Unlocking the Past: Old Passports and Their Stories

Old Passports and Their Stories
When Travel Was Adventure

In the early 20th century, passports were still a relatively new concept. They were often handwritten documents, not the standardized booklets we know today. This story revolves around a daring adventurer named Aloha Wanderwell, who played a fascinating role in the history of passports. Old Passports and Their Stories

Aloha Wanderwell Old Passports and Their Stories

born Idris Galcia Hall in 1906, was a Canadian-American explorer and filmmaker. In 1922, at the age of 16, she embarked on an incredible journey with her mentor and sponsor, Walter Wanderwell, to circumnavigate the world by car. This was a remarkable and audacious undertaking during a time when long-distance travel was challenging and dangerous.

As Aloha and Walter journeyed through various countries, their makeshift passports became a symbol of their remarkable adventures. These early passports weren’t always issued by governments; instead, they were often a collection of visas, stamps, and endorsements from the places they visited. It was like a travel diary in passport form.

Their travels took them through remote and exotic locations, and they filmed their experiences along the way, creating a series of travelogue films. They became international celebrities and garnered a lot of attention.

Amazing visas Old Passports and Their Stories

One of the most incredible aspects of Aloha’s passport story is that she managed to obtain visas and stamps from places most people had never even heard of, let alone visited. This included places like Afghanistan, Tibet, and the Soviet Union, which were notoriously difficult for foreigners to enter. She even claimed to have met figures like Vladimir Lenin and the Dalai Lama during her travels.

Aloha’s passport

was a testament to her adventurous spirit and determination. Her story serves as a reminder of how passports have evolved over the years, from handwritten documents to the standardized, machine-readable booklets we use today. It also showcases the power of travel to connect people and cultures, even in a time when the world was far less interconnected than it is today. Aloha Wanderwell’s passport history is a testament to the enduring human desire to explore and experience the world.

Old Passports and Their Stories
Polish passport, 1930s of Aloha Wanderwell


Further reading…
Wanderwell Expedition
Mary Kingsley


incl. FREE guideline!

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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