Humanity sure has come a long way over the last century. Looking back to how things throughout the early 1900s leading all the way up to today, it’s amazing to see just how much things have changed and how different daily life in the 21st century is compared to the olden days.
We live in a technological age, with modern inventions, advancement, and gadgets making everything easier and dominating almost every aspect of our lives, but just last century, people didn’t have the likes of smartphones, video games, online dating, fitness trackers, and streaming services to take up their time.
It was a different time, a simpler time in many ways, and these incredible photos allow us all to take a trip back to that time, seeing how different life was, while also showing that some things haven’t really changed all that much after all.
So let’s take a jump into the time machine and take a look at 50 photos from the 20th century that give us a glimpse into a different era and make us all grateful for the convenience and comforts of modern life.
Tour De France Cyclists Take a Cigarette Break
The Tour de France is one of the most significant cycling events on the annual sporting calendar, with athletes putting themselves through tough training plans to prepare for this super-long race across the beautiful landscapes of France.
In this image from the 1927 edition of the Tour, we can see a couple of cyclists helping their teammate light up a cigarette. The delicate nature of cigarettes makes this photo seem ridiculous, but back then, it was actually believed that smoking could be good for athletes. They used to drink lots of beer and all kinds of junk food too.
A Very Old VR Headset
These days, the virtual reality craze is well underway, and people can be seen all over the world plugging themselves into these fantastic, futuristic headsets that let them explore video game spaces and enter the movies like never before, but the whole idea for that tech goes back a long way.
The photo shows us Hugo Gernsback, a writer, and inventor who was known as ‘The Father of Science Fiction’ as he wrote the first ever sci-fi magazine. He made these glasses with tiny screens for each eye and various buttons that basically let you watch TV right in front of your eyes wherever you could get a signal.
Three Little Words with a Lot of Meaning
Here’s an iconic photo from the Prohibition era. It was taken in 1932. These days, alcohol is everywhere and freely available to adults in most countries around the world, but there was a time it was very closely controlled and prohibited, and it made a lot of people mad.
There were plenty of underground breweries and illegal set-ups all around the United States, and the people also took to the streets with signs and protest marches like we can see here. Eventually, in 1933, the pressure proved strong enough to have an effect, with President Franklin Roosevelt signing an amendment to allow for the sale of beer and wine.
Don’t Knock on the Door of This Creepy Castle
If you feel like there’s something very eerie about this castle, you’re right. It’s none other than Dracula’s castle! Of course, Dracula didn’t actually exist, but the character, invented by Bram Stoker in 1897, was based on a Romanian prince named Vlad The Impaler, and Vlad actually lived in this castle we see here.
Vlad earned his awful nickname because he used to impale prisoners on large spikes, slaughtering and torturing tens of thousands of people in his life and being one of the most violent and horrific leaders in all of European history.
Technology Has Come a Long Way
This photo was taken in 1956, and you won’t believe what it shows. That enormous piece of IBM equipment that is being loaded onto a truck is actually a hard drive, just like you have in your computer right now. From the size of it, you might think it must have a huge amount of storage.
In reality, this IBM hard drive could only store 5MB of data, which is about the size of a simple MP3 song file. This hard drive measured up at 68 inches in height and 60 inches in length and is so much different from modern hard drives, which are a lot smaller but can hold enormous amounts of data.
That’s One Big Horse
Imagine trying to get on the back of this horse! This photo, taken back in the 1940s, shows us Brooklyn Supreme. Also known as Brookie, he was the biggest horse on the planet and is still ranked as the biggest and heaviest horse ever recorded.
Brookie stood at a height of 6 feet and 6 inches. He weighed in at around 3,200 pounds and had a girth of 10 feet and 2 inches. He was raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota and was toured around the country as an attraction, with people paying 10 cents just to see him
Astronauts on the Gemini 8 Get Rescued
Space missions were a big part of the news and media attention back in the 1960s and 1970s, with people from all over the world excited to learn about the latest missions. Here we can see the astronauts from the Gemini 8, which was the 6th flight of NASA’s Gemini program.
This was the first time that one of NASA’s spacecraft suffered a critical system failure while out in space, resulting in the astronauts, Neil Armstrong, and David Scott, ending up in the drink. Fortunately, they weren’t injured by the fall and were quickly rescued.
Loggers Pose beside a Huge Redwood
The redwoods of California are some of the mightiest and most majestic trees anywhere in the world. They tower dozens of feet up in the sky, and it takes a lot of work to bring one down, but that’s exactly what that large saw was used for.
Here, in this photo from 1900, we can see loggers posing beside a very special redwood: the ‘Mark Twain Tree.’ A slice of this tree was sent off to the Museum of Natural History in New York City, while another piece was shipped all the way to England to be displayed in a London museum.
A Pair of Moonshiners at Work
This photo was taken in the 1920s during the Prohibition Era. At that time, many people were secretly making and selling alcohol underground in basements and secret places, but the cops were always on the lookout for these law-breakers.
The trick that many people discovered was to use female workers. Women were far less likely to be suspected or searched than men, and it was actually illegal to search women in many states, so they could get away with being moonshiners much more easily. They could make a whole lot of money from this kind of underground work.
Two Special Men in a Very Special Place
Here we can see two highly important men, Theodore Roosevelt, and John Muir, posing for a photograph at the beautiful Yosemite National Park. The photo was taken in 1903 as both men were on a 3-day trip through the Yosemite area, admiring the fantastic scenery all around them.
Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States, while Muir worked as an inventor, naturalist, conservationist, writer, and more throughout a full and significant life. He actually helped convince Roosevelt that Yosemite, and similarly beautiful natural areas around the country, deserved special status and protection.
All the Whisky You Could Ever Need
You probably see vending machines for things like coffee and cola each day in cities or at work, but this one is very different. This photo, taken in the 1950s, shows us an actual whiskey vending machine.
A real dream for alcohol lovers, this machine was actually located in business buildings and offices, as drinking at work used to be much more common and widely accepted than it would be today. Employees could make use of the whiskey machine to ‘liven up’ their morning coffee or enjoy a toast in the afternoon if they’re having a good day.
A Very Strange Way to Get Around
Can you imagine seeing motorcycles like this riding around the streets every day? Well, there was a time when that idea didn’t seem so strange. This photo was taken back in 1931 and shows a one-wheel motorcycle. It was created by an Italian man named M. Goventosa, and a Frenchman called Davide Cislaghi.
It was also known as a monowheel or monocycle and is essentially built on the same principle as a unicycle, only with a much larger wheel for added stability. You can still find some people building these funny machines nowadays, but they’re not the best way to get around.
Young Boys Line Up the Pins
There are plenty of older people these days who talk about modern machines taking people’s jobs, and when you see photos like this one, you really start to understand just why they feel that way. Before industrialization and technological advancements, people did pretty much everything themselves.
And even youngsters like these boys were expected to pitch in and do their bit. These young gentlemen were employed as pin boys in bowling alleys and had to set up the pins in the proper positions each time they got knocked down for the next bowler to take their turn.
Ann Margaret on the Set of Viva Las Vegas
The movie is considered by fans as well as film critics to be one of Elvis Presley’s best films. it’s known for the on-screen chemistry between Presley and Ann-Margret. In her memoir, Ann-Margret even refers to Elvis Presley as her “soulmate” and wrote: “We felt there was a need in ‘The Industry’ for a female Elvis Presley.
Source: Cell Code
This photo of Ann Margret is from the making of the film and became an iconic image.
The next photo is an unforgettable vintage photo!
A Sad Goodbye Kiss
This is a very moving and emotional photo that was taken back in 1963. It shows a line of women hugging and kissing their partner’s goodbye as the men, who were members of the Italian Navy, get ready to head off for foreign lands.
The photo was taken in Naples and was long rumored to have been captured around WWII time, but it was actually taken several years after the war had ended. It was an awkward moment for these lovers as they didn’t know if or when they might see each other again.
Behind the Scenes of Batman
In this photo, you see Jerry Lewis, Adam West, Dick Shawn, Cesar Romero, Connie Stevens and Jane Wald on the set of Batman from 1966. The debate is always centered around who played the best Batman and who played the best Joker?
Who do you think played the best? Here, Cesar Romero was playing Joker and of course, Adam West as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Although there are many contenders, the winner might just be Heath Ledger as the Joker, may he rest in peace.
A Vertical Parking Garage
Back in the 1930s, lots of cars were being produced and sold all around America, and people were starting to worry about where they were all going to go. In response to this fear, the car parking machine was created, as we see here.
The machine was first placed in Chicago, and people thought it was a great idea at the time, as it only took up the equivalent of six car spaces down on the road, making use of vertical space to store lots of cars. They were also quite efficient and could return a car to its owner in less than a minute, but the idea never really caught on.
Here’s How McDonald’s Used To Look
Some things never change. Even back in the 1950s, McDonald’s was one of the best places for people to go and hang out, except the typical fast food joint looked a little different back then to how it is now. We can see the iconic ‘golden arches’ of the restaurant and some beautiful retro cars too.
McDonald’s was started by Richard and Maurice McDonald in San Bernardino, California. It began life as a simple burger stand but grew into a global business with countless locations in countries all over the world.
A Very Kooky Contraption
No, this photo isn’t fake or a joke, it was an actual invention made in the 1930s by a man named Charles Steinlauf. Steinlauf is actually in the picture, sitting at the top of the bike, and we can see the rest of his family in the other seats.
The idea behind this bike, which Steinlauf named the ‘Goofybike’ was that the power from the various pedals helped to drive the sewing machine. It was also fitted with a car-style steering wheel, which we can see in Steinlauf’s hands, rather than regular bike handlebars. The invention didn’t really catch on, but it certainly makes for a fascinating photo.
A Cowboy Saloon from the Early 1900s
These days, people go to bars and clubs to have some drinks and good times, but back in the days of the Old West, saloons were the equivalent. This photo was taken in a Texas saloon way back in 1907. In the picture, we can see a line of genuine cowboys all standing at the bar and sipping their drinks.
Saloons were popular places for cowboys to rest and have some fun after spending long days out in the fields working hard. Live music and showgirls could sometimes be featured in saloons, as well as prostitutes and gambling tables.
A Very Famous Man
Do you recognize this man? You probably know his name, even if you never saw any of his movies, but he looks very different without his iconic mustache, make-up, and outfits. This is none other than English comedic legend, Charlie Chaplin. This photo was taken in 1916 when Chaplin was only 27.
His full name was Charles Spencer Chaplin, and he enjoyed an incredible career in the silent film era, with his ‘Tramp’ persona being particularly popular and entertaining audiences on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Even Adolf Hitler was a fan of Chaplin’s movies.
The Coolest Teacher of All
This photo was taken back in 1970 and shows us a super cool science teacher jumping on his desk and posing with excitement as he teaches his class all about the physics behind surfing. The photo was taken by the teacher’s son at Dana Hills High School in South California.
The teacher was trendy throughout his time at the school. He worked there for a total of 40 years before retiring, so he got to teach a whole lot of kids and share his passion for science with many young minds. Funnily enough, on his last day, the yearbook committee asked him to recreate this photo for old times’ sake.
A Very Polite and Primitive Speed Sign
Back in the days before modern technology, cops didn’t have the same options available to keep people in check, and this was especially true out on the roads in terms of making people follow the speed limit.
There were no radars or cameras to monitor traffic, so people could get away with driving as fast as they liked. This speed sign shows a fairly primitive measure taken by law enforcement to remind people of the speed limit, which was 30 miles per hour on this particular Fresno County road.
Miss Atomic Bomb 1955
Yes, there really was a ‘Miss Atomic’ pageant. Several, actually. These pageants were held back in the Atomic Age after World War II, with the power of the Atomic Bomb being celebrated back then as something to be proud of.
Attractive women strutted their stuff on the stage in a bid to be crowned Miss Atomic in Nevada, a city well-known for its showgirls and beauty pageants, as well as its military history. There were four different Miss Atomics over the years, with Linda Lawson being the most famous, appearing in several movies and shows.
A Truly Priceless Discovery
Imagine stumbling onto this hidden masterpiece? That’s the genuine Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci himself back in the early 16th century. It’s the most famous painting on the planet, but it was nearly lost forever. This image was taken in 1945, right at the end of World War II.
The Nazis had stolen this priceless painting, along with many other artworks, during their march across Europe, and some remain hidden to this day, but many were recovered when the war ended, with a special unit called the Monuments Men going out to try and gather them all up.
The Biggest Saw of All
Ever seen a saw quite that big? These days, lumberjacks would have much more refined equipment like chainsaws and precision tools, but back in the olden days, big manual saws like this one were what was needed to bring down a massive tree like this towering sequoia.
This image was captured back in 1917 and shows two men posing beside a tree they’ve started to carve down, complete with that enormous saw in their hands. Thousands of sequoia trees like this one were chopped down around that period to collect wood for the construction of homes, wagons, and more.
Some Very Interesting Shoes
At first glance, this shoe might not seem particularly special. It’s quite shiny at the back, but a little worn towards the front. Well, the body of the shoe isn’t actually what makes it special. Instead, take a look beneath it. See those strange attachments?
Those were actually used by bootleggers to make this shoe leave hoofprints in the ground rather than footprints. That way, if any lawmen were trying to track down the bootleggers, they’d be thrown off the scent. The idea apparently came from a Sherlock Holmes story.
Old Fashioned Bathing Suits
Can you imagine a time when bathing suits like these were considered risqué and might even have been banned in some places? Nowadays, you can go to any beach all around America and see people wearing nearly nothing at all, with some people literally wearing nothing at all at nudist beaches, but these bathing suits were once considered quite daring.
Taken back in 1920, this photo shows a line of happy looking women posing in their latest outfits. Bathing suits of the time were typically made to look like dresses and often featured shorts to cover up the tops of the legs too.
Bold Women Make a Statement
Even in the modern era, women are still having to break down barriers and stand up for their rights in a world that has been dominated by men for far too long, and there are countless examples throughout history of females having to fight for their status.
This shot, taken in the late 1930s, shows some of the first ever women to go out in shorts in a public place. Before then, shorts were banned for women, and it took years of protests and demonstrations to get the law finally changed. Some people think this photo was staged, but it’s an impressive image regardless.
Posing In a Dangerous Position
We often hear stories nowadays of people going to great lengths and putting themselves in dangerous positions to take the perfect photo, like posing on the edge of a cliff or in front of a big wave. The same was true many years ago, as we can see here.
This photo, taken way back in 1904, shows a woman posing on the back of her house inside a very fragile-looking redwood tree stump that has been carved out but hasn’t yet fallen down. It’s highly likely that the tree fell not too long after this photo was taken, so the woman and her horse were making a significant risk here.
A Very Elegant Snow Sculpture
This probably looks a little different to the sort of snowman you might make in the backyard at Christmas! Taken in the late 1800s, just before the arrival of the 20th century, the photo shows two women putting the final touches on a true snow masterpiece.
Their sculpture is highly detailed, complete with a carefully constructed hairstyle, face, and dress. It must have taken a long time to make! However, there are some people out there who think this photo might have been edited or changed over the years as it seems almost too detailed to be true. What do you think?
A Unique Mode of Transport
Taken back in the 1950s in New Zealand, this astonishing photo shows us something we’d never see nowadays; a bus being fitted with baby strollers. These buses were used in countries like New Zealand and the United Kingdom, but don’t worry, the babies weren’t actually left inside.
These days, buses have enough space to handle strollers, wheelchairs, and more, but back then, these old models simply weren’t big enough so needed a way to transport strollers, bikes, and more. Therefore, little hooks and handles were added to the outside, but the strollers could get damaged en route.
A Different Side to Vegas
If you’ve visited Las Vegas recently or seen it on TV, you’ll know that it’s a flashy place with a whole lot of lasers, lights, tall buildings, and crazy hotels in the shape of pyramids, fantasy castles, and ancient palaces, but back when this photo was taken in 1964, it looks a lot different!
This photo shows how the famous Vegas Strip looked back in the 60s. We can see a few big hotels and buildings starting to appear along the iconic road, but it’s a far cry from how it looks nowadays. The hotel at the bottom of the photo is Caesar’s Palace.
A Super Cute Little Newsie
Back in the olden days, little kids like this young boy were expected to get outside and earn themselves living in all sorts of jobs. Child workers sadly still exist in some places around the world, but we wouldn’t expect to see a little boy like this one out working in the United States of the 21st century.
The boy in this photo was 6 years old at the time and was working as a “newsie.” These children would stand on street corners selling newspapers to passers-by. There were quite a common sight in big cities, with plenty of them in New York City in particular.
This Old Lady Is Braver Than You
You might not think it to look at her, but this seemingly frail looking old lady was actually a very tough daredevil who did some amazing things in her time. This photo, which was taken in 1901, shows the woman, named Annie Edson Taylor, posing beside a barrel.
Annie Edson Taylor was actually the first person to ever drop down Niagara Falls in a barrel. It was a crazy stunt, and it was made even more insane by the fact that Annie was attempting it on her 63rd birthday! She pulled it off though and made it through to the other side with nothing but a small cut on her head.
An Older Version of the Michelin Man
The Michelin Man is a mascot we’re all familiar with. Also known under the name of ‘Bibendum,’ this chubby mascot man is the face of the Michelin tire company and has been existence for over a hundred years. The idea for the Michelin Man actually came about towards the end of the 19th century.
The founders of Michelin, Edouard, and André Michelin, saw a stack of tires sitting around that looked a little like a man and decided to work together with a French illustrator to bring the cute image to life as a company mascot. This old version of the Michelin Man is a little creepier than the modern incarnation.
A Jail Cell Sidecar
Here’s a sight you might never have even imagined to be possible: it’s a jail cell that also doubles up as the sidecar on a motorcycle. This particular photo, which is truly amazing to behold, dates back to around 1921. It shows a police officer riding his bike with a prisoner sitting in the portable jail cell beside him.
This was a convenient way for cops to arrest people and get them immediately ‘behind bars,’ able to drive them back to the station without needing a larger vehicle, but it was apparently hazardous and didn’t last long as a system.
Getting a Bathing Suit Measured
Here’s an exciting photo and yet another scene you definitely wouldn’t expect to see nowadays. This photo shows a man measuring up the amount of skin this woman’s bathing suit is showing. Back in the 1920s, when this photo was taken, there were stringent dress codes placed in public areas where bathing suits might be worn like at pools and beaches.
The idea was to preserve a standard of ‘decency’ and would usually involve rules against women showing too much skin. If their suits were deemed to be unsuitable, they could even be arrested or asked to leave.
Smoking at the Super Bowl
Here’s something you wouldn’t see nowadays. In the 21st century, athletes and sportsmen and women are rigorous in their training and fitness plans. They eat healthily, live healthily, and are rarely seen doing anything as unhealthy as smoking.
This photo, however, shows a football player enjoying a cigarette at the half-time break of the first ever Super Bowl game in 1967. The player in question is Len Dawson, who was the quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs ended up losing the game to the Green Bay Packers by a score of 35-10.
Proving the Impossible
You know the old saying ‘when pigs fly’? It’s used to describe something that will never happen, but this pilot was determined to prove the contrary, taking a pilot up into the air on a real-life flight in 1909. We can see that the cute little piggy is sitting in a basket with “I am the first pig to fly” written on the side.
The pilot was called John Moore-Brabazon, and he was the first Englishman to pilot a heavier-than-air flying machine in the United Kingdom, as well as becoming the first official British pilot. He also worked as political and led an interesting life.
The Latest Gadget
Have you ever seen roller skates quite like this? These days, we’re used to sleek, chic roller skates or blades that simply look just like regular shoes but with wheels or blades sticking out of the bottoms. Back in 1910, when this photo was taken, this is what roller skates looked like.
Interestingly roller skates have a history dating all the way back to the 18th century, with the first pair being patented in around 1760 by a Belgian inventor called John Joseph Merlin. It wasn’t until the 20th century that roller skating became a sport.
This Woman Was Breaking the Law
Believe it or not, it was once illegal for women to smoke cigarettes. We all know that women have been struggling for many years to enjoy the same sorts of rights as men, and this was just one of the many barriers that had to be overcome over the years.
This photo, taken in 1902, shows a woman smoking, but it was technically against the law to smoke in public as a woman in New York City at the time. #Fortunately, women stood up and fought to get the law changed, eventually helping to pass a law in 1908 to let women smoke in public in the Big Apple.
Great Hair for Race Day
When you plan on running a race, would you really think about doing your hair nice and fancy like the ladies in this photo? It seems a little impractical, but they sure look fashionable posing on the track and getting ready to run in this iconic photo from 1964.
The photo was taken in Abilene, TX, and was actually used as an image for Sports Illustrated magazine. Janis Rinehart, Paula Walter, and Jeanne Ellison were the first US female track athletes to get a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and they really did look like this when they raced.
An Old Fashioned Selfie
Some people think that selfies are a new thing, but the truth is that they’ve been going for many, many years. In fact, you can look all the way back to the days of painted self-portraits for early examples of selfies, and here’s an early example of a photographic one.
The photo was taken by a woman posing in front of a mirror and was used as an advert for Kodak, one of the leading camera and photography companies on the planet. Kodak was founded way back in the late 1800s and used the tagline ‘Kodak moment’ to describe events that needed to be preserved forever.
A Gas-Proof Pram in the Streets of England
Life during war-time was exceptionally scary for everyone. The soldiers out in the fields of combat were putting their lives at risk daily, but even back home, the threat of bombings and attacks was ever present.
This photo was taken shortly before the outbreak of World War II in Hextable, England. It shows a mother pushing her child in a pram that has been specially fitted out a gas-proof lid. It was fully air-tight but equipped with an air intake valve and filter to provide safe, breathable air to the baby. The mom is also seen in a gas mask.
An Adorable Little Boy
Well, if aliens ever do land on Earth, this little lad will be ready to fight them off with his sci-fi ray gun! Taken in the 1950s, this image shows us an adorable little boy posing with one of his favorite toys.
Back in the 1950s and 60s, as the Space Race was heating up and lots of science fiction stories were coming out, little kids like this boy were taking a bigger and bigger interest in space travel and aliens, leading many toy makers to start focusing on futuristic weapons and items for kids to play with.
A Very Scary Stunt
Would you give this stunt a try? This photo, taken nearly a hundred years ago in 1925, shows a true daredevil attempting a highly dangerous stunt as he walks across a wooden plank while wearing a blindfold. To make the situation a million times scarier and more dangerous, the man is over 20 stories up in the air while performing his stunt!
Back in those days, skyscrapers were starting to be developed in larger quantities, especially in big cities like New York, and workers were used to spending large periods at great heights and in very dangerous situations.
Einstein Having a Whale of a Time
Everyone recognizes the iconic face and hairstyle of this amazing man. It’s Albert Einstein, one of the world’s brightest ever minds. Here we can see Einstein grinning with glee as he rides a bicycle. The photo was taken in 1933 in Santa Monica, California.
Einstein was visiting a fellow scientist named Ben Meyer at the time. Interestingly enough, Einstein actually came up with his world famous theory of relativity while riding a bike, but it wasn’t this one. He also said a special quote related to bikes: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
This Looks Like a Bad Idea
If you think that this image shows what appears to be a very strange-looking curved gun, you’re more or less right. This was a curved rifle barrel attachment seen in the 1940s. It was designed by the Nazis during World War II.
The idea behind this ludicrous device was to allow soldiers to shoot around walls and over cover, allowing them to stay safe while firing on their enemies, but in practice, it just didn’t work at all. It was a very short-lived project, but it at least had a decent idea behind it.
Another Death-Defying Stunt
Here’s another example of a crazy and daring stunt performed at a scarily great height. This photo, which was taken in 1934, shows a trio of muscular acrobats performing an amazing routine on top of a skyscraper.
At the time, this building was the biggest in the world, and it shows Jarley Smith, Jewell Waddek, and Jimmy Kerrigan all striking a pose at the height of around 1,250 feet. This was the first time anyone had ever dared to try a stunt like this, and the resulting photo is very, very impressive.
A Popular Way to Spend Some Free Time
Ziplining is a hugely popular activity in the modern era, and would you believe it was hugely popular back in the 1920s too? The history of ziplining actually goes back thousands of years, but it’s only in the last few centuries that people have done it for fun.
One important thing to notice about this image, however, is that the male and female zipline riders aren’t wearing any safety gear. There are nets to catch them if they fall, but these days a lot more safety and security go into ziplining.