Top of page

Free to Use and Reuse: Historical Travel Pictures

Share this post:

Le Monastère de St. Honorat in France, a print created circa 1890–1906.

A love of travel inspires so many photos. A stunning group of images we’re featuring now in our “free to use and reuse” feature on the Library’s home page will take you on a century-old “grand tour” of the world. Our Photochrom Print Collection shows, in color, Europe, the Middle East, Canada, Asia and the South Pacific as they appeared in the 1890s and early 1900s. These pictures have no known copyright restrictions—meaning you can use them as you wish.

What’s a photochrom? The Photoglob Company in Zürich, Switzerland, invented this special color printing method in the 1890s. The Detroit Publishing Company in Michigan quickly licensed the process to be able to publish its views of North America in color. The richly colored images look like photographs but are actually ink-based photolithographs, usually 6.5 x 9 inches. More details about the photochrom process are available on our website.

Like postcards, the 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.

A Bedouin rests in front of the Grand Pyramid in Cairo, circa 1890–1900.

The Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division has significantly expanded the Photochrom Prints Collection over the last 30 years by acquiring mint-condition prints from different sources. Most recently, Marc Walter, the author of several books about photochroms, allowed us to select prints from his personal collection to strengthen our representation of countries such as India, China, Australia, New Zealand and Greece. In 2004, Howard L. Gottlieb generously donated North American views. In 1985, prints of Europe and the Middle East were purchased from the Galerie Muriset in Switzerland. We also received photochrom prints as part of the Detroit Publishing Company Collection in the 1940s and earlier as part of acquiring international views of individual architectural landmarks.

Scroll down for more examples and write a note in the comments section of this post if you find an interesting way to use a digitized image!

Russian Church in Karlsbad, Czech Republic, ca. 1890–1906.
Falls on the Tugela River in South Africa, ca. 1890–1910.
Abbot Reginald’s Gateway and Old Vicarage, Evesham, England, ca. 1890–1900.
Stolzenfels Castle on the Rhine River in Germany, ca. 1890–1900.
Singapore Museum, ca. 1890–1910.

Comments (6)

  1. These would be great for Creative Writing classes in developing setting for pieces of fiction.

  2. These photographs are beautiful and stunning!

    Thank you LOC for making them available.

    Cary Michael Cox

  3. Very beautiful and smooth

  4. Thank you LOC as usual. Wonderful vistas, proving that archived materials will always be useful and appreciated. Great find!

  5. Will be posting these on a bulletin board in the library to expose my students to the amazing places captured in the photos and to show them the great things available from the Library of Congress. Thank you for sharing.

  6. Thank you for your comments. We’re pleased to hear about the interesting ways you will use these amazing images!

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.