A volunteer at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History has discovered what is believed to be the first, and maybe the only, color photos of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake and fire that nearly destroyed the city.
Photography pioneer Frederick Ives shot the images. They may be the earliest color photographs of San Francisco ever taken.The photographs were intended to be viewed with the help of a 3-D image viewing device. From the SF Chronicle:
Frederick Ives was an inventor. In 1881, he patented the halftone process still used for newspaper and magazine photographs.
He also became interested in color photography, then in its infancy. He developed a process using mirrors and filters to create separate slides for each primary color of light.
"The slides were then bound together in a special order with cloth tapes in a package known as a Krömgram," [museum volunteer Anthony Brooks] wrote in a blog about the photos.
Anthony Brooks, the museum volunteer who made the discovery, wrote about the color plates in this Smithsonian blog post in January, with some really interesting details about the science and aesthetic theory behind the technology Ives used.
Images: Above, Half of a KrÅ'mgram by Frederick Eugene Ives. A view towards downtown San Francisco, October 1906. Below: Half of a KrÅ'mgram by Frederick Eugene Ives. A view from near city hall, San Francisco, October 1906.