Spectacular hand-colored postcards of 19th-century Venice

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Hand colored post cards of Venice
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Hand colored post cards of Venice

Milk peddlers in Belgium.

Photo : The Library of Congress

 Rock formations in Heligoland, Germany.

Photo : The Library of Congress

The beach at Scheveningen in The Hague.

Photo : The Library of Congress

The High Rocks at Tunbridge Wells, England.

Photo : The Library of Congress

The Grand Canal of Venice by moonlight.

Photo : The Library of Congress

A spinstress in County Galway, Ireland.

Photo : The Library of Congress

Dyserth Falls in Wales.

Photo : The Library of Congress

The Simplon Pass in the Swiss Alps.

Photo : The Library of Congress

A chalet near Mount Wetterhorn in Switzerland.

Photo : The Library of Congress

Algerians outside a cafe in Algiers.

Photo : The Library of Congress

 The Bridge of Sighs in Venice.

Photo : The Library of Congress

The Old Town of Biskra, Algeria.

Photo : The Library of Congress

Near the Bagatski Bridge in Russia.

Photo : The Library of Congress

Photo : The Library of Congress

A cowboy in the American west.

A pasture in the Swiss Alps.

Photo : The Library of Congress

The harbor of Warnemünde, Germany.

Photo : The Library of Congress

A girl in the Black Forest of Germany.

Photo : The Library of Congress

A group of Bedouins in Palestine.

Photo : The Library of Congress

The Edmunds Klamm ravine in Switzerland.

Photo: The Library of Congress

Bedouin shepherds of Syria.

Photo: The Library of Congress

The ruins of Capernaium in Israel.

Photo: The Library of Congress

Scheveningen, a seaside resort in The Hague.

Photo: The Library of Congress

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These postcards of Belle Époque Venice were printed by the Detroit Publishing Company using the Photochrom process, a time-consuming and exacting technique by which convincing layers of artificial color are applied to black and white photos and reproduced.

Invented in the 1880s by Hans Jakob Schmid, an employee of a Swiss printing company, the closely guarded process begins with coating a tablet of lithographic limestone with a light-sensitive emulsion, then exposing it to sunlight under a photo negative for up to several hours.

The emulsion hardens in proportion to the level of exposure and the less hardened portions are removed with a solvent, forming a fixed lithographic image on the stone.

Successive litho stones are then prepared for each individual tint to be used in the final color image. A single Photochrom postcard might require over a dozen different tint stones.

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Though the process was especially lengthy and painstaking back in Schmid's day, the end result was surprisingly lifelike color at a time when true color photography was just starting to be developed.

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