Colorizing this early 1900s photo of New York brings it to life


Originally published at:


Pedestians, and horses and horse poop and horse piss.


Also people poop and piss from chamber pots being emptied out the window.


The Smithsonian Channel has been airing a pretty remarkable series this summer called “America in Color,” where they’ve colorized old black and white historical footage, broken down by decade, to make the imagery more relatable to modern audiences. I know colorization got an awful wrap back when Ted Turner tried to do it in the 80’s, but I have to say, this series is quite effective.


Having lived my entire life in a world of crosswalks, stop signs, and traffic lights, it was a revelation to watch YouTube films shot in the early days of streetcars and automobiles. People stroll across the path of oncoming streetcars, motorists choose traffic lanes at random, and vehicles (whether horse-drawn or motorized) stop and go as they please. One of the great changes of the past century was the training of human beings to use streets in a way that suits their mechanical betters.


insert joke about merging here, amirite???


Looks like ComicCon right now in downtown San Diego.


My god, that looks unsafe and ineffecient! Quick, get those people out of that street, and fill it with hurtling metal boxes!


I’m not sure how that’s different than NYC today (including horse-drawn vehicles).


This photo was taken on Broad St looking north toward Wall St - you can see Federal Hall peeking out in the center of the picture. Many of those buildings stand to this day. Oddly, this area is closed off to auto traffic after 911 and so it is today still ruled by pedestrians, mostly tourists.

Here’s google maps of the same shot:,-74.0111199,3a,32.6y,17.31h,98.42t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sJ6UjWNTfRpUyugxYTdXjfA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656


I find that walking continues to be the best way to get around Manhattan (not necessarily the fastest, but certainly the most enjoyable).


You should see one of the exhibitions they have at Museum of the City of New York where 7 pictures from different points in NYC history slowly melt into the same location from the same vantage point today. It’s fascinating!


Also taken sometime in late spring or summer, judging by all the straw boaters.


Constant exposure to images that are more color-saturated than reality does something weird to people’s heads. Not only does it make old photographs look “wrong,” but eventually we feel that there is something inadequate about the world we live in, and that somehow being INSIDE THE TELEVISION would be so much better.

So, I’ve been watching video and browsing the web in black and white for a while. There is nothing wrong or inadequate about old photographs or films. They look normal to me now.


The past was not naturally sepia toned, any more than today is naturally over-saturated. Yes, color palettes were different, and modern synthetic dyes produce richer colors, but to paint everything with a muted veneer does a disservice to reality. I’d like to see colorization strike that balance.


The best stuff seems to be research based, where they try to source the original fabrics and dying methods to help provide a better baseline. The rest is just artistic license after that.

That being said, the shot in the article is wrongly white-balanced, as the shadows make it clear the time of day is near noon. Everyone should be washed out towards white a bit (as the background/buildings seems to be)… not that late-in-the-day gold that is sliding into sepia browns.


From which, of course, we get the words ‘hosepipe’ and ‘hospice’.



When they actually finally got the frescoes and other paintings CLEAN for the first time, they found they were quite vivid.

It wasn’t without a big debate: The Sistine Chapel restored


The song is instantly in my head now.