20th Century in 20 Images

Alan Trapulionis
7 min readMay 26, 2022
Walter Rothschild and his zebra carriage in London, 1898. Wikimedia Commons image.

Walter Rothschild may have been the heir to a massive banking empire, but he sure had a lot of free time on his hands.

The photo above illustrates Rothschild’s attempt to convince people that exotic animals were not as untameable as previously thought. He cruised that baby through the streets of London all the way up to Buckingham Palace, cementing his place in history as the guy who rode zebras.

Sadly, his “invention” didn’t stick. Because, horses.

Child laborers smoking, US, 1910. Wikimedia Commons image.

Child labor used to be a big business in the United States. In 1870, one out of eight children in the country were legally employed. By 1900, that number reached one in five.

In 1910 children under the age of 15 made up 18.4 percent of the nation’s workforce. (source)

Only in 1938 was child labor outlawed in the United States.

Franz Reichelt, moments before his death, 1912. Wikimedia Commons image.

In 1912, an inventor named Franz Reichelt jumped off the Eiffel Tower to prove that his self-constructed parachute worked.

Unfortunately, it didn’t. The parachute didn’t deploy. Reichelt fell 57 meters and died from impact.

Policeman measuring women’s bathing suits on a beach in Washington, 1922. Wikimedia Commons image.

In 1922, the order was that swimming suits should show no more than six inches of naked thigh above the knee. Many women were asked to leave beaches by law enforcement, and some were even arrested.

I wonder what these people would think about Instagram.

Japanese Emperor Shōwa inspecting acoustic aircraft locators, pre WW2. Wikimedia Commons image.

What you’re looking at is the cutting-edge aircraft detection technology that preceded the radar.

Believe it or not, these giant gramophones actually worked. They could locate incoming aircraft before it could be seen with a…