The Very First Color Photographs of the United States

This photograph of Mulberry Street in New York City was taken around 1900. The color makes it seem so much more real than the pictures we are used to seeing of that era. You can almost pick out your own ancestors!

You're looking at some of the very first color photographs of North America! A fascinating new photography book called An American Odyssey opens the archive of the Detroit Photographic Company to reveal America in brilliant color from the late 1880s to the early 1920s. Several thousand black-and-white negatives were reproduced in color by a photolithographic technique invented in Switzerland, called the Photochrom process.

The picture is part of the collection of Marc Walter, who published them in An American Odyssey, co-authored with documentarian Sabine Arqué. You can see a selection of the pictures at My Modern Met.


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Unless I misread something, I think the photochrom process is a colorization of an originally black and white photo, and was popular because of how it allowed for cheap mass printings of things like postcards. But that would still make it a black and white photo that was later colorized. The Library of Congress has a couple different versions of this one, with the colors being kind of different. I'm not completely sure what the differences between those are though.
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