The Vault

Dreamy Early-20th-Century Photochroms of Scenery in the Swiss Alps

Printed in 1905 by the Michigan-based Detroit Publishing Company, this group of photochroms showcased the scenery of the Swiss Alps for consumers who might or might not have ever visited Switzerland in person. 

Photochroms are photolithographs, made by transferring a negative onto a printing plate. The process, invented in the 1880s, creates prints that (according to the Library of Congress) “look deceptively like color photographs … but when viewed with a magnifying glass the small dots that comprise the ink-based photomechanical image are visible.” (On its website, the LoC offers a comparative view of one Detroit Publishing Company photochrom’s negative, its photochrom form, and a close-up detail.) 

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While these images might have been sold at tourist-friendly locations in the Alps, they were also available through the Detroit Publishing Company’s mail-order catalog. The LoC writes that the catalog offered thousands of different “views” of scenes from the United States and other countries, adding that in some years, the company printed and sold up to 7 million photochroms. 

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I first saw this group of photochroms on the photography blog The Passion of Former Days.

Titlis, view of the Alps, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland. 

Library of Congress. 

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Chillon Castle, and Dent du Midi, Geneva Lake, Switzerland.

Library of Congress. 

The Rhone Glacier, Valais, Alps of Switzerland. 

Library of Congress. 

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Murren, Hotel des Alps, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland.

Library of Congress. 

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Champéry, Moulins Bridge, and Dent du Midi on the Road to Champéry, Valais, Alps of Switzerland. 

Library of Congress. 

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Rochers de Naye, the Summit and the Alps, Geneva Lake, Switzerland. 

Library of Congress. 

Champéry, general view, Valais, Alps of Switzerland.

Library of Congress.

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Brunnen and the Alps, Lake Lucerne, Switzerland.

Library of Congress. 

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Bernese Alps, from Stanserhorn, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland.

Library of Congress. 

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Gemmi Hotel and Leuk, Valais, Alps of Switzerland.

Library of Congress. 

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