The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” was coined by American newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane in 1911. It’s a simple notion that applies to many aspects of our lives, but especially to historical photography. Sometimes, one simple picture can tell you more about history than any story you might read or any document you might analyze.
These photographs all tell stories about the historical figures or events that they represent. Once taken simply to document their present, they now help us witness the past. Many photographs only become iconic shots years later, once we understand their importance and historical context. From historical landmarks and famous people to the basic daily routines of the past, these pictures portray the past in a way that we can empathize with and understand more intimately.
Perhaps the wars, poverty, fights for freedom and little miracles of the past have lessons for us that we can use today?
Annette Kellerman promotes women’s right to wear a fitted one-piece bathing suit, 1907. She was arrested for indecency
Annie Edison Taylor, the first person to survive going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, 1901
106-year-old Armenian Woman guards home, 1990
Baby cages used to ensure that children get enough sunlight and fresh air when living in an apartment building, ca. 1937
The original Ronald McDonald, 1963
Advertisement for Atabrine, anti-malaria drug, in Papua, New Guinea during WWII
Little girl with her doll sitting in the ruins of her bombed home, London, 1940
Measuring bathing suits – if they were too short, women would be fined, 1920′s
Martin Luther King with his son removing a burnt cross from their front yard, 1960
Hotel owner pouring acid in the pool while black people swim in it, ca. 1964
Lifeguard on the coast, 1920′s
Mom and son watching the mushroom cloud after an atomic test, Las Vegas, 1953
Mother hides her face in shame after putting her children up for sale, Chicago, 1948
The real Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, ca. 1927
A beautiful suicide – 23 year-old Evelyn McHale jumped from the 83rd floor of the Empire State Building and landed on a United Nations limousine, 1947