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Amazing 70-Year-Old Color Photos

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Sometimes looking at old photographs makes me think of this exchange between comic-strip hero Calvin and his dad:

Calvin: Dad, how come old photographs are always black and white? Didn't they have color film back then?
Dad: Sure they did. In fact, those old photographs are in color. It's just the world was black and white then.
Calvin: Really?
Dad: Yep. The world didn't turn color until sometime in the 1930s, and it was pretty grainy color for a while, too.
Calvin: But then why are old PAINTINGS in color?! If the world was black and white, wouldn't artists have painted it that way?
Dad: Not necessarily. A lot of great artists were insane.

As absurd as it sounds, there is a kind of psychological truth to it -- having seen mostly black-and-white pictures of the world pre-1960 or so (I'm not counting Technicolor movies), I begin to imagine the past unfolding in monochrome. Every once in a while, though, a really old color photo made with some obscure, early color process will slip through and blow my mind.

But this really takes the cake: the Library of Congress has a Flickr page, on which they've posted thousands of color slides -- many of them hauntingly beautiful. The photographers worked for the Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Information, for whom many famous black-and-white pictures were taken around the same time (the iconic "Migrant Mother," for instance).

But rather than sending you off to pick through thousands of these photos on Flickr -- something of a laborious process -- we've compiled our favorites here. These are portraits almost as compelling as "Migrant Mother," but even more vivid -- almost hyper-real -- for their eye-popping color. (In fact, they hardly seem like historical photos at all.) 

As for the main image above: "This husky member of a construction crew building a new 33,000-volt electric power line into Fort Knox is performing an important war service, Ft. Knox, Ky. Thousands of soldiers are in training there, and the new line from a hydroelectric plant at Louisville is needed to supplement the existing power supply." 1940

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A boilermaker at a Chicago train yard, 1942

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Boy near Cincinnati, Ohio, 1942

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

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"Mrs. Irene Bracker, mother of two children, employed at the roundhouse as a wiper, Clinton, Iowa." 1943

rural-schoolkids.jpgRural school children, San Augustine County, Texas, 1943.

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Farm worker, Puerto Rico, 1941.

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"A carpenter at the TVA's new Douglas dam on the French Broad River, Tenn. This dam will be 161 feet high and 1,682 feet ong, with a 31,600-acre reservoir area extending 43 miles upstream. With a useful storage capacity of approximately 1,330,000 acre-feet, this reservoir will make possible the addition of nearly 100,000 kw. of continuous power to the TVA system in dry years and almost 170,000 kw. in the average year." 1942

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"Making harnesses, Mary Saverick stitching, Pioneer Parachute Company Mills, Manchester, Conn." 1942

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"Couples at square dance, McIntosh County, Oklahoma," 1939.

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"Tank driver, Ft. Knox, Ky." 1942?

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"Shepherd with his horse and dog on Gravelly Range, Madison County, Montana," August, 1942.

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Mechanic, 1943.

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"Worker at carbon black plant, Sunray, Texas," 1940.

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Can You Spot the Python Hiding in the Photo?
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iStock

A homeowner in Cooroy, Queensland, Australia came home to find a rather frightening surprise in his garage: what appeared to be a large snake was actually a pair of breeding pythons. Fortunately, the eagle-eyed experts at Sunshine Coast Snake Catchers, a professional reptile relocation service, noticed that there was a second snake and snapped this photo after removing the first one. Would you have been able to spot the second slithery guy? Take a look at the photo above and see.

Give up? Scroll down to see where it was hiding.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Lazy Cyclists Help Make These Massive Bike Graveyards in China
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STR/AFP/Getty Images

When bike share programs go right, they can make life easier for commuters while reducing a city’s impact on the environment at the same time. When they don't go exactly as planned, they can create sprawling bicycle graveyards like the one seen in these photos.

The eerie scenes, recently spotlighted by WIRED, can be found throughout the city of Hangzhou, China. Like many large cities, Hangzhou is home to an official bike share program. But there are also private bike share companies that give cyclists the option to pick up a bike and leave it wherever they please rather than return it to an official docking station. The result is thousands of bikes scattered around the city like junk.

In response to complaints, the city of Hangzhou has begun collecting these abandoned bikes and storing them in lots. These aerial images are a good indication of the sheer number of bikers the city has—and they also have a creepy, post-apocalyptic vibe. Check out the photos below.

Bike graveyard in China.
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Bike graveyard in China.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Bike graveyard in China.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t WIRED]

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