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?

(via sobadsogood)

Women With A Gas-Resistant Pram, England, 1938must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-35

Unpacking the head of the Statue of Liberty, 1885must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-2

Elvis in the Army, 1958must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-37

Animals being used as part of medical therapy, 1956must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-7

Testing of new bulletproof vests, 1923must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-4

Charlie Chaplin at age 27, 1916must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-1

Hindenburg Disaster, May 6, 1937must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-40

Circus hippo pulling a cart, 1924must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-3

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


Disneyland Employee Cafeteria in 1961must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-39

Advertisement for Atabrine, anti-malaria drug, in Papua, New Guinea during WWII


Soldier shares a banana with a goat during the battle of Saipan, ca. 1944must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-10

Little girl with her doll sitting in the ruins of her bombed home, London, 1940


Construction of the Berlin wall, 1961must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-12

Unknown soldier in Vietnam, 1965must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-13

Bookstore in London ruined by an air raid, 1940must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-14

Walter Yeo, one of the first to undergo an advanced plastic surgery and a skin transplant, 1917must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-15

Suntan vending machine, 1949must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-16

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


Artificial legs, UK, ca. 1890must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-21

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


Austrian boy receives new shoes during WWIImust-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-24

Hitler’s officers and cadets celebrating Christmas, 1941must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-25

Christmas dinner during Great Depression: turnips and cabbagemust-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-26

The real Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, ca. 1927


Last prisoners of Alcatraz leaving, 1963must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-28

Melted and damaged mannequins after a fire at Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London, 1930must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-29

A space chimp posing to camera after a successful mission to space, 1961must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-32

Illegal alcohol being poured out during Prohibition, Detroit, 1929must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-33

Princeton students after a freshman vs. sophomores snowball fight, 1893must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-34

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, 1947must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-30

First morning after Sweden changed from driving on the left side to driving on the right, 1967must-see-black-and-white-historic-moments-31

40 Must-See Photos From The Past originally appeared on Bored Panda