While working on my pages about the history of printing, I stumbled across the invention of the ‘Aäc process’ around 1880. This technique was used to create photochrom or photochrome prints, a type of color prints that were very popular between 1890 and 1910. The photochrome process was mainly used to print postcards. I find these old cards oddly compelling. They depict a world that has long gone in colors that are realistic but at the same time slightly ‘off’.
Milk sellers with a dog cart near Brussels, Belgium
More old historic photos
There are large collections of photochrom prints on the web. The biggest gallery can be found on the web site of the US Library of Congress.
Below is my selection of images from this library that attracted me, either because they are of places I have been to or because of their interesting composition or color:
- The European continent: Belgium, France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland
- USA and Canada
- Ships: sailing boats and steamers
- Harbors & ports
- Trains & railways
The photochrom process
Photochroms are not photographs but actual prints, produced using 6 to 15 colors and the lithography printing process. The technique was invented by the Swiss Hans Jakob Schmid during the 1880s.
The fascinating aspect of these prints is that they are created from a black and white photograph. Below is an example, with the original photo to the left and the print to the right.