Reddit | AspireAgain

15+ Historical Pics That Don't Make Much Sense Without An Explanation

I've often wondered how hard it'll be for future historians to figure out what exactly was going on in the strange times we find ourselves in nowadays.

Maybe that's because it's hard to find a meaning in events you're too close to, but I also know it's possible to lose a big piece of what happened in the past when we see historical photos out of context.

And although the people of past generations weren't any more immune to following weird trends than we are, we can often find an explanation that makes sense out of what we're seeing if we dig hard enough.

Fortunately, that legwork has already been done for you in the case of these photos from the past that gave us pause.

Even if it's not clear what's happening in this photo, it's pretty obvious that this man is in tense situation.

Reddit | Beneficial-Cucumber1

When Soviet tanks rolled through Bratislava in what was then Czechoslovakia on August 8, 1968, one citizen named Emil Gallo exposed his chest in protest.

According to The Slovak Spectator, this area was also the site where Soviet forces had previously killed a 17-year-old girl.

Unfortunately, space doesn't usually allow for very comfortable sleeping conditions.

Reddit | RoseHorizon

Of course, that doesn't stop the human body from needing rest, so here we see astronaut Jim Lovell trying to get some shut-eye during the Apollo 13 mission.

You may have heard that the Statue of Liberty toured the world before it was given to the United States, but that wasn't the first time it went on display.

Reddit | Ephometox

As we can see, the head and shoulders of the statue became available for public viewing during the 1878 Paris World's Fair before the rest of it had even been built.

If you're wondering who requested such a massive barrel of rum for the funeral, the answer is that the funeral is for the rum itself.

Reddit | Rob-With-One-B

That's because these British sailors held the event to protest the Royal Navy's decision to cancel their daily rum rations.

These rations were issued for 230 years until July 31, 1970, which is now known as Black Tot Day.

This skinny vehicle is known as a catwalk car that police could use to better monitor traffic in New York's Holland Tunnel.

Reddit | Shadow_serenity

Popular Mechanics reported on the electric vehicle's testing back in 1955, but there's little information on how long it lasted after that.

Believe it or not, there was a time when this blurry mess was the best photograph in the world.

Reddit | ILikeGuitarAmps

That's because this view from the window of French inventor Nicéphore Niépce's home is the oldest photograph that we're aware of.

If the guns these people are holding don't immediately stand out in this image, the bags on their heads probably do.

Reddit | U-Boot

Although it was easy to openly support Ruhollah Khomeini once he became Grand Ayatollah of Iran, these masked militia fighters knew that was a much riskier enterprise before he rose to power.

If you can recognize the person in this photo, you definitely know your history.

Reddit | LivingRaccoon

For the rest of us, the outfit and hair probably make it difficult to identify this two-year-old child as 32nd President of The United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

There's a reason that this Irish soldier is the only one in the photo with a smile on his face.

Reddit | Boru-264

Some of you crafty folks might have already figured this out, but he put his helmet on top of his rifle to trick an enemy sniper into shooting at it.

While it's not entirely wrong to say these three young men just had a fight, it's a little misleading.

Reddit | Edenspawn

According to Princeton, these students earned the bruises and swelling you see here from a snowball fight back in 1895.

I can only imagine their opponents were packing their snowballs with rocks or pieces of ice.

Pablo Picasso had a very specific and unusual reason for carrying this gun.

Reddit | Its_Me_Jose

According to author Arthur J. Miller, he would fill it with blanks and shoot them at any fans who asked about the meanings of his paintings, asked him to explain his theory of aesthetics, or badmouthed the late French artist Paul Cézanne.

If you've been unnerved by the massive collection of bones in the Paris Catacombs, you're probably carrying on a fine tradition.

Reddit | 78money

As we can see from this photo, they were just as haunting to behold back in 1861.

This Soviet soldier isn't kissing this machine gun, but rather drinking from its cooling tank.

Reddit | GreatWhaleTopKek

It's certainly hard to imagine this water was at all clean, but his conditions were obviously desperate enough for this to seem like his only option to stave off dehydration.

Despite what it may seem, this crowd didn't fill this stadium just to look at a bunch of tropical trees.

Reddit | AspireAgain

Instead this photo was taken before the U.S. Army and Navy simulated a storming operation on a Japanese atoll.

This "war show" was intended to inspire people to buy war bonds and help fund military efforts.

You might have seen Rembrandt's famous painting, The Night watch, but it probably didn't look like this.

Reddit | Ephometox

According to Deutsche Welle, these gashes in the painting were the result of a vandal slashing the painting 12 times back in 1975.

Although some of the deeper cuts can still be seen today, restoration efforts have hidden much of the damage.

This car may not seem like it's doing much, but its passenger is actually panicking in this picture.

Reddit | rogermemoore

That's because the uploader's grandfather apparently tied the steering wheel down and jumped out of the car while it was driving in circles to prank their grandma.

People in the 1920s got bored too, I suppose.

It would be hard to make heads or tails of this scene if we came across it, but there's a reason everyone involved looks so serious.

Reddit | U-Boot

These men were training to be Hussars, which are members of a cavalry unit.

While they wouldn't necessarily need to do this in the field, this exercise is supposed to teach them to maintain balance on their future horses. Yeah, definitely important.

This may look like a pair of saloons from the Old West, but that's only half right.

Reddit | MayhemInTheDesert

Although none of us can likely remember a time when Las Vegas didn't have an infamous reputation, it all began in this neighborhood called Block 16.

It was the original Las Vegas red light district shown sometime after the turn of the century.

Although we've grown to know and love this man over the years, it's still very hard to recognize him in this picture.

Reddit | DmitryZaytcev

Believe it or not, this is what Stan Lee looked like when he was about 32-years-old back in 1954.

I can only imagine how different his voice sounded.

The Great Sphinx of Egypt looks a little different in this photo, but there's a good reason for that.

Reddit | AspireAgain

Since this was taken back in 1942, it had to be fortified with bricks and sandbags in case artillery shells got too close to it during World War II.

Although this was a much happier moment than it seemed, this young woman's good times wouldn't last for long.

Reddit | DMK-Max

This photo from 1915 depicts the famous Anastasia playing around with fake teeth. Three years later, her family would be massacred after the Bolshevik uprising.

This man isn't in some bizarre, makeshift prison, but he has just as good a reason to look upset.

Reddit | toshiro-mifune

This is Lt. Lou Zamperini and in this shot, he's seeing how badly a shell from a Japanese cannon damaged his Liberator cargo ship.

This was the Ford Pavilion at the 1939 New York World's Fair, but that's probably not the part you have questions about.


So yes, let's talk about that spooky looking statue. The lighting may make it look menacing, but it's simply supposed to depict the Roman messenger god, Mercury.

That's a pretty good figure for a car company.

Since this was a very early photo, I suppose we can excuse it for not clearly depicting its subject.

Reddit | Ludddi

If you're stumped on what we're looking at, the answer is that the 1840 photo was the first picture of the Moon.

The iconography and sign might provide enough clues that this vehicle is trying to convince to vote people to vote for a Communist party.

Reddit | RoadRunner71

But it might clear up some confusion to learn that the weird decoration on top of it is actually a model of the early Russian satellite Sputnik.

This vehicle was adorned this way for the 1958 General Election in Italy.

For a lot of speedsters at the time, this was a sad sight to see.

Reddit | FNaXQ

While most of us are probably used to the effects of the 1974 Maximum Speed Law by now, this way to save fuel during the oil shortage of the '70s would have taken a lot of adjustment.

This German tank crew in North Africa appeared to experience a day hot enough to fry eggs on their tanks.

Reddit | derzto

At least, that's what then-general Irwin Rommel wanted people back in Germany to see when he engineered this publicity shot.

If you're pretty sure there wasn't an episode of the old Adam West Batman series where he hung about with a bunch of kids, you're right.

Reddit | Niyazali_Haneef

Instead, this still was taken from a road safety ad West shot back in 1967.

Although there were probably some weird pastimes back in 1912 that we wouldn't understand today, this isn't one of them.

Reddit | IntentStudios

Instead, this guy is simply testing a helmet. Apparently, he's also showing a lot of confidence that it works if this is how he chose to do it.

Although it was unclear what a Playboy Bunny needed to do back in 1965, it seems they needed a whole class to cover it.

Reddit | jab116

Based on the number of attendees, it also seemed like they weren't accepting many candidates at once.

Actress Anita Ekberg wasn't just showing off her bow and arrow in this picture.

Reddit | [deleted]

As the photographer in the second photo likely became all too aware of, brandishing this weapon was her way of fending off the paparazzi.

Before cars started coming with tape decks, some drivers had a different option when they got tired of the radio.

Reddit | mechrec

As boxing legend Muhammad Ali is demonstrating here, it wasn't unheard of for some cars to have mini record players installed.

At first, it may seem like workers are taking this famous portrait of Chinese leader Mao Zedong down.

Reddit | [deleted]

Instead, they were actually covering up the Tiananmen Square portrait up on May 23, 1989 because protesters were lobbing paint at it.

This would normally be an absurdly funny sight, but it indicated the severe unrest that unfolded on a dark day in american history.

Reddit | Beneficial-Cucumber1

That's because this photo was taken in Washington D.C. the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

That's why you can see members of the National Guard in the background.