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ca. 1950
Miss Perfect Profile
The head of a modeling agency added creative captions, such as "Miss Perfect Profile," to the photos of his models in order to get newspapers to print them.
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1950
The Tydings Affair
As payback for a political slight, the staff of Sen. Joseph McCarthy created a photo that appeared to show Sen. Millard Tydings (right) chatting with the head of the American Communist Party (left) — although in reality the two men had not met. They released the photo shortly before a 1950 senate race in which Tydings was running, and it is believed to have contributed to Tydings' defeat in that election.
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May 2, 1945
Red Army Flag Over Reichstag
This photo was both staged and doctored in an attempt to create a Soviet version of the Americans' Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima image.
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Feb 23, 1945
Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima
This is one of the most reproduced images in history, but soon after it was taken, a rumor spread that it had been staged. It wasn't. The rumor started because the marines had raised a flag on Iwo Jima earlier in the day, under heavy fire, but commanders later decided this first flag should be replaced by a larger one. This image shows that second flag-raising, but photographer Joe Rosenthal insisted he didn't direct or pose the soldiers in any way.
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May 8, 1943
The Master Race
The May 8, 1943 cover of the British illustrated magazine Parade showed an unkempt, dour-looking German soldier with the satirical caption, "Master Race." But the man wasn't actually a German soldier. The photo was actually a piece of British government propaganda. The photographer later admitted the man was "the ugliest Arab they could find in the streets of Cairo... whom they dressed up in a sort of uniform."
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August 1942
The Nazi Air Marker Hoax
The U.S. Army press office released pictures supposedly showing "secret markers" placed by fifth-columnists in rural areas of the east coast to guide Nazi bombers toward military targets. But it turned out the "markers" had been investigated by the Army, and had been judged to be entirely innocent patterns on the ground. The release of the photos and the claim of their sinister meaning was attributed to "over-zealous army press-agentry."
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ca. 1940
The Commissar Vanishes
The original version of this photo showed Nikolai Yezhov, the People's Commissar for Internal Affairs, walking beside Stalin (to his left) along the Moscow-Volga Canal. But after Yezhov fell out of political favor, Soviet censors deleted him from the photo. This photo has now become one of the most famous examples of how totalitarian regimes doctor images in their attempts to rewrite history.
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1939
Biggest Fish Ever Caught
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin ran this picture on its front page on Apr 1, 1939, accompanied by a report claiming that Norwegian scientist Dr. Thorkel Gellison (an "authority on prevaricana") had caught the largest fish ever recorded while on holiday in Hawaii. The fish was said to be of the species Gellisoni Fabricata. The doctor caught it "with ordinary Mason & Dixon line, with a leader of Associated Press wire."
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September 19, 1936
The Brown Lady of Raynham
This photo is said to show the "Brown Lady" who haunts Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England. The image was taken by two photographers on assignment for Country Life magazine who said they saw an ethereal form descending the staircase and quickly snapped a picture. It is almost certainly nothing more than a double exposure, though whether done purposefully or by accident is not known.
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September 5, 1936
The Falling Soldier
Despite allegations that Robert Capa staged this famous war photo, historical research shows that he did not.
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May 1936
The Perambulating Skull
Arthur Rothstein took this photo while documenting drought conditions in South Dakota for the Resettlement Administration. But Republican papers noticed that the same skull appeared in other photos by Rothstein and accused him of using it as a "movable prop" to dramatize the drought for political purposes. They mockingly referred to the cow's head as the "perambulating skull."
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circa 1935
Whopper Hoppers
Giant grasshoppers were particularly popular subjects for photo fakery during the 1930s. In this image, taken on a farm near Mitchell, South Dakota by an unknown photographer, three men struggle to subdue "the largest grasshopper in existence." The "whopper hopper" appears to have been a wooden model.
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April 1934
The Surgeon’s Photo
This is the most famous Loch Ness Monster photo. It was long believed to have been taken on April 19, 1934 by a British surgeon who said he noticed something moving in the water while he was driving along the Loch. The photo actually shows a fake serpent's head attached to a toy submarine, and it wasn't taken by the surgeon. His role was merely to serve as a credible front-man for the hoax.
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April 1, 1934
Lung-Powered Flying Machine
The Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung ran this photo in its 1934 April Fool's Day edition to illustrate a spoof story about a flying machine powered by the breath from a man's lungs. International News Photo then distributed the photo to its American subscribers, without identifying it as a fake. As a consequence, it appeared as factual news in many American papers, including the New York Times.
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Late 1933
Baby Adolf
In 1933, a picture supposedly showing Adolf Hitler as a baby began circulating throughout England and America. The child in the picture looked positively menacing. However, the child wasn't really the infant führer. In 1938 a Mrs. Harriet Downs of Ohio happened to see the picture in a magazine and immediately recognized it as her son. Someone had darkened the shadows around the child's face to give him a more sinister look.
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April 1, 1933
Wisconsin’s Capitol Collapses
An April Fool's Day image of the Wisconsin state capitol collapsing due to an excess of gas generated by verbose debate.
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Published in 1933; debunked in 1984.
Death in the Air
Spectacular images of World War I dog fights were eventually exposed as photos of model airplanes.
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July 29, 1925
Mother Cat Stops Traffic
The news photographer arrived too late to capture the original scene, so he convinced the policeman to recreate it.
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