Collecting Travels and Voyages in the Modern Era
Travels & Voyages in the 20th Century
By Bruce McKinney
In the aftermath of World War II a glow descended upon America. The nation was victorious and all things seemed possible. The post-depression lethargy that gripped America in the 1930s and anxious discipline that characterized the country during the Second World War were now slipping into the past tense. With the coming of peace, for the first time in two decades, America was poised for renewed prosperity. For four years the government had employed a war-time command economy to create jobs and enforce savings by limiting production to necessary goods. With constraints now lifting fundamental shifts in the American social contract, a surge in college education, and a new era in consumption would soon send America and much of the world careening into an upward spiral of rising expectations and possibilities. Among the emissaries of change were new magazines introduced to satisfy what was becoming consumer demand. One of those new publications was Holiday whose life would precisely span the transformation of America from post-war  to post-innocence .
I write about this because a few years ago I purchased the extensive bound magazine holdings of a library in Michigan. Included was a uniformly bound complete run of Holiday. In time I found in it the world I knew growing up, the early post-war years followed by the serious 1950's and the increasingly relaxed sixties culminating with its final volumes in the early 1970s. If today we live in the moment we then lived in the era and there was time to see the changes, many of them reflected in print.
Clifton Fadiman, writing the introduction to "Ten Years of Holiday" in 1956 describes Holiday as "a magazine of civilized entertainment" and suggests that those first ten years saw the transformation of a world limited by wheels to one now taken to wing. It was much more than that but it wasn't yet clear that this twenty-five year run would span a cultural revolution, first of rising expectations for political and economic equality of every category of American, by race, religion and ethnic background and in time also lead into the revolution of social expectations we are living through today. We look back on the 1950's as a cultural backwater. In fact they were the breeding ground.
It would be easy to believe that retrospective consideration is leading me to see more in these magazines than is there. But to the contrary, I think that the more I look the more I see. The advertising is particularly interesting. Most of the advertisers have disappeared. The women are formal. The Evan Case Company bought a half page in color to advertise lighters and the person smoking is a woman. Kohinoor advertises "America's first rayon blend" that doesn't need to be dry cleaned. Various companies offer fishing gear in a national magazine, several railroads encourage personal travel. There are avertisements for car radios and batteries, cameras that look positively complex compared to today's. There's an article on "radar" as a way to make air travel safer and also a full page cut-away of the Lockheed Constellation. All this in its first four months of publication in 1946.
Twenty years later  the magazine is slick, the paper that is. There is some good advice but it's too late now to take it. Jackson Pollock and Jasper Johns are celebrated. Who knew the prices of their paintings would orbit the very world Holiday was encouraging its readers to explore. The travel orientation is still Europe with a bit of South Seas cruising. Even then, twenty-five years after Pearl Harbor, the world of Holiday is still only half a globe. Who knew the world's great travelers were growing up in Asia?
Collecting Travels and Voyages in the Modern Era
America: before we got slick
The advertisements begin to be familiar. Moore-McCormack Lines, now gone but once the epitome of luxury travel, offer trips to the Caribbean from New York, Norfolk and Baltimore. RCA and Zenith buy regular space to create the "concert hall in the home," an advance on the Victrola. Cadillac offers barges that were almost every man's dream. Pontiac offers the Grand Prix with 389 cubic inches of V-8 engine and [but not mentioned] 4 miles to the gallon. Who cared? Gas was twenty-five cents. There is an on-going increase in ads for alcohol. Pot was taking off and alcohol probably felt the need to compete publicly with its silent but increasingly popular alternative. The booze is noticeably hard. We were already drinking Catawba Pink and pronouncing it good. And we were also pronouncing Kraft's Macaroni and Cheese good so we were half right. We would shift to European Cabernet in another ten years and then discover we could grow our own grapes in California, Oregon, Washington, New York and Pennsylvania.
Both Volkswagen and Mercedes were offering European Delivery in the age before conflicting emissions standards would render this impossible. Citroen offered a similar arrangement although we now know not many of them made it to the American shores. Whoever tried them overseas probably left them there. Their look was decidedly '30s and we were now in the modern age. The few that did make it to America were stared at every day until years later when we realized they were rare, even collectible, at least over here. By that time we could not find any Edsalls either. Life was simpler then.
Just enough time has gone by for the content of Holliday to become both quaint and interesting and I have come to realize this is the bedrock anchor of a collection of travels and voyages in the modern era. If someone would like to own this run they should contact me. My groaning shelves are demanding respite and perhaps someone is ready to get serious about building that collection. If so, the price is $2,500. Shipping will be extra. The memories, that every page evokes, are on the house.
Each 11 x 13.75"
Roughly 8.5 feet
450 lbs plus packing
firstname.lastname@example.org or 415.823.6678