Internet & Electronic Resources
Reference, Collections, Services
Community Libraries
For Children
Servicios En Espanol
Public Technology Center
Programs and Exhibits
About the Library
Greater Newark Community
Nostalgic & Unforgettable Travel Posters from the 20th Century
100 Tantalizing Visual Lures to Foreign Lands in a Nearly Lost Art Form

curated by William J. Dane
Summer 1999

An exhibition entitled "Nostalgic and Unforgettable Travel Posters from the 20th Century" is currently on display in the galleries of the Newark Public Library at 5 Washington Street in downtown Newark through Labor Day in September. The colorful and beautifully designed posters include one hundred tantalizing visual lures to encourage people to travel to foreign lands. This was an art form which combined lettering, notable calligraphy, original art work and overall design concepts by leading commercial artists of past decades when travel posters were of prime importance to owners of ocean liners, European hotels and restaurants, and various national historic buildings and sites.
Les Bains in St. Moritz, Switzerland, 1958.
Color lithograph inviting visitors to Bruges, Belgium, "the City of Art."
Palace of Cnossos in Crete, Greece. 1949.
Most of the library's historic posters are from European nations, but this show also includes selections from Africa, Australia and Asia. European countries such as France, Italy, Switzerland, Great Britain and Spain after the end of the Franco regime regularly expended huge sums of money to advertise travel.

Posters from AIR FRANCE advertising travel to Germany and the luxury Caravelle aircraft, 1959.

Commercial artists with international status for excellence were commissioned to design highly appealing posters to attract millions of visitors from near and far-away lands to visit and to spend money which totaled millions of dollars annually. Travel was and is a thriving industry throughout the world. The work of several top designers is exhibited including E. McKnight Kauffer from England, Cassandre from France and artists from the group known as the Vienna Secessionists.

Two examples of E. McKnight Kauffer's work.

In addition to posters there are groupings of related items such as postcard albums, some of which have simulated leather covers. Many of these illustrate views of major German cities before 1914. Other groupings feature Jerusalem and pressed flowers from the Holy Land, views of Bermuda at the turn of the century, and evocative illustrations of Coney Island in 1905. Most unusual is a 52 page booklet published in 1912 with color illustrations entitled "Cuba and the Cuba Railroads" with detailed timetables for every city and village on the island.

Advertisements from travel magazines of the 20s and 30s are on view with one announcement describing a cruise around the world with first class accommodations for about 830 dollars. Times have changed. The magazine Asia from the 1930s was celebrated for its stunning colors with travel to the Far East as its primary topic. A grouping of these artist designed covers is part of the exhibit as is a score of somewhat rare and essential reference books on the art of poster design. Historic posters of all types are highly collectible in the 1990s. A selection of sales and auction catalogs for posters is shown and they confirm the fact that well designed posters are treasured by individuals and institutions from an international marketplace.

A poster from Intourist, the official travel agency of the former Soviet Union.
Polish Travel Office, sponsored by ORBIS, 1958.

All the materials in this large show are owned by The Newark Public Library with the most unique items selected from Special Collections and curated by William J. Dane, Keeper of the Posters, Prints and Printed Ephemera.

Mr. Dane writes as follows about the appeal of travel posters from bygone decades and the reasons for this particular Library project.

"Once upon a time, not too long ago, journeys to foreign lands were adventures eagerly anticipated by travelers who regularly set aside the substantial funds needed to travel to Paris, Rome, Peking, Cairo, Mexico city, Rio or Lima. Even though costs for traveling on ocean liners and staying in hotels in foreign countries seem low by today's standards, everything was relative as salaries were also much, much lower and extended travel absolutely required financial planing for most voyagers.

For most people, there was a certain romantic and magical aura about starting out a journey of thousands of miles. When the legendary, sleek liners pulled out of the international travel docks in Manhattan's harbor, there were mixed emotions: sadness at leaving friends and family on shore, a sense of fear and doubt aroused by heading into the dark unknown territory, but an overarching joyous state of mind mingled with delight at taking the first step on a magical tour of personal discovery and possible high adventure crammed full of unforgettable new images and friendly fellow travelers.

The great era of travel by sea and land stretched from 1890 to 1940 and posters of special distinction were a major part of the allure and mystique of journey to foreign lands across the globe. Today, drastic changes in environment and customs take place in just a few hours of travel by jet. These do not require days and weeks as in earlier decades. International airports and the interiors of major hotels look somewhat the same as if cloned in a design laboratory seeking uniformity as the top priority with the result that millions of new travelers are added every year. Alas they are missing the anticipation and delight of adventurous travel as implied and illustrated in notable travel posters from just a few years past before jets and plastic charge cards brought a similarity and uniformity to journeys. Enjoy the art of travel posters in the Library's galleries which recapture some of the delight of journeys across the globe not too long ago."

The "Travel Poster" exhibition may be viewed without charge during regular summer hours at the Main Library building. These hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 9 a.m to 5:30 p.m.; Wednesday 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For additional information or added details, please call 973-733-7745.

Poster Stamps were popular collectibles from international exhibitions.


Internet & Electronic Resources | Catalog | Collections & Services | Community Libraries | For Children | Servicios en Español | Public Technology Center | Programs and Exhibits | News | About the Library | Greater Newark Community

©1999 The Newark Public Library
5 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07101