Photochrom – Victorian Era Color Photography

Before Color Photography became mainstream, there was Photochrom.

Photochrom images are ink-based, created through "the direct photographic transfer of an original negative onto litho and chromographic printing plates."

Hans Jakob Schmid (1856-1924) of the Swiss firm Orell Füssli, invented the Photochrom in the 1880s. Deceptively like color photographs, the small dots that comprise the ink-based photomechanical image are visible through a magnifying glass.



Photochrom allowed vivid color prints to be mass produced. The Detroit Photographic Company made as many as seven milllion prints a year with up to 30,000 different views.

Betsy Ross House, Philadelphia - before and after applying Photochrom.
Betsy Ross House, Philadelphia - before and after applying Photochrom.

Mail order catalogs and tourist sites sold Photochrom prints to globe trotters, armchair travelers, educators, and others to display at home or keep in albums. Large sets of images were stored in boxes resembling books with decorative binding.

A street haberdashery, New York - before and after applying Photochrom.
A street haberdashery, New York - before and after applying Photochrom.

Photochrom business boomed during the 1890s and early 1900s. Here's a small sample of these beautiful images from the past.



Amsterdam c. 1890.
Amsterdam c. 1890.

Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-on-Avon, England, c. 1890–1900.
Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-on-Avon, England, c. 1890–1900.

Bergen, Norway, c. 1890s.
Bergen, Norway, c. 1890s.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany.
Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany.



Mulberry Street in New York City c 1900
Mulberry Street in New York City c 1900

East Parade, Bangor, Wales.
East Parade, Bangor, Wales.

Belgian milk peddlers with a dogcart, c. 1890–1900.
Belgian milk peddlers with a dogcart, c. 1890–1900.

Irish spinner and spinning wheel. County Galway, Ireland
Irish spinner and spinning wheel. County Galway, Ireland



Popular Posts

Thinking about taking up photography?

Here's where we'd start your research for each price category:

Contains affiliate links

Under $500

$500-$1000

$1000-$2000

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products or services that I believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
David James

David James

I'm an Englishman in Boston. History is a joy—it binds us, it connects us, it guides us. I'm interested in making history more accessible and more fun. Join me on this fantastic voyage through time.