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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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Space technicians in Roswell, New Mexico, transport a rocket piece by piece to its launch site.

Making waves on Honolulu’s beach, sunbathers in 1938 line up their surfboards just before hitting the water.

Warriors pose in their fighting regalia on the Indonesian island of Nias in 1931.

After starring in a 1930 vaudeville act in Harlem, three young elephants take their show on the road.

Caged for their crimes, robbers in the Afghan hills were hung high out of reach of food or poison and left to die, part of the Amir’s crime-cutting plans in 1921.

A good read wins out over a wet wade for this 1923 couple at Conwy Beach in Penmaenmawr, North Wales.

Photograph of the Hollywood Freeway—perhaps meant to illustrate what passed for traffic-clogged highways of the time.

Belgian colonials and Congolese natives pose in a clearing of jungle so lush that “it was impossible to read even at noon”.

Helped along by instructional materials from the YMCA, an Italian immigrant in the early 1900s makes an American breakfast in an effort to assimilate into her new country.

Ablaze with 6,500 flashbulbs, the Great Pyramid of Khufu illuminates the Cairo night on May 24, 1959. The light show was a promotion staged by Sylvania, the bulb manufacturer.

A heavily padded coat adds girth, and consequently worth, to the value of a Russian coachman in the early 1900s.

In 1882 Richmond, Virginia, female operators connected so successfully with customers on the other end of telephone switchboard lines that they opened the way for women to enter other employment areas.