This article was originally published on 24/7Mirror
History class was often a bunch of boring facts and dates, not to mention names without faces. But maybe the subject never was boring at all. We've tracked down some of the most fascinating snapshots from the olden days as well as more recent times, and they are truly remarkable. Take a look at these pictures and get some insight into the folks that lived before us. They probably failed to mention these historical events in class, but they're absolutely fascinating.
Ever Wondered Where the Great Wall of China Ends?
We bet you thought the Great Wall of China was one long barrier. But no! It is actually series of fortifications. Several walls were built over centuries and united under Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China, around 200 BC. Why? Well, a variety of reasons, like protection against invading groups, border controls, and a way to stop and tax goods transported on the Silk Road. It's an impressive brick project, but eventually, it does end. Where exactly does that happen?
3,889 miles of actual wall end right here, at the edge of the Bohai Gulf. This spot is called Shanhai Pass, also nicknamed "Old Dragon's Head". Unsurprisingly, it is a popular tourist destination.
This Is What A Test of a Super Conductor Looked Like in 1901
Nikola Tesla might sound like a familiar guy: He's the man that inspired Elon Musk's car brand name. A pioneer in electrical tech, his place in science history is secure: The man had 3304 patents in his lifetime! Here he sits, reading in his Colorado Springs laboratory testing his latest contraption. It looks totally futuristic. But sometimes, his ideas remained a theory. One of his more outlandish concepts included the Thought Camera. But what was that all about?
Tesla explained: “I became convinced that a definite image formed in thought must, by reflex action, produce a corresponding image on the retina, which might possibly be read by suitable apparatus.” So far, no one has managed the task. But some say social media is getting close in its own way.
A WWI Bulgarian Soldier Giving His Best Battle Cry in 1916
WWI was a long time ago, and few of us really remember the stakes and grudges. Ever wondered what Bulgaria was up to during the great fight of this time? When the conflict began in July 1914, Bulgaria was still recovering from the effects of the Balkan Wars. For this reason, they initially declared neutrality. But as their allies got more deeply involved, they did throw in their hat just a year later. How could they not?
Here, a Bulgarian soldier screams at the camera, presumably practicing his battle cry. He would fight in the trench with machine guns and grenades. These new, modern weapons produced such gruesome effects that plastic surgery became a new field of medicine.
We Are Touched by These 2,800 Year-Old Lovers
The "Hasanlu lovers" are a famous archeological find that amazed professionals in the field. It was determined that the pair died around 800 B.C. in Iran when a hostile force invaded their town. In their last moments, they appear to be hugging or kissing. For millennia, they stayed that way until their discovery in 1972. But despite the way things look, modern analysis shows they may not have been a couple.
Dating the skeletons showed that one is around 20, and one is around 30. Both are male and seem to have no diseases. Just two healthy guys in their prime, and possibly related. We don't know for sure. But it is interesting to imagine their story!
This Underwater Detonation of a Nuclear Bomb Looks Out Of This World
Once upon a time, the U.S. government just wanted to see what could happen to submarines, should a nuclear war break out. The Baker Test was the first underwater nuclear explosion ever conducted. The massive explosion resulted in a cloud that rose up like a mushroom in the sky. The base surge created a 500-foot high wall of radioactive spray and mist, which wasn't exactly refreshing. What happened to life in the area?
According to the official military report at the time: "All of the pigs and most of the rats on the ships died either from the blast or from radiation exposure. Of the 57 target vessels, eight either sunk or capsized as a direct result of the explosion...Most of the surviving vessels had to be subsequently sunk as too hot to handle."
This Is How They Cut Down a Giant Redwood by Hand
Today, it is illegal to cut down a redwood tree. These giant plants in California are an unbelievable sight in person, and regularly attract tourists just to witness their size. But people during frontier times had other sensibilities. They needed a constant supply of wood to build houses and keep fires burning. When they saw these gigantic trees, it must have seemed like a dream come true! Redwoods can grow up to 240 feet high with a 15-foot diameter.
In this picture, an old-time logger poses next to a massive Redwood that's being cut down. Today, most are gone: Only 5% are still standing. Seriously, 95% were cut down since the 1850s. What a sad fact!
The First American Robot, Steam Man
Some people fear that killer robots may come to get us all one day. But what about their ancient ancestors? Way back in the 1860s, Zadoc Dederick was a young machinist with curiosity and free time. Along with his buddy Isaac Grass, he invented the first American robot. Combining a steam carriage with a metal man figure, the pair exhibited the invention and inspired crowds around the country in Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, and St. Louis.
In 1868, Zadoc and Isaac got a patent for their robot. Still, the concept led to more walking machines over the coming years. It even inspired dime novels, like The Steam Man of the Prairies by Edward S. Ellis.
These Gentlemen Are Testing a Bulletproof Vest in 1923
For police and soldiers in the line of duty, the bulletproof vest was a critical invention. It's fairly new, as a product of the 1920s. Thanks to the Protective Garment Corporation of New York, service members were able to wear a revolutionary lightweight vest. The idea probably sounded too good to be true, which is why they did this demo in the middle of DC. These salesmen are going to an extreme!
The men happened to be the inventors, and they clearly trusted their own product. It all came just in time, too: With the onset of the great depression and prohibition, police had to deal with all kinds of armed gangsters. Finally, they had a little protection!
That Time Boston Had a Deadly Explosion of Two Million Gallons of Molasses in 1919
It sounds like something straight out of Willy Wonka, but it really happened: In one cold Boston winter in 1919, two million gallons of molasses exploded from a tank at the port. It resulted in 15 ft-high waves that raced through the city at 35 miles per hour. The sweet syrup destroyed everything in its path, killing 21 people and injuring 150 others. It almost swept a train off the tracks and toppled electric poles. Live wires hissed everywhere. It knocked buildings down, too!
Why was there so much molasses oozing around? Apparently, it was the main sweetener at the time. Not only that but it could be made into a type of alcohol used for manufacturing munitions. A sticky situation, indeed!
Rwanda Had Pretty Hip Hairstyles 100 Years Ago
We often think that the style of yesteryear was old-fashioned. But sometimes, it can be downright futuristic! Take this traditional hairdo from Rwanda. It's called the Amasunzu, popular 100 years ago. This was the way that tribe members explained their social status. Those who didn't have this ultra-shaped style were looked on with suspicion. But at some point, it went out of fashion. Today there is a bit of nostalgia, and some are trying to being it back.
At its peak, Rwandans wore around 30 different styles. It could communicate that you were a warrior or a virgin, for example. Married women had their own look, too. Overall, it seems to have been an important language through hair.
This Is the Big Moment When They Opened King Tut’s Tomb
In 1333 BC, King Tutankhamun was just nine years old when he became both a ruler and god for ancient Egypt. He died young, and no one really knew what became of his body. The discovery of his burial place was super exciting in 1922 when British Egyptologist Howard Carter and his team excavated the Valley of the Kings. There was a constant problem in Egyptology: Thieves kept robbing mummies of their gold and jewels. Would they find a stripped tomb here, too?
King Tut was mummified and buried with artwork and treasures. But since his tomb was in the desert, the sand shifted around and buried the site over time. Hidden for 3,000 years untouched, Carter's team found it all!
Imagine Keeping This Giant Squid in Your Bathtub in 1873
Man was sure there were sea monsters for hundreds of years. Sailors told tales too bold to believe, but science would validate them one day. Here was one such moment: In 1873, Candian naturalist Moses Harvey collected the first intact specimen of a giant squid. Fishermen found it in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland. When Mo heard about their novel catch, he knew he needed to get his hands on its tentacles.
He paid them $10, which is the equivalent of about $200 today. What did he do with the 27-foot creature? Why, he used his bathtub for safekeeping. At the time, there was no other option at short notice.
Al Capone Opened a Free Soup Kitchen During the Great Depression
Legendary gangster Al Capone made a fortune during prohibition by bootlegging liquor and bringing it to the black market. The people viewed him as a bit of a hero, in a way. Sure, he murdered, extorted, and intimidated his way to riches. But there was a lot of demand for the freedom to drink, and he helped tremendously. Some of the admiration for Capone is also due to his generosity during the great depression.
Al Capone’s soup kitchen served breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On a given day, 5,000 men, women, and children might eat free of charge at this charity. Undoubtedly, it was great street cred for the gangster.
The Bomb Known as 'Fat Man' Killed Millions in an Instant
WWII was the first time atomic weapons were used to kill thousands of human beings. In an instant, whole cities in Japan were destroyed. But the bomb itself doesn't look so intimidating. Here, we see 'Fat Man'. This was the second bomb of the series, detonated over Nagasaki in 1945. The specs are pretty technical, but it's worth noting that this deadly device weighed a whopping 10,800 pounds. Very fat, indeed!
The debate over the morality of such weapons continues to this day. Some say it saved lives, in the long run. Others say it was evil on a mass scale. Truthfully, even many physicists involved in the project felt guilt over the war technology. To this very day, no one has used it since.
This is How George Washington Was Carved Into Mount Rushmore
At present, tourism is South Dakota's second-largest industry. The biggest attraction in the state has got to be Mount Rushmore, with more than 2 million visitors a year. Americans love the majestic sight of four major presidents carved into a mountain. It's a tech and art marvel, and we wonder how they got it done in the old days. Perhaps this picture of George Washington's half-finished face will give us a clue!
The 60-foot memorial took 14 years to complete. Real people carved it by hand from 1927 to 1941, blasting stone away and shaping it into the faces of Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln alongside George.
Little Samuel Reshevsky Defeated These Adult Chess Masters
Samuel Reshevsky is still in the history books as one of the greatest American chess players. He was a seven-time U.S. champion and made it to the top of world challenges. In his prime, he defeated seven other world champions, including Bobby Fischer. And it all started very early for this genius: Check out little Samuel at age 8, right here. Without breaking a sweat, he is beating several chess masters at an event in France in 1920.
We may not all be interested in chess, but it's impossible to deny that it is a tough game. Out of 7 billion people in the world today, around 1500 rank as grandmasters. It's pretty impressive that Sam qualified in elementary school!
The Original Mickey Mouse Was Pretty Horrifying
Walt Disney was a clever man, and his empire lives on well beyond his lifetime. His classic character Mickey Mouse is one of the most lovable characters around in the cartoon world. His cute little face has provided entertainment for generations of children. But a hundred years ago, the prototype was actually kind of disgusting. Look at this early Mickey, and be honest: Would you allow this scary thing around youngsters?
Once his ears got rounder and his base was made shorter, Walt had the modern Mickey. We think the original had a disturbing design. But the kids in this old photo seem to be enjoying him, anyway!
How Did This Mormon Girl Get This Distinctive Tattoo?
Back on the frontier, there were constant conflicts between settlers and Indians. Competing for resources and lacking a common language, this is not terribly surprising. But some may not know that there were occasional kidnappings during raids. Olive Oatman here was a young Mormon girl when she was taken away from her family and made into a slave. Her entire family was killed, except for her sister who joined her in slavery.
Olive was later traded to another tribe that wore these tattoos. As she became part of the group, it appears they gave her one, too. Despite having chances to escape, Olive stayed with them for years. When she was finally rescued, she claimed the tattoo marked her as a slave. Historians are not sure that was true, however.
The Eiffel Tower Construction Happened in Stages
The Eiffel Tower is an iron monument on the Champ de Mars in Paris, France. Engineer Gustave Eiffel commissioned his company to design the tower for the 1889 World's Fair. It was intended to be a grand entrance for guests. We say he succeeded! After the fair, it was too iconic to take down. To this very day, it's synonymous with Paris itself: Every year, nearly 7 million people visit.
The Eiffel Tower is 1,063 feet tall, and it took more than two years to construct. Here it is, halfway through the building process. Even half of it is pretty elegant!
The First American Spacewalk Took Place in 1965
By the 1960s, Americans had shot many things into space. But a human had not yet dangled in those harsh conditions, and NASA wanted to give that a try. In 1965, Ed White impressed the world as the first American to walk in space. He went outside the safety of the Gemini capsule and met the cosmos firsthand. This was historic, and Ed truly went where no man had gone before. What were his observations up there?
Ed reported: "This is the greatest experience, it's just tremendous. Right now I'm standing on my head and I'm looking right down, and it looks like we're coming up on the coast of California. There is absolutely no disorientation associated with it."
The Aftermath of Bonnie and Clyde’s Death Was Grim
Times were tough during the great depression, to be sure. Some people ate potato soup. Others decided to embark on a life of crime. We've all heard of lovers Bonnie and Clyde. Their real names were Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow. And they're not just a legend: The pair was responsible for at least 13 murders and numerous bank, shop, and funeral home robberies. That spree didn't end well, as seen here.
Bonnie was eating a bologna sandwich while her boyfriend drove on a rural road. He cruised right into a trap where Texas rangers were waiting for them. 167 bullets were fired into their vehicle in less than 20 seconds, killing them both. Behold, the aftermath!
The Hoover Dam Construction Was a Magnificent Sight to See
The Hoover Dam was one of the most important construction achievements of its time. At its completion in 1935, FDR marveled: "We are here to celebrate the completion of the greatest dam in the world, rising 726 feet above the bedrock of the river and altering the geography of a whole region: we are here to see the creation of the largest artificial lake in the world-115 miles long, holding enough water, for example, to cover the whole State of Connecticut to a depth of ten feet."
He continued: "We are here to see nearing completion a powerhouse which will contain the largest generators and turbines yet installed in this country, machinery that can continuously supply nearly two million horsepower of electric energy." An impressive feat indeed.
This Rotor Ride at Coney Island Was the Wildest Thing to Do in the 1950s
Amusement parks are full of rollercoasters and water rides, these days. But one of the quirkiest rides around used to be the Rotor Ride, a carrousel that created a centrifugal force that caused you to stick to the wall. During the '50s and '60s, it was exhibited at European fairs and made it to Coney Island in New York. People couldn't get enough of it: The floor would disappear, and you would be suspended. How novel!
Today, this ride does still exist. You may have tried the updated version, the Gravitron. But just imagine the thrill back in the day. It was the definition of futuristic, surely.
NASA Prepped for the Apollo Moon Landing With This Low-Tech Simulator
How can you prepare to go to the moon if you've never been there before? NASA was faced with this challenge when it decided technology was ready to send a man to the chunk of cheese in the sky. But they had some concerns that astronauts would be unprepared. Obviously, they needed a simulator. Here it is! Did you expect it to be a little more advanced? Well, too bad.
Various screens were set up to show how light would reflect off the surface of the moon at different altitudes. The machine looked just like the cockpit users would ride in with colleagues. Scientists anticipated harsh light and glare in the weird conditions of space. Looking back, this was perfectly effective prep.
This Man Poured Acid in the Pool When Black People Tried to Swim in the ‘60s
Believe it or not, there was a time in America when blacks and whites were not allowed to go to the same schools or use the same drinking fountains. And swimming pools? Well, that was totally out of the question. Eventually, people rebelled. It was too insulting to continue, and protestors of both colors jumped into this motel pool in Florida. The whites who had paid for rooms invited the blacks as their formal guests. But the manager poured acid into the water!
This swim-in was actually planned by Martin Luther King Jr. himself. And the acid stunt didn't really work. There was way too much water diluting it. Perhaps he just wanted to scare everyone. But the photo went viral, and really didn't help his cause.
Don’t Be Scared of the 1920s Electric Permanent Wave Machine
In the early part of the 20th century, a revolutionary hair machine was brought to market by Nestle, before they just became the chocolate people. In only 12 hours, you could be a brand new lady! They advertised it as follows, in 1908: “Nestle’s Improved Permanent Hair Wave means the imparting to the straightest and lankest hair & wave, which in texture, character, desirability, and appearance cannot be distinguished from the natural grown wavy hair.”
The hot device combined with chemicals produced some cool coiffes if you were willing to wait it out. Occasionally though, there were burn victims. Regardless, Mr. Nestle made the equivalent of around $44 million today with this beauty device. Thankfully, it has been replaced with plain old perms!
Elvis Being Sworn Into the Army
Sure, he could have gotten out of serious service. The army said he could just play concerts for the troops. But American singer Elvis Presley was a patriot, and he decided to enlist like all the other guys his age during the time when the Vietnam war began. In 1958, he became a regular soldier despite being the most popular entertainer on the planet. According to the king: "The army teaches boys to think like men."
Elvis received both basic and advanced military training and ended up at a base in Germany. Back home, he had both fans and critics. Some thought his entertainment was too vulgar. But when he came back as a veteran, Elvis had new respect from all sides!
British Anthropologists Found The Happiest Man in China in 1901
When photography was first invented, people were not sure exactly how to pose. Westerners decided that being serious was the best kind o portrait, and old photos rarely show a smile. But when a British traveler brought a camera to China for the first time, such notions didn't exist yet. The Chinese didn't know it was such a serious affair. Look at this man happily eating his noodles! He's a real goofball, we will say that.
At this point, the identity of this subject has been lost. But it's interesting to see the real emotions of the people from the past, in a rare situation where they didn't know smiling was forbidden.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Was Already Bodybuilding at Age 16
According to legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Not many people understand what a pump is. It must be experienced to be understood. It is the greatest feeling that I get. I search for this pump because it means that that my muscles will grow when I get it. I get a pump when the blood is running into my muscles. They become really tight with blood. Like the skin is going to explode any minute. It’s like someone putting air in my muscles. It blows up. It feels fantastic.”
That's all pretty intense, we must admit. But Arnold was into the sport since he was a teen. One day he would become Mr. Universe himself. Look at him posing as a 16-year-old, here!
Say Hello to the Head of the Statue of Liberty in 1885
Sure, The Statue of Liberty is an enormous neoclassical sculpture. She sits on Liberty Island at the New York Harbor. And she has lots of fans, too. But what did she look like, at the beginning? Here, we can see her before she was fully assembled. This face hasn't been attached yet, and a few ladies are admitting her in copper. She wasn't always green, of course. That's just what happens to the metal over time. Just like a penny!
France gifted her to new ally America in 1886. She was designed by sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and became an icon of freedom that generations of immigrants have seen upon arrival. Merci, Fred!
The Is First Known Photo of Abraham Lincoln
This is a man who once said: “My father taught me to work, but not to love it. I never did like to work, and I don't deny it. I'd rather read, tell stories, crack jokes, talk, laugh — anything but work.” But do we believe it? First of all, he looks quite serious. Second of all, this is honest Abe Lincoln, 16th president of the United States.
The president who taught himself law out of a book he found in the trash, who freed the slaves, and kept the union united is quite young here. It's fascinating to see what he looked like before that bushy beard. We like what we see!
Mister Rogers Did This Outrageous Thing for a Reason
François Clemmons was the actor who played Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. He had one of the first recurring black roles on kids' TV, but Fred Rogers was not content to keep things the way they were. In 1968, he invited his pal to sit with him at a kiddie pool. They took off their shoes and dipped their feet in the water. Then, they shared a towel. Why was this significant?
Well, it was illegal to do this in a real public pool at the time. Mister Rogers wanted to make a statement to his young viewers about the issue. The episode stands out as one of the most notable ways the color barrier was broken on TV at the time.
Margaret Gorman Was the First Miss America in 1921
In 1921, an American icon was born on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. Margaret Gorman was crowned the First Miss America and started a tradition we still enjoy today. According to the organization: "Miss America is more than a title, it’s a movement of empowering young women everywhere to dream big, to insist that their voices be heard and to inspire change in the world around them. Of course, Miss America wears a crown—she rules."
After answering all kinds of tricky questions, Margaret proved she had both inner and outer beauty. She won a 3-foot golden mermaid trophy as the grand prize. Today, the prize has improved a lot. The winner gets a $50,000 scholarship!
The First Underwater Photograph Was Taken in 1899
The first underwater portrait is a little blurry, we must admit. But it's still interesting to see what people were able to produce in 1899. The man in the picture is Emil Racoviță, a Romanian biologist and oceanographer. It took the photographer about 30 minutes to capture the image because he had to wait for the right amount of light down there. We certainly see how that might be a challenge with a vintage camera!
Since that first, underwater photography has improved considerably. Vibrant images of fish and coral have probably been your screensaver, at some point. No big deal! Even if we can't make it out to a reef ourselves, it is now pretty easy to feel like we are there.
These Are Blind British WWI Veterans in Their First Ever Walk Event
After WWI, there were plenty of funerals. But the surviving soldiers were often terribly maimed, and sometimes blind. Blind Veterans UK still holds an annual walk for soldiers who are blind, which started after the first world war in 1922. The organization explains: "For our early blind veterans learning to walk independently was a crucial stage in their rehabilitation after losing their sight. In addition to the obvious value of not needing a sighted person to accompany them everywhere, confidence in walking on their own also helped maintain their fitness."
Here, we can see British vets on their first walk, which took place from London to Brighton. This was an impressive distance of 52 miles. Eight men finished the race alongside sighted partners, starting an important patriotic tradition.
This 1890 Photo Might Be the First-Ever Image of a Surfer
We might think of surfing as a modern water sport, but that is certainly not true. As it turns out, surfing has been a part of Hawaiian culture for at least 1,000 years. During ancient times, leaders and royals were given the best surfing spots and used boards made of local Koa wood. Their boards were 24 feet long. The common people would surf too, on 12-foot boards.
It's fascinating stuff. But since that all took place long ago, people don't know the rich history. Starting in 1890, we do have this photo. All we can say is this guy is ripped!
Danish Arctic Explorer Peter Freuchen and His Wife Are a Spectacle
Giant Danish Arctic explorer Peter Freuchen led a remarkable life exploring the most northern places on our planet. On his expedition to Greenland, he discovered the Inuit culture and ended up living there for 15 years. 800 miles from the North Pole, he traded and married an Inuit woman. He hunted polar bears. He experienced three months of darkness and encountered native cannibalism. And he documented all of this for Western audiences to study.
Sadly, his Inuit wife died. But he got married again, which wasn't hard. Ladies love tall, adventurous men and 6-foot-7-inch Peter found a wife named Dagmar, seen here in 1947. After all his travels, the two settled in NYC. Their size difference is remarkable, isn't it?
1920s Gals Worked Out on This Early Treadmill
Fitness is a big deal, these days, Some of us like to go jogging. Others like to lift weights. For those who want something in between, there is always the treadmill. The earliest version is actually quite old, with U.S. records showing a patent was issued in 1913. Back then, it was called a training machine, but the rotating belt and moving flor were all recognizable as a concept. Look at these vintage ladies go!
Today, these machines have become much more advanced. Most have fancy settings to choose different programs to vary the speed. Medical facilities and gyms alike use treadmills. Even Olympic training centers and NASA use them!
The Real Models Once Posed in Front of Their Iconic Portrait
We all recognize “American Gothic” when we see it. The Grant Wood painting is surely the most iconic portrait ever done of a farmer and his wife. It's quintessential Americana for sure. The suit jacket, the pitchfork, the overalls: It's all there. The question is, were these people real? If you ever had doubts, we're here to put those questions to rest. Here, the real subjects pose in front of the art so a photographer can snap the double image.
In real life, they look less rural. Maybe that's because the woman is the painter's sister, Nan. The man is his family's dentist, Dr. Byron McKeeby. Why, they're just a bunch of city slickers, after all!
Young Winston Churchill Looks Totally Dapper
This fellow once said: “You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Was this young man really that wise? Maybe not yet. But one day, he would become an inspirational figure with plenty of saying just like that one. This is a photograph of a very young Winston Churchill, dressed in his army uniform. The wartime prime minister had his handsome years, it turns out!
Here in 1895, his destiny has not yet been realized. He is merely 2nd Lieutenant Winston Churchill, serving the queen. Decades later, he would help change the course of the world.