Luggage Labels

The following gives some feeling of what travel between the World Wars was like for the well-heeled traveler taking a ship to foreign shores.

“Tags and labels for baggage may be procured from the steamship company at the time the ticket is issued. These bear a large initial, according to the passenger’s last name, and space in which to write you full name and the number of your stateroom, name of the steamship and sailing date. Some are marked “For the hold,” and others, “Wanted.” Paste one of the former on each end of every piece of luggage not wanted in the stateroom, and tie a tag marked “Wanted” on each piece of baggage that may be needed during the voyage. Baggage for the hold of the ship should be sent so as to reach the dock at least a day before sailing. It will be found there when you arrive, and when claimed, the baggage master of the line will see that it is placed on board. Stateroom baggage-–steamer trunk, suit case, roll of rugs, etc.–-should accompany the passenger to the dock the day of sailing, and stewards will immediately take charge of it and place it in the stateroom as marked on the tags.”

-Edward Hungerford, from Planning Your Trip Abroad (1922)

Three steamship labels

Three steamship labels

In this golden age of travel, luggage was more sophisticated, varied and prodigal. Elegant leather and brassbound trunks, with many drawers and compartments, were the foundation of a traveler’s baggage repertoire. People carried with them many changes of clothing, and a full range of costume from sportswear to formal attire, as well as matching footwear and accessories. Often a dozen trunks were taken on a journey, in addition to smaller bags such as vanity cases with personal powder, soap, perfume and grooming implements. In this era labor was inexpensive and trains and ships expected and were able to provide almost limited space for luggage, so well-to-do travels felt no constraints on the number, bulk or weight of baggage.

Keeping track of all the baggage was a challenge met by tags and labels. As one’s itinerary progressed, more labels were added to the luggage; a record on one’s taste (and solvency) in selecting accommodations.

A luggage label is a considerable design challenge. It offers only a small area for words that must be clearly read from a distance. Early labels dealt with this through simplicity––a single color and large letters¬¬––but as time went on it became apparent to hotels and transport companies that something further was available, namely, self-promotion. This called for an evocation of the hotel or ship line’s character, which could be accomplished through the correct choice of colors, the right picture, a proper style of lettering and the overall impact of the design. The more luxurious the hotel and the more its appeal depended on conveying a special ambience, the greater the importance of the label and its design.

Some Wonderful Luggage labels