Reddit | daytondrum

16+ Historical Photos That Make Way More Sense When You Know What Happened

In a lot of cases, it's pretty hard to tell what's even going on in a photo until somebody explains it. And the older that photo is, the farther we're removed from its context, which makes it even harder to explain.

Fortunately, piecing together the puzzles of the past is the stock and trade of historians and they've already done a lot of work to fill in the blanks on some mysterious moments in history.

So today, we're going to have a look at some pics that don't really click without the right explanation.

This is a much less intimidating sight than it looks.

Reddit | Crowe410

Despite what the spooky masks may suggest, this uniformed folks are civil defense workers who were photographed so they could be featured in a Swiss cultural expo in 1964.

Unfortunately, smoking wasn't the most dangerous thing these kids in Uganda were involved with at the time.

Reddit | RoadRunner71

That's because they were child soldiers who were here to attend the rise to power of Yoweri Museveni, who overthrew Milton Obote and became president of Uganda.

He remains president to this day.

It's not often you see a kangaroo in Egypt, but that should be a clue as to who's hanging out with it.

Reddit | Justsoinsane

It came with the Australian soldier kneeling in front of it, who was stationed in Egypt during the First World War.

Although the rest this pilot is taking is much-needed, he likely won't get to do it for long.

Reddit | Albertbailey

Not only is that because he was between missions when this photo was taken, but he was between missions during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Everyone the Royal Air Force could bring together was needed to repel the German Luftwaffe.

If this young man's face doesn't give you a clue to why we're supposed to care who Robert Zimmerman is, his stage name probably will.

Reddit | L4KE_

You'll likely know him better as Bob Dylan and this yearbook proved that a family friend of the uploader was in his graduating class back in 1958.

Those who know who Jayne Mansfield was will probably wince at that warning shown underneath her here.

Reddit | msnetzstern

That's because it was long rumored that the car accident that killed her also decapitated her.

That didn't turn out to be true, but some rumors have a way attaching themselves to people's legacies.

Many of us have seen Uncle Sam sternly tell us he wants us to join the army, but we never would have without the man in front of him.

Reddit | derzto

That man is James Montgomery Flagg and although he created this poster during World War I, the iconography remained a symbol of military recruitment throughout the 20th century.

The picture quality makes it a little hard to tell, but the uploader's grandpa is standing next to none other than Elvis Presley.

Reddit | snoozinforabruisin

The U.S. Army drafted Elvis back in 1958 as a means of retooling their public image and encouraging a new generation of young men to join up while Cold War fears and a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union loomed large.

This is a photographer named Jack Reilly in the midst of getting a shot that I'd never dream of attempting back in 1929.

Reddit | El-loco-chielo

He was likely capturing the massive construction that was going on around Wall Street at the time and apparently considered this 74-story Manhattan Bank a perfect (albeit perilous) vantage point.

It's getting rarer to find surviving veterans of World War II, but it was likely much harder to find Revolutionary War veterans in 1864.

Reddit | AutisticKnight

Still, it was apparently possible because that's when then-100-year-old William Hutchings here was photographed.

It must have been horrific to watch a country he fought to build engage in civil war.

Unfortunately, we know exactly why this mother had to cradle her child like this during the protest shown here.

Reddit | Alpacatastic

According to Boston University, he was affected by what would be called Minamata disease that was discovered in 1956 after the Japanese company Chisso released lethal levels of mercury into the Minamata Bay.

In extreme cases like this, the disease would paralyze people before they fell into comas and died. By 2004, 2,265 victims were officially recognized and Chisso had paid the equivalent of $86 million in compensation. Further lawsuits continue to this day.

It's hard to even imagine how long it had been since these prisoners at the Dachau Concentration Camp had reason to celebrate.


However, when the camp was liberated in 1945, the occasion called for a toast.

This man was spotted leaving a subway construction site during the Hungarian Uprising of 1956.

Reddit | LowWwonder

According to the BBC, this conflict erupted after Soviet officials replaced the infamous leader Mátyás Rákosi with the just as hated Ernő Gerő.

It's unclear, however, whether the person in this photo supported Gerő or the revolutionaries.

This was a sadly common sight for farmlands during the Great Depression.

Reddit | chexwithoutthemix

According to the Library of Congress, great demand for wheat products led to the clearing of prairie grasslands for more wheat farms.

When drought hit in 1930, this loss of grassland made it easy for once viable farmlands in 19 states to become useless dust bowls.

Although the uploader would like to believe it, this person probably didn't ride the helicopter's cargo to the ground.

Reddit | 68J

This drop-off happened during the Vietnam War and the uploader believes the helicopter was delivering a giant shipment of ammunition.

By the time this photo was taken in the 1960s, this man had just arrived in Milan.

Reddit | LordToldevorm

He was one of many who left southern Italy during the '50s and '60s to seek new opportunities in the more industrialized northern cities, Milan being one of them.

By the time this photo was taken in 1979, then-16-year-old Brenda Ann Spencer had recently killed two people.

Reddit | wick720

As some of you might recognize thanks to Boomtown Rats song released that year, her stated reason for the mass shooting attempt was that she didn't like Mondays.

We may have some elaborate Fourth of July celebrations nowadays, but folks in the 1930s were also no strangers to spectacle.

Reddit | newestJourney

This tower of barrels was built in New England and when the time was right, it served as the fuel for a massive bonfire.

The chaos that marked the U.S. evacuation of Vietnam led some to do things they might not have been too proud of later.

Reddit | RyanSmith

For instance, this man was so intent on getting on the last chopper from the U.S. embassy that he was willing to punch out this South Vietnamese man to keep his spot.

Getting a good photo of the president during a public appearance is a whole lot easier than it used to be.

Reddit | pro_troller3

After all, if the uploader hadn't indicated where Abraham Lincoln was during this visit to Gettysburg, it's pretty unlikely that we would've been able to pick him out.

This may not have been the first time we've seen an astronaut spacewalk, but it certainly would have been at the time.

Reddit | JonneJ

That's because this photo captures the first time an astronaut attempted one in 1965. And the man who has the honor of pioneering this practice is Edward White.

After receiving criticism for threatening to execute his predecessor's cabinet, Fidel Castro asked the people attending this rally to raise their hands if they agreed with what he was doing.

Reddit | homofapien

As Professor Lillian Guerra of Yale University told The Smithsonian, this call for raised hands became such a key feature of his subsequent rallies that he would make it his official "substitute for electoral voting."

This crowd gathered at the Reichstag in Berlin to protest the terms laid out in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I.

Reddit | Johannes_P

As the treaty demanded that Germany to cede its territories, accept responsibility for the war and pay reparations thereof, the crowd had much to be angry about.

This wasn't the extent of the fury, however, as several politicians who were blamed for accepting it would later be assassinated.

Of all the things that could've damaged this man's kitchen, the last culprit we'd likely expect would be a nuclear test.

Reddit | PutinTakeout

However, as Atlas Obscura reported, that's exactly what happened after an underground test in Mississippi back in 1964.

The test was conducted underground as a sneaky way of getting around international calls for nuclear test bans and the location was chosen because it was full of salt deposits. This meant the test wouldn't disrupt oil and water supplies.

Demolitions of old hotels and casinos aren't uncommon in Nevada, but this one wasn't supposed to happen.

Reddit | ThaloGreen

As KRCA reported, Harvey's Hotel in Stateline, Nevada was bombed by two men who posed as computer technicians and left a note demanding a $3 million ransom back in 1980.

Both the hotel and casino were evacuated and there was an attempt to pay the ransom. However, the messengers involved couldn't contact the bombers and the bomb proved too sophisticated to be disarmed. Nobody was injured in the inevitable explosion, but the hotel would stay closed for eight months due to the damage.

If something seems eerie or sad about this bed, that's because of what had just occurred in it before this photo was taken.

Reddit | Hozonkai

In April of 1865, President Abraham Lincoln spent his last moments in this bed in Washington D.C.'s Petersen House after he was fatally shot by John Wilkes Booth across the street at Ford's Theater.

However, it wouldn't be long before Booth met hi own fate at the hands of this man, Thomas "Boston" Corbett.

Reddit | derzto

Corbett was a hatter who later ended up on a special task force of Union soldiers with a mission to capture Booth, preferably alive.

According to the New England Historical Society, Corbett had every intention of doing this, but said his shot struck Booth in the neck after he bent down to pick up something while fleeing.

Exposure to mercury during his work as a hatter then deteriorated his mental state and he was sent to an institution in Topeka, Kansas. However, he escaped and disappeared completely.

This young boy in London took up boxing as a means of defending himself against bullies and a special guest showed up while he was training.

Reddit | daytondrum

That's right, the great Muhammad Ali happened to walk in to train for his fight against British boxer Henry Cooper.

Not only did Ali give the kid some pointers, but he even let him win a little "fight" between them.

Believe it or not, there's a series reason that Finland suddenly had hovering trees in 1941.

Reddit | Tookin

These spruces were apparently hung by Finnish forces to ensure that enemies couldn't see their troop movements from the air.

This Austrian soldier was shown testing out an experimental anti-aircraft gun made from 10 pistols.

Reddit | Iong-time-lurker

That may not sound like it would be very effective, but it's important toi remember that planes were much more fragile during World War I.