT monitors to play. These LAN parties were serious business and certainly a mark on history that a lot of us won’t forget.
Masks for plague prevention
This vision from 1912 shows uniformed workers with special gear to help them avoid catching the plague. These individuals were responsible for research into the plague that struck the Philippines at that time. A rare view of terrifying work and brave people carrying it out.
The first photograph of lightning
In 1882, William Jennings snapped the very first photo of lightning ever to be taken. Although not the most impressive image of the power of nature, it was certainly a historic moment for photography in general.
A selfie from Mars
The human race might well be selfie-obsessed, but NASA would have us believe robots are too. This snap was taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars. An amazing, if slightly dusty view of another planet and a brilliant historic photograph.
This image from NASA shows the first rocket to be launched from Cape Canaveral in the 1950s. The rocket would reach new record heights for the time and higher than the current orbit of the International Space Station. Bumper II would be the first of many rockets to launch from this spot and this is a brilliant photo to signify its importance.
This photo from sometime in the early 1900s shows the Niagara Falls waterfall frozen over. Quite a spectacular sight, but something that actually happens quite regularly it seems, though not many get to see it in this full glory.
The first Disneyland ticket ever sold
In 1955, Disneyland opened its gates for the first time. The first ever ticket was sold to Walt Disney’s brother Roy O. Disney for $1. The first real customer though was a college student named David MacPherson. Mr MacPherson achieved the honour by getting up at 2 am in the morning to join 6,000 other people queuing to enter the park. He was the first proper guest to enter the park and was given a lifetime pass as a reward.
A bicycle for two
In 1886, this couple posed for a photo outside the White House in Washington D.C. on this two-seater bicycle. Tandem design has come a short distance since then as have the gear people wear when out and about on their bikes.
Galileo’s drawings of the moon
Galileo Galilei was an Italian astronomer who has been famously referred to as the father of several sciences including observational astronomy, modern physics, scientific method and modern science too.
In 1610 he famously published these images of the moon as he had observed it through a telescope. They were released in the Sidereus Nuncius, an astronomical pamphlet which showed detailed observations of the moon and constellations of the stars. Not quite as incredible as the photos of the moon we have seen today, but incredibly impressive for the time.
This photo from the 1960s appears to show an insanely brave pilot manually restarting his propeller in mid-air. It was actually part of an airshow stunt.
The photographer explained:
“I took this in November 1946 and it shows Merle Larson demonstrating a small air show stunt that he did. It appears that he is alone in the plane but there is another pilot (Gladys Davis) flying the plane from the back seat and he does have a rope tied around himself. Merle was a WWII B-24 pilot, flight instructor, inventor and builder of three unusual planes based at Buchanan Field, Concord, California.”
One man and his car
This image shows a gentleman aged over 100 years old who has been driving the same car, a 1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom for well over 80 years. They don’t build them like they used to.
During both the Great War and World War II, African American men and black soldiers fought for the freedom of the world against enemy forces. These particular men were from the 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters. They won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action during their fight and can be seen here proudly displaying the medals. The original image was black and white but has been colourised so the men can be seen in their full glory here.
Witches from 1875
It is said that this photo shows some Victorian witches posing for a photo in 1875. We have some doubts about how legitimate the image is, but it is nice to imagine ladies of the coven brazenly posing at a time when they wouldn’t be burnt at the stake for their craft.
The World Trade Center under construction
The construction of the famous World Trade Center building began in 1966 and wasn’t finished until 1973. In the meantime, this brilliant view of the towers was captured with sunlight shining through the middle. It’s an awesome tribute to a place where many lost their lives tragically in 2001.
A man buying cigarettes in hospital
In the old days, cigarettes were unbelievably marketed as being good for you. As a testament to this daft time, this photo of a man buying cigarettes from his hospital bed was snapped in the 1950s. What a weird time to be alive.
Nikola Tesla, with his equipment
This photo from 1899 is not only interesting because it shows the magnificent Nikola Tesla, but because it might also be one of the first doctored images of the time. The experiment that the viewer is witnessing appears to show Tesla sitting nearby while his magnifying transmitter sparks large bolts of electricity through the air.
However, the image is actually a double exposure, which the man himself admitted at a later dark. The sparks of electricity were snapped in a darkened room when Tesla wasn’t there. That photo was exposed again with Tesla safely in the room and the machines off. Still looks impressive though.
A child labourer
This striking photograph dates back to 1908 and shows a child labourer working in the mills of South Carolina. The photograph said the mill was full of children working like this but that the “overseer” of the mill claimed they’d “just happened in” to help.
A Suffragette arrested
This photo from 1914 shows the leader of the Women’s Suffragette movement being arrested outside Buckingham Palace in 1914. Emmeline Pankhurst was the leader of the movement at the time and was attempting to get a petition to King George V at the time.
The Suffragette movement was later successful in getting women the vote in 1918. But this image is a fitting tribute to the hardships women of the time endured while fighting for their rights.
Remains of the World Trade Center
This image was taken in late September 2001 from 1,000 meters above the streets of New York City by a Cessna jet. It shows the aftermath of the attacks of the 11 September and the devastation to the World Trade Center building that’s clearly visible in the middle of the photo.
A self-immolation during the Buddhist crisis
This photo dates back to 1963 and is perhaps one of the most instantly recognisable images on our list. It shows Thích Quảng Đức, a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk who set fire to himself as a protest against the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government at the time.
The image was one of many historical events from the crisis, but by no means the most shocking thing to happen at the time.
Crash landing Hellcat
This image might be one of the most iconic photos from WW2 and shows a Hellcat that has crash-landed on the desk of the USS Enterprise. The pilot incredibly surprised the burning aircraft without significant injury despite the burning fuel tank seen at the bottom of the plane.
Exercise Field Artillery Corps
These old photos show a magnificent band of troops on exercise. Cheerful chaps in some impressive uniforms. We’d recommend checking out the whole collection as they’re very special.
M3 Lee Tank during training
This image from 1942 shows an American M3 Lee on training exercises in Kentucky. It’s interesting because M3 Lee was one of those tanks that were almost obsolete before it even started being useful. A small main cannon, high visibility, weak armour and more made it ineffective against enemy tanks.
Tank technology progressed swiftly during the war years and it was far too easy for even brand new tanks to be quickly outclassed by the enemy.