Prior to World War One, a Russian photographer named Prokudin-Gorsky developed a means of taking color photographs. He did it by taking three monochromatic pictures, each with a color filter, and then recombined them by projecting specifically colored light through them. The result are some extremely striking color photos of bygone days that we're used to seeing in shades of gray.
Supported primarily by his job in a metal works, he established his studio in 1901 to perfect his process. His break came in 1908 when he photographed Leo Tolstoy.
This brought him to the Attention of Tsar Nicholas II, who funded his scheme of traveling throughout the Russian Empire and making a photographic record of what he saw.
More of his remarkable photographs, as well as further details of his life, can be found at Socyberty in the post The Incredible Century Old Color Photography of Prokudin-Gorsky (H.T. Neatorama).