Photochrom prints are colorized images produced from black-and-white photographic negatives via the direct photographic transfer of a negative onto lithographic printing plates. The photo-lithographic process was invented in the 1880s and popularized in the 1890s by companies such as the Detroit Photographic Company after Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act that allowed private publishers to produce picture postcards.
These were also known as “penny postcards” — half the rate of sending a letter by mail — and the images became wildly popular as collectibles. According to the Wikipedia entry, “The Detroit Photographic Company reportedly produced as many as seven million photochrom prints in some years, and ten to thirty thousand different views were offered.”
The Library of Congress states, “…photochroms feature subjects that appeal to travelers, including landscapes, architecture, street scenes, and daily life and culture. The prints were sold as souvenirs and often collected in albums or framed for display.”
The Photochrom postcard craze ended after World War 1 with the advent of affordable color photography.
Today, the collections of Detroit Photographic Company and Photoglob Zurich — originator of the Photochrom process — can be found at the US Library of Congress Photochrom Print Collection. Photochroms depicting our region in the latter part of the 19th century have been grouped together in an album, Views of the Holy Land.
In honor of the upcoming Christmas holiday we present a few images of Christian holy sites from yesteryear.
More images from the US Library of Congress Photochrom Print Collection can be viewed here.