Journeys of Notable Princeton Explorers

Journeys Notable Princeton Explorers
The Princeton University library has about 400 passports in its collection, an astonishing high number. Here are a few favorites in the manuscripts division.

Richard Halliburton, a member of the Princeton Class of 1921, harbored aspirations of securing a legacy as the most extensively traveled individual in history. His endeavors captivated a global audience, positioning him as a distinguished voyager, author, and orator. Emblematic of his wanderlust, a passport issued in June 1934, spanning the period of 1934–35, chronicles his sojourns across 11 countries, spanning from France to Russia, Ethiopia to Egypt, and Turkey, even encompassing a voyage aboard the Polish-Palestinian Line. Journeys Notable Princeton Explorers

Moe Berg, a distinguished Princeton alumnus from the Class of ’23, not only excelled as a star athlete during his time at the university but also embarked on a remarkable journey spanning fifteen years as a professional baseball player in the major leagues. Beyond his athletic prowess, Berg possessed an extraordinary linguistic aptitude, fluent in half a dozen languages.

His contributions extended far beyond the realm of sports, particularly during World War II, where he lent his talents to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA. Post-war, Berg continued his service, engaging in at least one mission with the CIA.

His passport from February 1952 shows his travels through places like London, Switzerland, and the Rhine-Main military air base in Germany. Journeys Notable Princeton Explorers

Sylvia Beach was born in Princeton and moved to Paris to start Shakespeare and Company, a famous English-language bookshop. It became a vibrant hub, drawing in prominent authors of the Lost Generation during the 1920s and 1930s. Among the treasures within the extensive Sylvia Beach Papers is her passport from April 1929, a document that attests to her global ventures. From her Parisian base, she embarked on recurrent sojourns to the Isle of Jersey and Saint-Malo, a picturesque coastal retreat nestled in Brittany, in the northwest of France. Journeys Notable Princeton Explorers

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Princeton University is a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1746 in Elizabeth as the College of New Jersey, Princeton is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. 

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...