US Passport 1915 – Curtiss Aeroplane Company

Passport Curtiss Aeroplane Company
Marietta Ford Russell, the wife of Frank Henry Russell, an early aviator and vice president of the Curtiss Aeroplane Company, owned this fascinating pair of documents. He came to the UK during World War 1 to sell planes to the UK and France, which were at war with Germany and Austria. He was joined on his journey by Marietta. Passport Curtiss Aeroplane Company
Passport Curtiss Aeroplane Company
Marietta’s US passport was granted on 23 Aug 1915 to travel to the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, and Italy with her husband. The endorsements show them arriving in Liverpool by ship on September 6, 1915. On September 28, 1915, they registered their presence in the United Kingdom with the local police superintendent in Battle (Sussex). They must now receive various permits to fly because, remember, they are in a war-torn country and will be going to another war-torn country. They are issued a visa on the 30th of September, 1915, in London, to cross the Army Zone in France by rail, with the restriction of stopping en route. They embark at Southampton for Le Havre (the short sea route via Dover-Calais is reserved for army movements) and are seen ‘for Paris’ on disembarkation by the French passport control officer. Passport Curtiss Aeroplane Company
Passport Curtiss Aeroplane Company
They receive their visa from the British Consul in Paris on October 2, 1915, allowing them to return to the United Kingdom and stay at the Metropole Hotel in London. Various departments of the British government were using the hotel as offices at the time. On the 4th of October 1915, they arrived in Le Havre by train from Paris and applied to the British Consul to extend their visas to travel to the United Kingdom and return to the United States. A French passport officer then embarks them on the same day. They arrive in Southampton the next day, on the 5th of October 1915, and sail to Liverpool, where they boarded their ship to return to the United States on the 7th of October 1915. Passport Curtiss Aeroplane Company
Passport Curtiss Aeroplane Company
Marietta’s French Annexe du Passeport, penned on 30 September 1915, authorizing her to fly to France via Le Havre and confirming their arrival in Southampton on 1 October 1915. This paper, which comes with the passport, is provided by the French authorities in London and allows you to cross France without going through the war zone. Passport Curtiss Aeroplane Company
Putting these documents into historical context shows the bureaucracy involved in granting neutral citizens permission to travel in a war zone. It’s important to remember the danger Marietta and her husband were facing: they were sailing to and from the United States just four months after the RMS Lusitania, which was sailing on the same route at the time, was torpedoed, killing nearly 1200 passengers and crew. Passport Curtiss Aeroplane Company

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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.

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