History goes viral: 10 moments you can now witness on YouTube from AP's massive upload

Posted at 12:16 PM, Jul 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-23 12:16:44-04

Move over PewDiePie — the next wave of YouTube stars includes Babe Ruth, Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles.

The Associated Press and British Movietone made thousands of historical videos available for free on YouTube this week, with thousands more coming by the end of July. The archives date back 120 years — way before the first viral clip of a cat playing the piano.

The massive upload means anyone with an Internet connection can now witness some of the most iconic moments of the past century without paying a dime.

“We are excited that everyone will be able to explore our collections free of charge, to share clips with their friends and family, and even embed YouTube links to our material in their own website and blogs,” said Jenny Hammerton, a film archivist with the AP Archive.

So far, about 180,000 clips have been uploaded to the AP Archive’s YouTube channel, with Hammerton saying they are adding about 30,000 more each day. The oldest is a film of two clowns juggling in 1895 while the most recent videos are newsworthy items from this week.

When pressed to name her favorite video in the online archive, Hammerton chose a black-and-white clip of Marilyn Monroe arriving in London to promote her 1957 film “The Prince and the Showgirl.” But the archivist added in an email, “My favorite video changes almost daily!”

Below are 10 stunning historical moments available now on YouTube through the AP Archives.

Two clowns juggle in Paris (1895)

The oldest clip in the online video archive shows a pair of clowns performing in Paris. Hammerton called it “a lovely film.” It’s interesting to note how close this video is to something seen on a TV reality competition program today.

Elvis performs in Tupelo, Mississippi (1956)

At 21 years old, Elvis Presley plays in front of a crowd in his hometown. This was the same year his iconic recording of “Hound Dog” was released.

President John F. Kennedy’s assassination (1963)
*Warning: Graphic footage

It’s arguably the most famous amateur video ever recorded. This footage of the moment Kennedy was shot in Dallas has been digitally restored and added into the AP Archive on YouTube.

Models wear “futuristic” bridal fashions (1966)

Some of the clips in the archive are lighthearted and funny. For example, this 1966 news footage shows women trying on bold new wedding gowns in New York. The dresses look like rejected costumes from a science-fiction film.

Marilyn Monroe arrives in London to promote new film (1957)

Hammerton described this clip as her current favorite in the archive. “I love the fact that she looks a bit disheveled after her transatlantic flight when she first arrives, then is transformed into the super glamorous Marilyn we know and love for the press conference,” the AP film archivist said. Standing alongside Monroe in the video are Academy Award winners Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, as well as Monroe’s then-husband Arthur Miller.

See the Titanic before it sank, the iceberg that it hit and survivors of the crash (1912)

This news package from 1912 shows the legendary Titanic prior to departing on its doomed maiden voyage. It also shows the icy area where the ship crashed with life rafts visible in the water, as well as survivors being interviewed.

Hindenburg disaster (1937)

One of the most devastating pieces of video ever captured. The massive Hindenburg airship bursts into flames before crashing to land in New Jersey – all caught on film. The crash killed 36 people but somehow 62 passengers survived.

Babe Ruth takes swings after signing record contract (1930)

In American sports, there might be no greater legend than Babe Ruth. The record-setting slugger is seen — and heard — in this 1930 newsreel talking about his lucrative contract, worth about $80,000 per year. The clip also shows Ruth taking a few swings in front of reporters.

Selma, Alabama mayor uses racial slur at speech talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. (1965)

This news footage collection accounts several events in Selma, Alabama during Martin Luther King's transformative visit in 1965. At 3:22 of the video, Selma Mayor Joe Smitherman calls the civil rights leader "Martin Luther Coon" at a press conference, before correcting himself. At 5:36, King is heard giving a speech.

Atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima, Japan (1945)

This clip shows the United States airplane that dropped an atomic bomb on Japan during World War II, as well as the mushroom cloud that was created after detonation. The bomb killed or injured around 140,000 people, according to some estimates.

Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.