From Luminous Lint, a brief but comprehensive history of color photography.
To understand what is happening in color photography today it is beneficial to know what has been previously accomplished. The quest for color photography can be traced to Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre’s 1839 public announcement of his daguerreotype process, which produced a finely detailed, one-of-a-kind, direct-positive photographic image through the action of light on a silver-coated copper plate. Daguerreotypes astonished and delighted, but nevertheless people complained that the images lacked color. As we see the world in color, others immediately began to seek ways to overcome this deficiency and the first colored photographs made their appearance that same year. The color was applied by hand, directly on the daguerreotype’s surface. Since then scores of improvements and new processes have been patented for commercial use.
This is a photograph made by Louis Ducos du Hauron sometime between 1869-1879, a particularly early example of a vivid color photographic print that wasn’t colored by hand.