A very special United States passport

A very special United States passport

Sheldon Whitehouse was a career Foreign Service Officer who served as the United States Minister to Guatemala (1929-1933) and Colombia (1933-1935). (1933-1934). He traveled to the US Legation in Greece and Montenegro before these assignments using this Special Passport. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan autographed the passport. It was published on June 30, 1914, just as the European war was about to break out.

For senior government officials going on official business, special passports were issued. They were in use during most of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century. In 1918, the Department of State issued a “passeport diplomatique” to officials traveling on diplomatic business. Diplomatic Passports were awarded to serving diplomats and previous ambassadors beginning in 1926.special passport

 

Photographs were not needed on U.S. passports until December 1914, and if this passport had been issued before that date, they would have been added afterward. On the top left front side, a description of the bearer’s physical attributes is also affixed, including the form of his forehead and chin and the color of his eyes and hair. From 1914 to 1918, Whitehouse used this passport. Additional pages were affixed to the right and bottom sides to suit his frequent visits, and it is branded on both sides.

Ambassador Whitehouse was a member of the Foreign Service from 1908 to 1935. American embassies in London, Caracas, Paris (twice), Madrid, Athens and Montenegro, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Washington, DC (Chief of the Near Eastern Division), Guatemala, and Colombia were among his assignments. special passport

He witnessed crucial post-World War I attempts to keep Europe at peace. In 1919, while serving as Counselor of the United States Legation in Sweden, Whitehouse was a member of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace in Paris. He sponsored early conversations that led to the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928 as Counselor of the Embassy and Charge d’Affaires in Paris in 1927.

The Whitehouse family has a long legacy of public service. Sheldon Whitehouse’s son Charles, a career FSO, served as U.S. Ambassador to Laos (1973-1975) and Thailand (1975-1978). His son-in-law Robert Orris Blake, a career FSO, served as U.S. Ambassador to Mali (1970-1973). His grandson Robert Blake Jr., a career FSO, served as U.S. Ambassador to the Maldives and Sri Lanka (2006-2009), Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs (2009-2013), and U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia (2013-2016). His grandson Sheldon Whitehouse currently serves as a U.S. Senator for Rhode Island. special passport

FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...