These 20 Incredible Colorized Photographs Bring Famous Historic Figures to Life 

Lincoln
Image: zuzahin/reddit
20. Abraham Lincoln

Given the ubiquity of the photograph in modern culture, not to mention the recent rise of the selfie, it’s easy to think that easily reproducible images have been around forever. In fact, of course, photography is a relatively young medium. The first example of a photograph, taken by Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, is less than two centuries old. The earliest color snap, meanwhile, was captured by Scotland’s James Clerk Maxwell in 1861, though color film didn’t come to the commercial market until the 1940s. As a result, real-life shots of world history’s most influential or well-known characters have often been monochrome – until now. Yes, several creative folks have taken historical black-and-white photos and infused them with color to create stunning new takes on famous figures. Here are some of the best.

Alexander Gardner captured this famous image of a worn Abraham Lincoln only two months before Lincoln’s assassination, which took place on April 14, 1865. The photograph was originally meant to serve only as reference material for portrait artist Matthew Wilson, but the striking image – now given an incredible vibrancy through the addition of color – has long outlasted the largely forgotten painting it inspired.

Albert Einstein in color by Dana Keller
Image: Dana Keller
19. Albert Einstein

Colorizer Dana Keller brings fresh intimate life to historic photographs through his ingenious addition of bright hues. Take this 1921 image of Albert Einstein, for instance, which was captured by Ferdinand Schmutzer while the great man was giving a talk in Austria. That also happened to be the year in which Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Walt Whitman colorized Dana Keller
Image: Dana Keller
18. Walt Whitman

Renowned American poet and writer Walt Whitman apparently liked this portrait by photographer George C. Cox so much that he possessed and sold multiple copies. The snap was taken in 1887, but it, too, has been transformed by Dana Keller, who believes adding color to historical images makes “it seem as if the past [they portray] wasn’t that long ago after all.”

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Amelia Earhart colorized
Image: Dana Keller
17. Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart is perhaps the most well-known female pilot in American history. This photograph was taken in 1930, two years after Earhart’s famous trip over the Atlantic Ocean, by the D.C.-based photography studio belonging to George Harris and Martha Ewing. Seven years later, Earhart would disappear without a trace while on a journey around the world.

Winston Churchill colorized by dana keller
Image: Dana Keller
16. Winston Churchill

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Dana Keller has once again reconfigured history – this time by bringing color to Yousuf Karsh’s celebrated 1941 portrait of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. This picture was snapped following a speech in Ottawa, Canada, with Churchill’s glowering expression the result of Karsh having unexpectedly confiscated a cigar from the P.M.’s mouth. The image was first published in LIFE magazine.

تجدید حیات مهمترین عکسهای تاریخ
Image: Sanna Dullaway
15. Adolf Hitler

Sanna Dullaway has colorfully converted an image of Adolf Hitler, the result being that the dictator’s piercing blue eyes seem to stare eerily at the viewer. Dullaway has suggested that it’s likely this photograph dates back to the 1940s, but others believe it to be from 1932.

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Audrey Hepburn colorized by Dana Keller
Image: Dana Keller
14. Audrey Hepburn

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In a rather playful shot, Audrey Hepburn can be seen here posing next to the oven in her own Manhattan apartment. The photograph was taken in summer 1954, a week before the Oscar-winner traveled to Europe for two months. She would go on to receive a further Oscar nomination for her role in 1954’s Sabrina.

Lee
Image: via ExtraNoise/reddit
13. Robert E. Lee

General Robert E. Lee had early success in leading the Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War, but on April 9, 1865 he finally admitted defeat to the Union Army. A week later, he posed for this photograph by Matthew Brady at his home in Richmond, Virginia.

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Armstrong
Image: Dana Keller
12. Louis Armstrong

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Here, it’s the summer of 1946, and photographer William P. Gottlieb has caught Louis Armstrong rehearsing with his trumpet behind the scenes at the Aquarium venue in New York. Armstrong had established himself in the jazz world well before this picture and would continue to perform across the globe as a music star until the 1970s.

Freud colorized by Andreas Larsson
Image: Andreas Larsson
11. Sigmund Freud

Thanks to his influential theories, Sigmund Freud is known as the “father of psychoanalysis.” And there’s also a family link to this image, as it was taken in 1921 by Freud’s son-in-law Max Halberstadt. Andreas Larsson, however, was responsible for the considerably more recent colorization.

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Houdini
Image: Dana Keller
10. Harry Houdini

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Hungarian-born Harry Houdini made quite a name for himself through his acts of escapism – including a stunt pulled on July 7, 1912 in New York Harbor. It was at that event that this photograph of Houdini in shackles was taken by Carl Dietz; Houdini would pop up out of the water in less than 60 seconds.

Edison
Image: Laiz Kuczynski
9. Thomas Edison

Businessman and inventor Thomas Edison is pictured here by Nathan Lazarnick in New Jersey in 1911 holding one of his most revolutionary inventions: the electric light bulb. Through the clever addition of color, Laiz Kuczynski offers a glimpse of what it was like to see the world – a world with infinite possibility – through Edison’s eyes.

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Tesla
Image: Dana Keller
8. Nikola Tesla

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Here, Serbian-born inventor Nikola Tesla stares boldly at the camera for a photograph taken toward the end of the 1800s and subsequently rejuvenated by Dana Keller. After moving to the U.S. in 1884, Tesla worked for Thomas Edison before branching out on his own, and he is now renowned for his advancements in electrical engineering.

Oswald
Image: Mads Madsen
7. Lee Harvey Oswald

Talented young artist Mads Madsen produced this colorized image of Lee Harvey Oswald. As a result, the viewer is thrown even more immediately into the action of November 23, 1963, as Oswald is thrust along a hallway for further grilling following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

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Dean
Image: Mads Madsen
6. James Dean

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Madsen also revived a smoldering shot of James Dean, the iconic star of Rebel Without a Cause and Giant. Roy Schatt snapped this picture of Dean in 1954 as part of the photographer’s “Torn Sweater” sequence of the actor.

Ruth
Image: Mads Madsen
5. Babe Ruth

Madsen finally brought color to this 1919 shot of baseball legend Babe Ruth gazing defiantly at the camera in his Boston Red Sox jersey for a picture by the National Photo Company news agency. Ruth would soon leave the Red Sox behind and transform the fortunes of the New York Yankees after being transferred to the team in 1920.

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Katharine Hepburn
Image: Mads Madsen
4. Katharine Hepburn

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Katharine Hepburn’s immense talent cemented her as one of the 20th century’s most renowned silver-screen stars – and earned her an unparalleled four Academy Awards. Here, thanks to the work of Madsen, the rule-breaking actress is seen posing in color, with the photo having originally been taken by Clarence Sinclair Bull in 1944.

Welles
Image: Mads Madsen
3. Orson Welles

Madsen strikes again with this colorful representation of a young Orson Welles raising an eyebrow in a photograph taken around 1939. The shot has a slight air of menace – fittingly, perhaps, as the future Hollywood writer and director had not long since terrified the public with his all-too-convincing radio narration of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds.

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Chaplin
Image: Mads Madsen
2. Charlie Chaplin

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Madsen has also transformed P. D. Jankens’ picture of Charlie Chaplin from 1915 into a magnificent – albeit slightly creepy – color photograph. The film star is best known for his silent performances in black and white, but here Madsen offers a seemingly more real glimpse into what the legend was like in front of the cameras.

Roosevelt
Image: Mads Madsen
1. Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt served in the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, nicknamed the “Rough Riders,” before becoming the 26th President of the United States in 1901. Colorized by Madsen, this imperious image of Roosevelt in uniform is thought to date to around 1898, the same year T.R. signed up to the regiment.

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