History in Color: Adding a Colorful Spin to a Monochrome Past

Maybe you’ve seen the original black & white originals, but you’ve never seen the re-touched colorful versions. Seeing these historical photos in color really changes the way you look at the past. It even has an almost time-travelling effect – as though you’re right there with them! So let’s start. Enjoy the ride!

Helen Keller and Charlie Chaplin in 1918.

This is a photo of blind and mute Helen Keller meeting the famous comedian and actor Charlie Chaplin in 1918. Keller was an author, political activist and lecturer.

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The two meeting in the way they did is a sight to see on its own. But seeing it in color really has a way of putting you in the moment as if you were there to see it in person.

British Soldiers Returning Home in 1939.

One can only imagine what it would be like to be shipped off to fight in one of the largest and most catastrophic wars the world has seen. And then being able to return home!

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This colorized photo captures their enthusiasm quite colorfully.

The next historical photo is of a famous physicist. Can you guess who?

Albert Einstein in 1951

We all know this infamous photograph of a rather silly Albert Einstein. But we’ve always seen the original black and white version.

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Apparently, Arthur Sasse, the photographer, needed one last shot of the physics professor before he left, and it turns out that the last shot became one of the most iconic photos of the century.

Waddy’s Wagon

This is a photo of Captain Walter “Waddy” Young and his crew in front of their painted caricatures on their B-29 Superfortress on November 24, 1944.

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Captain Cliché

Seeing this in black and white just wouldn’t be fulfilling enough. The story goes that “Waddy’s Wagon” and its crew disappeared 10 miles east of Choshi Point, Japan, while it was protecting B-29 Crew A-46.

Our next photo is a colorful take on one of the biggest cities in the world.

Madison Square Park New York City around 1900.

This photo was taken at some point around the turn of the century. The area where Madison Square currently is used to be a swampy hunting ground which was later named Madison Creek. It first came into use as a public space in 1686.

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In 1847, the 6.2-acre Madison Square Park, which was named after President James Madison, opened to the public. It took only a few years for all the residential development to begin.

Orville Wright Flying a Glider in 1902

Orville Wright, one of the Wright brothers, was photographed flying over the dunes of North Carolina, 1902. The brothers were American inventors, aviators, engineers, and are famous for creating the first successful airplanes.

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Their first controlled, sustained flight of a powered aircraft was made on December 17, 1903.

Next up: a look at how some people dined in 1917.

A French Meal on Wheels in 1917

Not much is known about this photograph other than how it was taken in France in 1917. As you can see, two older gentlemen are having a meal on what seems to be a truck.

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Judging by their expressions, they seem to be having an intense conversation. Or perhaps they weren’t speaking at all. At least they could enjoy a glass of red wine.

Jimmy Stewart around 1940

Jimmy Stewart was a Brigadier General and actor. He flew 20 combat missions over German-occupied Europe and even flew one mission during Vietnam.

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Stewart was nominated for five Academy Awards and was named the third-greatest male screen legend of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

The next photo is a colored version of one of Hollywood’s greatest beauties.

Elizabeth Taylor in 1956

Elizabeth was born in 1932 and passed away in 2011. She was a British-American actress and humanitarian. She started as a child actress in the early 1940s and was one of the most popular stars of Hollywood in the 1950s.

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In 1999, she was named the seventh-greatest female screen legend. Taylor has been discussed by journalists and scholars for their interest in the role women play in Western society.

Pablo Picasso

Considering Picasso was born in 1881 and died in 1973, almost all photos of him were in black and white. He was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, stage designer, poet, and playwright.

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He was considered to be one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

The next historical photo is from the year 1860 when there absolutely no such thing as colored photographs.

Samurai Training in 1860.

Samurais are not only subjects of cartoons and movies with Tom Cruise. They actually existed and here they were photographed as far back as 1860.

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But these samurais are not training with their swords. It looks like they also were masters at archery as well. Samurais made 10% of the Japanese population, yet their teachings can still be found today in everyday life as well as in modern Japanese martial arts.

Times Square 1947.

Even back in 1947, Times Square was a media hub in the center of the city. The area was named “Times Square” on April 8, 1904, and only three weeks later, the first electrified advertisement went up on the side of a bank at the corner of 46th Street and Broadway.

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About 330,000 people pass through Times Square every day and many of them are tourists. And on its busier days, over 460,000 people walk through Times Square.

A Haircut In Between Missions

A Royal Air Force pilot was photographed while getting a haircut and reading a book between his missions.

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Judging by his stature, he looks pretty calm considering the situation. Maybe he wasn’t waiting in between missions. Maybe he was calm because he was preparing to return home.

A Car Crash in Washington D.C. in 1921.

This is the aftermath of a car crash that occurred in 1921 in the city of Washington D.C. and one can only guess what happened.

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It’s unclear how the driver got in the accident, but the bystanders are completely nonchalant about it. It could be that they were standing there for hours before the photographer came to snatch a photo.

Next up: a celebration of the end of WWI.

An End of War Celebration

This is a 100-year old photograph. It was taken on a street in Antwerp, Belgium. As you can see, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of people.

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The reason they’re on the street is that only a few hours prior, new came out that the Germans surrendered, marking the end of World War I on November 11th, 1918.

A Cause for Celebration

This is yet another historical photo celebrating the end of the war. 100 years ago, the Armistice was signed in November 1918, which brought an end to the First World War.

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In this photograph, soldiers and civilians are waving the Union Jack and stars and stripes flags. This was taken in the U.S.

The next photo involves a royal family.

Royal Horse Riding

Here you can see King George VI riding with his daughters Princess Elizabeth (as we all now know as Queen Elizabeth) & Princess Margaret in Windsor Great Park on April 21, 1939.

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If you look closely, you can see how Queen Elizabeth hasn’t changed one bit since she was a little girl. She looks exactly the same!

The Beatles’ First U.S. Concert

In 1964, The Beatles performed for the first time in the U.S. at the Washington Coliseum. There were 8,000 fans in the Coliseum that night.

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This concert and their subsequent American fame is what created the “Beatlemania.”

The next photo is an historical image of a very popular car.

Henry Ford and His Model T.

Here you see Henry Ford and his Model T. in 1921. The Model T was a car that was built by the Ford Motor Company from the years 1908 to 1927.

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Henry Ford created the car as a practical, affordable method of transportation for the “common man.” It quickly became valued for being affordable, durable, versatile, and easy to maintain.

A Soldier with a Heart

This is a sweet moment captured in a very tumultuous time in history. A U.S. Marine wanted to give this young Japanese boy candy.

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So much so that he stuck his hand through the barbed wire of a civilian containment area in order to do so. This photo was taken during the Battle of Tinian which occurred in the summer of 1941 in the South Pacific.

Next is a photo showing one of the roles that women had in war.

Women in the Army

This photo shows Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) spotters wearing special sunglasses. These women were to watch out for any sign of hostile aircraft in London in 1940. What’s in front of them is a range-finder.

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The ATS was the women’s branch of the British army. It started out as a voluntary service. During WWI, they served as clerks, cooks, telephonists, and waitresses.

Leo Tolstoy in 1908

If you’ve never heard of the famous Russian writer, then you may have been living under a rock. Tolstoy is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time.

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He lived from 1828 to 1910 and he’s best known for the novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). He already became a critically acclaimed author in his 20s when he wrote a semi-autobiographical trilogy: Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth (1852–1856).

The next photo is a new look at an old picture.

Young John F. Kennedy in 1947.

The dashing young John F. Kennedy is shown here in 1947. Obviously, the original didn’t exhibit his good looks as well as this colorful version of the photo.

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Just as a refresher, JFK was an American politician and 35th president of the United States from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. His assassination was one of the biggest events of the century.

The Underground Railroad’s Hero, Harriet Tubman in 1868

Photographed here is Harriet Tubman. She was an American abolitionist, humanitarian, armed scout and spy for the American Army during the American Civil War.

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Harriet was born into slavery and escaped. She went on to do about thirteen missions to rescue about seventy enslaved people, family, and friends. She used the network of antislavery activists and safe houses, otherwise known as the Underground Railroad.

The next photo is of a famous female aviator. Do you know who it could be?

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart was an American aviation pioneer and author. She was also the first female aviator to fly alone over the Atlantic Ocean. Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean while attempting to make a circumnavigational flight of the world in 1937.

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The fascination with Amelia’s life and disappearance continues up until today.

Women Delivering Ice in 1918

On the topic of women in history, here is a photograph showing women delivering ice. Delivering blocks were called ice routes. Between the late 1800s and after WWI, before were in every home, the natural ice trade began and was very common.

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The photograph was taken on September 16, 1918 after. This heavy work formerly belonged to men but became designated for girls.

The next photo is one of America’s greatest beauties.

Marilyn Monroe in 1957

Everyone knows Marilyn Monroe. But maybe you don’t know these interesting facts about the beautiful American icon. Did you know that her first marriage was arranged?

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And did you know that her dress that she wore when she sang “Happy Birthday” to JFK in 1962 set the world record for the most expensive piece of clothing sold? It sold for $1,267,500.

Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1933

The famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco began its construction on January 5, 1933, and it took five years to make. The project cost more than $35 million.

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Up until 1964, the 4,200-foot long suspension span of the bridge was the longest span in the world. Then in 1964, New York City’s Verrazano Narrows Bridge was opened which is 60 feet longer than the Golden Gate Bridge.

If you like the flapper style of the 1920s, you’ll like the next photo.

Dancers of the National American Ballet in 1924

Dancers of ballet aren’t, or rather weren’t, confined to the stage. They would practice as well as perform outdoors as well.

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And these flapper-style ballet dancers are pictured here so beautifully, it’s a shame we don’t have a colorized video to accompany the colorized photograph.

Boxing Match in 1899

All we know about this amazing photo is that it was aboard the U.S.S. New York in 1899. It’s not clear whether it’s a real boxing match between professional fighters or if it’s an impromptu fight.

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Regardless of the reason, it has all the men engaged and watching every second. Who would you put your money on? The guy on the left or the right?

Next is a photo that can teach you many things.

A Native American Spearfishing in 1908

This photo shows an Ojibwe Native America spearfishing in Minnesota. It’s such a beautiful photo. And you have to admire the way in which he is catching fish.

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Spearfishing is no easy feat. But from the looks of it, this man knows exactly how to do it successfully.

Boot Cleaners Listening to War Vet in 1935

A group of “bootblacks” sits around an old Civil War veteran in this photo. It was taken in Pennsylvania in1935.

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We can only guess that the old man is telling them war stories. And they’re so tuned in to what he’s saying that they probably forgot to shine peoples’ shoes.

The next photo shows a famous political couple. Wanna guess which?

George & Barbara Bush in 1966

The seemingly happy couple were celebrating George’s election to the House of Representatives. Clearly, it was an exciting moment.

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Bush served as the 41st President of America from 1989 to 1993. The two got married in 1945 and they had six children together. They were married for 73 years up until her death in April of 2018.

An American War Hero

Captain George Malcolm Ashmun was in the US. Marine Corps VFW-214 Black Sheep Squadron. He was posthumously awarded for his heroism.

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He received the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was shot down over Rabaul in 1944.

The next historical photo involves the current Queen of England.

A Princess and Parachutes

Princess Elizabeth is seen here watching parachutists during a visit to airborne forces at Netheravon Airfield, Salisbury, Wiltshire in England. It was taken on May 19, 1944.

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This was a drill to prepare for D-Day. As you probably already know, D-Day occurred on June 6, 1944, in Normandy. It was the largest seaborne attack in history.

Queen Victoria and the Russian Tsar in 1896

The photo exhibits Queen Victoria with Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. On the left is Tsarina Alexandra who is holding her baby daughter, the Grand Duchess Olga.

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The photo was taken in the Balmoral Castle in 1896.The Tsar, known as Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer, was the last Emperor of Russia. The fall of the Russian Empire happened during his sovereignty.

The wreck of the Dimitry of Narva in 1885

The shipwreck of the Russian vessel happened on the coast of Tate Hill Sands in Whitby, England. It was an inspiration for a very famous book that was to be written.

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This wreckage was the inspiration for Bram Stokers “Dracula” in 1897. In the book, the author renamed the ship The Demeter of Varna.

WWII Propaganda Posters in 1942

Nowadays, everything is printed. But back then, it was done by hand as you can see in this remarkable photograph. These women are painting WWII propaganda posters in New York in 1942.

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It’s amazing to think how many were done and how they were all hand-painted. Assuming that they had outlines to fill in, it must have taken a lot of time.

A Beautiful View

This is the view from Capitol in Nashville, Tennessee. It was taken during the Civil War in 1864. With the photo retouched to show its color, you can place yourself there and it all feels that more real.

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Don’t look at the next photo if you have a fear of heights.

The Lady of Justice in 1937

The statue of Lady Justice at The Old Bailey in London in 1937. It was re-gilded in preparation for the Coronation of King George V.

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The statue sits on top of the domed roof and is 22 tonnes and 12 feet high. The bronze statue, covered in gold leaf, was modeled after the Roman goddess of justice Iustitia.