Top of page

Reflections on Photochroms

Share this post:

The collections of the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress include thousands of photochroms. These early color prints were photomechanically reproduced so they weren’t photographs in the traditional sense. I spent some time looking through the photochroms, most of which date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, while working on a Flickr album of images of mirrors and reflections.

Neither a color photograph nor a hand colored image, a photochrom was made by combining the photographic process with the lithographic process. A black-and-white negative was transferred to a lithographic stone or plate. Each color of the photochrom required a separate stone. If the photochrom included four colors, four stones were needed to make the finished product.

I found many fantastic reflections that I didn’t use in the album. Enjoy a few of them below:

Sunset, Palmer Bridge, New York. Photochrom by Detroit Publishing Co., 1900.
Salisbury Cathedral From River. Photochrom by The Photochrom Co., Ltd., ca. 1890-1906.
Tower from the lake, Water Works Park, Detroit. Photochrom by Detroit Publishing Co., ca. 1900.
General view, sunset, Carnarvon Castle (i.e. Caernarfon), Wales. Photochrom by Detroit Publishing Co.,  ca. 1890 and 1900.
Nürnberg. Heil. Geistspital. Photochrom by Photoglob Company, ca. 1890-1906.
Isola Bella by moonlight, Lake Maggiore, Italy. Photochrom by Detroit Publishing Co., between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900.

Photochroms were sold at tourist sites and through mail order catalogs. As you have seen, the Library’s collection includes both foreign and domestic views.

The “Captain Visger” in Lost Channel, Thousand Islands. Photochrom by Detroit Publishing Co., 1901.

Learn More:

Comments (5)

  1. WOW!

  2. Are these also known as Chromolithographs or is that something different altogether?

    • They are different. A chromolithograph is a type of color lithograph. However, it does not originate from a photographic negatives like a photochrom does.

  3. What beautiful photos. It took immense skill to produce these. Thanks for posting them.

  4. This was a really helpful explanation of how photochrom images are made. Thank you. The Library has an extraordinary collection of these-I’m sure it was very hard to choose!

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.