42 Photos Of People Around The World At The Turn Of The Century

Published November 10, 2016
Updated February 21, 2020

Stunning vintage portraits of the world's diverse cultures — from Brazilian headhunters to Indian snake charmers — from over a century ago.

Man Veggies
Man peddling vegetables, Japan, 1890-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Witch Doctor
A witch doctor, 1920-1930. Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Kenya Man
Kenyan man, 1880-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Philippine Island Women
Indigenous Filipinos hold baby, 1890-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Serbian Man
Serbian man wearing hat, vest, belted pants, and pointed toed shoes with cane standing outside of building in Yugoslavia, 1880-1924.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Armenian
Patriarch Harootiun Vehabedian of the Armenian church wearing hood, robe and five medals, 1880-1924.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Nubian Woman
Nubian woman, Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, 1890-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Jewish Women Tunisia
Two Jewish women face each other in Tunisia, 1900-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Native Man
Dervish man, 1920-1930.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Mexico Picnic
Mexican people with guitars, 1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Chola Cook
Chola cook, 1900-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Korea Empress
Empress Sunmyeong (1872-1904), the first wife of Emperor Sunjong of Korea (1874-1926), 1890-1904.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

East African Sultan
East African official for Germany, formerly a sultan, Tanganyika, Africa,1902.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Sudanese Woman
Sudanese woman, 1890-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Aymara Indian
An Aymara Indian, Bolivia, 1900-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Eskimo Child
Eskimo boy wearing ragged clothing made from flour sacks, Belcher Islands, Northwest Territories, Canada, 1927.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Albanian Man
"Fete day costume, 'Shkypetars,' men of the eagle, as Albanians are known in their own country ...1923."Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

1905 Egypt
Camels draw water from Egyptian well, 1905.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Anatomy Class Sudan
Anatomy class in Sudan, 1890-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Bedouin Woman
Bedouin woman, 1900-1910.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Desert Sheik Emir
Emir Nawwaf, a desert sheik, 1910-1920.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Fakir Man
India -- Fakir with monkeys, 1890-2920.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Istanbul Woman
Woman holding a baby on a street in Istanbul, 1915-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Greek Woman 1920
Woman in old Greek Costume, 1920Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Gypsy Women From Palestine
Two gypsy women standing, Palestine, 1893.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Head Hunters Brazil
Head hunters in the upper Amazon, Brazil, 1890-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Highlands Dancers
Boy and girl dancing in Scotland, 1900-1925.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Palestine Nazareth
Two women posing in Palestine, 1910-1925.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Japanese Bedroom
Japanese bedroom with thick quilt used as a bed, 1890-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Kling Boy India
Kling boy in India, 1890-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Kling People
Kling people, Singapore, 1890-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Panama Spraying
Panama--Spraying oil on breeding places of mosquitoes, 1890-1925.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Priest India
Priest sitting in India, 1890-1900.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Russian Peasants
Group of Russian peasants, 1875.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Snake Charmers India
Snake charmers in India, 1890-1900.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Syrian Bride
Druse bride of Mt. Lebanon, Syria, 1910-1925.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Thailand
Views of Thailand, 1890-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Zulu
Zulu man, 1890-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Women Saigon
Two women posed, seated, Saigon, South Vietnam, 1890-1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Tribes
Zulu men near a cauldron, 1920-1930.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Tuekish Women
Women in Turkish clothing, 1923.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Young Women Tunis
Two Jewish girls on a beach in Tunis, Tunisia, 1860-1890.Frank Carpenter/Library of Congress

Around the time that Frank Carpenter began to make his first trip around the world, less than one percent (.14-.16 of a percent, to be precise) of Americans had traveled overseas. So when Carpenter published his visual dispatches from the far corners of the Earth, he offered more than just photos.

Indeed, Carpenter introduced millions to the many fabrics of human life. Over the course of his life, Frank Carpenter would travel the world three times, amassing tens of thousands of photos of the cultures and geographies he encountered throughout.

Born in Mansfield, Ohio in 1855, Carpenter commenced his career as a journalist, a profession that paved the way for his travels. By 1888, he had enough assignments with newspaper syndicates and magazines to pay for his first trip around the world. His sole responsibility? Send a letter each week to these periodicals, wherein he described what he saw.

On some of these travels, Carpenter brought his daughter, Frances. She followed in her father's footsteps and became an author and geographer, and the father-daughter duo — when not globetrotting — would write books together, such as The Clothes We Wear and The Foods We Eat, which detailed cultural variance in otherwise humdrum affairs.

Frank Carpenter's work — specifically Carpenter's Geographic Readers — would become the gold standard in the United States for geography textbooks for decades as well as popularize the disciplines of cultural anthropology.

Fittingly enough, it was on his third lap around the world that Carpenter died at age 69. The world-revealing geographer would draw his last breath in Nanking, China.

Above, you'll find a handful of photos that Carpenter took during his travels, which spanned from 1880 to 1934.


Next, look back on American diversity with these portraits of Ellis Island immigrants. Then, see some stunning portraits of Native Americans at the turn of the 20th century.

All That's Interesting
All That's Interesting is a Brooklyn-based digital publisher that seeks out the stories to illuminate the past, present, and future.