photochroms color photos Switzerland

Vispach Bridge and the Matterhorn, Valais.

These color pictures of the vibrant landscapes and towns of Switzerland were created using the Photochrom process, a technique that colorizes monochrome images with precision.

While the prints may deceptively look like color photographs, but in fact, artificial color has in fact been added to black-and-white images. The process was invented in the 1880s by Hans Jakob Schmid, an employee of Swiss printing company Orell Gessner Füssli. It was highly time-consuming and required much attention to detail.

The original tablet of lithographic limestone would be coated with a light-sensitive emulsion, placed under a photo negative, and exposed to sunlight for several hours. The softer portions would be removed with a solvent, leaving a fixed lithographic image on the stone.

Then a technician would prepare additional lithographic layers for each tone to be used in the final color image. When the photochromic process was complete, the result was a vibrant color postcard.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The Titlis Spitze, Unterwald.

In the 20th century, Switzerland was a different place, and these impressive color photos show vast, unexplored mountains, women in headscarves holding pails for milk to tiny ramshackle wooden chalets, and locals carrying on their everyday life.

The construction of the railways also had an impact on agriculture in the latter half of the 19th century: grain could be imported cheaply, which led farmers to increasingly convert to the more lucrative dairy farming. Many farm laborers had to find new work and moved either to industrial towns or emigrated.

Between 1840 and 1900 real incomes in the industrial sector doubled, while the share of income needed to cover basic needs like food and rent fell dramatically. However, many workers paid a high price for this rise in disposable income: they worked extremely long hours, factories were noisy, smelly, and dangerous places, and living conditions and sanitation in many urban working-class neighborhoods were lamentable. Child labor was also commonplace.

The development of the tourism industry went hand in hand with the growth of the railways, which made it easier for foreign visitors to travel through the country and take in its scenic landscapes and sights.

By the end of the 19th century, some 350,000 foreign tourists – predominantly British – visited Switzerland each year. The development of summer and winter sports resorts was also thanks to these foreign guests. Although foreign trips remained beyond the means of most people, prosperous members of the middle class, like the nobles and the upper-middle class, could and did travel, at least within Switzerland.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Sunset on Lake Lucerne.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The Rhone Glacier and Glacier Hotel, Valais.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The village of Saas Fee and The Rimpfischhorn.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The Winter Gallery of the Simplon Pass, Valais.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

St. Bernard dogs, Valais.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

A Club Cottage at Theodulpass, Valais.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Zermatt, Upper Staffelalp, with the Matterhorn, Valais.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Leysin, Vaud.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The Tonhalle, Zurich.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Grand Concert Hall, Tonhalle, Zurich.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Armor on display in Zurich museum.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The bear pit at a zoo in Bern.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The Spalenthor, Basel.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

A view from Beatenberg of the mountains Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger in the Bernese Alps.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The Grindelwald Grotto in the Bernese Alps.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Interlaken and Unterseen, Bernese Oberland.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Chillon Castle and Dent du Midi, Lake Geneva.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Rochers de Naye and Hotel de Caux.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Klöntalersee, Glarus.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Farmers harvest hay in the Engadine, Grisons.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The falls of the Rhine by moonlight, Schaffhausen.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

A view of Locarno from the Madonna del Sasso church.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Women of Champéry, Valais.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The Lion Monument in Lucerne, carved in 1820-21 to commemorate Swiss Guards killed in 1792 during the French Revolution.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

A view of the Grand Aletsch Glacier, with the mountains Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger, Valais.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The village of Leukerbad and the Torrenthorn, Valais.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The music pavilion of the town of Interlaken, Bernese Oberland.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Staubbach Falls and the mountain Jungfrau.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Upper Engadine, Mont Pers Glacier, Grisons.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The Lucerne railway station and Pilatus by moonlight.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Lucerne.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

Lake Lucerne.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

The Matterhorn and the Findelenbach Bridge, Valais.

photochroms color photos Switzerland

A view from an ice cave on Jungfrau.

(Photo credit: Detroit Publishing Company / Library of Congress).