Free to Use and Reuse: Historical Travel Pictures

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.

Inquiring Minds: Papers of Famous Sculptor Confirm Identity of Mount Rushmore’s Chief Carver

Last month, relatives of Luigi Del Bianco gathered in Keystone, South Dakota, for a very special ceremony: the National Park Service unveiled a plaque on September 16 at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial recognizing the late Del Bianco as the chief carver of Mount Rushmore—76 years after its completion. For more than 30 years previously, […]

Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Veterans

This post, by Andrew Huber of the Veterans History Project, was first published on “Folklife Today,” the blog of the American Folklife Center and the Veterans History Project. As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month through October 15, the Veterans History Project (VHP) continues to recognize the contributions of Hispanics and Latinos throughout the military […]

Hispanic Heritage Month: New and Improved Resources to Celebrate!

This is a guest post by Catalina Gomez, a reference librarian in the Hispanic Division. The Library of Congress is observing National Hispanic Heritage Month this year with an array of on-site concerts, exhibits, lectures and more. But we also have exciting digital offerings for those of you who can’t visit us in person. We’ve […]

Trending: Let’s Celebrate Comics!

Did you know that today is National Comic Book Day? To celebrate, we are sharing a contribution by Michael Cavna of the Washington Post to the September–October issue of LCM, the Library of Congress magazine. The entire issue, available here, showcases the Library’s collection of some 140,000 comic books. Cavna, an Eisner Award-nominated columnist and […]

Free to Use and Reuse: Adolph Metzner Civil War Drawings

This is a guest post by Julie Stoner, a reference librarian in the Geography and Map Division. It was first published on “Picture This,” the Prints and Photographs Division’s blog. We’re highlighting the subject of Stoner’s post—Civil War drawings by Adolph Metzner—in our “free to use and reuse” feature on the Library’s home page. The […]

Inquiring Minds: Hunting for Treasure in the Manuscript Division

Ross Davies has been a regular in the Library’s Manuscript Division for about two decades now. He has worked with papers of Supreme Court justices, consulted collections on the federal courts and introduced his students to the Library—a “treasure hunt” he assigns requires them to find resources in the Manuscript Division and the Law Library. […]

The Art of Etching: Masterpieces by James McNeill Whistler

This is a guest post by Katherine Blood, curator of fine prints in the Prints and Photographs Division, and Linda Stiber Morenus, a longtime paper conservator and special assistant to the director of scholarly and educational programs. The post was first published on “Picture This,” the blog of the Prints and Photographs Division. Known for his […]