55 Stunning Historical Color Photos From 80 Years Ago

In the earliest days of photography, memories and world events were only captured in black and white. Many of them became classics that inspire fascination and awe from us till this day.

lhazen (Ibn Al-Haytham) who lived around 1000AD, invented the first pinhole camera, also known as the camera obscura. But it wasn’t until 1827 did Joseph Niepce captured the first photographic image using a camera obscura.

Come early 1940s, the world was wowed with a major leap in the history of photography – color films were introduced to the market.

Below are some of the most wonderful, vivid color photos taken during the Great Depression and World War II, a time we generally see only in monochrome. Enjoy!

 
Operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, woman is working on a “Vengeance” dive bomber, Tennessee
Febreruary 1943

rare color photos - 1940s (1)

Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Alfred Palmer

Parris Island, S.C., barrage balloon
May 1942

rare color photos - 1940s (2)

Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Alfred Palmer

House, Houston, Texas
May 1943

rare color photos - 1940s (3)

Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: John Vachon

Georgia oat field? Southern U.S.
ca. 1940

rare color photos - 1940s (4)

Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Marion Post Wolcott

Sylvia Sweets Tea Room, corner of School and Main streets, Brockton, Mass.
December 1940 or January 1941

rare color photos - 1940s (5)

Title from The Library of Congress │ Photographer: Jack Delano

At the Vermont state fair, Rutland
September 1941

rare color photos - 1940s (6)

Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Side shows at the Vermont state fair, Rutland
September 1941

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Backstage” at the “girlie” show at the Vermont state fair
September 1941

rare color photos - 1940s (8)

Title from the FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Skating, vicinity of Brockton, Mass.
December 1940

rare color photos - 1940s (9)

Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Commuters, who have just come off the train, waiting for the bus to go home, Lowell, Mass.
January 1941

rare color photos - 1940s (10)

Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Children gathering potatoes on a large farm, vicinity of Caribou, Aroostook County, Me. Schools do not open until the potatoes are harvested.
October 1940

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

A woman painting a view of the Shenandoah Valley from the Skyline Drive, near an entrance to the Appalachian Trail, Virginia
ca. 1940

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Cornshocks in mountain farm along the Skyline Drive in Virginia
ca. 1940

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Title from the Library of Congress │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Natchez, Miss.
August 1940

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Marion Post Wolcott

Day laborers picking cotton near Clarksdale, Miss.
November 1939

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Marion Post Wolcott

Going to town on Saturday afternoon, Greene County, Ga.
May 1941

rare color photos - 1940s (16)

Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Chopping cotton on rented land near White Plains, Greene County, Ga.
June 1941

rare color photos - 1940s (17)

Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Sawmill at the Greensboro Lumber Co., Greensboro, Ga.
June 1941

rare color photos - 1940s (18)

Title from FSA or OWI│ Photographer: Jack Delano

Near White Plains, Ga.
ca. 1941

rare color photos - 1940s (19)

Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Farmers and townspeople in center of town on Court day, Campton, Ky.
September 1940

rare color photos - 1940s (20)

Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Marion Post Wolcott

Mountaineers and farmers trading mules and horses on “Jockey St.,” near the Court House, Campton, Wolfe County, Ky.
September 1940

rare color photos - 1940s (21)

Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Marion Post Wolcott

Abandoned shacks, vicinity of Beaufort, S.C.
June 1939

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Marion Post Wolcott

4th of July celebration, St. Helena Island, S.C.
July 1939

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Marion Post Wolcott

On main street of Cascade, Idaho
July 1941

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Russell Lee

Cherry orchards and irrigation ditch, Emmett, Idaho
July 1941

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Russell Lee

Milk and butter fat receiving depot and creamery, Caldwell, Idaho
July 1941

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Russell Lee

Canning plant where peas are principal project, Milton-Freewater, Oregon
July 1941

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Russell Lee

Pickers in a peach orchard, Delta County, Colo.
September 1940

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Russell Lee

Delta County Fair, Colorado
October 1940

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Russell Lee

Looking down the valley toward Ouray from the Camp Bird Mine, Ouray County, Colorado.
October 1940

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Russell Lee

Instructor explaining the operation of a parachute to student pilots, Meacham field, Fort Worth, Tex.
January 1942

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Arthur Rothstein

Boy building a model airplane [as girl watches], FSA … camp, Robstown, Tex.
January 1942

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Arthur Rothstein

Boys flying a kite in front of community center, FSA … camp, Robstown, Tex.
January 1942

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Arthur Rothstein

Boys sitting on truck parked at the FSA … labor camp, Robstown, Tex.
January 1942

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Arthur Rothstein

Couples at square dance, McIntosh County, Oklahoma
1939 or 1940

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Russell Lee

Distributing surplus commodities, St. Johns, Ariz.
October 1940

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Russell Lee

Jack Whinery, homesteader, and his family, Pie Town, New Mexico
October 1940

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Russell Lee

Harvesting corn, Pie Town, New Mexico
October 1940

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Russell Lee

Rodeo at the Pie Town, New Mexico Fair
October 1940

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Russell Lee

Cutting the pies and cakes at the barbeque dinner, Pie Town, New Mexico Fair
October 1940

rare color photos - 1940s (40)

Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Russell Lee

Sugar cane workers resting at the noon hour, Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico
December 1941

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Son of one of the FSA farmers on the Rio Piedras project who brought lunch to his father, working in the sugar cane field, vicinity of Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico
January 1942

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Lunch of a sugar worker on a plantation, vicinity of Puerto Rico?
January 1942

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│ Photographer: Jack Delano

Workers at the roundhouse of the C & NW RR Proviso Yard, Chicago, Ill
December 1942

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Working on the boiler of a locomotive at the 40th Street shops of the C & NW RR, Chicago, Ill.
December 1942

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Jesse Rhodes Waller, A.O.M., third class, tries out a 30-calibre machine gun he has just installed in a Navy plane, Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas
August 1942

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Howard Hollem

Cadet L. Deitz at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas
August 1942

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Howard Hollem

Women from all fields have joined the production army, Corpus Christi, Texas. Miss Grace Weaver, a civil service worker at the Naval Air Base, and a school teacher before the war, is doing her part for victory along with her brother who is a flying instructor in the Army. Miss Weaver paints the American insignia on repaired Navy plane wings.
August 1942

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Howard Hollem

Pennsylvania R.R. ore docks, unloading iron ore from a lake freighter by means of “Hulett” unloaders, Cleveland, Ohio
May 1943

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Garden of Pan American Union Building, Washington, D.C.
May 1943

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Titles based on USW36-738 │ Photographer: John Collier

Women workers install fixtures and assemblies to a tail fuselage section of a B-17 bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant, Long Beach, Calif. Better known as the “Flying Fortress,” the B-17F is a later model of the B-17, which distinguished itself in action in the south Pacific, Germany and elsewhere.
October 1942

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Alfred Palmer

Woman aircraft worker, Vega Aircraft Corporation, Burbank, Calif. Shown checking electrical assemblies
June 1942

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: David Bransby

Going to town on Saturday afternoon, Greene Co., Ga.
May 1941

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Jack Delano

Camouflage class in New York University, where men and women are preparing for jobs in the Army or in industry, New York, N.Y. They make models from aerial photographs, re-photograph them, then work out a camouflage scheme and make a final photograph.
March 1943

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Title from FSA or OWI │ Photographer: Marjory Collins

Color guard of Negro engineers, Ft. Belvoir
Between 1941 and 1945

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Title from FSA or OWI

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