Carry-on: Luggage Labels

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Photo by Holly Gramazio.

After I wiped the sleep out of my eyes and drool from my mouth, all of the plane’s passengers stood and unceremoniously – elbows akimbo – made our way into the aisle. Next came the race to see who could open the overheard compartment quickly enough, pull down luggage and then run-walk quickly as possible to the front of the plane in order to be the first to disembark. This rather annoying travel ritual was made fascinating to me as the man sitting beside me through duration of the 10-hour flight wordlessly retrieved my bag before his own, and his small, beaten-up, leather valise was covered in some of the most vibrant, gorgeous vintage luggage stickers I had ever seen.

Properly called luggage labels, these colorful journey reminders from the golden age were the front-runners of postcards or hotel shampoos. The wealthy, who were able to travel to faraway and exotic locales like Brazil, Italy, Belgium, and France decorated their handsome and expensive steamer trunks with the sticky souvenirs that emblazoned to the world the status they had and the oh, the places they’d gone!

The Roaring Twenties marked a huge travel boom and from then, roughly until the 1950s, luggage labels were a raging travel accessory. The labels were equal parts icon and advertising, and often wrapped up with beautiful artistic renderings of hotels, porters, landscapes, museums, and monuments.

The highly collectible souvenirs can help serve as reminder to us all in this digital age of life and travel that sometimes the old ways are still the best.

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