My golf clubs and I are leaving for Scotland in a couple of days, so I’ve started piling up stuff. I used a big paperclip to attach my passport to my itinerary, to make me less likely to forget it, and while I was digging around for some other things I found an old passport of my grandfather’s:
It was issued the summer of 1927, when he was thirty-nine and my grandmother was thirty-one. Wives in those days didn’t need their own passports, because under what conceivable circumstances would a married woman travel abroad by herself? My grandmother didn’t even need to sign the photograph. (Women, by that point, had been allowed to vote in just two U.S. presidential elections. Travel-wise, they were still luggage.)
Visas were minor works of art in the 1920s, and they included real signatures by real officials. Here’s the British one:
And the Italian one:
International travel was far less common—U.S. passports were valid for just two years and could be limited to less—and going abroad involved extraordinary quantities of luggage. I remember playing with my grandparents’ old steamer trunks, almost forty years later, in my grandmother’s attic. The trunks were the size of small rooms, and they had drawers and doors and shelves and clothes rods, and travelers didn’t necessarily limit themselves to one.
I, in contrast, am going to try to get by with my golf bag, a carry-on bag, and my laptop. I’m not even going to pack a tuxedo. More on all that later.