April 26, 2018

Life of the 1850s: 45 Amazing Photos That Show How the World Looked Like Over 160 Years Ago

Over 160 years ago, the world was in a state of transition. The Industrial Revolution had laid the groundwork for an upcoming rapid modernization; steamships and telegraph lines were making the world a smaller place; the United States was struggling with the issue of slavery and trying to avoid a civil war; and a relatively new invention was becoming an indispensable tool for artists, documentarians, and journalists: the camera.

By the 1850s, dozens of photographers were traveling the world, capturing scenes they either hoped to sell, or were commissioned to photograph. These amazing photos will bring you back to the 1850s to see how the world has changed.

Drinking and cards, circa late 1850s

Engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (front row, center-right) and others observe the SS Great Eastern launch attempt in Blackwall, London, November 1857. It was a massive steamship, the largest ship ever built when it launched

Faruk Khan, or Farrokh Khan Amin-Doleh, vice premier to the court of Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar, and the Persian ambassador to French emperor Napoleon III, and Queen Victoria, circa 1857

Former President Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the United States, posing in photographer Mathew Brady's
New York portrait studio, circa 1855-1858

Group portrait of a man, woman, and boy, with Niagara Falls in the background, circa 1855


Horses and carts surround a busy Quincy Public Market in downtown Boston, 1857

Jerusalem, Site of the Temple on Mount Moriah, and Jerusalem, Court of the Mosque of Omar, 1857

Men at work beside the launching chains of the Great Eastern while under construction at London's Millwall Iron Works on the River Thames, November 18, 1857

Morlaix - Le quai de Tréguier, 1857

Napoleon III, emperor of France, 1857

Paris looking back toward the Ile de la Cité from across the Seine, circa 1857

Peter Force, American editor, publisher, and historian, served as the 12th mayor of Washington, D.C., from 1836 to 1840, circa 1857

Pierre Clément Eugène Pelletan, a French writer, journalist, and passionate critic, circa 1855-1859

Portrait of a girl in the Netherlands, circa 1855

Portrait of newlyweds Dorman and Eliza Egbert Cortright, Battle Creek, Michigan, circa 1850

Portrait of the Baroness of Séverac, 1856-1859

Queen Victoria's visit to the Manchester Exhibition of Art Treasures of the United Kingdom in Manchester, England,
June 1857

Samuel Morse, the American artist and inventor, standing in a studio with an automatic telegraph receiver, which would record incoming morse-code messages onto paper, circa 1857

San Francisco and the harbor from Stockton Street, containing the portions between Washington and Sacramento Streets, 1856

Seascape with a ship leaving port in Sète, France, 1857

St. Sophia (Hagia Sophia) from the Hypodrome, Constantinople, Turkey, in 1857. The site of the former Hippodrome of Constantinople is now called Sultanahmet Square in modern Istanbul

The Chattar Manzil palace wall in Lucknow, India, which was destroyed by mutineers during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (also known as the Sepoy Mutiny)

The earliest surviving photo of Japanese feudal lord, Shimazu Nariakira, dressed formally, September 17, 1857

The French-English fleet in the harbor of Cherbourg-Cotentin, France, August 1858

The inauguration of President James Buchanan, at the east front of the United States Capitol Building, March 4, 1857

The Parker House Hotel, possibly in the late 1850s

The Pyramids of Dahshoor from the east, 1857

The River Seine in Paris, from the Square du Vert-Galant, a park at the tip of the Ile de la Cité, 1857

The Sphinx, built during the Egyptian Fourth Dynasty, stands in the desert with the Pyramid Cheops nearby in Giza, 1857

The U.S. Capitol Building dome under construction, looking south from the roof of the Senate wing, showing the first row of columns near completion and the cast-irons pillars up, 1857

Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione, better known as 'La Castiglione', an Italian aristocrat who achieved notoriety as a mistress of Emperor Napoleon III of France, circa 1857

Young gentleman of the 1850s

A group of Gurkha soldiers with their British officer, during the Indian Mutiny or Great Sepoy Rebellion, 1857

A portrait of two women gleaners in rural England, 1857

Abraham Lincoln, immediately prior to his Senate nomination in Chicago, Illinois, February 28, 1857

An abbot accompanies students visiting the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy, circa 1857

Barrack Hill, Ottawa, during the construction of the Parliament Buildings, circa 1857

Battery Street in San Francisco, California, 1856

Boston and a busy Boston Harbor looking north from the State House dome in 1858

Brant Point Light Station, on Nantucket Harbor, Nantucket Island, Massachusetts in the 1850s

Camp de Châlons; The Zouave storyteller, Chalons, France, 1857

Canadian man posing in front of his house, circa 1855

Cathedral, Baltimore, Maryland, 1856

Cloud study over Paris, circa 1850s

Construction workers build a new jail in St. Paul, Minnesota, 1857






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