Color Postcards Pre-1930s

Color Postcards

 Prior to 1930, when color photography was invented, vintage postcards acquired color in one of two ways:  via chromo-lithography or by being hand tinted or hand colored.

This post will focus on hand tinting and a later one will focus on chromolithography.

Hand Tinted Postcards

These postcards began as a conventional black and white photographs and were painted by hand prior to production. In the early days the coloring took place in the photographers studio. As demand expanded, factories were established employing large numbers of women to hand tint photographic images prior to postcard printing. The paints were oil based and transparent and their chemistry was such that many of the colourists were to suffer illness as a result of licking their brushes to form a point.

The earliest images were of glamorous women, of ladies from exotic countries, of actresses or other early 1900’s celebrities. Later, and especially in France, the theme became a patriotic one with soldiers. After the war the coloring became more strident and less realistic. The image was being decorated for shock value rather than attempting to reproduce real life. The coloring was sometimes crudely done, sometimes very accomplished. Some postcards will feature just small color highlighted areas, others attempt to reproduce a lifelike image. The arrival of color photography and the health issues associated with the hand tinted cards resulted in their demise in the 1930’s.

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