Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Colorized Postcards

Dennis DeBruler posted six images with the comment:
More than once, questions have come up before in this group asking if an image is a photo or an illustration. The answer is that the image is both. They are colorized postcards, which was a big industry back during the interesting turn of the century (late 1800s and early 1900s). Artists would paint over an underlying B&W photo to add color. For really popular tourist spots, more than one publisher would produce postcards from the same photo. Many of these images are low resolution by today's standards because they were just postcard sized and the printing process was not near as good as what we have today. Also, we are probably seeing scans of some very old paper copies.
The first example is of the Old Union Station in Chicago. The first image was uploaded by David Daruszka and the second one was posted by the Blackhawk Railway Historical Society. At first I wondered if the different colors were because of printing or if the images were done by different artists. When I looked at the clouds, it became obvious that they were done by different artists. It is a testament to the accuracy with which an artist would recreate the photograph that the details are so similar.
The second example is of the Triple Crossing in Richmond, VA. I include this example because I also had the underlying B&W photo. These images illustrate more of an artistic license than we saw for the Old Union Station. For cards produced in the 1800s, the artist would add plenty of black smoke to each smoke stack in the photo because smoke was considered a sign of prosperity. By the 1900s the smoke was left out because smoke became associated with soot all over everything. The first artist of the crossing documented that C&O went over Seaboard Air Line, which went over Southern. The satellite image of the crossing is at 37°31'55.0"N 77°25'53.0"W.
(After I posted, I saw that Facebook reversed the order of my images. I hope I made all of the necessary changes to the text.)






Dennis' comment had contained a statement that there were no copyrights back then. It was removed because of:
Michael Bose
The U.S. Copyright Act of 1790 and numerous revisions and court decisions disputes your claim of "no copyright law", and the Berne Convention of 1886 established the principle of international copyright protection. The principle of "fair usage" had been established in law by 1841, and that is what applies here. The original photograph could be sold or given with permission for use by its creator to multiple recipients. From that point, each of the posessors of the picture could artistically modify it to their liking and as long as it wasn't identical to the work of the other "licensees", copyright the resulting work. The term of a copyright was limited to 28 years until the Theodore Roosevelt administration. For more information go to>history
Dennis DeBruler
Michael Bose Thanks for the information. I was thinking that copyrights were a 1920s thing. But now I remember that copyrights, along with patents, are in the Constitution. It was the removal of term limits that keeps images after 1926 from being in the Public Domain. I removed my statement about copyrights.
David H. Nelson
Something about Copyright to keep in mind: For most of the 20th century the term of a copyright was 28 years. You had to request that by registering your work with the copyright office. When you were in the last year you could request a second term, also 28 years. Only about 4% of holders bothered to request that second term.
In the mid 1970's the copyright on Mickey Mouse was about to expire. This was a concern to the Disney Corp. They persuaded Congress (read bribed via campaign contributions) to dump the old rules and to keep things brief, extend the terms so Micky wouldn't appear in Porn Comics. About 15 years later Congressman Sonny Bono (yeah, Cher's squeeze) wanted to extend the term even further and the Congress went along with that too.
The result is no registration is required -- meaning this post is copyrighted by virtue of me writing it, and the duration this post receives is TO THE END OF MY LIFE PLUS 70 YEARS. Everything that was in copyright for the Micky Mouse change was retroactively extended... and extended again by Bono. These changes makes works owned by Corporations protected for 90 years.
Consider how this changed things: The Beatles released 8 albums. Under the old rules the first 6 would now be in the public domain. The movie Lawrence of Arabia would have gone to the public domain 2 years ago. For all the works that were protected for 28 years, everything produced before 1993 would now be in the public domain.
Think about that for a bit. is also of interest.

Dennis DeBrler commented on his post
I just came across another example of two different artists colorizing the same photo. In this case it was a coal mine tipple.

Dennis DeBrler commented on his post
It was served by the Illinois Central.
37°59'13.3"N 89°11'02.6"W

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