Caught on camera: 21 of history’s rarest moments

The oldest surviving camera photograph, View from the Window at Le Gras, was taken by Nicéphore Niépce in 1826. Since then photographers have captured countless historic moments. Sometimes, they appreciated the significance of the moment, other times they have not. Here’s an amazing selection of photos, full of human emotions, which include both these categories.

Bill and Hillary Clinton when they first meet as university students, 1973.


Residents of West Berlin show their children to their grandparents living in East Berlin, 1961.

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The Olympic flame arrives in Berlin, 1936.


Climbers bringing down corpses of their fellow climbers from Mont Blanc, 1895.


Fidel Castro plays baseball in Havana, 1959.


Searchlights on the Rock of Gibraltar, 1942.


Execution by cannon, in Shiraz, Iran, mid-late 19th century.


Gold diggers marching through Chilkoot pass, the only way towards Dawson City, 1898.


Ferdinand Porsche, far left, showing a model of the first Volkswagen Beetle to Hitler, 1934.  


Major General Horatio Gordon Robley with his collection of tattooed Maori heads, 1895.

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Toffs and Toughs – The famous photo by Jimmy Sime illustrating the class divide in pre-war Britain, 1937.


Woodstock – The Opening Ceremony.  Bethel, New York, 14 August 1969.


The last prisoners leaving Alcatraz, 1963.


Photographed in 1912 with red and black paint on it, this iceberg was believed to have sunk the Titanic. 


Gentlemen taking selfies, circa 1920.


A rare colour photograph of two Parisian women from 1930.


The world’s last commercial sailing ship, The Pamir, rounding Cape Horn for the last time in 1949.


Japanese guards bow before US prisoners of war being released from a Yokohama detention centre following the capitulation of Japan, 1945.


Iranian woman hanging out on the beach before the Islamic Revolution, 1960.


James Dean posing in the coffin in the local undertaker in his home town the year he died in a car crash, January 1955.

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British soldier checking out the Argentinean helmets after the Battle of Goose Green on the Falkland Islands, May 1982.

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44 replies
  1. Vincent Joseph Gadacho
    Vincent Joseph Gadacho says:

    Thank you very much for inspiring me with this brilliant photos. I really love old photos and history. It reminds us of how we are yesterday and what have we became today. By reminiscing the past, we can review ourselves if what we’re doing in the present is good and will it be brought in the future.

  2. Ron Wilson
    Ron Wilson says:

    Awesome photos actually learned a few things about history that I was not aware of like the freedom women had in Iran before 1960.

  3. Nathan Johnson
    Nathan Johnson says:

    It’s interesting to me thinking of commercial sailing ships. It would be fun to see what it was like to live in those times. I’m sure people were a lot more patient back then than we are now!

    • Pat
      Pat says:

      One of the magnificent Flying P ships out of Hamburg. She survived commercially until 1957 when she sank in a hurricane off the Azores with only six survivors. She was, perhaps, the last victim of modern shipping practices. She was unable to show a profit on her last voyages and suffered by having an under-trained crew and lack of investment in the upkeep and maintenance of the ship. Her cargo of grain bound from Australia to Hamburg had been badly loaded because nobody involved understood anymore how to load sacks of grain aboard a sailing ship which will lean with the wind. She still remains as the last example of a tradition going back for thousands of years and will always be the epitome of the great days of sail. Four of her sisters still survive; Pommeren, Peking, Passat and Padua the last of which is now known as Kruzenshtern on the Russian Navy ship register and stolen from her owners with the excuse of ‘war reparations’ at the end or the second world war.

  4. Catherine
    Catherine says:

    The photo of the Parisian ladies was so elegant.
    The image of Bill and Hilary looks like the first time I’ve ever seen a real smile on Hilary Clinton’s face.

  5. Komodo
    Komodo says:

    Great collections that should kept on Museum. All historical and all will using by new generation. I hope that will be meaningful art for new generation. Passion of the world

  6. Eeeeen
    Eeeeen says:

    The picture of an Iranian woman hanging out on the beach, was indeed before the Islamic revolution which took place in 1979 and which overthrew a US puppet regime which itself had been installed after a coup d’etat (1953), engineered by the US and UK governments, against the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh. Just saying.

    • Bob Ford
      Bob Ford says:

      Bill & Hill weren’t hippies. The wear what non-legacy law school students wore in 1973 … the hippie styles of several years before had been adopted by most of the non-legacy students by 1973.

  7. Natty Gumpwaller
    Natty Gumpwaller says:

    Seems that the liberal point of view is all that matters. Bet you weren’t even aware of your bias.

  8. JRabbit
    JRabbit says:

    The first selfie shows two different pictures. that photo of the men holding the camera on the left shows the one closest to the camera without a hat and the 2nd photo they all have hats on.

    • Tooba Dood
      Tooba Dood says:

      Not only that, the flooring is different. On the left, they are standing on what looks to be concrete. On the right it’s wood planks. Also, the clothing isn’t the same and they are not standing in the same order. Photo negatives can, of course, be printed from the reverse side, but that’s not the case here.

  9. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I am so amazed to see old pictures come alive. The pictures looked very real as if they were at the same year of 2016. If you never described when were these pictures dated, I wouldn’t know. Thank you for sharing again!

  10. Mel
    Mel says:

    Wow– considering the political climate of today, the picture of the Iranian woman at the beach, a mere 60 years ago is striking. Minus the license plate, this could’ve easily been Santa Barbara. Also, she’s beautiful in freedom.

  11. Joe Kulik
    Joe Kulik says:

    During his first campaign for president, Bill Clinton said that while in college he did smoke marijuana but never inhaled it. Now look again at that picture above of Bill & Hilary during their college days. Is THAT the face of a man who DIDN’T inhale ???

  12. Jan
    Jan says:

    Wow some of these pictures blew me away – Clintons when they MET! The Parisian women – James Dean in a coffin. I thought I’ve seen everything but I haven’t seen not one of these photos before!

  13. Margaret J Rufenacht
    Margaret J Rufenacht says:

    Thank you for sharing these historical pictures. They are educational, full of emotion. The last commercial sailing ship reminds me of “Mutiny on the Bounty”.

  14. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    Execution by cannon? Collection of tattooed heads of Maori? Last “rights” for the women in Iran. Those “boys” must’ve been pretty scared of those ladies to lock them down and strip them of their rights. Who knows where they would be today if they let those women run wild and talk.
    That is just some messed up bits of history. So, what have we learned from history looking back?
    Woodstock and the Parisian ladies were beautiful. The crazy mountain hikers bringing down the corpses of their buddies. The clothes they wore! L


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