Photochroms (also spelled photochromes) are postcard varieties born from chromolithography. These stunning images make wonderful collectors’ items.
How are photochroms made? Black and white photo negatives are colorized by transferring the negatives onto lithographic plates. This produces a color profile unique to the process that is very distinguishable from color photographs.
An employee of the longstanding printing firm Orell Gessner Fussli, named Hans Jakob Schmid, invented the photochrom process. Other companies picked up the process in the 1890’s when photochroms reached the height of their popularity. Color photography was made possible at the time, but chromolithography was easier and more convenient.
When the Private Mailing Card Act let private publishers make postcards, thousands of photochrom postcards were produced.
Even after 1910 when photochrom’s popularity ended, companies continued to print photochroms, usually in the forms of posters and art prints. The last photochrom printer closed its doors in the 1970’s.
The Zurich Central Library has the world’s largest collection of digitalized photochrom prints; many are available online.
Do you collect photochroms?