Lilian Gish – Silent Movie Star Passport

Lilian Gish Passport
eBay can still be a place to find outstanding collectibles. Recently, the US passport of silent movie superstar Lillian Gish from 1935 was auctioned and fetched a surprisingly moderate result of only $760. I had this travel document on my watchlist, like 21 other interested parties. I already discussed with a fellow collector that it might go up to $2000 – but nope. Surprise, surprise…

The passport collectors market has been, for years, on the decline. Due to Covid and the current economic instability? I am not sure. Young people don’t collect old stuff anymore. But I am sure this passport would end up much higher some years ago. I never saw a passport of hers offered before. Who knows? We might see this document again at some big auction house. Anyway, congrats to the buyer. I can imagine the seller might be less happy with this result. Lilian Gish Passport

Hailed as the first Lady of American cinema, Lillian Gish became a pioneering figure in the silent film era thanks to an enduring partnership with director D.W. Griffith which spawned “The Birth of a Nation” (1915), “Intolerance” (1916) and “Way Down East” (1920). Born in Springfield, OH, in 1893, Lillian Gish began performing on stage alongside her mother, Mary, and sister Dorothy in her pre-teens. Also, she appeared alongside the latter in her screen debut, the short film “An Unseen Enemy” (1912). Gish went on to work with its director. D.W. Griffith, in countless silent movies throughout the rest of the decade, including his first full-length feature “Judith of Bethulia” (1914), the seminal but hugely controversial Civil War epic “The Birth of a Nation” (1915), and popular melodrama “Way Down East” (1920).

Gish passed away from heart failure in 1993 at the age of 99.

The Passport Lilian Gish Passport

Her US passport was issued in 1935 in the name of Lillian Diana Gish, born in Springfield, Ohio, on Oct 14, 1899. She traveled extensively with this passport. Hungary, Greece, Austria, France, United Kingdom, Turkey, Malta, Egypt, Switzerland, Italy, and even Nazi Germany. Her travel document was renewed in 1937 and was then valid until 1939.

A fantastic passport and personal item of the first superstar in the film industry.


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FAQ Passport History pasaporte passeport паспорт 护照 パスポート جواز سفر पासपोर्ट

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...

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