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“We try to come up with funky stuff that is full of surprises,” says illustrations editor Susan Welchman, who picks the images each month for National Geographic’s most popular feature. “They have to be light, related to the stories in the magazine, and, if possible, funny.”

Click a year to display the archive at right.

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Street magicians perform in Ceylon, today’s Sri Lanka. Published in 1912.
Cannon-carrying Army trucks rumble through Lincoln Tunnel in midtown Manhattan in December 1937.
A redwood tree steams through California’s Humboldt County on a train to the sawmill in the early 1900s.
A benchload of gold bars is displayed at a mining company in Nome, Alaska. Published in 1914.
A state executioner in ceremonial armor attends a British celebration in India honoring the coronation of King Edward VII. Published in 1907.
Three kittens look at a giant grouper at Marineland, the world’s first “oceanarium,” opened in 1938 near St. Augustine, Florida.

Mill workers rally round the flag they made in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1914.
A man surrounded by sand sculptures sketches portraits of passersby in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Published in 1933.
Swiss physicists use wicker baskets and seat cushions as crash helments in 1931.
A roughly constructed Ferris wheel takes a spin in Elbasan, Albania, in 1924.
Boys balance sunglasses on the muzzles of their cart dogs in Sainte-Anne-de-Beauprè, Quebec, in 1934.
December photos 1 , 2
Britain’s King George V dines off fine china and linen in Nepal during a hunting expedition in 1911.