Fascinating Historical Figures That We’re Lucky To Have Photos Of

Keep in mind that the first photograph, or at least the oldest surviving photograph, was taken in 1826 or 1827 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. So, in the grand scheme of human history, we have only had the ability to photograph people and events for a minuscule amount of time, never truly knowing what countless of history’s most famous individuals looked like. Luckily, we do have photographs of some.

John Quincey Adams

Picture of Adams
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Born on July 11, 1767, John Quincey Adams was a lawyer, diplomat, and statesman. He was the eldest son of John Adams, the second president of the United States. During Quincy Adam’s career, he was a member of the US Senate and House of Representatives for Massachusetts, as well as an ambassador.

In 1825, he became the sixth president of the United States as a member of the Democratic-Republican Party and in the 1830s became associated with the Whig Party.

Charles Darwin

Picture of Charles Darwin
Historical Picture Archive/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
Historical Picture Archive/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Charles Darwin is one of the most celebrated naturalists in history, who was one of the first to suggest that all species come from common ancestors.

Although at the time, his theories were widely rejected by fellow scientists and religious institutions, today, his hypothesis of evolution as a result of natural selection is considered to be one of the foundations of modern science. He published his findings on evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species.

Andrew Jackson

Picture of Andrew Jackson
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Before the Revolutionary War, Andrew Jackson worked as a frontier lawyer before becoming a US Senate member, House of Representatives, and a justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Jackson was also a renowned soldier, leading troops in the Creek War, the War of 181, and the First Seminole War. He ran for president in 1824, in which he lost to John Quincy Adams. After forming the Democratic party, Jackson ran again in 1828, winning without question.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke Of Wellingham

Picture of The Duke Of Wellington
RevelationAnimations/Reddit
RevelationAnimations/Reddit

Arthur Wellesley was a major political and military leader in Britain during the 19th century. An Anglo-Irish soldier, he served as the country’s prime minister twice and is credited with defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.

Considered one of the finest British military tacticians in history, he managed to win several battles against superior forces while still limiting his own men’s losses. His victory over Napoleon led him to become a national hero, and he was named the first Duke of Wellington in 1814.

Vincent Van Gogh

Picture of Vincent van Gogh
Forrest724/Reddit
Forrest724/Reddit

An artist in the 19th century, Vincent van Gogh was a dutch post-impressionist painter that is noted for completing more than 2,000 works in just one decade. Considered to be one of the pioneers of modern art, his work went relatively unnoticed when he was alive.

However, following his death, he became known as one of the greatest influences in Western art history. Unfortunately, Vincent van Gogh suffered from psychotic episodes and delusions that he ignored until he eventually took his own life in 1890.

Frederick Douglass

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Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Frederick Douglass was a political leader and revolutionary during the 19th century. After managing to escape slavery in Maryland, he became an anti-slavery activist as a leader in the abolition movement in both Massachusetts and New York.

His intellect and influence went directly against the belief that African-American’s lacked the capacity to be independent American citizens, with many Northerners even surprised that he was once a slave. Later in his life, against his approval, he became the first African-American to be nominated for Vice President of the United States.

Martin Van Buren

Picture of Martin Van Buren
Brady-Handy Studio/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Brady-Handy Studio/Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Martin Van Buren is credited with being one of the key founders of the Democratic Party. Over his political career, he served as the governor of New York, the tenth Secretary of State, and the eighth Bice President of the United States.

With Andrew Jackson’s support, Martin Van Buren won the presidential election of 1836, although he lost his 1840 reelection to William Henry Harris. Van Buren ran for president a final time in 1848 under the Free Soil Party.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Picture of Stowe
Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images
Universal History Archive/UIG/Getty Images

An abolitionist and an author, Harriet Beecher Stowe is known for writing the now-iconic Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which helped to illuminate the harsh treatment of slaves in the country. Her book became internationally known and was used to inspire others to rise up against slavery, especially in the north.

In her life, Stowe authored 30 books, many of which were deeply involved in social issues and her stance on them at the time. Today, her works are considered to be highly influential.

Annie Oakley

Picture of Annie Oakley
White/Underwood Archives/Getty Images
White/Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Phoebe Ann Mosey, famously known as Annie Oakley, was a female sharpshooter who became a sensation while working in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Oakley became skilled as a shooter from a young age in order to feed her family by hunting.

She caught the attention of the public when she won a sharpshooting contest at the age of 15 and joining Buffalo Bill’s show in 1885. During her time with the show, she was paid the most of anyone except for Bill himself.

Harriet Tubman

Picture of Harriet Tubman
Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images
Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images

Closely associated with the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman was born into slavery and eventually escaped. However, she then dedicated herself to securing the freedom of others.

She personally led 13 missions to rescue more than 70 other slaves relying on a network of antislavery activists and safe houses that is now referred to as the Underground Railroad. Furthermore, during the Civil War, Tubman continued her fight for freedom when she served as an army scout and spy for the Union Army.

Leo Tolstoy

Picture of Leo Tolstoy
Universal History Archive/Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, commonly referred to as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Since his early successes, he has been considered one of the greatest of all time.

Between the years 1902 and 1906, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902, and 1909. Some of his most notable works include Anna Karenina, War, and Peace, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, among several others.

Samuel Wilson Or “Uncle Sam”

Picture of Uncle Sam
Unknown/Wikipedia Commons
Unknown/Wikipedia Commons

Uncle Sam is a symbol of the United States government and American culture that first came into use during the War of 1812. He is typically viewed as a man with a top hat, white hair, and beard, along with other American-related regalia.

It is rumored that the character is based on a man named Samuel Wilson, who worked as a meatpacker during the War of 1812. His barrels contained the letters U.S. for the United States, with some joking that it stood for “Uncle Sam.”

Butch Cassidy

Picture of Butch Cassidy
Jonathan Blair/Corbis via Getty Images
Jonathan Blair/Corbis via Getty Images

Born Robert LeRoy Parker, Butch Cassidy was a notorious train robber during the Old West. He was also the leader of a criminal outlaw unit known as the “Wild Bunch” and was eventually forced to flee the country with his partner Alonzo Longbaugh, “The Sundance Kid,” and Etta Pace.

It is believed that Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were killed in a shootout with the Bolivian Army in 1908. Today, Cassidy is considered to be an icon of the Wild West.

The Wright Brothers

Picture of the Wright Brothers
API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Orville and Wilbur Wright were two brothers that gained experience in mechanics working on various devices at their shop in Dayton, Ohio. They would then go to design and build the first successful motor-operated airplane.

Their first flight was on the craft called the Wright Flyer on December 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. On top of their success in getting humans into the air, the brothers are also credited with inventing aircraft controls that made the fixed-wing powered flight possible.

Helen Keller

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Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

At just over a year old, Helen Keller lost her sight and hearing due to an illness. During her childhood, she met her teacher and life-long companion, Anne Sullivan, who taught her to read, write, and communicate using language.

As a young adult, she attended Radcliffe College of Harvard University, becoming the first deafblind person to earn a bachelor’s degree. On top of writing 14 books and countless speeches and essays, she also was an advocate for women’s rights, labor rights, and disability rights.

Abraham Lincoln

Picture of Abraham Lincoln
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CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

The 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln began his career as a lawyer, Illinois state legislator, congressman, and Whig Party Leader. After he won the presidency in 1860, pro-slavery states began to secede from the Union, and the Civil War began.

Lincoln then led the country through the Civil War, preserving the Union, until he was ultimately assassinated in 1865. To this day, he is considered one of the greatest presidents to ever hold office.

Billy The Kid

Picture of Billy The Kid
Streuff/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Streuff/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Born Henry McCarty, Billy the Kid was an outlaw of the Old West who began his life of crime as a young teenager after being orphaned at the age of 15. Before adulthood, McCarty was a federal fugitive with wanted posters referring to him as “Billy the Kid.”

In his youth, he fought in New Mexico’s Lincoln County War, where it is suspected that he murdered three men. Before he was killed himself at the age of 21, he is known to have killed eight men.

Calamity Jane

Picture of Calamity Jane
Underwood Archives/Getty Images
Underwood Archives/Getty Images

A Wild West legend, Calamity Jane, born Martha Jane Cannary, was a frontierswoman and sharpshooter, known to be close with Wild Bill Hickock. Their friendship would result in her performing in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show.

Nevertheless, her personality was considered to be particularly unique, as she was known to be extremely compassionate and, in contrast, a rough-and-tumble type of woman that was known to frequently wear men’s clothes. Her name is right at the top with other famous people of the Old West.

George Armstrong Custer

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Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

George Armstrong Custer was a United States Army officer that graduated from West Point at the bottom of his class in 1861. However, during the American Civil War, he proved himself to be a worthy leader and was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers at the young age of 23.

After demonstrating his valor in the Civil War, he also participated in the American Indian Wars. During that time, on June 25, 1876, while leading the 7th Cavalry Regiment, he along with five companies were killed by an alliance of Indians at Little Bighorn, which is now known as “Custer’s Last Stand.”

Geronimo

Picture of Geronimo
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images
CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Geronimo, or “the one who yawns,” was a leader and a healer from the Bedonkohe band of the Apache tribe. Geronimo was a feared and respected and feared Native American who led several raids against Mexican and United States soldiers that are considered part of the Apache-United States conflict, which resulted from the Americans settling Apache land after the Mexican-American War.

Geronimo was constantly on the run for the U.S. after breaking out of several Indian reservations until he was eventually captured and made his living attending exhibits and other public functions.