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Vintage Travel Posters

What first inspired you to travel? Was it a vision of a worn, leather suitcase covered in colorful stickers from around the world? In a day and age where we can quickly jet across the globe, a certain romanticism about travel has fallen by the wayside, and sometimes the best place for inspiration is in the past. In fact, there is certainly something about the old days of travel, when exploring foreign lands was left to a select few and the rest of society was left to dream.

Luggage labels and posters have always been a source of travel inspiration, from the early days of adventuring to modern day jet-setting. Today they continue to play a role in the travel industry, being reused in newer marketing campaigns and for mere personal use. In fact, people around the world collect vintage luggage labels and travel posters, some for the design and others for the sense of wanderlust that it brings.

These posters and labels are iconic reflections of past decades, providing us with a visual history of the evolution of travel. In an interview with Ephemera, Tom Schifanella a senior vice president and executive creative director at the Robin Shepherd Group as well as travel poster collector, said, “Posters reflect our culture and are like visual graphic icons of the times in which they were created.”

Joao Mimoso has one of the most extensive luggage label collections in the world, maintaining an extensive website showcasing his labels as well as writing about the history and evolution of the beautiful works of art, dating all the way back to hotel labels of the 1860s and 1870s. Mimoso notes the importance of these labels in awakening our curiosity of history. “The age of the hotel label is a thing of the past but, with time, these small rectangles and circles of colored paper came to represent an era. They irresistibly summon nostalgic feelings for times most of us never knew but, somehow, would like to have experienced.”

You can’t look at vintage travel posters and luggage labels without wondering how the graphic styles spread so quickly throughout the industry. In the early 20th century, graphics often didn’t have the chance to be protected under copyright, and there are many examples of imitated designs, produced by hotels and companies wanting to graphically represent themselves. Later airline and tourism companies jumped on board, producing marketing campaigns that were more like works of art, ranging in style from Art Nouveau to Mid-century modern.

Collectors still go after the big names in the industry, particularly well-known printing companies. Beginning around 1895, BRÜGGER of Meiringen produced hotel labels for almost 50 years. Using the stone lithography process, the result was brightly colored and intricately designed labels that made the hotel industry boom. Richter & Co. of Naples was another talented printing company, known for their designs that used the human figure, and landscapes with early morning or late afternoon skies.

Later on in the century, when travel became more accessible to the masses, the 50s and 60s brought on bright colors and mid-century modern designs of airline and tourism companies, tempting new travelers with the possibility of global exploration.

These posters and labels may be vintage, but their design is classic and they are just as inspiring today as they were decades ago!

Where are you inspired to go?


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  • Boris

    January 6, 2010

    Hi Tom,
    I can send you scan labels. Send me please your e.mail adress.
    Thanks Boris.

  • Tom Schifanella

    January 5, 2010

    Hi Boris, I would be inerested in your labels. How would I get in touch with you? Thanks, Tom

  • Boris

    December 2, 2009

    I´m some old original hotel luggage labels for sale. If you have interest, write me please.

  • Adam

    November 29, 2009

    Wow! These are some great posters – proof that design/creativity and travel go hand-in-hand!

  • hotels indonesia

    November 28, 2009

    nice share and website..thanks for the tips.

  • Clark

    November 27, 2009

    Posters like these do remind us of how much adventure and romance there was in travel before it became so common to jetset around the world on business.

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