Somewhere in the middle of the 19th century ocean liners began the practice of attaching labels to their passengers’ suitcases. These usually indicated the class of cabin of the passenger, making luggage sorting simpler. They also, sometimes, contained the destination of the ship to help with dockside sorting.
In the late 1870s hotels started placing labels on their guests’ suitcases and trunks. Often the labels were sent to the guest in advance to help porters sort luggage at the train or boat side. The motive was primarily self-advertising, and the labels evolved in design sophistication as their effectiveness became obvious. Because there were so many hotels in the world there were endless thousands of different labels produced
Railroads shortly followed, but here string tags were often preferred, and the same effort was not spent on the design of their labels as on those of hotels, ships or even airlines, which were a later development. The first airline labels probably date from the 1920s. Despite their late arrival, airlines, even very small ones, made many attractive labels and are a rich field for collectors.
Golden Age of Transport