Home for Christmas – Transatlantic journeys in the 1930s

Over the next few days millions of us will be making journeys across the country and beyond to make it home in time for Christmas. We’ll go by car, bus, train, plane and whatever other form of transport we’ll find ourselves on, hoping that nothing delays our travel or that we don’t sit next to someone blaring awful music from their phone.

Though many of our journeys may seem to take an age, as anyone braving overnight bus rides can testify to, thankfully very few of us will have to travel in excess of 24 hours to get back to family and friends. However this was far from the case in the 1930s.

An anchor line poster for going home to Scotland from 1935

An anchor line poster for going home to Scotland from 1935

Our Anchor Line collection contains wonderful posters advertising trips from Boston and New York to Derry, Belfast and Glasgow. For the travelers then, it was a case of getting on board a steamship departing in early-to-mid December with the arrival time set ambiguously as ‘in ample time’ for the festive season.

Though both posters advertise the same sailing, they follow a distinct national theme for the Scottish and Irish migrant populations. The poster aimed at the Scottish population features a piper in Highland dress and a nod to the Scots language saying you can spend ‘Christmas and Hogmanay with your ain folk’. Whereas the poster aimed at Irish travellers depicts the Irish coastline and rolling hills in a distinctive emerald green silhouette.

A poster advertising Christmas travel to Ireland from the United States by Anchor line in 1935

A poster advertising Christmas travel to Ireland from the United States by Anchor line in 1935

A brochure for the Scottish Christmas journey in 1936 also employs Scots and a sense of homecoming to advertise their sailings. The brochure makes sure to mention that they will be sailing with ‘a friendly group of Scottish travellers’ on a ship ‘built by Scotsmen and manned by Scotsmen’ strongly appealing to national nostalgia to sell the tickets.

Brochure for a 1936 sailing to Scotland

ScotlandForChristmasUGD_255-1-23-139a Brochure for a 1936 sailing to Scotland

The ticket prices were far from cheap too, a third class single would have set you back $82 and a ‘tourist class’ return $273, about $1400 and $4600 in today’s money respectively! That said even the third class accommodation looks relatively comfortable aboard the recently refurbished SS Cameronia (II) shown in this brochure.

So when we are travelling home this Christmas we can be thankful that it won’t be as long or as expensive as it was for the 1930s Irish and Scots in the United States.



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