23 Of The Oldest Color Photos Ever Taken

Gabriel H. Sanchez

Here's what the world looked like in color, over 100 years ago.

In 1907, brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière made history by transforming the monochromatic world of photography into vibrant color with their new invention, the Autochrome Lumière.

In the years before this invention, color was usually added to a photo by hand-painting its surface with dyes and pigments. Instead, the Lumière brother's invention used layers of dyed potato starch and light-sensitive emulsion to create color transparencies, offering more accurate depictions of nature and generating new creative possibilities in the realms of art and journalism.

As the story goes with so many advances in photography, the Autochrome Lumière soon became obsolete following the 1930s invention of the lighter and more practical Kodachrome film, which met a similar fate in 2009 after the rise of one more advance — digital photography.

These autochromes show what the world looked like in color over 100 years ago.

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Autochrome by Etheldreda Janet Laing, 1908.
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Autochrome by Friedrich Paneth, 1925.
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Autochrome by an unknown artist, 1913.
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Autochrome by Friedrich Paneth, 1913.
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Autochrome by Mervyn O'Gorman, 1913.
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Autochrome by John Cimon Warburg, 1915.
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Autochrome by Friedrich Paneth, 1915.
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Autochrome by Etheldreda Janet Laing, 1908.
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Autochrome of Mark Twain by Alvin Langdon Coburn, 1908.
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Autochrome by Etheldreda Janet Laing, 1908.
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Autochrome by Fernand Cuville of French soldiers operating machine guns during the Second Battle of the Aisne, 1917.
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Autochrome by Jules Gervais-Courtellemont of a French military cemetery, 1916.
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Autochrome by Paul Castelnau of a French military observation post, 1917.
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Autochrome by an unknown artist of the Italian battleship Caio Duilio during the early 20th century.
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Autochome of a street in Jerusalem by an unknown artist during the early 20th century; from the Roger-Viollet collection.
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Autochrome of a scene in Egypt by Friedrich Paneth, 1913.
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Autochrome by an unknown artist, 1911.
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Autochrome of the French Alps by an unknown artist, circa 1920.
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Autochrome by Mervyn O'Gorman, 1913.