Around the World with the Library of Congress Poster Collection: An Overview of Travel Posters
Prints and Photographs
A successful poster grabs your attention and gets its message across quickly. Great travel posters attract the eye in a variety of ways: by highlighting points of interest, depicting the conveyance used to reach a location, or by featuring activities available at the destination.
The thousands of travel posters in the Prints and Photographs Division support the study of tourism and transportation as well as advertising and graphic design techniques. Viewing the posters also offers the pleasure of vicarious trips around the world. Most of the posters date from the golden age of the travel poster, which began in the 1920’s and was over by the 1960’s when photographic imagery began to be used more than graphically designed images. Railroad companies, airlines, and government tourist agencies commissioned the production of many of the posters, which came to the Library of Congress by a variety of means, including gift, purchase, and transfer from other institutions.
This reference aid highlights some gems and explains how to find more travel posters. Links to larger versions of the posters are provided whenever possible, but because of rights considerations, some of the posters can only be shown in "thumbnail" size outside Library of Congress buildings. Larger digital images of the posters can be viewed inside Library of Congress buildings, and researchers who visit the Prints and Photographs Reading Room can request to see originals. For information on viewing originals and obtaining copies, see our Information for Researchers page.
Samples from the Collections
Travel by Land
Traveling the London Underground
Much has been written about the posters created for the London Underground--landmarks in more ways than one. The Prints and Photographs Division has an impressive number of these posters.
Travel by Sea
Travel by Air
Travel posters routinely illustrate a specific destination--a tourist hot spot not to be missed. The accuracy of the imagery is often remarkable.
Chicago's beautiful churches by the elevated lines... Poster by O.R. Hanson, published 1923.
Visit India; the Taj Mahal. Poster by W.S. Bagdatopulos, published ca. 1930.
Rome, par le train de luxe "Rome Express". Poster by Roger Broders, published 1923.
Ravenna, Italia. Poster by Osvaldo Ballerio, published between 1920 and 1930.
Visit Prague. Poster by Milena Fňouková, published between 1930 and 1940.
Sightseeing in Manchuria and the Great Wall. Poster by Seibin Higuchi, published 1937.
Pennsylvania Railroad - Washington, the city beautiful. Poster by Grif Teller, published ca. 1940.
Leningrad. Poster by N. Zhukov, published between 1950 and 1959.
Stockholm. Poster by Iwar Donnér, published 1936.
Posters also get their message across in light-hearted ways. They don’t take themselves too seriously but still manage to do their job and sell their locations.
KLM Royal Dutch Airline. Poster by Paul Erkelens, published 1947.
Mexico. Poster by Espert, published 1945.
Rio - Braniff International Airways, published between 1950 and 1959.
Air like wine... Poster by William A. Sennett, published between 1930 and 1940.
Chicago, Braniff International Airways. Poster, published between 1950 and 1959.
Montreux - Oberland Bahn. Poster by Herbert Leupin, published between 1940 and 1960.
To Finland with me. Poster by Heikki Ahtiala, published 1950.
Wonderful Copenhagen. Poster, by Viggo Vagnby, published 1961.
Phillip Island Take a Kodak. Poster by J. Miller Marshall, published between 1930 and 1939?
When posters cater to the seasonal traveler, common themes include the winter sports potential of their sponsors as well as summer destinations.
Maplike images often appear on travel posters. Most of these posters illustrate the routes travelled by particular transit companies.
Nach Südamerika in 3 tagen! Poster by Ottmar Anton, published 1937.
La route des Alpes Services... Poster by Roger Broders, published 1920 and 1929.
Travel by Trans-Australian Railway.... Poster by Northfield, published ca, 1930.
Casablanca Porte du Maroc. Poster by Xima, published between 1930 and 1940?
Iraqi State Railways... Poster, published between 1930 and 1940?.
The Philippines... Poster by Walther-Boland Associates, 1953.
Travel to Ireland the easy way... Poster, published between 1950 and 1960.
China, the overland route... Poster, published 1950.
Chemins de fer de l'état, la Seine de Rouen au Havre. Poster by Constant Duval, between 1930 and 1940.
Work Projects Administration
The Prints & Photographs Division has more than 900 WPA posters that deal with a variety of subjects [view an overview]. Various WPA poster divisions produced posters to stimulate travel in the United States.
Finding More Travel Posters in Prints and Photographs Division Collections
Searching for the phrase travel posters [view search results] is the primary means of finding this type of image. The search results include posters that have been digitized and those that have been described but not digitized, where a visit may be needed to view the materials. Information on viewing materials in the reading room is available in our Information for Researchers page.
Additional travel posters may also be found by using card indexes in the reading room, searching by the "promotional goal" category for "transportation & travel," category "E."
Anthony, Scott, and Oliver Green. British Aviation Posters: Art, Design and Flight. Farnham: Lund Humphries, 2012. Call number: Not in LC
Bownes, David, Oliver Green, and Jonathan Black. London Transport Posters: A Century of Art and Design. Aldershot: Lund Humphries, 2008. Call number: NC1849.R34 L66 2008
Cadringher, Gabriele, and Anne Massey. Schiffsplakate, 1873-1962. München: Hirmer, 2009. Call number:NC1878.S4 C33 2009
Choko, Marc H., and David L. Jones. Posters of the Canadian Pacific. Richmond Hill, Ont: Firefly Books, 2004. Call number: NC1849.T68 C49 2004
Cohen, Ronald D., and Stephen G. McShane. Moonlight in Duneland: The Illustrated Story of the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998. Call number: HE2791.C6849 M66 1998 fol.
Cole, Beverley, and Richard Durack. Railway Posters: 1923-1947: From the Collection of the National Railway Museum, York, England. New York: Rizzoli, 1992.Call number: NC1849.R34 C65 1992
Edelstein, T. J. Art for All: British Posters for Transport. New Haven: Yale Center for British Art in association with Yale University Press, 2010. Call number: NC1849.T7 A78 2010
Green, Oliver. Art for the London Underground: London Transport Posters 1908 to the Present. New York: Rizzoli, 1990. Call number: NC1807.G7 A77 1990 [P&P - Posters]
Ottaviani, Lorenzo. Travel Italia: the Golden Age of Italian Travel Posters: Posters from the Collection Alessandro Bellenda, Alassio, Italy. New York: Abrams, 2007. Call number: NC1849.T68 O88 2007
Szurovy, Geza. The Art of the Airways. St. Paul: MBI Pub. Co., 2002. Call number: NC1849.A35 S98 2002
Thomas, W. Donald. Airline Artistry: Vintage Posters & Publicity. Dunedin, Fla: W.D. Thomas, 1992. Call number: NC1849.A35 T56 1992
Travel Poster Collections Featured on the Web
Boston Public Library
http://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/sets/72157618058787787/ (via Flickr)
Approximately 350 travel posters from the Boston Public Library’s Print Department, most dating from the 1920’s to the 1940’s.
British Airways Poster Gallery
A selection of posters from the British Airways Heritage Centre, from the 1920’s to the present day.
Follow the Sun: Australian Travel Posters 1930s – 1950s (National Library of Australia exhibition)
A small selection from the National Library of Australia.
The National Air and Space Museum Poster Collection, Smithsonian Institution
Approximately 1,300 posters focused primarily on advertising for aviation related products and activities, most dating from the late 19th century to the 1990’s.
National Railway Museum (U.K.)
More than 10,000 posters advertising railways and the places they served.
London Transport Museum
More than 5,000 posters and 1,000 original poster artworks used for London Underground publicity.
Compiled by: Jan Grenci, Reference Specialist, March 2014.