Also read Part 1

How much fun can you have with a gas mask on your face?
None whatsoever.

And yet multitudes of people of various age and occupation donned these rubber/plastic stifling contraptions, most as an entirely justifiable part of the Cold War civil defense exercises, but some - well, see for yourself. Could there be a type of people who would adopt "gas mask fashion" for no apparent reason? -

("The Happening")

History wears a gas mask

Weirdest faces in masks, from history's worst nightmares:

(images credit: gasmasks.net)

One of the first gas masks (Zelinsky model) from 1913:

Panzer driver protective mask, 1917:

Red Army Chemical Weapons Protective Suit, 1930:

Gas masks apparently refuse to protect capitalists:

This could easily be a shot from apocalyptic movie (the sign says "contaminated") -

The evolution of female beauty:

You don't want even to touch these rats:

Early gas masks for horses:

Update: Apparently, the picture above is not really a gas mask: it's a "nose bag," a canvas sack filled with grain that enables the horse to eat on its breaks from work while it is away from a manger or pasture (thanks, Caitlin)

Dogs did not escape this fate, either:
(See complete history of gas mask equipment for dogs here)

(image credit: gasmasks.net)

Pretending to be a mushroom does not help, but wearing this full-body suit (Red Army, 1940) certainly does:

More historic examples: vintage photography of people in masks, each impersonal face asking a silent question: "Why?", "What did I do to deserve this?" and "How long will this go on?"

(images credit: gasmasks.net)

(image credit: gasmasks.net)

(image credit: gasmasks)

Nurses wearing masks, 1942:

(image credit: Miss Magnolia)

This mysterious banquet occurs under very portentious slogan:
"Why wait until 1955? We might not even be alive!"

Considering this poster of atomic weather and back-then political situation, they could have been right:

And looking at the next posters, I'd say these soldiers should don their masks, and quickly:

This picture supposed to show the actual nuclear detonation as part of Soviet war games in the 50s in Semipalatinsk:
(many soldiers perished as a result) -

This is THE first Soviet atomic bomb: RDS-1 from 1949:

Later model bomb (smaller and more lethal, of course):

Some of the Soviet machinery of that period looked positively weird: this one TM-59 was supposed to clean up airstrips after contamination:

These girls are not in the masks yet, but soon will be:

Closer to our times:

"Pop!" goes the pop art

Modern pop art makes a good use of gas masks, making them a symbol of... well, holistic wickedness? wicked innocence? Who knows:

(vector art by se7en)

Gas masks end up on customized bikes:

(image credit: Ben Ransom)

... in the bathroom:

... all over the street:

(image credit: Blayne Scott)

(image credit: Francisco Matas Rosas)

or at "Burning Man" avant-garde art competitions:

And we'll close with the most emphatic image of all:
(nuclear fallout shelter? I only hope this is just a piece of art)

(image credit: Tom Mortimer)

Tome Mortimer says: "Various people have asked if it's an actual child but it's just a doll that used to be my aunts (which we keep in a cupboard as it freaks people out otherwise)"

Many of the images were graciously provided by Bart from Gas Masks site, which actually has a full catalog of every gas mask model produced around the world.
Other Sources: Gas Masks in Action, Gas Masks Politics



Also read:
Thermonuclear Oops List, Biochemical Oops List, Ballistic News

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Category: History,Weird, Military
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Panzer driver's mask is not a gas mask - It's to protect the face from spall (splinters of metal that fly off the inside of the armour when it is hit hard). The lower section is made of chain mail

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The author of the last picture seems to be Gottfried Helnwein, german artist.

Blogger Agent Beryllium said...


Reminds me of that Dr Who Episode with the gas mask kid!

Thanks alot-- I won't be sleeping tonight. :(

j/k, love the work you guys do.

Blogger Blayne said...

It was an interesting surprise to see a piece of art I did a few months back posted on a random blog!

If you could credit the spray-painted Tag art Skull / Gasmask white/black image as 'Blayne Scott' that would be fantastic. :)

Good post!

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Thank you Blayne, the credit is added. Glad you like the article.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i never knew burning man was real..i saw it on "malcolm and the middle." i love this website! its only been a day and im almost done lookin at evrythin, i think..if u can reply..how old are you??

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Anonymous, Burning Man is large-scale art installation event in the desert - see here

glad you like the site

Blogger Romulus said...

No matter what they look otherworldly to me.

PS Gas masks don't do a thing against radioactivity or nuclear fallout, I don't know where you get that from.

Blogger Blayne said...

PS Gas masks don't do a thing against radioactivity or nuclear fallout, I don't know where you get that from.

True, gas masks don't do much at all for protection against fallout, but they do for mustard gas and other corrosive gases.

The cultural conflation of gas masks with nuclear fallout probably comes from seeing them used during wartime (mustard gas).

I came across a 1961 booklet published in Canada (with a forward by Prime minister Diefenbaker) titled "11 Steps to Survival' that outlines how to survive a nuclear explosion. Gasmasks in this case don't protect against fallout, but *do* help to filter out some of the heavier particles cast into the air by the detonation.


Blogger Unknown said...

the first picture with the two old ladys is a still from 'The Happening'

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great images, thank you! the other unknown credit (the black and white image above the burning man-one) is by Francisco Matas Rosas, Mexico City. http://www.franciscomata.com.mx/portafolioinicioi.html

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post. Cool images. Also, Romulus, you are incorrect. Modern gas masks filter out radioactive particulates from fallout, but only when used with a proper filter. But a gas mask alone will not save you from radioactivity, you need a full set of correct protective clothing AND a gas mask for that.

"Romulus said:
PS Gas masks don't do a thing against radioactivity or nuclear fallout, I don't know where you get that from."

Blogger carroca said...

I believe that the second horse picture is incorrectly labeled. The horse appears to be wearing a simple "nose bag," a canvas sack filled with grain that enables the horse to eat on its breaks from work while it is away from a manger or pasture.

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Thank you, Carroca - post updated

Anonymous Littleman said...

man this so classic..

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone get the irony in the photo with "Why wait until 1955? We might not even be alive!" ?

It was taken at the Optimists Club...

If that's Optimism, I'd hate to be at the Pessimists club *lol*


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