Clicking refresh on the electoral map for Georgia and Pennsylvania becomes tiring awfully fast, so rather than stare at my unchanging computer screen, I decided to dig up old election photos and colorize them with AI. The black-and-white nature of historic photos often creates an artificial barrier because it’s difficult to imagine life not in color. But I find that it’s much easier to immerse myself in a picture, to time travel to a different era, and visualize myself as a curious bystander when images are in color.

The AI colors are far from perfect, but they are reasonable and, most importantly, automatically generated. (We’re working hard to improve the colors.) So it was easy to hop into a crude time machine and visit America during different elections.

What’s striking is how much the clothes and hairstyles (hello, the 1920s!) have changed, but society’s underlying tensions have not. From women and minorities struggling for equality to partisan rancor sparking nationwide chaos to a global pandemic claiming the lives of millions, these pictures’ captions could easily reflect America in 2020 rather than 1918.

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Protesters confront police officers outside the White House in 1965

Image credits: Library of Congress

Demonstrators outside the White House oppose police with signs declaring, “We demand the right to vote, everywhere.”

Women cast ballots in 1918 during the last global pandemic, the Spanish Flu

Image credits: Library of Congress

This marked the first time women in America could vote in some elections. The first state to legislate voting for women was Wyoming.

Rivals John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon meet for a chat

The controversial election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon mirrors the events unfolding today. Concerns about corruption, election rigging, and partisan animosity created a charged atmosphere that consumed the nation.

The first election in New York City where women could vote

Image credits: Library of Congress

Mrs. Marg. & V. Lally voting.

Staff Sergeant Dale Blakeslee casts his ballot in the 1944 US election somewhere in the Marianas Islands

The 15th Amendment granted Black men the right to vote under the law

Actresses like Trixie Friganza (center) pushed for women’s suffrage in 1920

Image credits: Library of Congress/The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Hotpot.ai

Franklin D. Roosevelt greets supporters during his first presidential campaign

Image credits: Roosevelt House

Before he became the only American president to win election 3 times, Franklin D. Roosevelt was governor of New York. Here, he waved to the crowd at Hollywood Bowl during his first presidential campaign in 1932.

GIs on the fighting fronts are not neglecting their right and power to vote. Near the firing lines in Italy, Capt. William H. Atkinson of Omaha, Neb., swears in Cpl. Tito Fargellese of Boston, Mass., before the latter cast his ballot

Voters at the voting booths in 1945

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons