The Classicist: The Golden Age of Globe-Trotting
In these days of full-body scans, machine gun-toting security forces and endless departure delays it can be difficult to recall a time when travel was more enjoyable than onerous. Unless you happen to own a private jet or yacht, however alluring your destination the business of actually getting there these days can seem like more trouble than it's worth at times. A beautiful new book from Taschen reminds us that wasn't always the case. A compendium of 100 years of travel advertisements, 20th Century Travel is a lush visual history of the golden age of globe-trotting, a look back at the era of sexy air hostesses, smoking lounges on planes and bars on private club cars. With a decade-by-decade analysis and an illustrated timeline, the book highlights the cultural and technological developments that "transformed travel from a cushioned journey of the elite into a convenient leisure pastime for the general public".
Advertising is of course one of the best ways of looking at the transformation of travel, in particular the ways in which companies attempted to make it alluring to all strata of society. "At the start of the 20th century, only people with extensive disposable income and time to spare could enjoy leisure travel," the authors note. "By the century's end, journeys took hours, not days, and mass travel - especially brief air flights - became the new normal. Along the way, ocean liners broke speed records, aerodynamic trains roared down the tracks, stylish boat-plane clippers evolved into jumbo jets. Whether aboard high-speed locomotives or ships, jets, or Greyhound buses - or when setting their own schedule on the open road - Americans demanded ever greater mobility and wider choice of destinations, thereby setting a new standard for travelers around the world."
Gallery: 20th Century Travel
The 400-plus advertisements in the book, ranging from Cunard steamships to the first American Express traveler's checks and luxurious Pan Am planes, illustrate the evolution of leisure travel - from domestic to global, exclusive to popular, exotic to standardized - and its crucial role in American culture. All are from the collection of cultural anthropologist and graphic design historian Jim Heimann, Executive Editor for Taschen America, and author of numerous books on architecture, pop culture, and the history of the West Coast, Los Angeles, and Hollywood. His unrivaled private collection of ephemera has been featured in museum exhibitions around the world and dozens of books. Check out the gallery for some selections from the book.