Vintage Photos That Give Us A Peek Into Everyday Life In The 1900s

Life in 2019 is a world away from what life was like a century ago. In the early 20th century, people went about their day-to-day lives – from going on dates to taking walks in the park – yet it was completely different from how we would do those activities in the present day. For one, people were a lot more daring in their activities and they had things like war and the Prohibition constantly on their minds that would’ve affected the way they lived. From pet crocodiles to plunging into Niagra Falls in a barrel, these vintage photographs will show you what life was like in the first half of the 1900s.

You would think that going for a stroll with your baby would be no big deal, but not when the threat of war loomed over your head! One mother went to the extreme just to enjoy the outdoors…

“On-line” Dating Was Not What You Think

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Back in the ’20s, young lovers dated online or rather, on-a-line. This young couple appears to be having a blast on a pulley ride at a fair in London’s Hampstead Heath in 1922. This early form of recreational zip-lining looks dangerous considering the riders don’t have on any protective gear. They seem to be pretty close to the ground though, and hopefully, they didn’t have to ride that far out.

Aerial cables have been used as transport methods for more than 2,000 years, but it wasn’t until 1739 when steeplejack and ropeslider Robert Cadman first used one as entertainment. Unfortunately, he didn’t survive.

This Genius Took Delight In The Simple Things

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“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving,” Albert Einstein wrote to his son Eduard in 1930. Indeed, cycling was something Einstein obviously enjoyed, as evidenced by this photo taken of him outside the home of Ben Meyer in Santa Barbara in 1933. Meyer was a trustee with the California Institute of Technology, where Einstein was a visiting professor in the early ’30s.

Cycling must’ve been dear to Einstein’s heart. Not only did the first bike ride in 1817 take place in his native Germany, but he also allegedly was riding a bike when he thought of the Theory of Relativity.

They Had Impractical Ideas For Weaponry


During World War II, Germany developed the Krummlauf, a curved barrel attachment that was meant to allow soldiers to shoot around corners and other barriers without having to expose themselves in order to return fire.

The bent barrel was also equipped with a periscope that allowed soldiers to spot upcoming threats from a safe position. While it seemed like a good idea for them, the Krummlaufs actually didn’t last very long and in fact, would cause some bullets to shatter. They weren’t very efficient either – depending on the angle of the barrel, it was only good for 160 to 300 rounds.

Going For A Leisurely Stroll

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On the cusp of the second world war, the threat of an aerial attack loomed over citizens of Europe. Fearing a gaseous air raid, people took extreme precaution in order to protect themselves as they went about their daily activities.

This large pram is outfitted with an air-tight, gas-proof lid, that allowed the baby to receive fresh air through a gas filter on top of it. This way, it was safe to take your baby out for a stroll and this woman in Hextable, England is taking safety to the next level by wearing a gas mask herself.

Puppies are what most kids want as a pet but one little girl preferred her pet to be a little more exciting!

They Were Some Real Daredevils

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This construction worker in New York City decided to pull a daring stunt and walk on a construction girder twenty stories in the air – all while completely blindfolded! This photo was taken in 1925, at a time when construction jobs were abundant as New York City’s most iconic skyscrapers were being built.

Cameras were also the hip, new thing back in those days and workers decided to have fun by posing for wild photos in mid-air like this one. Of course, plenty of men lost their lives during this time. It was believed that one man would die for every $1 million spent on a skyscraper.

A Boy And His Ray Gun


We can only imagine what went down behind the scenes of this photo. Based on the boy’s smile, he was likely thrilled to receive the latest and greatest toy of his time: the ray-gun. Mom probably made him stop for a picture before he was allowed to go off and shoot imaginary extraterrestrials with it.

Ray guns were popular during the Golden Age of Science Fiction of the early ’40s and were popularized by comics such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. Kids throughout the ’50s and ’60s loved to play with toy ray guns.

Standing Tall With The Empire State Building

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Jarley Smith (top), Jewell Waddek (left), and Jimmy Kerrigan (right) are the daring acrobats who decided to pull this amazing stunt on the ledge of the Empire State Building on August 21, 1934. Video evidence of this feat shows the acrobats managing to shift into different positions without fear of falling over.

By the time it was completed on April 11, 1931, the Empire State Building stood at 1,250 feet high – a total of 102 stories! It was the tallest building of its time until 1972 when the World Trade Center took its place in that title.

Walking The Pet Crocodile


This girl from the 1920s is taking her pet crocodile out for a walk or rather, she’s walking on her pet crocodile. She looks completely unfazed by the fact that it’s bearing its teeth! Apparently, owning one of these guys or their close cousins, the alligator, wasn’t abnormal for the time.

In fact, there were alligator farms that housed thousands of gators of all ages and sizes. Guests could come to these farms to ride them and some of the animals were even sold to guests. Visitors also regularly handled the animals despite warnings not to.

If anyone has ever told you that something couldn’t happen until “pigs fly,” well then the day has finally come –back in 1909!

Horse Diving Was A Must-See

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These folks are gathered around to witness Eunice Winkless perform one of the most exciting sports at the time: horse diving. In 1905, Winkless performed this stunt for a Fourth of July event. The stunt woman dove from a 50-foot high tower into a small pool all while on horseback.

This was by far one of the most daring stunts performed as a part of the Wild West shows that were popular during the early 1900s. Other attractions included mock bison hunts, bronco riding and roping, and of course, marksmanship competitions.

Pedal Skating In The Park

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Roller skates were invented as early as the mid-1700s. Back then, roller skates were very much like inline skates but were hard to steer and stop, so they weren’t very popular. But in 1913, pedal skates came along.

Charles A. Nordling of Suisun, California created this variation on the classic roller skate where the wheels were rotated on a pedal that was pushed by the person who wore them. This supposedly made it easier on the user, who wouldn’t have to use so much energy and could actually manage to skate at a high speed.

Walking On A Sea Of Logs

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These loggers are walking on a pile of logs that float in the middle of a river. This log jam on Minnesota’s Littlefork River is being used to build a loading boom. At the time, booms were used to collect floating logs that have fallen into a body of water due to timbering in the neighboring forests.

By 1900, timber in the Midwest was dwindling, so loggers took to the Pacific Northwest. It wasn’t long before resources became scarce but forests continued to get logged at a growing rate.

Pigs Could Fly At The Time

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Lieutenant-Colonel JTC Moore-Brabazon was a pioneer in English aviation. Perhaps when he was a boy telling people he wanted to fly planes, people scoffed and remarked, “when pigs fly.”

Not only was Moore-Brabazon the first Englishman to pilot a heavier-than-air machine under power in England but he was also the first person to qualify as a pilot in the United Kingdom. On October 30, 1909, he also helped a pig fly, proving all of his naysayers wrong. To pull off the stunt, Moore-Brabazon put a small pig into a wastebasket and tied it to the wing-strut of his plane.

Jumping from Niagra Falls is illegal on both sides of the border but at least one woman coming up managed to do it and survive!

The Beach Had A Dress Code

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These ladies are having their bathing suits measured to see that they comply with the law. In 1922, Colonel Sherrill, the Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds in Washington, D.C., issued an order that required all bathing suits worn on the beach must not be more than six inches above the knee.

If you broke that law back in those days, a policeman could issue you a warrant. There were even policemen that patrolled local beaches specifically for the purpose of measuring women’s bathing suits.

Behind Bars On The Way To Jail

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In 1924, police forces already began using motorcycles and even had the power to apprehend someone on the spot if they wanted to. This Los Angeles traffic policeman locked up one surly motorist in his sidecar cell.

The offender was already behind bars by the time he made it to the precinct. This method obviously didn’t last long. It was pretty dangerous for the person in sidecar cell and most of the time, the policeman wouldn’t even need to use it, so he’d be lugging around extra weight for no reason.

Michelin Costumes Were A Hit


The Michelin Man is one of the oldest trademarks in the world. Nicknamed Bibendum, the Michelin mascot debuted in 1894 and has been around ever since. The idea for this rotund mascot came from industrialists Édouard and André Michelin. One day the brothers noticed a stack of tires and Édouard suggested that it looked like the shape of a man with no arms.

Four years later, André met French cartoonist Marius Rossillon, who had a rejected image of a large man holding a beer that he had drawn for a brewery. André suggested replacing the man with the tire figure and the rest is history.

Before There Was a Limit on Bison Hunting


Bison was a popular animal to hunt in the U.S. in the 19th century. Tens of millions of bison roamed the country, especially in the Great Plains. Bison are North America’s largest mammal and can reach up to 2,000 lbs in weight.

Hunters would freely kill as many bison as possible, as shown in this photo– a stack of bison skulls. However, by the turn of the century, there were only a few hundred left. Soon after, hunting Bison became regulated.

They Did Anything For Fame And Fortune


On October 24, 1901, Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to ride over Niagra Falls in a barrel and survive. The retired school teacher from Michigan was strapped for cash and decided that the fame from this stunt would help solve that problem.

On her 63rd birthday, Taylor got inside a five-foot pickle barrel that was cushioned with a mattress on the inside. She was towed by a small boat to the middle of the Niagra River and cut loose, letting the current pull her over the 177-foot drop. Save for a cut on her head, Taylor survived but her fifteen minutes of fame didn’t last too long.

Soon you’ll see one parenting method that definitely wouldn’t fly in today’s world…

Another Day On The Job For This Young Newsie

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This six-year-old newsboy has been on the job for at least a year when his photo was taken on May 9, 1910 in St. Louis, Missouri. Delivering or selling the newspaper was often a youngster’s first job back in those days.

While some of them established subscription routes on which they worked as paperboys, others would hawk the papers on the street by yelling out the sensational headlines. Some ambitious newsies often did both. At this time, newsies were the main distributors of newspapers to the general public.

Turning Heads With Bare Legs


These two women are causing a ruckus on the street by walking out in public wearing shorts. In Colonial times, Puritans wanted to prevent people from dressing extravagantly and those ideals have influenced American government for centuries. For the sake of modesty, many towns across America banned the wearing of shorts as early as the 1930s.

This photo is allegedly one of the first two women to have worn shorts in public, although that has been disputed. Further photographic evidence of these women show them roaming the city streets as models, so it was likely that this was a staged photo.

Where There’s A Will There’s A Way

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This is a photo of a policeman trying on a moonshiner’s cow shoe in Washington, D.C. in June 1924. Despite the prohibition that went on during the ’20s, some people still found ways to whet their whistles. Moonshine was produced and transported illegally throughout America as people looked for ways to drink without getting busted.

Some moonshiners would add these attachments to their shoes so that police couldn’t trace their footprints, thinking that they were those of a cow. It was the perfect way to throw a cop off of their trail.

Just A Little Sip


In this photo from the ’50s, a man shares a pint with his young son in an Irish pub. Parenting was definitely a lot different then than it is today, considering what some parents would allow their kids to do, such as take a sip of alcohol. Not even safety was a big concern as parents would let their kids ride in the car without seat belts!

Some might argue that this little boy is not this man’s son, when in fact, he is sipping the foam off the head of the beer for tips. In those days kids hung out in bars for that very purpose.