Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Vintage Luggage Labels

Luggage has always had to be distinguishable from the luggage of other travelers. Modern travelers have many choices when it comes to their luggage, and though many modern travelers choose the ubiquitous small black rolling bag, many others make their luggage an extension of their identities. They can do this through picking unique styles, materials, colors or shapes. Going further back in time and travel history, when travelers used steamer trunks predominantly, many tourists chose to individualize their luggage through the liberal use of luggage labels. Many of these labels were issued individually from the globe’s premiere hotels, ships and trains (and later, airlines).

Luggage labels were initially used to identify passengers as belonging to the group taking a certain train or staying at a particular hotel. They were used to ease the work of those porters and bell hops who needed make sure the luggage got to and stayed at the proper destination. However, they later became badges of honor. The traveling class would proudly display the luggage labels as emblems of their leisurely lives. The luggage labels marked them as proud members of a higher social stratum. Luggage labels identified the passenger as someone who was cultured and possible very wealthy.

The first labels were issued at the turn of the 19th century. They reached a peak of popularity by 1940 but went into decline with the onset of World War II. Luggage labels went into a decline at this point because the war brought international travel to a halt. The advances that later came in the aviation industry were the ultimate cause of demise for luggage labels. People began to pack smaller bags and would not travel for such extended periods of time, thus eliminating the need for the classic steamer trunk and eliminating with it the canvas for labels of the world.

Today luggage labels are very popular collectibles. They are a tangible throw-back to an era of glamorous travel. Some labels available for collection represent countries, hotels and transportation companies that no longer exist. Others are nostalgic reminders of the glorious pasts of organizations and destinations that are still popular places to visit, even today. The labels come in an infinite array of colors, designs, sizes and shapes, allowing the collector to have an expansive and eclectic collection of interesting historical memorabilia. These labels represent a piece of the past, when travel promised more than just a new destination, but also, adventure.

By: Lanny Hintz -

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