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Vintage Travel Posters Reveal the Golden Age of Travel

At the turn of the 20th century, breakthroughs in transportation—by sea, air, and land—allowed people at last to discover the joy of traveling for its own sake. What that inspired was a Golden Age of Travel that lasted until the outbreak of World War II—and that lives on in vintage travel posters.

The Grand Circle Gallery collection recalls that romantic age, when steamships chugged across seas and along the Scandinavian coast … travelers rode camels across Egyptian sands to behold ancient wonders … and people began traveling great distances to witness the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal firsthand. “Autocars”—precursors to today’s motorcoach—carried the curious to the chateaux of the Loire. And the elite ventured to posh resorts to mingle, play, and bathe in healing waters.

Now you, too, can experience the Golden Age of Travel through the Grand Circle Gallery collection.

The History of the Travel Poster

It is remarkable to think that the full-color posters we take for granted today were unheard of until just over 100 years ago. It was at that time that Jules Cheret, the “father of the poster,” devised the “three stone process” that made the mass production of large color lithographs possible.

Cheret’s breakthrough allowed artists to achieve every color in the rainbow by etching designs into as few as three stones—usually red, yellow, and blue—each of which could be inked with one color and run through the press. Although the process was difficult, the result was a remarkable intensity of color and texture impossible in other media even to this day. Because each poster varies slightly in color and registration, each is considered an original if it is from the first print run.

Not surprisingly, travel posters are among the most popular areas of poster collecting. After all, more than any other type of poster, they speak to our spirit of wonder, beauty, and adventure.

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