The 20th century has graced us with moments of joy, moments of sorrow and everything in-between, but most people weren’t there to see the greatest moments in history themselves. Luckily, photographers were there to capture the most powerful images in of the century for us – and often in the perfect shot. Just imagine how easy it is to literally shape the face of history – being there in the right place and at the exact right time to catch an iconic athlete in his moment of triumph, or a pensive president in crisis. Read on to see some of the most powerful images of the last century.
1. Shirley Temple With a Turkey, 1949
We all know Shirley Temple as perhaps the most iconic child actress to ever grace our screens, but her career certainly didn’t end when she grew older. Here we see a 21-year-old Temple in a pretty unusual Thanksgiving-themed publicity photo, alongside a suspicious looking turkey.
Temple, who began her film career at the astonishing age of three, continued to act as a teen. Later in life, she made an impressive career change, venturing into the world of diplomacy. She served as U.S. ambassador to Ghana under Gerald Ford and to Czechoslovakia under George H.W. Bush. Truly a woman of many trades.
2. Young Elvis Signing Autographs
Often referred to as the “King of Rock and Roll,” or simply “the King,” Elvis Presley is a legend in his own right that doesn’t require much of an introduction. In this image, he is seen signing autographs for fans, something that would become routine for him.
A pioneer of the music genre rockabilly, an up-beat fusion of country music, rhythm and blues, Presley aimed to bring African American music to the rest of America. He undoubtedly succeeded. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single person in this world who hasn’t heard of Presley, and Elvis impersonators populate every corner of the United States.
3. Audrey Hepburn Shopping With Her Pet Deer, 1958
British heartthrob Audrey Hepburn was making her 1959 film Green Mansion, directed by her then-husband Mel Ferrer, when the animal trainer on set suggested she take her on-screen friend, a baby deer, home with her so she could teach it to follow her.
Hepburn was so calm that the deer, nicknamed Pippin, mistook her for its mother. Pippin began to cuddle Hepburn and accompany her to the grocery store in Beverly Hills. The two became so close that even her dog was jealous.
4. Marilyn Monroe Meets The Queen Of England, 1956
Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, celebrated her 92nd birthday on April 21, 2018. Another cultural icon – a much different cultural icon – would also be turning 92 in the summer of 2018 if she were alive: Marilyn Monroe.
Though you wouldn’t necessarily expect it, the queen and Monroe once met face to face at a film premiere to which Monroe was accompanying her then-husband, Arthur Miller. At the time, both Monroe and Queen Elizabeth II were just 30 years old.
Talk about a remarkable coincidence. For even more powerful photos, read on.
5. Original Star Wars Cast
Check this one out. Star Wars fandom has grown rapidly since the original trilogy was introduced 1977, and even exponentially since 2015, when Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out. The film brought back the spirit of the original films, some say, and many familiar characters.
Han Solo and Chewbacca were reintroduced to the franchise in The Force Awakens, and Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa made a comeback in The Last Jedi. Social media, which obviously didn’t exist in the 70s, ensures these iconic characters are plastered onto Instagram memes and headlines all over the world. Like the force, they’re all around us.
6. Muhammad Ali Knocks Out Sonny Liston
Sports Illustrated photographer Neil Leifer was at the right place at the right time when he captured Muhammad Ali after he knocked out Sonny Liston. The photo is perhaps one of the most powerful images in sports of the last century.
The 23-year-old boxing champion Muhammad Ali stood against 34-year-old Sonny Liston, from whom he snatched the title the previous year, making the excitement around their second go-around in the ring even greater. “I was obviously in the right seat,” Leifer said at the time.”But what matters is I didn’t miss.”
7. Lyndon B. Johnson Sworn In As President Alongside Jacqueline Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson insisted that John F. Kennedy’s wife, Jackie Kennedy, go back with him back to the nation’s capital just hours after her husband was assassinated. He also insisted that she stand beside him in the famous photograph of him being sworn in as president.
According to Johnson’s wife and future first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, who was also present, Jackie Kennedy remained composed, “immaculate… and exquisitely dressed,” even as she flew straight from the scene of the assassination to the Oval Office. She was even wearing the same clothes.
8. Norma Jean Mortenson, 1944
Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, Marilyn Monroe had a rough childhood, moving from foster home to foster home throughout her youth. She married for the first time at age 16 and was working in a U.S. military factory before she became famous.
Everything changed for her in 1944, when the young Norma Jean was introduced to a photographer from the U.S. Army Air Force’s First Motion Picture Unit at work. Her relationship with the photographer propelled her modeling career that led to big-time acting contracts and, eventually, her status as a timeless and iconic American sex symbol.
9. Baby Angelina Jolie With Her Parents
Angelina Jolie is one of modern Hollywood’s most mystifying and gorgeous figures. And it’s no wonder she is, being the daughter of power couple Jon Voight and Marcheline Bertrand. And if you think Jolie’s tumultuous relationship with Brad Pitt was complicated, her relationship with her dad is even more confusing.
Jolie and Voight brought themselves to reconcile, just in 2018, through art. “It’s the common language,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. After a long period of distance, Jolie now knows what works and what doesn’t when communicating with her father. “We don’t really talk politics well,” she confessed. “We talk art very well.”
Talk about way back when! Will the next iconic photo top this one? Read on to find out.
10. Elizabeth Taylor With Kitten, 1953
One of the most popular Hollywood icons to ever grace the big screen, Elizabeth Taylor was one of the few 1940s child stars who made it big as an adult too. In 1999, Taylor was named the seventh-greatest female screen legend by the American Film Institute.
In addition to being outstandingly talented and graceful, Taylor had a thing for cats. In this photo, an innocent Elizabeth Taylor poses with an adorable kitten in her hands on the set of 1953’s The Girl Who Had Everything. So precious!
11. Annette Kellerman And Her Fitted One-piece Bathing Suit, 1907
Australian professional swimmer, film actress and writer Annette Kellermann was truly a woman of all trades. She was one of the first brave women to wear a one-piece swim suit. Her swim suits became so popular that she started her own fashion line.
Not everyone was a fan of the “Annette Kellermans,” as they became known. In 1907, Kellerman was arrested on Revere Beach, Massachusetts for “indecency” – she was wearing one of her one-pieces. It was during the height of her popularity.
12. The Kissing Sailor, 1945
This iconic photo of a World War II sailor kissing a nurse, who was later identified as Greta Zimmer Friedman, was one of the most powerful images that captured the utter exultation Americans felt on the day the war ended. Drinks flowed and kisses were planted as the world learned the devastating war was finally over.
Needless to say, people’s inhibitions were certainly cast off once it was clear that the century’s deadliest war was finally over. Contrary to popular belief, the iconic shot wasn’t staged — it was a completely spontaneous moment expressing absolute elation.
13. Customers At London Music Store, 1955
Introduced by record label His Master’s Voice (HMV), Vinyl listening booths were a hit throughout the U.K. and Canada in the 1950’s. At HMV record stores, customers could not only buy records and record players, but also listen to the latest songs in special sound-isolating booths.
Now that Beats by Dre and advanced wireless headphones are widely available globally, such a concept might not seem like a big deal. In the 50s, though, the luxury of walking into a record store and cranking to your favorite tune without having to deal with the nuisance of headphones was groundbreaking.
14. Golden Age Goddess Veronica Lake
Much like Marilyn Monroe, screen siren Veronica Lake began her life with a different name. Born Constance Frances Marie Ockelman, the lovely Lake was a talented actress who won both popular and critical acclaim for various roles throughout the 1940s.
Veronica Lake captured audiences into the early 50s and was also known for her “peek-a-boo” hairstyle. Eventually, her career began to decline in part due to a drinking problem, but no discussion about Hollywood’s golden age is complete without mentioning lake.
Veronica Lake was truly an icon, but the next powerful photo is even more iconic.
15. The Beatles In Their Youth
Possibly the most iconic rock band in the history of humankind, The Beatles were officially formed in Liverpool in 1960 and took the international stage just four years later. There’s just not much that hasn’t been written about “the Fab Four,” but this photo of them (minus Ringo) in their youth is just glorious.
The Beatles are the best-selling band in history, with an estimated 800 million digital and physical albums sold worldwide. The band’s four members were collectively included in Time magazine’s list of the twentieth century’s 100 most influential people. But the youthfully innocent faces in this photo had no idea the success that was in store.
16. Coca-Cola Conquers France, 1950
Coca-Cola had been available unofficially in France since 1919, but after the victory of the allies in World War II, the company decided it was time for the people of France to enjoy the great taste of the bubbly beverage.
Under the slogan “Drink Fresh,” Coke vans toured the streets, handing out samples to whoever wanted a taste. According to a 1945 Coca-Cola advertisement, “The invitation ‘Have a Coke’ is a symbol of a Yank soldier’s felling of friendliness toward folks in Paris.”
17. Soldiers Party It Up At The Hollywood Canteen
Bombshell actress of the silver screen, Bette Davis was the driving force behind The Hollywood Canteen, which operated in Hollywood during World War II. The concept was simple: Free food, dancing and entertainment for servicemen, usually on their way to war.
Even though most of the Canteen’s visitors were American servicemen, it was open to servicemen of all allied countries as well as women in all branches of the U.S. military. Oh, and if it wasn’t clear, many of the women working at the Canteen were celebrity volunteers. As you’ll soon learn, the Canteen was far from Hollywood’s only mega-famous night venue.
18. The Cocoanut Grove Nightclub Was The Place To Be
After realizing Hollywood’s legendary Ambassador Hotel was much too small to fit both the downtown country club folks and Hollywood’s movie crowd, management converted the hotel’s ballroom into the 1,000-seat Cocoanut Grove. It was truly grand, even serving as the locale of the 1939 Academy Awards.
The who’s who of Hollywood were led down a grand staircase into a Las Vegas-like adult wonderland that featured mechanical monkeys, palm trees and ceilings lit with stars. There was also a waterfall. And real monkeys who were occasionally let loose on the floor by the Barrymore brothers. Just imagine going there for a quick nightcap.
19. Hollywood celebrates the end of World War II
When President Harry S. Truman announced that Japan had surrendered and World War II was over, the whole world rejoiced. And where better to be on such a joyous occasion than in Hollywood? One can only imagine what was going on at the lavish Hollywood clubs of the era.
Crowds sang and chanted, threw confetti into the air and spontaneously started a parade – Hollywood style. It was the height of the Golden Age of cinema, and Hollywood was definitely the place to be.
This powerful photo is hard to beat, but wait till you see what’s in the next couple of pages!
20. Kurt Cobain And Courtney Love With Their Daughter
Dubbed the grunge version of John Lennon and Yoko Ono by some, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love formed the power couple that dominated the 90s, before Cobain’s untimely death in 1994. In this photo, Love is holding their only daughter, Frances Bean Cobain.
The eccentric Love and more reserved Cobain led a controversial and messy relationship that still held together until the very end. As for Cobain’s music – you’re still likely to hear Nirvana songs at stores and bars all over the world.
21. Babe Ruth, 1927
Babe Ruth, the New York Yankees’ star outfielder, began his career as a superb left-handed pitcher, albeit for the Yankees fiercest rivals the Boston Red Sox. Nowadays, there’s not a single American unfamiliar with the Baltimore native and his star-studded career.
Regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in American history, Ruth is also considered by many to be the best baseball player of all time. In 1936, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame as one of its first five inaugural members.
22. Korean War Vet Saves Kitten
U.S. Marine Frank Praytor gained quite a bit of fame after being photographed nursing a kitten during the Korean War. While serving as a combat correspondent in Korea, Praytor took it upon himself to take two newborn kittens under his care.
This internationally syndicated photo of him feeding one of the kittens appeared in 1,700 newspapers and struck a chord with the public. Apparently, it also struck a chord with women from all over the country who sent Praytor letters offering to marry him. This one certainly counts as one of the most powerful images in history.
23. Salvador Dali & Cats: Powerful images Of Powerful Images
Big-wig photographer Philippe Halsman knew a simple portrait of his friend and longtime collaborator, surrealist painter Salvador Dali, wouldn’t suffice when he took on the task of shooting him. Dali was a legendary artist and eccentric who appreciated both shock value and cats.
To fit his subject, Halsman created an elaborate scene to surround Dali. Here’s how it worked: Halsman’s wife and young daughter stood out of the frame and threw three cats and a bucket of water into the air while Dali jumped up. The scene also included some of Dali’s original work. Such was life before the advent of Photoshop.
Salvador Dali was truly one of a kind. Read on to see something even more iconic.
24. Martin Luther King, Jr. Delivering His ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech
Martin Luther King, Jr. was easily one of the 20th century’s most influential people. In this picture, taken in 1963, King was so eloquently delivering his famously powerful “I Have a Dream” speech at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
The vivid speech, laden with peaceful words and hope for a shared future between all of America’s citizens, touched hearts across the country – black and white alike. Today, King is considered an icon that has changed the course of history forever.
25. Steve Jobs And The First iPhone
The late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the First-Generation iPhone over a decade ago, announcing that “Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.” His plan to transform the way we use and think about phones has played out perfectly.
It is almost unheard of in today’s world for anyone, it seems, to have any phone other than the smart phone, which is in other words an iPhone or adaptation of the iPhone by other brands. Instead of remaining a tool for talking and texting, the phone has become a pocket-sized computer at everyone’s fingertips. As far as powerful images go, this one has very powerful implications.
26. Barack Obama And His Love Of Basketball
The honest truth is that one of the biggest pieces of President Barack Obama’s legacy will be his skills on a basketball court. Not really, but this is a president who has shot hoops with NBA stars and former college standouts throughout his political career.
The 44th president’s love for the sport is rooted deep. In the late 1970s, long before the political campaigns and diplomatic conferences, Barack Obama played on both the J.V. and varsity teams at Hawaii’s Punahou School, eventually winning a state championship in 1979.
27. Shia LaBeouf
The list of controversial actor Shia LaBeouf’s peculiar public appearances is quite possibly the longest in Hollywood, but the time he wore a paper bag over his head to a movie premiere in 2014 stands out as unique – even for him.
The bag read “I am not famous anymore” in all caps. LaBeouf’s strange appearance at the Berlin Film Festival came after he had just announced his “retirement from public life” and claimed his entire life was an art project.
28. The Kennedy Wedding, 1953
The wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier and and John F. Kennedy was certainly a fancy affair. The pair tied the knot of September 12, 1953 in the St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Newport, Rhode Island, followed by an elegant sit-down affair for the reception on the terrace of the 300 acre Auchincloss oceanfront estate, Hammersmith Farm.
While more than 800 guests witnessed Jacqueline’s stepfather Hugh D. Auchincloss give her away in an ivory tissue silk dress with a fitted bodice, portrait neckline, bouffant skirt, and lace veil, more than 1200 guests attended the wedding reception. What’s more, the Kennedy’s wedding cake was four feet tall.
29. The First Walmart, 1962
Sam Walton, once just you average salesman, opened a store called Walton’s Five-and-Dime in 1962. This was just the start of something amazing, as Walton would eventually build his way up the corporate ladder and claim fame and fortune when he established the Wal-Mart brand and founded the retailers Walmart and Sam’s Club. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. burgeoned into the world’s largest corporation by revenue as well as one of the biggest private employers all the world over. In fact, at one stage, Sam Walton was the richest man in America. The first Walmart store opened on July 2, 1962 on 719 West Walnut Street in Rogers, Arkansas and went by the name of Wal-Mart Discount City store.
30. The First Google Team, 1999
Believe it or not, one of the biggest companies in the world started off with just a bunch of people in 1999. Yep, featured in this image are the first employees of the search engine website, Google. It’s hard to imagine such an empire, which now employs over 50,000 people, with so little employees. But that was the case in 1999 — everyone has to start somewhere.
Out of these early employees of Google, only seven of them still work for the company if you don’t count Larry Page of Sergey Brin. Some early Google employees went on to become prolific entrepreneurs and they owe it all to their early start in the iconic search engine company. For example, Marissa Mayer, who joined Google as a software engineer in June 1999, became the CEO of Yahoo! after she left Google in 2012.
31. The First Cell Phone Image, 1997
It all happened in a maternity ward in Northern California. Philippe Kahn, a software entrepreneur, was waiting around to meet his newborn daughter after his wife shooed him out of the ward. By the time Sophie arrived, Kahn had come up with something incredible!
Kahn had written some code on his laptop and after some tinkering around, attached a digital camera to his flip camera, thereby creating the very first cell phone camera. By doing this, Kahn managed to capture Sophie’s first moments in the world! In 2000, Sharp used Kahn’s prototype technology to release the first commercially available integrated camera on a phone in Japan. This technology eventually reached the US market a few years later.
32. A Surfer’s World, 1938
Tom Blake introduced surfing to California in 1931 and received the patent for his design of a hollow surfboard, which changed the world of surfing forever. However, it was only in 1938 when surfing became really popular. It was Blake who transformed surfing from an elite regional Hawaiian specialty into a nationally sport popular around the world.
Pictured here are a group of surfers learning and enjoying the sport and riding the waves together. Besides for the surfboard, Blake also invented rescue paddle boards from his innovative hollow surfboard design. What’s more, he also invented the first “torpedo” rescue buoy.
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