7 Historical Photos You Didn’t Know Were Modified

Today, it has become a norm to edit and modify photos. Once you have shot a bunch of photos using your camera or smartphone, you are highly likely to retouch them before sharing on Instagram or other social networks. This type of editing usually involves removing spots, lines, scars, or some unwanted elements from the picture.

Photoshop is typically the go-to tool for such processes. Using the latest technology, you can improve and enhance not just your current photos but also old family photos.

Find out what modern editing techniques are available and seven historical images you didn’t know were modified even before computer technology became available.

Benefits of Digital Editing

Some of the key benefits of digital editing benefits include:

  • Bringing yellowed and faded photos back to life
  • Recovering greyed black and white photos
  • Recovering colour
  • Colouring black and white photos
  • Removing stains, scratches, watermarks, tears, and creases
  • Replacing objects, people, and backgrounds

In the past, it was almost impossible to achieve similar results. Still, photographers and artists in history have been able to edit photos of historical events and importance using innovative techniques. Here are seven of the most famous memorable images that you didn’t know were modified.

Well-known Photo of Abraham Lincoln

Thomas Hicks edited the famous photo of Abraham Lincoln. The artist superimposed the head of the president onto the body of John C. Calhoun. Mr Hicks did this modification in the late 1860s. He retouched the print as an effort to create a heroic portrait of the leader after his assassination.


General Ulysses S. Grant During the American Civil War

The famous photo of General Ulysses S. Grant on a horse in front of his troops is an iconic photo from the American Civil War. Interestingly, this is a modified photo from around 1864. The Library of Congress investigated and found that this photo is the result of merging different photos that included:

  • A different picture of General Grant
  • A photograph of the body of Major General Alexander M Cook
  • A background image of captured prisoners
General Grant at City Point - Circa 1902 - Library of Congress

Churchill’s Iconic Victory Photo

Everyone has seen the iconic victory photo of Winston Churchill in military attire. If you check the print at Britain At War Experience museum, you will be surprised to notice that it doesn’t feature Churchill’s famous cigar. The photo was modified to remove the cigar from the British Prime Minister’s hand.


General Francis P. Blair Added to a Photo

When Matthew Brady took this photo of General Sherman posing with his generals in 1865, General Francis P. Blair was not present for the shot. The photojournalist added later on the image of General Blair from another photo to the group portrait.

General Sherman Posing with his Generals in 1865. Mathew Brady - Library of Congress

Removing Goebbels from a Photo

Historically, photos have been modified not just to add someone from a second photograph, but also to remove them. Adolf Hitler has removed many people from his official portraits. The above photo is an example where the artist removed Joseph Goebbels from a print with Hitler and other friends.


Queen Mother and the Canadian PM

King George VI was initially in this photo of the Queen Mother and the Canadian Prime Minister. To give more visibility and attention to the prime minister, the editor recreated the scene removing the King to show only the Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King and the Queen Mother.


Fence Post Removed from Kent State Massacre Photo

This photo is a famous Pulitzer Prize by John Filo taken in 1970. The original shot had a fencepost behind Mary Ann Vecchio’s head. The photographer modified the picture to remove the fence. This famous photo is a reminder of the Kent State Shootings by the National Guard troops that resulted in the death of four students and nine wounded.


There are many other instances of altered historical images. The practice of photo modification existed since the beginning of photography. But it has become more prevalent and accessible than ever before.

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