In the mid-1850s, ocean liners began attaching labels to passenger luggage to indicate the passenger’s cabin class and travel destination, making it easier for porters to sort luggage upon arrival. Hotels quickly followed suit, particularly Grand hotels in exotic cities that provided great comfort, elegance and luxury for their guests. The hotel label not only facilitated baggage handling, it became a status symbol. Functional labels quickly evolved into beautiful, sophisticated graphic design.
A single collection of over three thousand international travel labels, selected for their graphic appeal and quality, from grand hotels, luxury steamship lines and romantic train routes such as the Orient Express, will be featured at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, September 8-10, 2017 at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint. Exhibitor Sheryl Jaeger of Eclectibles is showcasing labels from the private collection of Jane Goodrich, world traveler and co-founder of Spectrum Publishing.
Ms. Goodrich’s collection of 3,550 labels, dating from the 1920s to World War II include colorful labels from such wonderful old hotels as the Luna House in Venice, the Grand Continental Hotel in Cairo, the Mayfair Hotel in London, and many more. Lovers of Agatha Christie’s famous novel, Murder on the Orient Express, will find a label from this iconic line, which epitomized the ultimate in luxury train travel.
The 1920s marked the Golden Age of luggage labels due to a huge economic boom just prior to the Wall Street Crash of 1929. It was the age of the steamer trunk and travel was associated with comfort, luxury and adventure. Many of the artists who designed these distinctive and beautiful labels belonged to the Art Deco period. Italian painter and decorator Mario Borgoni, for example, designed labels for the Swiss printing firm of Richter and Co. during this period. His use of elegant lettering and red/orange shading became a trademark of the Richter Co.
Labels helped not only to promote hotels and steamship lines, but attracted tourists to great cities such as Cairo and the pyramids, St. Moritz in the Winter snow, Luxor amid the ruins, and the hotel Le Meurice in the City of Light, Paris. It could be said that travel labels became advertisements for the location more than the hotels themselves. For example, a Hotel Viking label depicts a colorful streetscape with a crossing guard stopping traffic for a family of ducks. The title is “Wonderful Copenhagen.”
Image: International luggage labels, such as this one from the Cathay Hotels in Shanghai, circa 1920s, makes one dream of faraway lands with their iconic sites and luxurious grand hotels. A single collection of over 3,000 luggage labels will be made available by exhibitor Sheryl Jaeger, at the upcoming Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, which returns to the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, Sept. 8-10, 2017.