Over the past century, our methods for fighting crime and responding to emergencies have changed dramatically. These photographs of early police and emergency responder forces capture another age, whose sometimes absurd and sometimes amazing practices are long gone.

An early method of measuring the feet of criminals, which was part of the Bertillon method of anthropometry used by the police force in Paris, 1895

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Lord Dundonald's camel ambulance packed for transport, late 19th century

"In areas inhospitable to wheeled transport, the British relied upon the traditional camel litter, or kijjawa, and even experimented with a modified camel ambulance, invented by Lord Dundonald of the British Army. The ambulance accomodated two recumbent or eight seated patients and proved so compact that, when disassembled, it could be carried on the back of a camel." – according to Battlefield Medicine: A History of the Military Ambulance from the Napoleonic Wars Through World War I, by John S. Haller

(via Mike2)


A steam powered fire engine, pulled by three horses, on its way to fire, somewhere in America, 1900

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A French Police motorcycle with an ambulance sidecar, c. 1900

(via Just A Car Guy)


A police patrol searching a passerby for suspicious literature in the streets of Warsaw while the city was under martial law, 1906

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Two firemen sitting in the tiny Girling First Aid Motor Fire Engine, 1912

(Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

A policeman cycling along during an air raid displaying a sign round his neck saying, 'Take Cover', July 14, 1917

(Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

A woman inside an ambulance equipped to carry out X-rays, 1920

(Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)

A row of policemen wearing sets of portable traffic lights for effective traffic control, 1921

(Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

A Motorbike Fireman, 1924

(Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

A member of the German wireless police picks up signals on the radio equipment he carries on his back, while his colleague takes notes, c. 1925

(Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

'Smokey' Buchanan from the West Palm Beach police force, measuring the bathing suit of Betty Fringle on Palm Beach, to ensure that it conforms with regulations introduced by the beach censors, c. 1925

(Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

Paris police attach a giant wireless antenna to their police van, c. 1930

(Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

A fire-fighting class being given by the Brighton Fire Brigade, February 1934

(Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Playing leapfrog, 1934

Able seamen at the Royal Navy Anti-Gas School at Tipnor, Portsmouth play leapfrog wearing gas masks, to accustom them to carrying out strenuous tasks in respirators, on January 22 1934.

(Photo by William Vanderson/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

A Malayan traffic policeman with a semaphore board on his back, c. 1935

(Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)

British smoke helmets from 1936

Birmingham firemen in the latest rescue apparatus prepare to take part in the annual rescue competition to maintain the efficiency of the squad. If you like those headgears, you can see more of the bizarre and interesting smoke and gas helmets of the past here.

(Photo by George W. Hales/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

London firemen in training with the Eve Riley Resuscitation Table on which anyone unconscious through either drowning or suffocation is rocked back to life, May 1936

(Photo by Reg Speller/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

A tiny Rytecraft van, Britain's smallest, travelling along Deansgate in Manchester. The vehicle is powered by a 2 1/2 hp engine, travels 80 miles on a gallon of petrol, carries nearly 600 pounds and has a top speed of 50 mph, February 1937

(Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Blindfolded firemen, equipped with breathing apparatus, learn to overcome and avoid obstacles, 1940

(Photo by Keystone Features/Getty Images)

A group of German firemen being trained to follow the sound of a gong whilst wearing blindfolds. Three of them seem likely to pass the test, 1940

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A Gloucestershire traffic policeman wears a sign reminding the public to wear their gas masks, March 1941

(Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

A one-man anti-gas ambulance and resuscitator, designed and made for use by the British Home Guard, July 1941

(Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Three of London Airport's firefighters, equipped with a hose extension, asbestos suits and face protectors, 1948

(Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

The Soviet Tank Ambulance, from a GAZ-53 truck and a DT-75 bulldozer

(via Jalopnik)

Bonus: Beijing's Olympic Security Forces on Segways (I mean Anti-Terror Assault Vehicles), 2008

(via Treehugger, Huffington Post and Daily Mail)