25 Captivating Photos That Show What Life Was Like In The 20th Century

Published 7 months ago

An image can speak a thousand words according to the old adage, and indeed some images speak to our history in a way that written records just can’t do justice. 

The RocaHistory Instagram page collects and shares pictures of famous pop-culture moments from the 20th century. They give us a glimpse into moments that defined that era in a vivid manner. Scroll below for a quick pictorial journey replete with the background story of these incredible captures that we can still appreciate to this day. 

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#1 Robin Williams Dressing Up As A Denver Broncos Cheerleader, 1979

Image source: rocahistory

It’s disputed but newspapers at the time said this made him the first male cheerleader in NFL history

The gag was for his hit show “Mork and Mindy.” They filmed during a real game, one which the Broncos won 45-10 (sorry, Patriots fans)

The iconic Broncos cheerleading crew the “Pony Express” welcomed him as one of their own, and he participated in cheers throughout the game

#2 A Young Peter Dinklage With Grown-Out Hair, 1980s

Image source: rocahistory

Yayheterogeneity (her/she) het: Dashing!

#3 Not Everyone Likes Bikini, Miami Beach, 1980s

Image source: rocahistory

#4 This Is Shavarsh Karapetyan, A Retired Armenian Swimmer

Image source: rocahistory

In 1976, he had just completed a 26 km (16 mile) run when he heard a loud crash. A trolleybus had lost control and had fallen into a reservoir. It was 25 meters (82 ft) off-shore and had sunk to a depth of 10 meters (33 ft).⁣⁣
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Karapetyan immediately dived into the sewage-infested waters and managed to kick the back window of the trolleybus with his legs, despite zero visibility from the silt that had risen from the bottom. Of the 92 passengers onboard, Karapetyan pulled out 46 people. 20 of whom survived.⁣⁣
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The combination of cold water and the multiple lacerations from glass shards led him to be hospitalized for 45 days. He developed pneumonia and sepsis. While he was able to recover, damage to his lungs prevented him from continuing his career as a swimmer.⁣⁣
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“I knew that I could only save so many lives, I was afraid to make a mistake. It was so dark down there that I could barely see anything. One of my dives, I accidentally grabbed a seat instead of a passenger. I could have saved a life instead. That seat still haunts me in my nightmares,” he said.⁣⁣
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In 1985, Karapetyan came upon a burning building with trapped people inside. He rushed in and began pulling people out. He was badly burnt and had to once again be hospitalized.⁣⁣
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Later in life, he moved to Moscow and founded a shoe company called “Second Breath”. He is still alive today and continues to run his business.

#5 Miss World 1994, Aishwarya Rai Alongside Her Mother Having Lunch With Her Miss World Crown On

Image source: rocahistory

TonyTee: I don’t know which looks better, Miss World or her lunch 😋

#6 Kate Middleton And Prince William’s Post-Clubbing Taxi Pics From The 2000s

Image source: rocahistory

Bernd Herbert: How about not taking unsolicited pictures of people?

#7 Cher, 1974

Image source: rocahistory

Ranger Kanootsen: A witch’s familiar :)

#8 In May 1987, An Estimated 800,000 People Gathered For The 50th Anniversary Of The Golden Gate Bridge. Event Organizers Had Expected A Crowd Of 80,000

Image source: rocahistory

Packed in shoulder to shoulder, roughly 300,000 participated in the walk across the bridge. The weight of the crowd caused the suspension to sag

Many of those on the bridge thought it would collapse. Some threw bicycles and strollers into the water to help lighten the load

One man recounted years later, “I remember discussing with my wife the real possibility that we were about to participate in one of the 20th century’s landmark disasters. A bridge collapse would have put to shame all those petty Third World bus and ferry tragedies you read about in the newspaper”

Despite the flattening of the roadbed, bridge engineers said there was never any real danger

Needless to say, bridge officials did not allow uncontrolled pedestrian access for the 75th anniversary in 2012

#9 A Couple At Woodstock (48 Hours After They Met) And The Same Couple 50 Years Later

Image source: rocahistory

GoGoPDX (edited): Jerry and Judy Griffin. Their story is a great one. Judy was driving to Woodstock with 2 friends and her car broke down about 90 miles from the festival. She decided to just ditch the car and hitchhike the rest of the way. A 67 VW Beetle pulled up and after seeing a girl in the passenger seat, she felt comfortable bitching a ride with them. She sat in the back next to Jerry for the trip He has been quoted saying “I thought, ‘Okay, this is definitely unusual. We just picked up this really cute girl. And I’m going to Woodstock and I’ve got a tent and she doesn’t,’ ” anyway, the rest is history and they have been married over 50 years and have 2 kids and 5 grandkids. To add to the greatness of this story, they didn’t know this picture existed until they saw it on a documentary sPBS documentary Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation, in 2019. They actually didn’t have any pictures of themselves at Woodstock. Then, they turn on the TV one day, and bam, they see their much younger selves, wet, glowing from new love, smiling back at them.

#10 Summer Tourists In Greece, 1983

Image source: rocahistory

Wendy: Why are pictures from the 80s always in black and white when shown online? My childhood pictures at home are all in color…

#11 Everyone You Meet Always Asks If You Have A Career, Are Married Or Own A House; As If Life Was Some Kind Of Grocery List. But Nobody Ever Asks If You Are Happy. – Heath Ledger

Image source: rocahistory

#12 Mother Holding Her Daughter At A Budapest Market In 1987. 30 Years Later, They Recreated The Photo. The Photographer Is Atilla Manek. The Subjects Are His Wife And Daughter

Image source: rocahistory

TonyTee: Well how about that? And they happen to be two beautiful women

#13 A Young Man Demonstrating Against Low Pay For Teachers, 1930s

Image source: rocahistory

#14 Woman And A Tornado, 1989

Image source: rocahistory

Ash: midwesterners are Different.

#15 Meryl Streep In The New York Shakespeare Festival’s Production Of The Taming Of The Shrew (1978)

Image source: rock history

Daniel Atkins: The hat ties the outfit all together.

#16 Marlene Dietrich Is Detained At A Train Station In Paris In 1933 For Violating The Ban On Women Wearing Trousers

Image source: rocahistory

Ranger Kanootsen: Marlene, you are a legend!

#17 A Mother And Her Son On Their Way To A Pride Walk, 1985

Image source: rocahistory

#18 A Woman Dressed Up As Batgirl In 1904, 35 Years Before The Creation Of Batman (1939) And 57 Years Before The Creation Of Batgirl (1961)

Image source: rocahistory

Rick Funk: She should have gotten a Copy Right/Trade Mark on that.

#19 A Local Theater Producer In Colombia Changed Shakira’s Life

Image source: rocahistory

In the second grade, Shakira’s music teacher told her that she sounded “like a goat.” The teacher said she had far too much vibrato in her voice and wrote her off as hopeless

Dismissed as a bad singer, she earned a reputation as “belly dancer girl.” Her dad — born in NYC and of Lebanese descent — took her to a Middle Eastern restaurant when she was 4. It had a belly dancing performance, and at one point she got up on the table to dance like them

She would perform her belly dancing moves for school friends on Friday and eventually earned dancing gigs around town. At the same time, she fell in love with songwriting. Her dad gave her a typewriter for Christmas one year, and she started writing poems. Those poems soon turned into songs

Monica Ariza was a theater producer in the Colombian coastal city of Barranquilla at the time. She was impressed with Shakira and convinced a Colombian executive at Sony Music to give Shakira a chance. He agreed to listen to her cassette tape but was unimpressed and called her a “lost cause”

But Ariza wasn’t done yet. She ambushed them with a Shakira performance in a hotel lobby on a later date, and they were sold on Shakira’s talent

Sony signed Shakira to a record deal at age 13. The Queen of Latin Music was well on her way

Here are some pictures of a dark-haired Shakira in the 1990s

Whenever, Wherever you can take a chance on a talented young person… do it and it might pay off

#20 This Is 18-Year-Old Alice Roosevelt And Her Long-Haired Chihuahua Named Leo In 1902

Image source: rocahistory

She also had a pet snake named Emily Spinach who she would wrap around on one arm and take to parties.

Alice was extremely independent and unlike many women of her time, she was known to wear pants, drive cars, smoke cigarettes, place bets with bookies, dance on rooftops, and party all night. In a span of 15 months, she managed to attend 300 parties, 350 balls and 407 dinners.

A friend of Alice’s stepmom once remarked that she was “like a young wild animal that had been put into good clothes.” Her stepmom went a step further and described her as a “guttersnipe” that went “uncontrolled with every boy in town.”

William Howard Taft banned her from the White House after Alice buried a voodoo doll (of Taft’s wife) in the front yard. Woodrow Wilson also banned her after she told a very dirty joke (sadly no record of the joke exists) about him in public.

Her father, Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.”

Alice once told President Lyndon B. Johnson that she specifically wore wide-brimmed hats around him so that he could not kiss her.

During an interview in 1974, Alice described herself as a “hedonist.”

She died in 1980 at the age of 96

#21 A Knocker-Upper Was Someone Whose Sole Purpose Was To Wake People Up During A Time When Alarm Clocks Were Expensive And Not Very Reliable

Image source: rocahistory

In this photo, Mary Smith earned six pence a week using a pea shooter to shoot dried peas at the windows of sleeping workers in East London, 1930s. She would not leave a window until she was sure that the workers had woken up

#22 Three Young Women Eat Spaghetti On Inflatable Mattresses At Island Of Capri, 1939

Image source: rocahistory

Olivia Lisbon: Life goals.

#23 Ducklings Being Used As Part Of Medical Therapy In 1956

Image source: rocahistory

#24 A Little Boy Hugging His Best Friend During Lunchtime At Raphael Weill Public School In San Francisco, California In 1942

Image source: rocahistory

Not long after this photo was taken, children of Japanese ancestry (including the pictured boy) were imprisoned with their parents to spend the duration of World War II in internment camps

#25 Vintage Halloween Costumes

Image source: rocahistory

Shanilou Perera

Shanilou has always loved reading and learning about the world we live in. While she enjoys fictional books and stories just as much, since childhood she was especially fascinated by encyclopaedias and strangely enough, self-help books. As a kid, she spent most of her time consuming as much knowledge as she could get her hands on and could always be found at the library. Now, she still enjoys finding out about all the amazing things that surround us in our day-to-day lives and is blessed to be able to write about them to share with the whole world as a profession.

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20th century, history, old hollywood, past, photos, pop culture, recent past, roca history
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