Earhart Luggage: A Surprising Discovery
Last February, Dick (my husband) and I came across this set of vintage luggage at the Vintage Tulsa show. We fell in love with the worn leather edging and the remains of an old Panama Lines decal on the exterior of the smaller case. It had clearly been used and used often.
After we brought it home, I lightly cleaned the surface and vacuumed out the interior of each. A few days ago, I decided it was time to clean the brass maker’s plaque on each case; it was tarnished and virtually unreadable. I was curious about the manufacturer. Imagine my surprise when I discovered we had purchased a set of vintage Amelia Earhart luggage.
I had seen the 2009 movie starring Hillary Swank, so I knew Amelia had endorsed a line of clothing and luggage which bore her name. In fact, she was the first to make her name a brand, and use it to fund her various endeavors. Amelia even appeared in a few of the earlier advertisements. The following photograph shows Amelia with several pieces from her luggage line. Although Amelia disappeared in 1939, her line of luggage was produced until the 1990s.
I also discovered this 1945 penny inside one of the interior pockets of of the larger case, and was happy that it had escaped the vacuum cleaner.
Since then I’ve done a little research on the web hoping to narrow down a manufacturing date. I’ve found several vintage magazine ads and compared the fonts used in them to the one on our case, and I believe our cases date from the period between 1930 – 1940. Unfortunately, luggage doesn’t have a serial number or something simliar, so it really is hard to narrow down an exact date.
By now my curiousity was on overload, so my next focus was the Panama Lines decal. The Panama Lines, I discovered, was comprised of three ultra modern cruise ships–the Panama, the Ancon, and the Cristobal, which, starting in 1939, offered weekly service between New York and the Canal Zone. However, during World War II, the cruise ships were put into duty, carrying combat troops to Europe, New Zealand and Australia, and served the US Navy until the end of the war in 1945. After the war, the ships returned to serving cruise passengers.
I can date the logo on our decal to 1940, when a 16-day cruise to Panama was $230 and up (cabin with a private bath and sea view). Please click here if you are interested in seeing an actual Panama Line’s brochure from May 1, 1940. It’s quite fun to read the copy and see the illustrations and photographs.
So, I was able to determine our set of vintage Amelia Earheart luggage took a cruise to Panama sometime before or after WWII. Unfortunately, I don’t have any clues as to who its original owner was, but after the research I’ve done, I believe they had an adventurous spirit and an amazing life. Why else would they have chosen this particular brand? I’ll bet this wonderful set of vintage luggage could tell some amazing stories.
I’m inspired by my vintage Amelia Earheart luggage. There are tons of things to see and do in this world, and I want to grow old with worn out luggage, too.
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