History isn't the sexiest subject we'll study in school. It doesn't have the romance of the romance languages, the artistry of the fine arts, or the chemistry of chemistry. Historical figures aren't exactly known as sex symbols. Teens don't have photos of a shirtless Albert Einstein or paintings of Betsy Ross in a bikini on their walls. No one looks at Mount Rushmore and thinks, "Man, I'd like to see what's below those necklines." But did you know that some of those folks you read about in history books were actually pretty hot? Well, for a while they were — or at the very least, they managed to take one heck of a photo in their youth. Here are some famous people from the past who just might make you want to pick up a history book.
15 Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin was a ruthless dictator who was responsible for the deaths of millions of his countrymen, but just because he was evil doesn't mean he wasn't photogenic. Well, at least, in his youth. Most people envision him as the middle-aged, gray-haired, bushy-mustached leader of the Soviet Union, but this picture was taken in 1902 when he was 23 years old, and had the appearance of a hipster Patrick Dempsey. With his billowy hair and stylish scarf, he looks like he could simultaneously make you a killer cappuccino and recommend an obscure band you've never heard of. Seriously, with this look, he could've time traveled over 100 years into the future to the present day and wouldn't look out of place in the least. If only he'd followed his true calling and become a stylist, a lot of lives could've been spared.
14 Charlie Chaplin
Silent film movie star, Charlie Chaplin, is known for his comedic persona of the "Little Tramp," a bumbling vagrant with a toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, baggy pants, and a cane. It's a look that was played for laughs, not lust, but as this photo shows, beneath that goofy veneer, Chaplin the actor was quite the looker. This snapshot was taken around 1920, when he would've been about 30 years old, and the dashing, clean-cut star is almost unrecognizable without his trademark mustache and hat. If you didn't know better, you'd think he was a romantic lead like Rudolph Valentino, not a physical comic. Don't sleep, because Charlie Chaplin will steal your girl! And the fact that he was married four times and had 11 children only furthers that point.
13 Che Guevara
12 Hermann Rorschach
11 Fawzia Fuad
10 Ernest Hemingway
Chances are when you envision renowned author Ernest Hemingway, you picture an older, stocky, balding man with a white beard. Sort of like if Santa Claus was an ex-Marine. But like most old people, he was young once, and as this photo shows, he was rather handsome in his youth. After all, who can resist a man in uniform? This picture also holds some historical significance because it shows him at age 18 in Italy during World War I. He had volunteered to be an ambulance driver during the war, and after a couple of months, when he was seriously injured and sent home, his experience inspired him to write the classic novel A Farewell to Arms. (And no, he did not lose his arms in the war.)
9 Frederick Douglass
8 George VI
Unless you're from England, it's easy to get the old English monarchs mixed up. So if the name George VI doesn't necessarily ring any bells, it's understandable. But if I say, "He's the guy from the movie The King's Speech," then you'll probably get a better grasp of who I'm talking about.
As the movie showed, George VI (the current Queen Elizabeth's dad) had a pronounced stammer, and he was portrayed as very unsure of himself as both a speaker and as a king, but if this photo is any indication, one thing's for sure: he was kind of a hunk. Long and lean with slick hair and broad shoulders, he is one of the few monarchs who is arguably better looking than the actor hired who played him (Colin Firth). At the very least, he's light years ahead of the most internationally recognizable former English king, Henry VIII.
7 Virginia Woolf
British author Virginia Woolf was one of the most renowned writers of the early 20th century and an inspiration for the modern-day feminist movement. As such, it's her brains and talent that are typically highlighted over her physical beauty, but this picture of her at around age 20 shows her to be rather fetching. Her mother, Julia Stephen, was actually a model, after all (for both paintings and photographs), and Woolf resembled her quite a bit. This photo shows off Woolf's long, thin features and the sort of "classical" beauty that allowed her mother to become a muse of sorts for several artists, some of whom even asked Stephen to marry them. Woolf didn't break as many hearts as her mom, though, nor as many as her sister, artist Vanessa Bell, whose own beauty might have overshadowed Woolf's.
6 Rutherford B. Hayes
5 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Classical music isn't thought of as very sexy today, but back in the day, classical composers were like the rock stars of their era, right? Or am I just thinking about the video for "Rock Me Amadeus"? Anyway, Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is one of the all-time greats. He's famous for crafting "The 1812 Overture" and the music for the ballets Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and The Sleeping Beauty, but you're more likely to recognize the sound of his compositions than the look of his face. Frankly, later in life, he looks about what you'd expect: gray-haired, balding, a thick beard, like a 19th-century principal or a body double for Sigmund Freud. But when he was younger—I'd guess in his 20's—he at least took this one debonair photo that will make you say Rutherford B. Haaaaaaaayyyyy.
4 Teddy Roosevelt
Most people in America (hopefully) can envision former President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, and if you can't, just go look at Mount Rushmore (third from the left). He had a signature look: round glasses, stocky figure, bushy mustache, big teeth, and maybe a gun or two (or a big stick) in his hands. Rarely do we think of him (or see him) as a young man, so this photo is quite the shocker; he was easy on the eyes! His sandy brown hair and blue eyes (I know this is a black-and-white photo, but look it up) gave him kind of a surfer look, and he had the mutton chop thing going on WAY before Wolverine. Ladies, jump in your time machine to snag him now before he climbs the ladder to the White House...and gains, like, 100 pounds.
3 Wilma Rudolph
Sprinter Wilma Rudolph was one of the most impactful sports stars of the 20th century. In 1960, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Games. As an Olympic champion and world record holder, she inspired a generation of female athletes — African Americans in particular. But the images we tend to see are her lunging at the finish line in an unflattering pose. This photo shows how striking a beauty she was, standing a statuesque 5-foot, 11-inches tall with a lovely smile and a fuller (though less aerodynamic) head of hair than when she competed. Who knows, if she hadn't retired from track so early— age 22!—maybe she would've received more exposure, and we would've gotten to see her inspire the next generation as a sex symbol as well as an athlete.
2 Johannes Brahms
Don't look now, but Tchaikovsky's got competition on the sexy classical composer front. Women, get ready to toss your 19th century bloomers at Germany's own Johannes Brahms! His musical legacy is one of the most enduring of all time, ranked by some alongside a couple of other "B" German composers, Bach and Beethoven. Looking at pictures of him later in life—chubby, gray beard, handlebar mustache, like Hemingway's drinking buddy—you'd never suspect he looked anything like this earlier in his life. With his clean-shaven face, light, almost Nordic features, and dainty 'do, he looks like quite the dandy. He was probably prettier than most of the women fawning over him. Maybe that's why he overcompensated and turned into Grizzly Adams as he got older.
1 Anton Chekhov
Anton Chekhov was a renowned and influential late 19th/early 20th century Russian writer of plays and short stories. Perhaps you read some of his works (Uncle Vanya, The Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard, etc.) in high school and then promptly forgot about them after taking your exams. Maybe you would've paid more attention if the cover of the book had this picture plastered on it, showing what a WILF (writer + MILF) he was. He had windswept hair, boyish features offset by a hint of a beard, and sleepy eyes, staring off into the distance; no doubt contemplating something deep like what young damsel might be reading his works 100 years in the future and swooning over how dreamy he was. It's enough to make you overlook the fact that he wore his shoestrings as a tie.