The mid 19th Century saw the emergence of tourism and palace hotels. Tourism then was not for the masses, but reserved to a happy few. Starting in places like Switzerland, Italy and the French Riviera, the new establishments spread all over the world. They were massively popular in the colonies, offering an oasis of “civilisation” and comfort, far away from “the locals”. In Shanghai, the major hotels were the Astor House, the Palace Hotel (today Swatch Peace Hotel), The Yantgze hotel (Today Langham Yangtse hotel), the Park Hotel and the most famous, the Cathay Hotel (today Fairmont Peace Hotel). Some of them raised to the top and then disappeared like the Majestic Hotel and the Hotel des Colonies in the French Concession.
Advertising for hotels and holiday destination, not yet called “Tourism marketing” became very active. In order to attract people’s attention, hotels started to produce labels that were sticked on the traveler’s luggages. In those time, suitcases and luggages were carefully handled for those high level guests who could afford them, very different from today’s airport luggage handling. The tourists of the time would compare their destination and show off their tours of the world using the labels. Those were also often used in scrap books made during or after trips. Those are extract from my own collection. For more information about the history of hotel labels, please refer to the excellent article on the topic: http://www.historia.com.pt/labels/general/history1/history1.htm
In one of the most modern cities of the time, Shanghai hotels created their own luggage labels. They followed the style evolution, the earliest probably being the above Palace Hotel (1908) label, which style matches the early German and Swiss hotel labels.
The Cathay Hotels Ltd label featuring the Cathay Hotel (1929) and the Metropole hotel (1934) is probably the most famous, having being reproduced in several books. There is definitely an oriental theme to this label with the dragons and the lettering used. The Cathay was the most upmarket of both, which is still the case today. The below label is a more detailed version of the Cathay Hotel symbol that was used in the decoration all over the hotel. I guess it is an earlier version of the label, prior to the opening of the Metropole hotel.
With art deco coming to the city in the late 1920’s and 1930’s, hotel labels followed the fashion. This modern style called for simplified design and highly geometrical designs were introduced, like on luggage label for the Yangtze hotel (see post “Yangtze Hotel, Shanghai”). One of the rare but highly representative of the genre is left label from Park Hotel. The establishment itself was a symbol of Art Deco, designed by Hungarian architect Laszlo Hudec. The location is highly recognizable on the label, underlining the high of the hotel, the tallest building in Shanghai (and Asia) at the time. It also shows the main feature of the hotel, the panoramic view on Shanghai race course, making it the perfect place to attend (and bet on) the races, without mixing with the plebe.
Finally, no article on Shanghai luggage label would be complete without mentioning the work of Daniel C. Sweeney for the HongKong & Shanghai hotels. His style was very personal and highly evocative of the Orient and the hotel locations. His worked is still among the most famous for hotel labels in Asia.