103 iconic photos that capture 103 years of world history
103 iconic photos that capture 103 years of world history
It’s been said that a “picture is worth a thousand words,” and throughout history, the adage has proven true. Photographers have documented the major events of our time, from wars and protest marches to space landings, historic speeches, scientific discoveries, sporting events, and other unforgettable moments.
Beginning in 1918 and leading up to the present day, Stacker gathered the most iconic images from the past 103 years. Of course, the story is tragically the same in 2020 as it was in 1918, as a century after the Spanish flu, the world has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic and the adjustments it’s brought to our lives.
Not only have these photographs captured our attention visually, but they’ve prompted action at times—even occasionally changing the course of history. During the 1960s, for example, images of Black children being sprayed with fire hoses brought attention to the civil rights movement. During the 1970s, a photograph of a college student screaming in Ohio turned America’s eyes toward the conflict in Cambodia and police brutality at home. A similar phenomenon occurred during the Vietnam War when, unlike the pre-screened shots permitted to be published during World War II, the images that came home were uncensored and graphic. These raw photos fueled general anti-war activism and may have even prompted John F. Kennedy to take action.
It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, either. Photographs have captured our most joyous victories and proudest achievements, and our most famous entertainers, athletes, movie stars, dancers, and politicians. When reflecting on triumph in World War II, the first image that comes to mind may be the 1945 “V-J Day in Times Square” moment in which a returned sailor dips and kisses a nurse in celebration. And perhaps the most iconic photo in Olympics history: the 1968 image of Black track and field stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists in solidarity.
Scroll on to see history told in 103 photographs.
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1918: Spanish flu
During the influenza epidemic of 1918, quarantine centers and emergency military hospitals like this one in Camp Funston, Kansas, were constructed at various outposts throughout the U.S. A third of the world's population was infected, and at least 50 million died (675,000 in the U.S. alone)—making the Spanish flu among the deadliest outbreaks in human history. This iconic photograph is from a collection belonging to the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington D.C.
1919: Vladimir Lenin speaking to crowd
In 1918, the Soviet Union’s recently formed Sovnarkom government established a branch of the armed forces dubbed the "Red Army." The following year, Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin celebrated the first anniversary of the army’s foundation in Red Square, Moscow. In this famous image, brought over from Russia by Dr. W.A. Wovschin, he makes an impassioned speech to Vsevobuch servicemen, calling on them to stay together for the "glory and safety of Russia.”
1920: Republican National Convention
In June 1920, United States GOP delegates and other party members gathered in Chicago for the Republican National Convention. According to historians, the convention was at an impasse without a candidate everyone could agree on when leaders turned their attention to Ohio Sen. Warren G. Harding. The Midwestern senator was seen as a compromise and managed to secure the presidential nomination, picking up Calvin Coolidge as his running mate and defeating Democrat James M. Cox in the election. Here, the mass of delegates can be seen in the convention hall in this photo from the Library of Congress.
Rudolph Valentino, often called Hollywood’s "original Latin lover,” and Russian-born silent film actress Alla Nazimova were two of the biggest stars of their time. Valentino starred in hits like "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” and "Blood and Sand” while Nazimova starred in "Since You Went Away” and "Madame Peacock.” In this shot from Metro Pictures Corporation, the two pose alongside Arthur Hoyt in the 1921 movie "Camille.”
1922: Howard Carter examines King Tut's mummy
In 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter discovered King Tut’s tomb, a large ancient Egyptian vault containing a boy pharaoh who had previously been shrouded in mystery. The tomb, which held the mummified remains of Tutankhamun (King Tut), unveiled new archaeological mysteries even as it solved others. In this image from The New York Times Photo Archive, Carter is pictured examining the remains after the excavation.
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1923: Fred and Adele
Before Fred Astaire was paired with Ginger Rogers, he and his sister Adele had a vaudeville act that took them to Broadway. There, they produced hits like "For Goodness Sake,” "Funny Face,” and "The Band Wagon.” Although Fred enjoyed more fame than his sister, some have suggested that Adele was in fact the more talented of the two. In this photograph from Fox Photos, the siblings are seen dancing on the rooftop of London’s Savoy Hotel.
1924: Lenin in state
Vladimir Lenin, the leader behind the communist Bolshevik Revolution, died in 1924 of a brain hemorrhage. The man who brought terror to so many was 54 at the time of his death. Doctors noted Lenin's cerebral arteries were "so calcified that when tapped with tweezers they sounded like stone.” In this Hulton Archive photograph, the Soviet Union’s first leader is shown lying in state at the Kremlin.
1925: Dolly Sisters
Jenny and Rosie Dolly, known as the Dolly Sisters, were famous in the 1920s for entertaining princes, kings, millionaires, and other members of the world’s elite. The Hungarian-born twins embodied the era's decadence, flaunting their wealth and basking in beauty and glamour. After a car wreck left her face disfigured in 1942, Jenny Dolly committed suicide in a Hollywood apartment. The sisters are pictured wearing stage costumes in this photo.
1926: Suzanne Lenglen
Long before Serena and Venus Williams soared to international fame there was Suzanne Lenglen, a French tennis player who captivated the world in the 1920s with her controversial habits that included wearing red lipstick, drinking alcohol, cursing, exposing her bare arms, and donning skirts above the calves. The bold tennis star, who’s been called the "most polarizing women’s tennis player of her generation,” was the first to shirk the bulky tennis undergarments of the time. From age 15 onwards, Lenglen won 250 championships over her 12-year career. She is pictured here at Wimbledon in this photo from the Hulton Archive.
1927: Charles Lindbergh
In 1927, Charles Lindbergh made history when he flew a single-seat monoplane from New York to Paris, becoming the first person to make a nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic. Five years later, Lindbergh's 20-month-old son was kidnapped from his nursery. Ten weeks later, the baby's body was found by a truck driver 4 miles away from their home. The event—a tabloid sensation at the time—ultimately led to the passing of the "Lindbergh law” which makes crossing state lines a federal offense during a kidnapping.
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1928: Amelia Earhart with airplane
Five years after Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, Amelia Earhart became the second person to make the voyage. She was also the first woman to attempt the journey, flying from Newfoundland, Canada to Londonderry in Northern Ireland. In 1937, just five years after her historic journey, the intrepid aviator disappeared over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to fly around the world. Her plane was never found, and the mystery continues to intrigue history and aviation fans. In this photo from Getty Images, Earhart poses in front of her bi-plane.
1929: Churchill's budget
Before becoming Britain’s prime minister in 1940, Winston Churchill served as the chancellor of the exchequer, which acts as the nation’s treasurer. The British leader oversaw the treasury’s decision to return to the gold standard, a move many historians have called a mistake. This led to deflation, deepened the Great Recession, increased unemployment, and prompted the General Strike of 1926. This Getty photo shows Churchill with his daughter Diana as they walk to London’s House of Commons to present his budget.
1930: Liberty's head
The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States to celebrate their alliance during the American Revolution. Initially planned to be unveiled in 1876 in conjunction with the nation’s centennial, the statue was eventually completed in 1885. Although the monument was considered a gift, the planning and funding efforts were a joint collaboration. In this Getty photo, taken from the statue’s torch, a group of people can be seen leaning out of the head.
1931: Empire State Building construction
The Empire State Building, which towers 1,250 feet over Manhattan, was constructed between 1930 and 1931 over the course of 7 million man-hours. During construction, the skeleton had a vertical frame composed of 210 steel columns, which could only be erected 30 stories at a time. Crowds would gather to watch as unsecured workers moved freely about the cranes and beams. Five workers died during the construction of the building, attributed to lack of safety precautions. This photo from Getty Images depicts a worker standing on a crane pulley counterweight, with the Chrysler building behind him.
1932: FDR elected president
In 1932, Democratic presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt beat incumbent Republican President Herbert Hoover with the Great Depression looming in the background. The 32nd U.S. president, who would go on to lead the country through World War II, had been paralyzed from the waist down due to an illness thought at the time to be polio. In this photo from the FDR Presidential Library & Museum, the presidential hopeful is pictured campaigning in Warm Springs, Georgia, with Anna Roosevelt Halsted and Eleanor Roosevelt just two weeks before the election.
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1933: Hitler in crowd
From 1933 to 1938, the Nazi party held propaganda events every year in Bavaria known collectively as the Nuremberg Rallies. These were marked by torchlight processions and impassioned speeches from Nazi leaders, including Adolf Hitler, who had recently become the German chancellor. In this Getty photo from 1933, Hitler can be seen greeting supporters during a rally.
1934: Nazi Party Rally Grounds
The infamous Nuremberg Rallies took place on the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, an 11-square-kilometer, amphitheater-style property designed by chief Nazi architect Albert Speer. Today, the grounds have been converted into a visitor center where tourists can view the space and learn more about life under Nazi rule. In this file image, crowds gather in the central part of the grounds.
1935: Farm boys of the Pecos Valley
In 1947, a U.S. Army Air Forces balloon crashed into a farmer’s field near the Roswell Army Air Force base in New Mexico, prompting what would become one of the biggest conspiracy theories of all time. Air Force officials blamed a military weather balloon, prompting locals to start sharing theories about a government cover-up. Nearly 50 years later in 1994, after decades of denial, the U.S. military released a report stating the debris was most likely linked to a top-secret nuclear espionage program called Project Mogul. This image of farm boys at a carnival was taken 11 years earlier by photojournalist Arthur Rothstein, before the town's brush with infamy.
1936: Jesse Owens
Jesse Owens was a track and field legend, dubbed the "The Buckeye Bullet" after his home state of Ohio, who's still regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all time. During the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, the African American star athlete won four gold medals and set three world records at the same time Adolf Hitler was hoping to bolster his theory of Aryan racial superiority. This Library of Congress photo shows the athlete competing during the 1936 events.
1937: Hindenburg disaster
In 1937, 36 passengers and crew members were killed when the Hindenburg airship—the largest ever built—caught fire midair. The event served as the origin of the phrase "Oh, the humanity,” after NBC radio announcer Herb Morrison shouted it on air. This iconic photo was taken as the airship became engulfed in flames.
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1938: British dynamite Jenin
Between 1936 and 1939, British armed forces attempted to suppress an Arab revolt in Palestine. On Aug. 28, 1938, the West Bank city of Jenin was attacked with explosives, leaving a quarter of the city in ruins. This image from the American Colony Photo Department shows the destruction.
1939: Marian Anderson at the Lincoln Memorial
In 1939, after being told she couldn’t perform an Easter concert for the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), African American opera star Marian Anderson held a performance at the Lincoln Memorial that prompted organizations to change their segregationist policies. In this image by an unknown photographer, the vocalist is pictured during the historic concert.
1940: Gas drill at a London Hospital
Amid fears of German attacks during World War II, the British government supplied every citizen with a gas mask. Special masks were issued for infants, featuring steel helmets and rubber-coated canvas wraps to keep gas from penetrating. This image from the Ministry of Information shows nurses testing the protective devices at a London hospital.
1941: Destroyer explodes
On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, killing 2,335 military servicemen and 68 civilians. The World War II event, which President Roosevelt declared "a date which will live in infamy,” changed American attitudes about the war. The American destroyer USS Shaw is under attack in this photo from Getty Images.
1942: Internment of Japanese Americans
Two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which allowed the U.S. military to create areas "from which any or all persons may be excluded.” The move prompted the internment of more than 127,000 Japanese American citizens. In this haunting photo by American photojournalist Dorothea Lange, a Japanese American family awaits relocation to an internment camp near Hayward, California.
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1943: Warsaw Ghetto uprising
After Germany invaded Poland in 1939, more than 400,000 Jews were rounded up and placed in a 1-square-mile area of the city. By 1943, after witnessing the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Jews and the murders of countless others, the remaining ghetto residents staged an uprising. This photo was captured during the revolt as part of SS General Jürgen Stroop’s daily report to Heinrich Himmler, the Third Reich’s second-most powerful leader.
1944: Liberation of Paris
On Aug. 25, 1944, the French 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division liberated Paris from Nazi rule after four years of German occupation. Just before the city was liberated, Adolf Hitler ordered Gen. Dietrich von Choltitz to destroy the city’s landmarks, and burn the city down. The German commander refused to carry out the order. This photo, taken by Jack Downey, shows crowds lining the Champs-Élysées as Allied tanks pass through the Arc de Triomphe.
1945: V-J Day in Times Square
On Aug. 14, 1945, Japan surrendered to the Allied forces, marking the end of World War II. As news of the surrender spread, Americans poured into the streets to celebrate. Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt snapped the iconic image of a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square, which first ran in Life magazine and instantly became of the world’s most recognizable photos. In this photo, we see the same kiss from a different angle, as photographed by U.S. Navy Lieut. Victor Jorgensen.
1946: Juan Domingo Perón becomes president of Argentina
In 1946, former military general Juan Domingo Perón was elected president of Argentina, winning 56% of the popular vote. The year before, Perón had married actress Eva Duarte (who would come to be known as "Evita”). Perón and his wife went on to form trade unions, universalize social security, and make education free before his ouster in 1955. In this image from the Buenos Aires Historical Archive, Perón, Evita, and Buenos Aires’ provincial governor, Domingo Mercante, read the newspaper on the day of the election.
1947: Jackie Robinson makes history
In 1947, American sports legend Jackie Robinson—who held a lifetime batting average of .311—became the first African American to play Major League Baseball since the 1880s. As the only Black player of the era, Robinson endured heckling and threats. "Plenty of times I wanted to haul off when somebody insulted me for the color of my skin, but I had to hold to myself,” he recalled. "I knew I was kind of an experiment. The whole thing was bigger than me.” This Getty Images photograph captures Robinson signing his contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
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1948: Babe Ruth's final appearance at Yankee Stadium
In June of 1948, American baseball legend Babe Ruth made his final appearance at Yankee Stadium. Weakened by the cancer that would soon claim his life, friends helped Ruth into his uniform. "He looked tired, very tired; the power that had been his in his youth and manhood was slowly ebbing away,” photographer Nat Fein recalled. The beloved sports icon nevertheless received a roaring ovation from the stands, and Fein’s image, shot for the New York Herald Tribune, won a Pulitzer Prize the following year.
1949: North Atlantic Treaty
In 1949, the United States, along with Britain, France, Canada, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, and the Netherlands signed the NATO pact. This defense alliance was aimed at defusing persistent Soviet threat. In this photo by Reg Speller, British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin meets with other foreign ministers to begin talks.
1950: Bed of shells
A brutal war was fought in Korea from 1950 to 1953, after northern forces allied with the Soviet Union breached the north-south boundary. A month later, America joined the fight alongside South Korea in its continued war against communism. Throughout the course of the Korean War, roughly 5 million soldiers and civilians were killed. In this photo from Getty Images, an American soldier sleeps on top of ammunition.
1951: 'A Streetcar Named Desire'
In 1951, director Elia Kazan produced a film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "A Streetcar Named Desire.” The movie, which starred Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, and Kim Hunter, won four Oscars and a Golden Globe. In this screenshot from the film, Leigh and Brando are pictured in a tense moment.
1952: Russia's first medal
Russian track and field athlete Nina Romashkova made history in 1952 when she threw a discus 51.42 meters at the Helsinki Olympic Games, beating the previous record and becoming the first Soviet competitor to win an Olympic gold medal. The athlete is perhaps equally remembered for the diplomatic crisis she caused when she was caught shoplifting from a London boutique. Romashkova is pictured throwing a discus in this photo from Getty Images.
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1953: Queen Elizabeth II is crowned
On June 2, 1953, Princess Elizabeth was crowned Queen Elizabeth II in a publicly televised ceremony in Westminster Abbey. The monarch succeeded her father, King George VI, who died at age 56. The Queen is depicted in this photo from the Daily Herald Archive waving at crowds shortly after her coronation.
1954: Marilyn Monroe
The actress born Norma Jeane Mortenson and known as Marilyn Monroe would be immortalized in many iconic photographs and movie stills in her short life. This image was shot in 1954, the same year she starred in the film "The Seven Year Itch."
1955: James Dean
James Dean was an American icon best known for his role as teenage bad boy Jim Stark in "Rebel Without a Cause.” The rising star died in 1955 at the age of 24. The young actor is depicted in this still photo from "Rebel Without a Cause.”
1956: 1956 Hungarian Revolution
In October 1956, Hungarian rebels launched a revolt against Soviet forces. The rebels won the first battle, declaring former premier Imre Nagy head of state and requesting intervention from the United Nations. The next month, however, Soviet aggressors stormed back in. In this image from Gabor B. Racz, the head from Stalin's statue can be seen in the street after rebels toppled his monument.
1957: Little Rock Nine
While the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. The Board of Education ruled segregation in schools unconstitutional, white Americans in several Southern states stood firmly against integration. In Arkansas the battle played out in the national eye. In 1957, nine African American students attempted to begin the school year at Central High School in Little Rock. The “Little Rock Nine” as they would become known, faced vicious racist protests. Images of the brave young students became iconic in the annals of civil rights history. U.S. Army soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division escort African American students to Central High School in September 1957 in this image.
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1958: Boeing interior
Unveiled in 1958, the Boeing 707 is said to have revolutionized air travel. The colossal jet airliner, which could hold 165 economy class passengers, was owned by Pan-Am. This Keystone photo shows a small service crew performing test flights over Britain.
1959: Fidel Castro
In 1959, communist revolutionary leader and guerilla fighter Fidel Castro launched the 26th of July Movement, toppling Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. The fallen leader fled the country, and Castro and fellow revolutionaries seized power in Havana on Jan. 7. This Keystone photo shows Castro addressing a crowd shortly after.
1960: Muhammad Ali wins gold in Rome Olympics
In August 1960, boxing legend Muhammad Ali, known then as Cassius Clay, pummeled three-time Polish champion Zbigniew Pietrzykowski at the Rome Olympic Games. The boxer coasted through all four fights and took home a gold medal at the age of 18. In this photo by an unknown photographer, the legendary boxer is pictured shortly after winning his medal.
1961: Berlin Wall erected
In this image taken in Berlin, Germany on Aug. 14, 1961, soldiers of the East German National People's Army (NVA) erect barbed wire fences to close off a street in preparation for the construction of the Berlin Wall. The first concrete emplacements were erected on Aug. 17 and would remain in place until 1989.
1962: JFK and Marilyn Monroe
On May 19, 1962, President John F. Kennedy celebrated his birthday with a Democratic fundraiser at Madison Square Garden. The party drew a crowd of more than 15,000 celebrities and VIPs. Marilyn Monroe, rumored at the time to be having an affair with the president, appeared at the event to sing her famously sultry version of "Happy Birthday, Mr. President." Later that night, White House photographer Cecil Stoughton captured the only existing image of Monroe with JFK, alongside his brother Bobby Kennedy.
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1963: Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in
After President Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22, 1963, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in aboard Air Force One. The inauguration marked the first time a woman administered the oath of office, and the only time a president has taken the oath on an airplane. The 36th president can be seen in this image by White House photographer Cecil Stoughton alongside Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, and others.
1964: Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act
In 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The watershed legislation banned discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The president is pictured alongside Martin Luther King Jr.
1965: Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston
On May 25, 1965, world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali returned to the ring for a rematch with Sonny Liston. The boxing legend knocked Liston out in the first round with a blow known as "the phantom punch." In this Getty photo, Liston can be seen face-down after his rival delivered the winning strike.
1966: China's Youth Cultural Revolution
1967: Newark Race Riots
Heightened racial tensions escalated into deadly riots in several American cities during the summer of 1967. In Newark, an incident of police brutality sparked five days of rioting and claimed at least 26 lives. This image, in which National Guard troops patrol the empty streets of Newark, joined others of armed patrols, burning buildings and tragic conflicts in Detroit, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee depicting America at war with itself.
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1968: Tommie Smith and John Carlos at Olympics
At the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, U.S. track and field athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood barefoot on the podium to accept their gold and bronze medals. The athletes wore black gloves, and raised their fists in solidarity, protesting racial discrimination following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. as well as the Vietnam War. This photo shows the two men with their arms raised.
1969: Apollo 11 mission
The Apollo 11 spacecraft reached lunar orbit on July 19, 1969. As Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon, the astronaut famously declared, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." In this NASA photo, fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface during the mission.
1970: Maggie Smith wins Academy Award
This image shows English actress Maggie Smith celebrating her Academy Award for Best Actress with her husband, English actor Robert Stephens, and friends, April 8, 1970. Smith has had a long career in Hollywood, and is well known for her more recent roles in the "Harry Potter" films and "Downton Abbey."
1971: 'All in the Family' debuts
The groundbreaking sitcom "All in the Family" held the #1 spot in the Neilsen ratings for five of its nine-year run that began in January 1971. The show, written and produced by Norman Lear, followed the ups and downs of a working-class family in Queens with a bigot as its patriarch. The show was the first on television to address the pressing social issues of its day, including racism and sexism. Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor, pictured here with Jean Stapleton's Edith Bunker character) was a dock worker who drove a cab for extra income and whose personality was meant as a satirical representation of nonsensical intolerance.
1972: Actress and activist Jane Fonda visits Vietnam
The divisive war in Vietnam raged on in 1972. American actress and peace activist Jane Fonda called for the world’s attention when she toured a Hanoi site that had been bombed by U.S. airplanes.
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1973: Operation Homecoming
Between February and April 1973, U.S. troops successfully returned 591 POWs to American soil during Operation Homecoming. In this photo from the U.S. Air Force archives, newly freed prisoners of war celebrate as a C-141A aircraft takes off from Hanoi.
1974: Richard Nixon resigns
On Aug. 9, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned over his role in the Watergate scandal. "I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing,” Nixon said in his final speech from the Oval Office. This Getty Images photo depicts the 37th president's farewells to White House staff.
1975: Vietnam War—Fall of Saigon
In 1975, Saigon’s government left the imperial capital city of Hue. More than 200,000 refugees subsequently fled their homes. In this image released on May 5, 1975, an American soldier watches South Vietnamese refugees aboard a U.S. Navy boat off the coast of Vietnam.
1976: Bruce Jenner at the Montreal Olympics
In July 1976, Bruce Jenner, once dubbed the "world's greatest athlete,” set a record in the men's decathlon and won a gold medal at the Olympics Games in Montreal. Jenner beat Soviet runner Mykola Avilov, who had dominated the Cold War-era games. In 2015, Jenner came out as a transgender woman, and now is named Caitlyn. Here, Jenner is pictured celebrating in a photo by Tony Duffy.
1977: Pro-Choice March
Abortion law became a pervasive topic in the late 1970s, as numerous battles unfolded in U.S. courtrooms and legislative halls. On Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in the country’s landmark Roe v. Wade case. It was ruled unconstitutional for a state to restrict access to abortion. In 1976, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which prevented federal funding from being used for abortions with several exceptions including cases of rape, or when the woman’s life is in danger. Following those two key moments, the debate played out in the streets. In this photo by Peter Keegan, women can be seen demonstrating at a pro-choice rally in New York.
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1978: Khomeini returns to Iran triumphant
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini began rebuilding his support while in exile, after being imprisoned and subsequently expelled from Iran in 1964. By 1978, anti-shah demonstrations were taking place as disillusioned Iranians joined the student movement in increasing numbers. The protesting led to the eventual mutiny of the army the following year, ousting the shah and ushering in the return of Khomeini. In this photo, the religious leader is pictured in prayer.
1979: Margaret Thatcher becomes Britain's prime minister
On May 3, 1979, Margaret Thatcher made history by becoming Britain’s first female prime minister. Her success was aided by ongoing labor strikes known as the Winter of Discontent. Once in power, Thatcher reduced social programs and enacted sweeping privatization of public housing and mining industries. In this photo by Aubrey Hart, the prime minister appears with husband Denis and son Mark.
1980: Cowboy Ronald Reagan
In 1980, former Hollywood actor and California governor Ronald Reagan was elected the 40th president of the United States. The 69 year old, who had secured nearly 51% of the popular vote, was the oldest person to be elected president. A few months after his inauguration, the Republican leader was shot by John Hinckley Jr. This image, taken by photographer Michael Evans in 1976, shows the soon-to-be president wearing a cowboy hat.
1981: Lady Diana marries Prince Charles
Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, wed Diana Spencer in a lavish ceremony in 1981. An estimated 750 million people worldwide watched the televised event. The royal couple divorced in 1996, just one year before Diana’s untimely death in Paris. In this photo, the royal bride is pictured at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
1982: Grace Kelly dies
Hollywood star Grace Kelly was known for hits like "Rear Window,” "Dial M for Murder,” and "The Country Girl," before marrying Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956. On Sept. 13, 1982, Kelly drove off the road while traveling in France. She plummeted off an embankment and died soon after. This photo shows the couple saluting the crowd as they leave Saint Nicholas Cathedral after their wedding ceremony in Monaco on April 19, 1956.
1983: US Invasion of Grenada
On Oct. 25, 1983, U.S. Marines stormed Grenada to secure the safety of American nationals from the threat of the country's Marxist government. The invasion, dubbed Operation Fury, overthrew the regime in just over a week, ousting Marxist leader Bernard Coard. In this photo by Miguel Vinas, protesters hold a rally in Havana's Revolution Square to pay tribute to the Cubans killed during the invasion.
1984: US Olympics team
In the summer of 1984, the United States returned to the Olympics after boycotting the previous games in Moscow. America hosted the event in Los Angeles, where the team nabbed 174 medals. In this photo by Ken Hackman, athletes from the U.S. team wave to spectators during the opening ceremonies at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
1985: Princess Diana and John Travolta at the White House
In November 1985, President Reagan invited Prince Charles and Lady Diana to a gala at the White House, where they rubbed elbows with Hollywood stars. As Diana was preparing to dance with "Grease” star John Travolta, the 24-year-old princess became nervous. "I felt that I had taken her back to her childhood, when she had probably watched 'Grease,' and for that moment I was her Prince Charming,” Travolta later said of the event.
1986: Shuttle Challenger explosion
On Jan. 28, 1986, NASA’s Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch. The tragedy took the lives of all seven astronauts on board. Had the mission been successful, schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe would have been the first civilian in space. The crew members are pictured here in this NASA file photo.
1987: Reagan speaks at Brandenburg Gate
On June 12, 1987, President Reagan gave a rousing speech to a crowd of 20,000 at Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. There, he uttered one of the most famous lines of his presidency: "Tear down this wall.” The phrase was part of a broader call to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to destroy the Berlin Wall that divided East and West Germany. This photo from the White House Photographic Collection shows the president speaking to the crowd.
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1988: Flo-Jo is a winner
On Sept. 25, 1988, photographer Russell Cheyne captured this image of the United States’ Florence Griffith-Joyner winning the women’s 100 meters final in Seoul. She would ultimately walk away with three gold medals, and the nickname Flo-Jo. Though her world records in the 100- and 200-meter dashes still stand today, Griffith-Joyner died at the age of 38 during an epileptic seizure.
1989: Berlin Wall falls
On Nov. 9, 1989, after 28 years, East Berlin’s Communist Party announced that the citizens of East Germany could cross the border wall. Residents descended that evening, chanting "Open the gate!” In this photo taken by Gerard Malie, West Berliners watch as East German border guards take down a section of the wall on Nov. 11.
1990: Hubble Space Telescope
In 1990, NASA completed its longtime vision to put orbiting telescope in outer space. The Hubble Space Telescope, the first major optical telescope, represented the "most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo's telescope." NASA released this image in 2015 to honor the 25th anniversary of the space observatory.
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1991: Boris Yeltsin becomes Russia's president
On Feb. 24, 1991, Boris Yeltsin became the first popularly elected president of Russia, securing 59% of the vote. This photograph by Vitaly Armand depicts Yeltsin supporters holding up portraits of the newly elected leader to call attention away from a conservative rally held under Moscow's Kremlin Wall.
1992: US women's gymnastics team wins gold
Athletes from around the world gathered in Barcelona for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. The U.S. women's gymnastics team performed admirably, and Shannon Miller nabbed five medals for the team. In this photo by sports photographer Tony Duffy, the athletes accept gold medals.
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1993: Clinton takes the oath of office
After charming American voters by playing saxophone on late-night shows, Bill Clinton was elected 42nd president of the United States in November 1992. The Arkansas native, who referred to himself as the "Comeback Kid,” was sworn in during a January ceremony the following year. In this image from the Library of Congress, Clinton can be seen taking the oath of office alongside wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea.
1994: Nelson Mandela becomes president of South Africa
On May 10, 1994, revolutionary leader Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president at age 77 after a lifetime working to end racism and abolish apartheid. That year, the Nobel Peace Prize-winner published an autobiography he had secretly penned in prison. Mandela is pictured at his inauguration in Pretoria in this photo by Walter Dhladhla.
1995: Timothy McVeigh is charged
On April 19, 1995, domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck outside of a federal building in Oklahoma City. The explosion killed 168 people, including 19 children. More than 650 others were injured in the attack, the deadliest on U.S. soil up until Sept. 11. In this photo by Bob Daemmrich, McVeigh leaves the Noble County Courthouse.
1996: Dolly the Sheep
On July 5, 1996, a Finnish Dorset lamb codenamed 6LL3 was born in Scotland. The newborn—"Dolly the Sheep”—was the first mammal to be successfully cloned via somatic cell nuclear transfer. The lab kept the lamb a secret for seven months until the paper was published on Feb. 22, 1997. In this photo by Jeff J. Mitchell, assistant curator of biomedicine Sophie Goggins views Dolly at a 20th birthday celebration.
1997: William and Harry follow Princess Diana's coffin
On Aug. 31, 1997, Princess Diana and partner Dodi Fayed were chased by paparazzi photographers. Their driver crashed the vehicle as a result, and all three lost their lives. More than 1 million grieving spectators lined the route of Diana's procession from Kensington Palace to Westminster Cathedral. In this iconic photo by Jeff J. Mitchell, Prince William and Prince Harry, then 15 and 12 years old, follow their mother's coffin alongside father Prince Charles, grandfather Prince Philip, and Diana’s brother Earl Spencer.
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1998: Bill Clinton testifies before a grand jury
On Aug. 17, 1998, President Clinton testified before a grand jury, admitting he'd had an improper relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. "I did have a relationship with Miss Lewinsky that was not appropriate,” he told the jury. "In fact, it was wrong. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.” The following day, news photographer Luke Frazza captured this image of the president leaving for Martha’s Vineyard with wife Hillary, daughter Chelsea, and dog Buddy.
1999: Columbine High School shooting
On April 20, 1999, former Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire inside the Littleton, Colorado, school, killing 15 and injuring 23 others. The teenage perpetrators, who were reportedly bullied by fellow classmates, were considered social outcasts. In this image by Hector Mata, grieving students embrace each other outside the school.
2000: Vladimir Putin becomes president Of Russia
In March 2000, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was elected president. In June, Putin signed two arms control agreements with President Clinton while continuing to defend the war in Chechnya. The Russian president is pictured in this photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko following a meeting with Finland's President Tarja Halonen.
2001: Sept. 11 terrorist attacks
Reuters photographer Anthony Correia began his routine subway commute to work in lower Manhattan on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. His train was underground when airplanes struck the Twin Towers and after 45 minutes, rerouted to 14th Street. From there he emerged into the altered landscape of a city in the throes of horror and trauma. His photograph of an unidentified New York City firefighter walking away from Ground Zero after the collapse of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers captures the pervasive sense of shock, devastation, and uncertainty.
2002: Bali nightclub bombings
Less than a year after the Sept. 11 attacks, terrorists bombed two nightclubs on Bali in Indonesia on Oct, 12, 2002, killing 202 people from 21 countries. In 2006, a suspect was taken U.S. detention center Guantanamo Bay and held as a "high value detainee” for 15 years before being charged in 2017.
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2003: US invades Iraq
After Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein failed to meet the U.S.-imposed deadline to leave the country, armed forces from the United States, Britain, and other allied nations stormed Baghdad on March 19, 2003. President George W. Bush subsequently announced the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Iraq War lasted four years, killing more than 3,000 U.S. troops, wounding more than 23,000, and causing more than 50,000 civilian casualties. U.S. Army 3rd Division 3-7 Bradley vehicles wait inside the demilitarized zone between Kuwait and Iraq in this photo by Scott Nelson.
2004: Southeast Asia tsunami
A 9.1 earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia on Dec. 26, 2004. The geological event triggered a series of tidal waves that caused catastrophic damage in 12 different countries throughout Southeast Asia. Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and the Maldives were among the hardest hit, leaving 228,429 people dead or missing. This photo shows tourists in the water as the first of six tsunamis arrived at Thailand's Hat Rai Lay Beach.
2005: Hurricane Katrina
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast of the United States for eight days, leaving a devastating path of destruction in its wake. The Category 5 hurricane, which remains the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, killed more than 1,800 people and caused $125 billion in damage. This photo by Ross Taylor shows firefighter Jerome Crenshaw taking a break from recovery efforts.
2006: Saddam Hussein is executed
On Dec. 30, 2006, former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was executed at the headquarters of his former military intelligence service in the Baghdad suburb of Khadimeya. The fallen dictator was convicted of crimes against humanity prior to his execution, which was carried out by Iraqi officials with the support of the United States. "He was frightened,” Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, told The Washington Post. Hussein is pictured in this screengrab from Iraqi national television station Al Iraqiya in the moments before his execution.
2007: Apple launches the iPhone
On Jan. 9, 2007, Apple unveiled the iPhone, new mobile technology Time magazine dubbed the "invention of the year.” The first touchscreen phone featured a music player, camera, and web browser. Tens of thousands lined up outside retailer shops to purchase the new device. In this photograph by Shaun Curry, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is pictured announced the iPhone's release in Britain.
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2008: Financial crisis of 2008
The subprime mortgage crisis that had begun unfolding the previous year came to a head in 2008, causing some of the world's biggest lenders and financial institutions to collapse. The events launched a global recession, and the financial crisis, which ultimately led to a series of bailout packages, was the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. In this image, a Lehman Brothers employee carries his belongings out of the building.
2009: Barack Obama is sworn in as president
Barack Obama was sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2009, becoming the United States' first African American president. An estimated 1.8 million people attended the inauguration to watch the historic moment unfold. In this image taken by Ron Sachs-Pool, the Obamas wave to admirers at the inaugural parade.
2010: Haiti earthquake
On Jan. 12, 2010, the island nation of Haiti was struck by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead, missing, or displaced. The earthquake decimated the nation’s infrastructure, affecting an estimated 3 million people—roughly one-third of the population. In this photo by Joe Raedle, the aftermath of the disaster can be seen in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
2011: Prince William marries Kate Middleton
Britain’s royal family hosted another fairytale wedding in 2011, this time for Prince William and Kate Middleton. Like other royal weddings, the event was an international media sensation. Tens of thousands of spectators flocked to catch a glimpse of the couple as they rode in a horse-drawn carriage from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace. In this photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth, Kate’s sister Pippa Middleton holds the Duchess of Cambridge's train as she and Prince William prepare to depart.
2012: Costa Concordia disaster
On Jan. 13, 2012, Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia struck rocks off the coast of Giglio Island, and capsized with 1,023 crew members and 3,206 passengers aboard. The collision caused a 174-foot tear in the port side that flooded the engine room and other lower compartments; 32 people lost their lives and Capt. Francesco Schettino was later charged with multiple crimes, including manslaughter and lying to authorities.
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2013: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina becomes Pope
Pope Benedict XVI resigned on Feb. 28, 2013, becoming the first pope to step down since 1415. Benedict took the title "Pope Emeritus." Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope on March 13, becoming the first Latin American to hold the title. Bergoglio took the name "Pope Francis," and is depicted here arriving for his weekly audience.
2014: Ebola outbreak in West Africa
Health authorities issued an alert on Jan. 24, 2014, after cases of Ebola were reported in Guinea. By March, the World Health Organization had officially declared an outbreak. Over the next 2.5 years, the disease would infect people in the United States, Italy, Spain, England, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. By the time the outbreak ended, Ebola had infected 28,600 people and caused 11,325 deaths. In this photo by John Moore, a burial team in hard-hit Liberia awaits decontamination.
2015: Paris terrorist attacks
On Nov. 13, 2015, terrorists launched a coordinated series of attacks in Paris. First, suicide bombers set off explosions in a stadium during a football match. A cluster of mass shootings and an explosion were then reported at several cafes. Finally, another mass shooting resulted in a bloody hostage standoff at a concert hall. This photo by Mstyslav Chernov captures mourners attending a vigil at the Place de la République the following day.
2016: Zika virus
As Brazil prepared to host the Olympic Games in 2016, an outbreak of the Zika virus was reported in the city of Recife. As news outlets spread the news, a number of health officials called on the government to postpone or cancel the events. In contrast, the World Health Organization declared it safe to proceed. In this photo by Mario Tama, a mother holds her baby who suffers from microcephaly, a birth defect linked to the Zika virus.
2017: Hurricane Harvey
On Aug. 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey struck the coast of Texas, flooding homes and killing more than 80 people as it dropped more than 50 inches of rain. The Category 4 storm resulted in $125 billion in damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history apart from Hurricane Katrina. In this photo by Joe Raedle, residents evacuate their homes.
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2018: Standoff at the Group of Seven summit
The 2018 two-day Group of Seven (G7) summit, hosted in Charlevoix, Canada, on June 8–9, brought together leaders and representatives from the U.S., Italy, the U.K., France, Germany, Japan, and the EU. The annual G7 summit, in which leaders of the most wealthy countries join to informally discuss global economic policies, came in the midst of a looming trade war led by President Donald Trump. This photo, taken on day two of the summit, perfectly captures the tone of the meeting.
2019: Flooding causes devastation across the Midwest
Floodwater surrounds a farm on March 22, 2019, near Craig, Missouri. Midwest states battled some of the worst floods they have experienced in decades as rain and snowmelt from a "bomb cyclone" inundated rivers and streams. At least three deaths were linked to the flooding.
2020: Social distancing circles the world
Social distancing became the new normal in 2020 as global citizens adjusted to life in the COVID-19 pandemic, which infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands by June 1. As the world and its businesses began to reopen in May, and those previously locked down and quarantined began to emerge, cities from Paris to Brooklyn to San Francisco painted these social distancing circles for safe outdoor activities.
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