Due to the United States being a relatively young independent nation, almost every President from their 250-year history has been photographed. 39 of the 45 people that have held the highest office were caught on camera, and thanks to colorizer James Berridge, you are now able to every President in color.
James Berridge spent over 100 hours expertly restoring and adding color to 26 old black and white photos of every US President that lived before the existence of color photography. Each Presidential portrait took about 5 hours to colorize, with the longest taking up to 9 hours to complete. In this article, you will be able to see every image colorized by James, as well as the remaining Presidents that were photographed in color.
“I colored a picture of Abraham Lincoln, as I’d received several requests for him online. I found the experience of working on Lincoln, particularly the research aspect, very interesting as I generally hadn’t colored anyone quite that historically important before. The finished picture seemed to really resonate with people. Several of them even left me comments about how they’d not been able to see Lincoln as a real, flesh and blood, person up until that point. Seeing the impact that I’d had with that picture, I decided that I should work on more Presidents. Being overly ambitious, and possibly a little stupid, I decided to work on all of them!” James Berridge
The First 5 Presidents
George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe were the first 5 Presidents of the United States. These 5 spanned the first 36 years of the US Presidency (1789 – 1825). Unfortunately, no images of the first 5 Presidents exist as none of them lived long enough to be photographed. James Madison was the closest, living until 1836, about 3 years before the first portraits were being taken in the United States.
John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States
John Quincy Adams was the 6th President of the United States serving from 1825 until 1829. He was the first son of 2nd US President, John Adams. The 1824 election resulted in no clear majority, so the House of Representatives held a contingent election and voted Adams into office despite having less electoral college votes than Andrew Jackson. He ran again in the 1828 election but lost in a clear majority to Andrew Jackson. After failing to be reelected as President, Adams ran for and won, a seat in the House of Representatives representing Massachusetts until his death in 1848.
Adams was not the first President of the United States to be photographed but was the oldest. It is a daguerreotype that was lost until its discovery in 1843. It is believed to have been taken at his home in Massachusetts by photographer Philip Haas.
Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States
7th President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, defeated John Quincy Adams in the 1828 election and took office in March 1829. Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830 which forcibly moved many Native American tribes in the South to Indian Territory that the government set aside. The first assassination attempt on a President was against Andrew Jackson. On the January 30th, 1835, a House Painter called Richard Lawrence tried to shoot Jackson as he was leaving the funeral of a congressman at the Capitol building. Lawrence attempted to shoot the President twice with 2 different guns, but they both misfired. Jackson noticed the attempt on his life and attacked Lawrence with his cane before bystanders intervened.
In 1835, Jackson became the only President to pay off the national debt. He served 2 terms and then handpicked his successor to run as the Democratic candidate in the 1836 election.
This photograph was taken in 1845, a few months before Jackson’s death in June 1845; he was 78 when he died. The daguerreotype was produced by the studio of famous American Civil War photographer, Mathew Brady.
The original daguerreotype is badly damaged. James Berridge did an incredible job restoring this photograph.
“While researching images of Andrew Jackson I discovered that this photograph session had been for a book portrait engraving. Therefore an engraving based on the pre-damaged photograph still existed in pristine condition. The artist had taken some creative liberties with the engraving process. Even in the damaged state of the Photograph I could tell that the nose was different for example and that some of the wrinkles had been reduced. I, therefore, had to use the Liquify Tool in Photoshop, which allows you to move around elements of the picture, to make the etching better match the real-life Andrew Jackson. The final image was therefore a combination of the damaged photograph and the now corrected etching.” James Berridge
Martin Van Buren, 8th President of the United States
Martin Van Buren was Andrew Jackson’s Vice President during his second term, and with the support of the former President, Van Buren won the 1836 election. He was the first President to be born after the United States declared independence in 1776. And he is the only President to not speak English as their first language. He was born in Kinderhook, New York which was made up of a small community of people with ancestry from the Netherlands. He grew up speaking Dutch but he was fluent in English from a young age.
The main incident during his presidency was the Panic of 1837 which led to a depression and record unemployment rates. As a result, Van Buren only served 1 term as President but remained a political figure after 1841. He opposed the annexation of Texas and became a prominent anti-slavery abolitionist in the 1840s and 1850s. He supported Abraham Lincoln at the beginning of the American Civil War before he died in 1862.
The photograph was taken and produced by Mathew Brady in the mid-to-late 1850s. Mathew Brady photographed many popular figures throughout the 1800s so it is likely that we will see his name attached to next few Presidents. He would have been around 75 at the time this photographed was taken.
William Henry Harrison, 9th President of the United States
President William Henry Harrison began his term on the 4th March 1841 and died exactly 31 days later on the 4th April 1841 as a result of pneumonia. His Presidency is the shortest in history and he was seriously ill for about 10 days of it. Harrison was the last President to be born before the United States declared independence from Great Britain. Harrison was also the son of Founding Father Benjamin Harrison V. He was also the oldest person to assume become President, doing so at 68 years and 23 days. He held this record until 1981.
This daguerreotype was taken by the studio Southworth and Hawes in c. 1850 and is of a realistic painting by Albert Gallatin Hoit in 1840. William Henry Harrison was the first sitting President to be photographed, having done so shortly after his inauguration in 1841. However, that photograph has been lost, and all that remains is this daguerreotype.
John Tyler, 10th President of the United States
10th President of the United States, John Tyler, assumed his presidency following the death of William Henry Harrison in April 1841. At the time of Harrison’s death, Tyler was his Vice President. He is the longest-serving President never to be elected into office and was very unpopular with contemporary politicians, with his cabinet resigning soon after beginning his term. Tyler was also expelled from the Whig Party which he belonged to, and fell out with the Democratic Party after leaving them to join the Whig Party in 1834. He initially tried to run again in 1844 but failed to gain the support of either party. He left office in March 1845.
Very little information regarding this photograph exists. It is believed to be taken between 1845 and 1860. It was taken by the studio Edwards & Anthony.
James K. Polk, 11th President of the United States
James K. Polk became President of the United States after defeating Whig candidate Henry Clay in the 1844 election. The United States expanded massively during Polk’s presidency. Texas, the Oregon Territory, and the Mexican Cession all became part of the United States during the years he held the highest office. Polk died on the 15th of June 1849, only 3 months after he left office.
This daguerreotype was taken on the 14th February 1849 and was produced by Mathew Brady’s studio.
Zachary Taylor, 12th President of the United States
Zachary Taylor became the 12th President of the United States on March 4th, 1849. However, he refused to be sworn in on a Sunday, so he took the oath of office the day after instead. He became the first President to have held no political office prior to his election. Taylor was a very popular military figure which led him to win the Whig Party nomination. He died only 16 months into his term as President, so achieved very little.
Southworth and Hawes were the firm that produced the daguerreotype of President Zachary Taylor. It was taken upon Taylor’s return from his service during the Mexican-American War. It is believed to be a copy daguerreotype after the original of Taylor by James Magquire of New Orleans.
Millard Fillmore, 13th President of the United States
Millard Fillmore was President of the United States from Taylor’s death in July 1850 until the end of that term in March 1853. He is the last member of the Whig Party to hold the highest office. The party dissolved in 1856 with most Northern Whigs joining the Republican Party, and the Southern Whigs joining the American Party. He is best known for the passing of the Compromise of 1850 which led to a short truce in the battle over slavery. He failed to win the nomination in 1852 but ran again in the 1856 election with the Know Nothing Party. Fillmore finished 3rd in the election carrying only the state of Maryland.
The photograph was produced by Mathew Brady’s studio in New York and is believed to have been taken between 1855 and 1856. Fillmore would be in his mid-50s in this photograph.
Franklin Pierce, 14th President of the United States
President Franklin Pierce assumed office on March 4th, 1853 following a landslide win in the 1852 election against Whig Party candidate, Winfield Scott. During his presidency, the United States expanded with the Gadsden Purchase which incorporated the southern area of Arizona. Pierce drove many anti-slavery groups away from the Democratic Party due to the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Fugitive Slave Act being enforced. He lost the support of the Democrats and failed to receive the 1856 presidential nomination. He remained in the public eye after his term as President and was vocally critical of Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War.
This photograph of President Franklin Pierce is attributed to the Southworth & Hawes studio which was based in Boston from 1843 to 1863. They have taken the photographs of multiple Presidents featured on this list. It is believed to have been taken during his presidency around 1852.
James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States
James Buchanan defeated Pierce for the nomination of the Democratic Party in 1856, and won the election, defeating Republican John C. Fremont and former President Millard Fillmore. This is the first and only time a sitting President has lost the nomination, and the new candidate has won the election. Buchanan pledged to only serve one term as President. James Buchanan did a lot to increase tensions regarding slavery. He supported the Dred Scott decision which ruled that anyone with African ancestry could not claim citizenship in the United States He also tried to admit Kansas as a slave state into the Union. Due to his actions, and the election loss, the American Civil War began.
This is another photograph produce by Mathew Brady and his New York studio. He produced hundreds of photos of the American Civil War including soldiers, generals, civilians, battles and more. For the time, this war was extremely well photographed and that is mostly thanks to Mathew Brady.
Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States
Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election against a divided Democratic Party and as a result, just weeks later states in the South began seceding and the American Civil War began. Lincoln is widely regarded as one of the best Presidents in US history due to the fact he preserved the Union, abolished slavery, and modernized the economy. He was successful in leading the Union to a victory over the Confederate rebels and easily won the 1864 election. Unfortunately, only weeks into his 2nd term, he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. He is best remembered for his Emancipation Proclamation and his promotion of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery and was ratified a few months after Lincoln’s death.
President Abraham Lincoln was photographed on the 5th of February 1865, 2 months before his death. This was taken by Alexander Gardner, a Scottish photographer that took many images of Abraham Lincoln, and also covered the US Civil War. When comparing this photograph to the beginning of his Presidency, you can see that the war has worn him down.
Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States
17th President of the United States, Andrew Johnson, assumed office in April 1865 after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Johnson, a Southern Democrat, was the Vice President in the Lincoln administration. His ascendance to the presidency coincided with the end of the Civil War. Johnson was lenient towards the Southern states that had seceded from the Union in 1861. The Republican-controlled Congress, however, wanted him to adopt stricter terms for the Reconstruction of the South. Consequently, Johnson started vetoing the bills passed by the Congress and earned the nickname ‘The Veto President’. He pardoned many high-ranking Confederate officials, paving way for the Southern states to establish ‘Black Codes’. Johnson’s spat with the Congress eventually led to his impeachment in 1868, becoming the first President to be impeached by the House. However, he was acquitted by the Senate by just one vote and continued his term until March 1869.
The US purchased Alaska from Russia during his presidency. Johnson is the only President to have never gone to school since he worked as a tailor in his early life.
This image of Andrew Johnson is believed to have been taken between 1865 and 1875. It was produced by Mathew Brady.
Ulysses S. Grant, 18th President of the United States
Ulysses S. Grant assumed the presidency in March 1869. Grant was the top Union general during the end of the Civil War and his reputation as a war hero played a great role in his electoral victory. At 46 years of age, Grant was the youngest person to be elected President theretofore. After assuming office, he worked to stabilize the post-Civil War economy and supported civil rights for newly emancipated African-Americans. He successfully pushed through the ratification of the 15th Amendment and appointed many African-Americans to high-ranking federal offices. In 1870, he famously banned Southern racist organization Ku Klux Klan.
Grant’s presidential achievements during his two terms were marred by several scandals, even though his own integrity was never questioned. He was criticized for assigning important public offices to people with bad character. Grant returned to civilian life and became a partner at a financial firm after his second term ended in March 1877.
Another Mathew Brady photograph, this image of Ulysses S. Grant was taken shortly after the American Civil War. He is wearing is Union Army military uniform. He held the rank of General of the Army which is the second highest possible rank in the United States Army. It was produced by the Mathew Brady studio.
“Despite the photograph appearing somewhat over exposed and damaged, I was able to retrieve quite detailed image information and transport Grant back to that portrait session from almost 160 years ago. I always love working on the pictures that surprise me.” James Berridge
Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States
19th President of the United States, Rutherford Birchard Hayes, assumed the presidency in March 1877 after one of the most contentious presidential elections in the history of the US. Hayes, a Republican nominee, lost the popular vote to his Democratic rival, Samuel J. Tilden, but won the electoral college by the narrowest margin ever (185-184) after a Congressional Electoral Commission granted 20 contested votes to him in the Compromise of 1877. In return, Hayes agreed to withdraw federal troops from the Southern states, effectively ending Reconstruction. While in office, Hayes tried to reconcile the divisions between the nation by adopting conciliatory policies towards the South. He advocated meritocracy and equity in government, and staunchly promoted civil service reforms. Hayes, who had pledged not to run for reelection, kept his word and retired after his term ended in March 1881.
A graduate of the Harvard Law School, Hayes left his law career in 1861 to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War. He was the first President to have installed a telephone and a typewriter in the White House.
This photograph of Rutherford B. Hayes was taken between 1870 and 1880 and is credited to Mathew Brady.
James A. Garfield, 20th President of the United States
President James A.Garfield, took office in March 1881 after defeating his Democratic rival, Winfield Scott Hancock, by a close margin of just 10,000 popular votes. A skilled orator, Garfield had served in the Civil War as a general of the Union Army. After assuming the presidency, Garfield strengthened the executive authority by defying the highly influential New York senator Roscoe Conkling in a presidential appointment spat which ended with Garfield’s victory and Conkling’s resignation. While in office, he advanced civil service reforms and advocated the rights of African-Americans. Unfortunately, Garfield’s presidential term was cut short to just 200 days after he was shot by Charles J. Guiteau, a resentful office seeker, on July 2nd, 1881, at a railroad station in Washington DC. Garfield survived the attack but later died from an infection caused by the bullet on September 19th, 1881.
Like many other presidents of the 1800s, James A. Garfield was captured by Mathew Brady. The photograph is believed to have been taken between 1870 and 1880.
Chester A. Arthur, 21st President of the United States
Chester Alan Arthur became President on September 19th, 1881, after the death of President James Garfield. Arthur belonged to the Stalwarts – the faction of the Republican Party that favored the spoils system in sharp contrast with reformer Half-Breeds. But to the utter surprise of the reformers, Arthur, who himself was a former spoils-man, became a champion of civil service reforms. In 1883, he signed the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, which changed the criteria of obtaining certain public offices from political affiliations to competitive written exams. The Act set in place a bipartisan Civil Service Commission to enforce meritocracy in the government, and made it illegal to remove or demote public officials for political reasons. Arthur, who was widely distrusted when he assumed the presidency, went on to earn the respect of his contemporaries. Aware of his fatal kidney disease which he kept secret for a long time, Arthur didn’t push to get the Republican nomination for another term, and left office in March 1885.
This image of Chester A. Arthur was taken in 1882, about a year into his Presidency. It was taken by American photographer, Charles Milton Bell, and produced by his studio that was based in Washington, D.C. Bell was well-known for his photos of Native Americans and prominent figures in the late 19th century.
Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th President of the United States
22nd and 24th President of the United States, Grover Cleveland assumed office in March 1885 and then again in March 1893 for a second term, four years after his first term ended. Cleveland was the first Democratic President elected after the Civil War. Praised for his honesty and integrity by friends and foes alike, Cleveland won his first term by the combined support of his own party and a faction of Republican reformers. While in office, he fought against patronage and political corruption. Cleveland lost the electoral college in the 1888 presidential election despite winning the popular vote. Follower of conservative fiscal policy, Cleveland opposed subsidies, high tariffs, inflation, and Free Silver movement. His second term was marred by severe economic disasters – namely the Panic of 1893 and the Pullman Strike of 1894. Cleveland’s handling of the economic depression made him unpopular and he left office with very low approval in March 1897.
Cleveland is the only President to have served non-consecutive terms, as well as the only President to be married at the White House.
Similar to the photo of Chester Arthur, this image was taken and produced by Charles Milton Bell and his Washington, D.C. based studio. It is believed to have been taken in the late 1880s to early 1890s.
Benjamin Harrison, 23rd President of the United States
Benjamin Harrison assumed office in March 1889 after defeating incumbent Democrat Grover Cleveland in the election of 1888. Harrison, who was among the first ‘front-porch’ campaigners, won the electoral college despite losing the popular vote by a margin of 100,000. Democrats used to call him ‘Little Ben’ as he was 5ft 6in tall. While in office, Harrison pursued a vigorous foreign policy, paving way for the formation of the Pan American Union. On the domestic front, his biggest achievement was signing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to regulate trusts and curb unlawful monopolies. Harrison proposed to enforce voting rights for African-Americans and tried to secure federal education funding, though none of the two attempts were successful. He modernized and strengthened the US Navy and supported the creation of the national forest reserves. But Harrison’s increased federal spending and high tariff rates made him unpopular. He lost the 1892 election to Cleveland and retired after his term ended in March 1893.
A grandson of William Henry Harrison, he is the only President to be the grandson of another President.
Taken in the 1870s, this Benjamin Harrison photograph was produced by Mathew Brady’s studio.
William McKinley, 25th President of the United States
25th President of the United States, William McKinley took office in March 1897. Enlisting as a soldier in the Union Army, he was the last US President to have served in the Civil War. McKinley’s high protective tariffs and pro-industrial policies led to unprecedented economic growth, with critics calling him the representative of the trusts. He rejected ‘Free Silver’ expansionary monetary policy and secured the establishment of the Gold Standard. Despite rapid economic prosperity, it was the foreign policy that dominated the McKinley administration. He tried to gain independence for Cuba from Spanish rule. After the failure of negotiations and the USS Maine incident, he led the nation to a quick and decisive victory in the Spanish–American War of 1898. In the aftermath of the war, Cuba got independence and the US took control of the territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. In the same year, the US annexed independent Hawaii. McKinley was assassinated soon after his second term began by a deranged anarchist in September 1901.
William McKinley was photographed by Charles Milton Bell and his Washington, D.C. firm. It was taken in circa. 1890s.
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States
Theodore Roosevelt, ascended to office in September 1901, after the assassination of President William McKinley. Assuming presidency at the age of 42, Roosevelt remains the youngest President ever. While in office, Roosevelt’s Square Deal brought several progressive reforms. He regulated railroads, promoted fairness in governance, supported labor unions, ensured purity in food and drugs, and conserved vast swathes of public lands and natural resources. Roosevelt ended monopolies of several big businesses and was hailed a ‘Trust Buster’. With his ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’ policy, Roosevelt actively intervened in world politics. He helped secede Panama from Colombia in 1903 to ensure the construction of the strategic Panama Canal. He famously added a corollary to the Monroe Doctrine to prevent European powers from establishing hold in Latin America. Roosevelt didn’t seek another term and willingly left office in March 1909, though he later regretted his decision.
Roosevelt won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for ending the Russo-Japanese War. He is one of the four Presidents depicted on Mount Rushmore.
This image shows President Theodore Roosevelt showing head and shoulders, facing slightly left. It was taken in circa. 1904 by the Pach Brothers photography studio that was based in New York City. The Pach Bros. was one of the oldest studios in New York, having started their operations in 1867.
“My favorite President has to be Teddy Roosevelt! He’s just such a fascinating historical figure and his remarkable passion for life is still infectious a century after his death.” James Berridge
William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States
27th President of the United States, William Howard Taft, took office in March 1909 after defeating Democrat William Jennings Bryan. A close friend of Theodore Roosevelt, Taft got the Republican nomination for the election of 1908 with Roosevelt’s help. While in office, Taft drastically reduced trade tariffs and continued busting trusts. On the foreign front, he actively interfered in the affairs of Latin America and East Asia. However, his Dollar Diplomacy, which aimed to advance the US foreign policy objectives by using economic aid, failed to bring the desired results. A sympathizer of the conservative faction of the Republican Party, Taft couldn’t implement Roosevelt’s progressive agenda, leading to a split between the two men. The split cost Taft his reelection as Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate in the presidential election of 1912, dividing Republican votes and paving way for the victory of Woodrow Wilson.
In 1921, Taft was appointed as the 10th Chief Justice of the US by President Warren G. Harding, becoming the only person to have held both the office of the President and the Chief Justice.
This photograph of William Howard Taft was taken in June 1908 by the Harris & Ewing photography studio. It was a studio based in Washington, D.C., and owned and run by George W. Harris and Martha Ewing. During this photography session, he answered a telephone call from President Roosevelt that informed him that he had been nominated as the Republican candidate for President.
“I wanted to use a full body picture of Taft, as his physical presence was such a defining part of his public image. Unfortunately this also required me to color around 20 books, two telephones, several inkwells, a flag and various pieces of furniture. The more layers I added, the slower Photoshop would become and I started to get more and more technical issues. I was very happy with the resulting picture but it was quite the effort to finish it.” James Berridge
Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States
Woodrow Wilson became President in 1913 after defeating Progressive Party nominee Theodore Roosevelt and incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft in the election of 1912. He was the first Southerner to be elected to office after the Civil War. Wilson’s ‘New Freedom’ agenda achieved several progressive reforms, such as regulating trusts, lowering tariffs, and levying a federal income tax. Wilson set up the Federal Reserve System that centralized the US economy, enabling it to survive two World Wars. He signed the 18th and 19th amendments, which banned alcohol and granted suffrage to women respectively. In foreign affairs, Wilson initially preferred neutrality in WWI but had to join the war in the wake of unrestricted German submarine warfare and Zimmermann Telegram. After the war ended in 1918, Wilson proposed his famous ‘Fourteen Points’ to ensure peace in the post-war world, and called to establish a League of Nations to resolve future conflicts. However, the Senate didn’t allow the US to join the League. Wilson turned to public support and started a nationwide tour but suffered a serious stroke in 1919, that left him incapacitated for the remainder of his term. He left office in March 1921.
This is another image that was produced by Washington, D.C.-based firm Harris & Ewing. It is believed to have been taken in c. 1919.
Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States
29th President of the United States, Warren Gamaliel Harding, assumed the presidency in March 1921 after winning the election of 1920 in an unprecedented landslide against Democratic rival James M. Cox, getting 60% of the popular vote. While in office, Harding ensured a quick economic recovery from the post-WWI recession by slashing taxes, restoring protective tariffs, and eliminating wartime controls. However, his popularity declined due to a number of scandals that came to light after his death. The most significant of them were his extramarital affairs and a bribery scandal, Teapot Dome, linked to some high-ranking officials of his administration. Harding’s Secretary of Commerce, future President Herbert Hoover, suggested he published the bribery scandal, but he feared political consequences. Harding didn’t live to see his popular regard being faded away, and died of a heart attack in San Francisco in August 1923.
When George W. Harris retired, he donated around 700,000 glass negatives to the Library of Congress. These images mostly consisted of people, events, and areas around Washington, D.C.. They are now preserved as the Harris & Ewing Collection. This photograph of Warren G. Harding from circa. 1920 is included in the collection.
Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States
30th President of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, ascended to the presidency after President Warren G. Harding died of a heart attack in August 1923. Coolidge worked to restore the confidence of masses in the presidency after it was rocked with the scandals of his predecessor. He was a staunch advocate for laissez-faire economics and small governments. He pushed Congress to significantly cut taxes and refused to intervene in the economy to check the rapidly growing boom. On the foreign front, he worked to isolate the US from world affairs. Coolidge won the election of 1924 by a huge margin in a three-way contest, and willingly retired after his term ended in March 1929.
He had a dry sense of humor and was known for speaking very little. Being used to sit silently through interviews, Coolidge would only say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to people and considered even that to be too much.
This circa. 1917 image of Calvin Coolidge was produced by the Bain News Service which was one of America’s earliest news picture agencies. They were taken by New York City photographer George Grantham Bain. He started the Bain News Service in 1898 and became known as “the father of foreign photographic news”.
Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States
Herbert Hoover, a Republican, assumed the presidency in March 1929, just before the onset of the Great Depression. The stock market crashed soon after he took office, with the Depression becoming the main concern of his presidency. Hoover submitted a comprehensive program before Congress to tackle the Depression by cutting taxes, expanding public works, helping businesses, reforming the banking sector, and lending credit to states to feed the unemployed. Hoover’s recovery program fell short of just direct relief payments – something he strictly opposed because of his belief in ‘rugged individualism’. His opponents, however, unfairly portrayed him as a cruel and callous President who didn’t feel for his people. Hoover ended up being a scapegoat for the Great Depression and suffered a terrible defeat in the election of 1932.
After he retired from office in March 1933, Hoover became a vocal critic of FDR’s ‘New Deal’, arguing that it would lead to statism. Hoover died in 1964 at the age of 90, after having a post-presidency of more than 31 years.
Harris & Ewing produced this circa. 1930s portrait photograph of President Herbert C. Hoover.
“I never found history a particularly easy subject but having spent so long staring at these photographs and researching these men, I have picked up loads of historically important information. I look forward to using more of these colorization projects as a means to add to my own historical knowledge.” James Berridge
The Beginning of Color Photography
While it did not reach the mainstream until the 1960s, the 1940s saw color photography increase in popularity. At the time, there was not a way to share the color versions of photographs, so black and white still remained the popular choice. There are famous images, such as Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference, that people do not realise were in fact taken in color.
All of the photos below were official Presidential portraits taken by the White House.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, defeated Republican President Herbert Hoover in the election of 1932. He assumed the presidency at the height of the Great Depression in March 1933, when almost every bank in the country was closed and more than 13 million people were unemployed. Roosevelt brought hope to the nation at a time when it was needed the most and worked to help Americans regain faith in themselves. He brought forth his ‘New Deal’ agenda – an enormous economic intervention program, the likes of which were never seen before anywhere in the world. The New Deal had a three-pronged strategy: to bring ‘Relief’ to the unemployed by direct payments, ‘Recovery’ of agriculture and business so they could survive the Depression, and ‘Reform’ of the economy to make sure the situation doesn’t get repeated. He unveiled a huge public works program for the unemployed, rescued the nation’s banks, shifted the burden of taxation on wealthy people, started Social Security, and engaged in never-before-seen deficit spending. On the foreign front, Roosevelt led the nation into WWII after the deadly Pearl Harbor attack and spearheaded the formation of the United Nations.
The only President to have served more than two times, Roosevelt served three terms and was in his fourth when he died in April 1945.
Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States
33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman, ascended to the presidency in April 1945, after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Soon after taking office, Truman authorized the use of nuclear weapons against Japan to end World War 2. Truman’s foreign policy overshadowed his domestic programs since his presidency coincided with the onset of the Cold War. Truman’s foreign policy, famously known as the Truman Doctrine, saw the US financially and militarily supporting a number of countries to contain Soviet geopolitical expansion. He enacted the Marshall Plan to rebuild war-torn Europe in 1948, pioneered the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949, and intervened in the Korean War in 1950. On the domestic front, Truman signed the National Security Act which reordered the Armed Forces and established the CIA. Truman effectively neutralized the challenges of the post-WWII economy and promoted civil rights for African Americans. Truman left office after his second term ended in January 1953.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States
34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, assumed office in January 1953 after defeating Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson II. A famed WWII general, Eisenhower masterminded the invasion of Normandy in 1944, which paved the way for Allied victory. After assuming the presidency, he helped establish peace in the Korean peninsula in 1953. His administration orchestrated military coups in Guatemala and Iran to counter the spread of communism. Eisenhower resolved the Suez Crisis of 1956 by forcing Israel, Britain, and France to withdraw from Egypt. After the USSR launched its first satellite, Sputnik I, in 1957, Eisenhower established NASA in 1958, leading to a Space Race between the two superpowers. At the end of his second term, he tried to ease hostilities with the USSR but his efforts failed after the Soviets shot down a US spy plane. A moderate conservative, Eisenhower worked to reduce federal deficits on the domestic front by carefully checking military spending. Eisenhower ensured the desegregation of schools in compliance with a Federal court order and completely integrated the Armed Forces. He promoted science education and established the Interstate Highway System. He left office after his second term ended in January 1961.
Eisenhower is the only President to have won an Emmy, an accolade he received for his encouragement of the new television medium.
John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, narrowly defeated incumbent Vice President Richard Nixon in the 1960 election and assumed office in January 1961 at the age of 43. Kennedy’s presidency marked the height of the Cold War, with the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 almost bringing the world to an all-out nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union. However, he managed to avert the crisis by reaching an agreement with the USSR. On the domestic front, Kennedy extended his support to Black civil rights and feminist movements, eventually paving the way for the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 which ended segregation. On November 22nd, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, a Marxist and a former US Marine, in Dallas, Texas, becoming the fourth US President to be killed in office.
Kennedy, a Harvard graduate, served in the US Naval Reserve during WWII. He is the only President to have received a Pulitzer Prize. He won the accolade for his book ‘Profiles in Courage’ that he published in 1955 while serving in the Senate.
Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States
36th President of the United States, Lyndon Baines Johnson, ascended to office in November 1963, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He was sworn in while on Air Force One by Judge Sarah T. Hughes, becoming the only President to be sworn in by a woman. Next year, he won a presidential landslide against Republican Barry Goldwater. Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ domestic agenda ensured civil rights to African Americans, lifted millions above the poverty line, and expanded public access to education and healthcare. The historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 effectively ended segregation and banned all sorts of racial discrimination. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 ended the disenfranchisement of African Americans in the Southern states. In foreign affairs, Johnson dramatically escalated the US involvement in the Vietnam War after the Gulf of Tonkin incident, sending hundreds of thousands of troops in combat roles. The growing anti-war sentiment, as well as the soaring crime rates in major cities, made him unpopular and he left office after his second term ended in January 1969.
Richard Nixon, 37th President of the United States
Richard Nixon entered office in January 1969 after winning a three-way contest. Nixon had previously served as the Vice President in the Eisenhower administration for 8 years. He was the first President to visit China in 1972, leading the US to establish diplomatic relations with the communist nation. Nixon tried to achieve détente with the Soviets and ended the US involvement in the Vietnam War in 1973. The military draft ended the same year. Nixon supported Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, provoking Arab nations to impose an oil embargo on the US. On the domestic front, Nixon tried to transfer power to the states. He enforced racial integration in the Southern schools, imposed price and wage controls, abandoned the Gold Standard completely, and established the EPA.
The Watergate Scandal of 1973 made Nixon extremely unpopular and he even lost the support of his own political party. Facing impeachment and a certain removal from office, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, becoming the only US President to have done so. However, he was granted a controversial pardon by President Gerald Ford.
Gerald Ford, 38th President of the United States
Gerald Ford took over from Nixon in August 1974. Ford was appointed the Vice President in the Nixon administration after Spiro Agnew resigned from his post following a corruption scandal in 1973. After assuming the presidency, Ford issued a full and unconditional pardon to former President Nixon for any crimes that he might have committed against the country in the infamous Watergate Scandal. Ford’s presidential term was marked with a poor economy – the worst since the Great Depression. In what became known as stagflation, the American economy faced slow growth with high inflation and high unemployment. In foreign affairs, he eased hostilities with the USSR by signing the Helsinki Accords and oversaw the Fall of Saigon in 1975. Ford ran for another term but lost the 1976 presidential election to Democrat Jimmy Carter, leaving office in January 1977.
Ford is the only President to have served without being elected to the office of either the President or the Vice President.
Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States
39th President of the United States, James Earl Carter Jr., emerged as a dark-horse candidate and defeated incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford in the election of 1976. Also known as ‘Peanut Farmer’ due to his family business, Carter officially used the nickname ‘Jimmy’, becoming the first President to do so. On his second day as President, Carter pardoned everyone who had evaded draft in the Vietnam War. A staunch supporter of civil rights, he actively advocated anti-segregation and affirmative action for African Americans. Carter confronted stagflation, established the Department of Energy, and vehemently promoted energy conservation. On the foreign front, he famously brokered the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, returned the control of Panama Canal to Panama, and signed SALT II with the USSR. However, he ended détente after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, imposing a grain embargo on the USSR and leading a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Carter sought another term but lost the election of 1980, leaving office in January 1981.
He won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize for establishing the Carter Center in 1982 to promote human rights. Aged 95, he is one of the five living Presidents of the US.
Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States
Ronald Reagan assumed office in January 1981 after defeating incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter. A former Hollywood actor, Reagan survived an assassination attempt in the first year of his presidency. Reagan downsized government spending, cut taxation, and deregulated economy to address stagflation in what became known as ‘Reaganomics.’ At the same time, he increased military spending, particularly investing in his Strategic Defense Initiative, later dubbed Star Wars. During his second term, senior officials of his administration secretly allowed arms sales to Iran to use the funds in support of anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua, in the infamous Iran–Contra scandal. Reagan was severely anti-Soviet and famously called the USSR an ‘evil empire’. However, by the end of his second term, Reagan had significantly eased hostilities with the Soviets, signing the iconic Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987. He retired after his second term ended in January 1989.
George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States
41st President of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, took office in January 1989 after defeating Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis. Serving in WWII as a naval aviator, Bush went on to become the US Ambassador to the United Nations in 1971, the Chairman of the Republican Party in 1973, and the Director of CIA in 1977. He was the Vice President in the Reagan administration, during both its terms. After assuming the presidency, Bush oversaw the reunification of Germany and the collapse of the Soviet Union, marking an end of the Cold War. He intervened in the Gulf War to oust Iraq from Kuwait, sanctioned the invasion of Panama, and signed the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada. In a bid to reduce the budget deficit, Bush reneged on one of his campaign promises and increased taxes. Foreign policy dominated the attention of the Bush administration, something which came at the cost of issues at home. An economic recession further declined his approval ratings and he lost the 1992 election to Democratic nominee Bill Clinton. Bush followed an active post-presidency life after his first term ended in January 1993.
Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States
42nd President of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton, famously known as Bill Clinton, defeated incumbent Republican President George Herbert Walker Bush in the election of 1992. He assumed office in January 1993 at the age of 46, becoming the third-youngest President in the history of the US. While in office, Clinton brokered Oslo Accords to promote peace between Israel and Palestine, and Dayton Accords to end the Bosnian War. He also helped establish peace in Northern Ireland and Kosovo. In domestic affairs, Clinton expanded social welfare and health insurance programs and oversaw rapid economic expansion. In 1998, he was impeached by the House for ‘perjury’ and ‘obstruction of justice’ after he concealed his extra-marital affair with young White House intern Monica Lewinsky. However, he completed his second term after getting acquitted by the Senate. Clinton left office with extremely high approval ratings in January 2001.
He has since been involved in humanitarian work and public speaking activities, and is the wife of Hilary Clinton, the first female Presidential candidate of the Democratic party.
George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States
43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush, took office after defeating incumbent Republican Vice President Al Gore in the controversial election of 2000. Bush lost the popular vote but won the electoral college by a narrow margin after a Supreme Court decision stopped a recount of votes in Florida. A son of the 41st President, Bush was the second person to assume the presidency after his father, with the first being President John Quincy Adams – the son of President John Adams. Bush launched a ‘War on Terror’ after the tragic 9/11 attacks shook the nation. He authorized the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq as a part of the War on Terror. On the domestic front, Bush enacted broad tax cuts, tried to expand medical insurance, and sought to universalize education. At the end of 2007, the US faced its second-worst economic recession. The financial crisis, which soon turned global, negatively impacted Bush’s approval ratings when he left office in January 2009.
Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States
44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, defeated Republican nominee John McCain in the election of 2008, becoming the first African-American President of the country. Soon after taking office, Obama unveiled a $787bn spending program to spur economic growth, bailout the American auto industry, and rescue the country from the Great Recession. In 2010, Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, famously known as Obamacare, which sought almost universal healthcare coverage. Among other significant domestic reforms, Obama regulated the financial sector, legalized same-sex marriages, increased funding for veterans, expanded the school nutrition program, and ended the use of torture. In foreign affairs, Obama pulled out from Iraq and sought to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. In 2014, he intervened in Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIS. His biggest foreign policy achievements were signing the Paris Climate Accord to tackle global warming, reaching a landmark nuclear deal with Iran, and normalizing relations with Cuba. A Nobel laureate, Obama left office after his second term ended in January 2017.
Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States
45th and current President of the United States, Donald John Trump, defeated his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Trump won the electoral college but lost the popular vote by the largest margin ever. A TV personality and a real-estate businessman, Trump is the only President to be elected to office without a prior military, political, or government service. Assuming the presidency in January 2017 at the age of 70, Trump was the oldest person elected to the office at the time. Trump has followed an isolationist and protectionist ‘America First’ policy, withdrawing the US from various multilateral accords, most notably the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris Climate Accord, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. After engaging in a long battle with Congress to get funding for the Mexican border wall, Trump invoked the longest shutdown in US history. Accusing China of unfair trade policies, he triggered a lengthy trade war by imposing tariffs on all of the Chinese exports. Trump was accused of complicity in the Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016. In December 2019, Trump was impeached by the House for ‘abuse of power’ and ‘obstruction of Congress’ after he encouraged the Ukrainian President to find dirt on his political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden. However, he was acquitted of both charges by the Senate in February 2020.
Joe Biden, 46th President of the United States
Joe Biden officially became the 46th President of the United States of America on the 20th of January 2021 after defeating incumbent Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential election. Biden spent over 35 years in the Senate before becoming the running mate for 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. He spent 8 years as Vice President.
At the age of 78 when getting elected, Joe Biden has taken the crown from Trump as the oldest person elected to the office of the President. When his first term is over, he will also be the first serving US President over the age of 80. Biden ran for the Democratic nomination two times, in 1988 and in 2008, before finally winning the nomination and then the election in 2020.
James Berridge did an incredible job restoring and colorizing 26 of the US Presidents featured in this article. If you are interested in seeing more of James’ stuff, check him out on Instagram. When asked what is next for him, he replied “While I will certainly take on another big project such as this again, I really miss working on more down to earth social history scenes. Therefore for now I shall go back to restoring to life more everyday moments of history.”
James also created a video using his colorized portraits of the US Presidents. Check it out here:
UPDATE – 4th July 2020
James has published a behind-the-scenes video which enlightens the viewer why he decided to colorize photographs of the US Presidents. Footage from the Photoshop colorization process, and how certain photos were processed, is also shown in this video. Be sure to check it out!
If you enjoyed reading this article, you might be interested in checking out quizzes “US Presidents Quiz” and “What Year Did This Happen – United States Edition“. You might be able to use some of the information that you learned here to take the quiz!