The Evolution of Travel Ads

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A new book from Taschen,

, looks back at travel advertisements of the 20th century. If you’re heading somewhere this somewhere (but more especially if you’re not), it’s a handy and fun way to mainline some nostalgia and wanderlust. Think of it as a window into another world — when Amtrak and even Greyhound were classy, airplanes had lounges, and Conrad Hilton wanted to build a hotel on the moon.

One of the most charming things about these ads is their contagious optimism (if you can overlook that in them the whole world is apparently middle class and white). At the start of the 20th century, it took a serious amount of resources to travel but by mid-century new modes of transportation like railroads and cruise ships were whisking Americans all over the globe. Somebody had to get the public excited about going places, and as 20th Century Travel shows, Madison Avenue stepped up big time.

Arranged decade by decade, these ads chart the evolution of the romance of travel, which even the crustiest backpacker has tucked away away somewhere. All images copyright Taschen, from 20th Century Travel: 100 Years of Globe-Trotting Ads, 2010.