Rare Photos Show a Different Side to History Than You May Already Know
By Jack Ripley | October 25, 2023
Man celebrating end of drought 1957 Texas.
Looking back at photographs of the past is a fun way to remember our history and to see how far we have come over the years. This collection of pics shows people and places in various points of history and provides us with a slice of life we may never have seen before. Images of celebrities and everyday folks, famous landmarks and small town America, all help to paint a picture of who we are as humans and where we have been.
The Texas drought of the 1950s stands as a stark reminder of nature's capriciousness, spanning from 1949 to 1957 and casting a relentless dry spell over the state. Rainfall levels plummeted to 30 to 50% below the norm, while temperatures soared above the usual. These arid years witnessed the state grappling with historic dryness, as 1956, 1954, and 1951 clinched the titles of the second-, third-, and eighth-driest individual years in Texan history. Yet, amidst this parched backdrop, a fateful twist occurred on April 24, 1957, when a tempestuous storm descended upon Texas, unleashing a deluge of 10 inches of rain within hours.
This torrential outpour was accompanied by rampaging hail and menacing tornadoes, bringing both devastation and salvation. The rain endured for an astounding 32 days, culminating in a catastrophic flood that upended lives, ending 22 and displacing thousands from their homes. Rivers, the lifeblood of the region, swelled beyond capacity, obliterating bridges and claiming houses in its unstoppable path. Although damages reached a staggering $120 million, this figure paled in comparison to the havoc wreaked by the preceding drought. The Texas drought of the 1950s thus remains etched in memory, a testament to the unpredictable nature of weather and its power to reshape lives in the blink of an eye.
Susan Kare, famous Apple artist who designed many of the fonts, icons, and images for Apple, NeXT, Microsoft, and IBM
Susan Kare, a luminary in the realm of digital design, holds an enduring legacy for her visionary contributions to the visual language of technology giants. As the artistic force behind the fonts, icons, and images that adorned the interfaces of Apple, NeXT, Microsoft, and IBM, her influence spans far beyond pixels and screens. Having earned her place as employee #10 and Creative Director at NeXT, the brainchild of Steve Jobs post-Apple's chapter in 1985, Kare's impact was nothing short of revolutionary.
Her pioneering work in pixel art and graphical computer interfaces cemented her status as a trailblazer. At the core of her design philosophy lie the principles of meaning, memorability, and clarity. With a remarkable knack for crafting visual metaphors for intricate computer commands, Kare champions simplicity as the true hallmark of her artistry.
A maestro of inclusivity, she skillfully tailors her creations to resonate with users across the expertise spectrum, from novices to virtuosos, underlining that the most powerful icons are those effortlessly understood and eternally etched in memory. Susan Kare's indelible mark on modern technology design endures as a testament to her profound insights and creativity.
Jonny Cash shaking an inmate's hand at Folsom Prison, 1968
Johnny Cash's iconic performance at Folsom Prison in 1968 stands as a defining moment in music history, forged by a unique blend of artistry and empathy. Cash's fascination with Folsom State Prison traces back to his time in the United States Air Force Security Service, during which he was captivated by Crane Wilbur's film "Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison." This cinematic encounter spurred Cash's creative spirit, inspiring him to craft "Folsom Prison Blues," a song that captured the essence of incarceration. As his second single on Sun Records, the song resonated profoundly with inmates, leading to a stream of correspondence urging Cash to bring his music within prison walls.
Venturing into this uncharted territory, Cash inaugurated his prison performances at Huntsville State Prison in 1957, basking in the warmth of a receptive audience. Buoyed by this connection, he embarked on a series of concerts within prison confines, laying the groundwork for the momentous event at Folsom Prison. In 1968, Cash's magnetic presence illuminated the darkened corners of Folsom, bringing a glimmer of hope and understanding to the inmates. This performance not only immortalized his legacy but also left an indelible mark on the lives he touched, showcasing the transformative power of music and compassion.
Michio Hoshino, a photographer well known for his photographs of dangerous wildlife, was mauled to death by a bear inside of his tent while on a shoot in 1996. Discovered on his camera, this is the last photo Michio would ever take.
Often compared to Ansel Adams, famed wildlife photographer, Michio Hoshino, had built a reputation for capturing images of dangerous animals in their natural habitats. The Japanese-born photographer had an affinity for Alaskan wildlife and spent a considerable amount of time in the state, shooting his impressive pictures. He was on assignment in Kurilskoye Lake, Russia, when the 44-year old photographer was mauled to death by a brown bear in his tent on August 8, 1996. After his tragic death, this image was found on Hoshino’s camera. The last picture the popular photographer ever took was a photo of his killer.
When pictures tell a story.
A happy homecoming! So many soldiers never returned from war so homecomings were a special time. The joy in this couple’s embrace is evident of the love they share. For soldiers serving their country far away in foreign lands, it was often the thoughts of their wife or girlfriend back home that sustained them during the hardships they faced. Letters from home and photographs kept their love alive while they were apart. They would dream of the day they set foot back home and could take their sweetheart into their arms again. The soldier in this picture is living that dream.
Men stand with the giant chain links that were hand-forged for the Titanic’s Hingley anchor. At that time, the Titanic had the largest anchor ever built.
Did you know that the Titanic boasted the largest anchor ever built when it set sail in 1912? In order to hold the 15-ton anchor, an incredibly large chain was needed. Enter the Hingley & Sons forging company of Dudley, England. The workers at Hingley’s foundry had to form each link of the anchor chain from pig-iron that was shaped in an oval. The two ends would then be heated and hammered together by the workers, who called themselves the “chain gang.” The links were then tested in a hydraulic pulling bed to make sure the fused ends were strong enough to do their job without breaking. It was hot, heavy, dangerous work but the men of Hingley’s chain gang were the best in the business.
Mt. Washington Cog Railroad with a full open car of travelers.
Affectionately known as the Cog, the Mt. Washington Cog Railroad was the first rack-and-pinion-style railroad to be built to ascend a steep mountain slope, specifically Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. Work began on the Cog in 1858 but was interrupted by the outbreak of the American Civil War. Work resumed in 1866 and the Cog began carrying tourists to the peak of Mt. Washington. The Cog was the brainchild of Sylvester Marsh. Locals thought is idea was insane and doomed to fail, but the Cog is still in operation today. No worries, though. Today’s rail cars are not the open-sided, hang-on-for-dear-life cars seen in this photograph.
Faversham Kent, Hop Farm Vine Gatherers. ca. 1930s
Hops, used in beer brewing, is a flowering vine that is trained to grow on tall strings strung between posts. Really tall strings. So tall, in fact, that before the advent of hop harvesting machinery, farm workers had to use stilts to tend the plants. Harvesting hops were so labor intensive before mechanical harvesters were invented that entire families of migrant farm workers took part in the harvesting process. In England, poor London families would travel to the hops fields of Kent, an important region for growing hops, during harvest time to take advantage of the plentiful work and employment opportunities.
These hands could tell a few stories. Recognize them?...easy if you are a fan.
Ah, the stories these hands could tell! If you haven’t guessed it, these are the hands of Keith Richards, guitarist for the legendary Rolling Stones. These hands shook Mick Jagger's hand, strummed more than 3,000 guitars, and helped pen such rock classics as “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”, “Start Me Up,” “Paint It Black” and “Brown Sugar.” These hands travelled the world, playing in concert halls, stadiums, and amphitheaters in front of millions of fans and sold out shows. These hands performed for heads of state and royalty, and they married the hand of Norwegian model, Patti Hanson. It is true that you can tell a lot about a person by looking at their hands. These are the hands of a legend.
Owned by a U.S. soldier, this Nintendo Gameboy was badly damaged during the 1991 Persian Gulf War when the soldier’s barracks came under attack.
The first hand-held video game, the Nintendo Gameboy revolutionized the gaming industry when it hit the market in 1989. One thing that made the Gameboy so popular, aside from its portability, was that owners could purchase different games to play on the system. Even if you didn’t have game cartridges to play on your Gameboy, the system came with a default game, Tetris. An American soldier brought his Gameboy with him when he was deployed during the Persian Gulf War in1991. When his barracks came under attack, the Gameboy was severely damaged and its housing burned, but, look! Tetris still works.
The Atlantic Ocean Road in Norway. Wow!
Norway is a country of wild and rugged beauty and nowhere is this more apparent than along the Atlantic Ocean Road. This five mile stretch of highway links a connection of islands in the Norwegian Sea with the mainland. In all, the road touches several islands, causeways, bridges, and viaducts. Construction of the scenic route began on August 1, 1983, but progress was slow because of strong windstorms that struck the area. The Atlantic Ocean Road opened in July of 1989. Because of the spectacular beauty surrounding the road, it is a popular place for car companies to shoot commercials.
Carl Russell waving to his co-workers on the structural work of the 88th floor of the Empire State Building. Sep, 13. 1930
Fearless and confident, construction workers building New York’s massive skyscrapers, like the Empire State Building, had to overcome a fear of heights if they wanted to work on the soaring structure. When it was completed in 1930, the Empire State Building was the tallest building, with 102 stories and a tall antenna and stands as a shining example of art deco architecture in midtown Manhattan. Today, it remains the 6th tallest, free-standing building in the Americas. Despite the dizzying heights and lax safety standards, only five construction workers died during the building of the Empire State Building…and none of them were Carl Russell, the steelworker shown in this daredevil pic.
During WWII, soldiers placed photos of their loved ones under the clear grips of their government-issued pistols -- dubbed sweetheart grips
Soldiers stationed far from home during World War II found a creative way to keep their loved ones close to them. Many of them carried photographs of their wives or girlfriends with them and kept them tucked in their pockets, helmets, or cigarette cases, Then the servicemen discovered that clear, durable Plexiglas that was used to make windows on airplanes, trucks, and other military vehicles. Inventive, homesick soldiers discovered that they could take a piece of Plexiglas from a downed plane and carve it in the shape of their gun’s grip. They could unscrew the wooden grip, slide in a photo of their girl, and screw on the clear, Plexiglas grip. The personalized gun grips became known as “sweetheart grips.”
Newly washed rugs laying out to dry near Tehran, Iran, 1972.
Rugs are big business in Iran. The Persian carpet, or the Iranian carpet, is a cultural icon of the country and a symbol of the artistry and craftsmanship of the Iranian people. The heavy textile is both functional and artistic. Tehran is located in Iran’s “rug belt” and rug makers sell their carpets in open-air bizarre. These freshly-washed rugs are drying in the desert heat before they go to market. Visitors don’t have to go to the bizarre to see the fabulous and unique Persian carpets. The Carpet Museum of Iran opened in Tehran in 1976 and showcases rugs from the 16th century to the present.
The Paramount Pictures logo on the day it was originally painted, 1985
When it comes to logos, few are as recognizable as the Paramount Pictures logo. The original logo, designed in 1912, featured Ben Lomond Mountain surrounded by 24 stars, said to represent the original 24 actors and actresses that signed with the movie company. In 1985, the Paramount logo underwent an extensive facelift. This computer-generated image was similar to the original logo but the 24 stars were designed to swing around the mountain before settling into a semi-circle around the mountain. Computerized graphic design was in its infancy in 1985 and the new Paramount logo represented a giant step forward for designers.
The simplicity and joy of being young, captured by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe
A prolific photographer of the 19th century, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe had a unique way of capturing the spirit of everyday life. His photos appeared in numerous publications. This 1889 image, which he titled “Three Happy Boys,” was one of his better-known portraits, but it wasn’t nearly as famous as his 1886 photo, “Water Rats”, which depicted a group of young boys playing in the water. Although the photograph was tasteful and artistic, Sutcliffe was still excommunicated by his local church. “Three Happy Boys” and many of Sutcliffe’s other pictures are housed in the Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society’s collection.
“I won’t be a rock star, I will be a legend.” ~Freddie Mercury (1946-1991)
Freddie Mercury was born in Zanzibar and grew up in India, still, he is remembered for being a British singer and songwriter. His tremendous, four-octave vocal range and his theatrical stage presence made him a crowd favorite when he performed. Mercury is perhaps best remembered as the lead singer of the rock band, Queen, and performed on their many hits, such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “We Are the Champions,” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” Freddie Mercury was confident and flamboyant. When he said, “I will be a legend,” he wasn’t being cocky…he had an innate way of knowing that his star would shine brightly.
A look in to a 1914 kitchen and rib roast enjoyed 104 years ago.
My, how the kitchen has changed! Today’s kitchens are, on average, between 70 and 100 square feet in size, but this 1914 farmhouse kitchen looks more like a long, narrow hallway than an actual room. No refrigerator and no microwave and no dining table, old farm kitchens were not a gathering place like they are today, but a utilitarian room for food preparation and storage. A far cry from a chef’s kitchen, the housewife could still make a delicious meal with the limited room and resources. This enterprising woman has prepared a rib roast for her family in her cook stove.
A Roman aqueduct [built circa 19 BC] near Pont du Gard, France
A testament to the builders and engineers, this Roman aqueduct remains is good condition since it was built around 19 BC. This particular aqueduct, located at Pont de Gard in France, is in such good shape because it was maintained long after the fall of the Roman empire because of its use as a toll bridge, not so much as an aqueduct. In its heyday, this aqueduct carried about eight million gallons of water a day to homes, public baths, and town fountains for the people of the area. The Pont du Gard aqueduct has been added to UNESCO’s list of historically significant World Heritage Sites.
Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, Sr. (1877 -1915)
For all his ridiculous wealth and privilege, it seems that Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt was fated to be lost at sea. A member of the mega-rich Vanderbilt family, Alfred was born in 1877 and spent his days toy in the family’s business empire, travelling the world, or fox hunting. Returning home from a trip abroad in 1912, Alfred Vanderbilt booked passage on the Titanic, but changed his mind last minute and decided to stay in London. He may have thought that he dodged fate, but fate caught up with him. In 1915, he set sail aboard the Lusitania. German torpedoes struck the passenger ship and it sank to the bottom of the ocean, with Vanderbilt and 1,197 other passengers.
French Soldier with dual prosthetic arms learning to write again... WWI... c. 1918
An unfortunate side effect of war, the loss of limbs can take away a soldier’s ability to work and do common, everyday tasks. Thanks to artificial limbs, like the ones this soldier is wearing, some function can be returned. In the early 1900s, more and more artificial limbs were crafted to look like the missing limb, unlike the pegs and hooks of the past. This soldier, who lost both arms in battle, is wearing a prosthetic arm with an artificial hand that gives him the ability to hold a pencil. With patience and hard work…and the support of loved ones…he can learn to write again.
Grand Staircase Copper King Mansion, 1884 Butte, Montana
Also called the W.A. Clark Mansion, the Copper King Mansion is a 34-room mansion, built in the Romanesque Revival style between 1884 and 1888, in Butte, Montana. The home belonged to one of Montana’s three “Copper Kings”, William Andrews Clark. The so-called “Copper Kings”, Clark and fellow industrialists F. Augustus Heinze and Marcus Daly, fought each other for control of the region’s rich copper mines. The opulent mansion built by Clark was no doubt a way for him to flaunt his wealth and power. The home boasts ornate, hand-carved fireplaces, stained glass windows, fresco-painted ceilings, and elegant, gilded staircases.
Italian sculptor Giovanni Strazza's The Veiled Virgin
Believe it or not, this sculpture is made entirely of marble. Carved by the Italian artists Giovanni Strazza around 1850, this bust, known as The Veiled Virgin, looks like a thin, transparent veil is covering the statue’s face, but it is just a clever illusion by the artist to create that effect out of solid stone. Strazza may have been inspired by Guiseppe Sanmartino’s Veiled Christ statue, created in 1753, that utilizes this same technique. During Strazza’s lifetime, 1815 to 1878, several artists created veiled sculptures, including Raffaelle Monti and Pietro Rossi. The Veiled Virgin now resided in Newfoundland with the Presentation Sisters in Catholic Square in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Legendary whiskey distiller Jack Daniel actually died from kicking his safe after forgetting the combination
True or fake news? According to a popular legend, famed whiskey distiller, Jack Daniel, died from kicking his safe in frustration because he forgot the combination. The kick injured one of Daniel’s toes and, so the story goes, was a contributing factor in his death. The official report says that Daniel died from blood poisoning and it was known that the founder of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey Distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, was in failing health prior to the safe kicking incident in 1911. In 1907, Daniel, who never married or had children, handed over the reins of the company to his nephew, Lemuel “Lem” Motlow. Still, there may be a grain of truth to the legend that a safe killed Jack Daniel.
Lovely Old Photos of People with Their Dogs
Man’s best friend has always been a much-loved member of the family. Dogs offer us more than companionship, however. They are effective guard dogs that help keep us safe and alert us to trouble. This good boy shown here is a faithful and loyal protector of his favorite little person. The bond between the darling little girl and her best friend is obvious in this vintage photograph. The fact that the dog was included in the photo speaks volumes about his role in the family and how much his person loves him.
Queen Elizabeth's wedding gown , 1947
When the future Queen Elizabeth II married Philip Mountbatten, Duke of Edinburgh, at Westminster Abbey in November of 1947, the bride-to-be had to pay for the fabric using ration coupons. Post-World War II rationing was still in effect and no one was exempt, even royalty. Parliament did allow Elizabeth 200 extra ration coupons for her big day. As a show of support for their future queen, brides-to-be from all across England send her their ration coupons to help her purchase the wedding dress. Elizabeth returned all the coupons sent to her. Instead, she had Norman Hartnell design her gown, with was exquisitely embroidered with pearls and crystals and accented with a 13-foot long train.
Rugged bunch of fallers after a hard day, late 50's Forks, WA.
After a long day of work these men are relaxing with a cold beverage in the town of Forks, Washington. The entire town was nearly whipped out in 1951 in the Great Forks Fire when an out-of-control wildfire raced toward the town. The town residents worked together to build a fire break, while others in to the town helped evacuate the residents. The fire surrounded the town on three sides and it looked like the entire town would be destroyed, but a shift in the wind saved the town. Still, about 30 buildings were destroyed along with more than 33,000 acres of timberland.
The Treasury at Petra - carved out of a sandstone rock. 1st Century AD during the reign of Aretas IV Philopatris.
Made famous in the movie, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, the Treasury at Petra in the country of Jordan is a beautiful and imposing façade carved into the rock face of a slot canyon and reflects the Hellenistic style. Petra is Jordan’s number one tourist attractions with more than 500,000 visitors each year. The site has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site. This, the Treasury at Petra, is just one of many impressive buildings at the site, which is nicknamed the Rose City.
US soldier inspects Nazi looted art found in a church in Ellingen, Germany, April 24, 1945
When World War II broke out, Hitler ordered artworks from across German to be hidden away for safekeeping until the war was over and so it would be available for his own personal use. Art was hidden in a number of locations, including the salt mines of Merkers, Germany, and Neuschwanstein Castle. Other priceless works of art were stored at a church in Ellingen, Germany. The Monument Men were a collection of art historians and museum curators who worked to track down art that was stolen from Jewish families by the Nazis. This photo depicts how the US soldiers discovered the looted art on April 24, 1945, at the conclusion of the war.
The Great North Dakota Blizzard of 1966
The North Dakota blizzard of 1966 stands as a chilling reminder of the ferocity nature can unleash. Spanning from March 2 to March 5 of that year, this tempest ranks among the most severe blizzards ever documented on the Northern Plains. What set this blizzard apart was its relentless persistence, blanketing vast stretches with heavy snowfall, some areas accumulating an astonishing 20 to 30 inches, and even reaching an astounding 38 inches in certain pockets, where towering drifts of 30 to 40 feet blocked out the landscape.
Accompanying this onslaught was a furious wind, gusting at speeds exceeding 70 mph, turning the snow into an airborne menace. The blizzard's impact reverberated tragically, claiming at least 18 lives across the Great Plains states, leaving North Dakota and Minnesota mourning nine souls, while South Dakota accounted for at least six fatalities. Some succumbed to the brutal exertion of shoveling snow, while others lost their way in the swirling maelstrom.
Heartbreakingly, tens of thousands of livestock were claimed by the storm's icy grasp. Transportation ground to a standstill, schools and businesses shuttered, and communities were severed from power and communication, enduring the isolation for days on end. The North Dakota blizzard of 1966 stands as an indelible testament to both the power of nature and the resilience of those who weathered its fury.