old color photographs Scotland

Farmers bring their cattle to the market town of Dumfries.

These beautiful, romantic old postcards show Scotland from a time long gone. Originally published by the Detroit Publishing Company, they were created by image-makers fascinated by Scotland’s castles and sweeping landscapes and much of the collection gives a vivid vibe of the late 19th century.

The color effects on these pictures are created using the so-called “photochrom” technique. Photochrome was a process for producing colorized images from black-and-white photographic negatives via the direct photographic transfer of a negative onto lithographic printing plates.

The process was invented in the 1880s and was most popular in the 1890s. The result is a cross between a photograph and a painting that depicts famous Scottish towns, landscapes, and buildings in a unique way.

Scotland was already one of the most urbanized societies in Europe by 1800. The industrial belt ran across the country from southwest to northeast; by 1900 the four industrialized counties of Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Dunbartonshire, and Ayrshire contained 44 percent of the population.

Glasgow and the River Clyde became a major shipbuilding center. Glasgow became one of the largest cities in the world and nicknamed “the Second City of the Empire” after London.

The industrial developments, while they brought work and wealth, were so rapid that housing, urban planning, and provision for public health did not keep pace with them, and for quite a time the living conditions in some of the small towns and cities were notoriously bad, with overcrowding, high infant mortality, growing rates of tuberculosis and industrial pollution.

The Detroit Photographic Company was launched as a photographic publishing firm in the late 1890s by Detroit businessman and publisher William A. Livingstone, Jr., and photographer and photo-publisher Edwin H. Husher. They obtained exclusive rights to use the Swiss “Photochrom” process for converting black-and-white photographs into color images and printing them by photolithography.

This innovative process was applied to the mass production of color postcards, prints, and albums for sale to the American market. The firm became the Detroit Publishing Company in 1905. The color photographs of Scotland collected in this article are part of a wider archive of historic “photochrom” pictures bought by the Library of Congress.

old color photographs Scotland

High Street in Dumfries.

old color photographs Scotland

The beach at Portobello.

old color photographs Scotland

Lincluden Abbey, Dumfries.

old color photographs Scotland

Highland cattle.

old color photographs Scotland

The coastline near Macduff.

old color photographs Scotland

A river near Kirkcudbright.

old color photographs Scotland

Inveraray Castle, on the shores of Loch Fyne.

old color photographs Scotland

The esplanade at Helensburgh.

old color photographs Scotland

The island of Ailsa Craig, where the rare granite used to make most of the world’s curling stones is mined.

old color photographs Scotland

Glasgow University.

old color photographs Scotland

The town of Dunoon.

old color photographs Scotland

Edinburgh.

old color photographs Scotland

The pier at Dumfries.

old color photographs Scotland

Caerlaverock Castle, first built in the 13th century.

old color photographs Scotland

The 12th-century Dunskey Castle near the village of Portpatrick.

old color photographs Scotland

The harbor at Rothesay.

old color photographs Scotland

Linn of Muick, a waterfall on the river Muick in Aberdeenshire.

old color photographs Scotland

The town of Stirling, as seen from Abbey Craig.

old color photographs Scotland

Medieval Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven.

old color photographs Scotland

15th-century Carrick Castle on Loch Goil.

old color photographs Scotland

14th-century Threave Castle, near the town of Castle Douglas.

old color photographs Scotland

Wallace Monument on Abbey Craig near Stirling, a monument to Sir William Wallace.

old color photographs Scotland

Bannatyne, Kyles of Bute.

old color photographs Scotland

Kennedy’s Pass, Girvan.

old color photographs Scotland

Templand Bridge, Cumnock.

old color photographs Scotland

Port Patrick from the southwest.

old color photographs Scotland

St. Enoch’s Station.

old color photographs Scotland

Cathedral.

old color photographs Scotland

The Glasgow bridge.

old color photographs Scotland

Princess Street, the castle, and Scott Monument.

old color photographs Scotland

General view, Oban.

(Photo credit: Library of Congress).