Our curatorial intern Anna came across some fun travel posters. And she wrote an article about her discoveries. 

Fancy a Cruise?

With travel reopening again, how fun would it be to go on a cruise to Nanaimo? Or to experience a dance cruise? These posters make ocean leisure travel look appealing. They also tell us a story about B.C. history.

While their exact age is unknown, they’re likely from the 1950s. But they look so modern they could be advertising a trip you could take next week. The crisp and colourful images are similar to those used in current graphic designs.

Ad for 10 daily sailings to Vancouver Island

These posters were part of an effort to change the public perception of Canada. After the completion of the railway line to B.C., the Canadian Pacific Company (CP) needed people travel on the rail system. The company had also heavily invested in hotels in the west. To attract settlers and tourists, CP needed to transform Canada’s image. At the time Canada was thought of as a rough, cold and unwelcoming country. CPR printed out hundreds of thousands of leaflets, brochures and posters in several languages to reach as many people as possible. The company produced so much that organizations and online sellers are still discovering undocumented material.

Ferry on an ad for Vancouver Island cruises.

The power of the CP’s advertisements was so great that the company created and perpetuated a certain image of Canada. To this day we associate icons that the company created – such as beavers and nature – with Canada. CP was a major force in shaping Canada’s reputation as an international destination.

Boat on the water in cruise ad.

How the Posters Were Made

These posters are handmade silk-screen posters. With silk screening, ink is pushed through a mesh screen onto a surface. A blocking stencil covers areas of the paper so that many colors can be printed by using several screens. A squeegee is then moved across the screen to fill the openings in the mesh with ink. The finished image is so vibrant it looks like a digital print.  Silk-screen printing is still used today.  When used for fine art reproduction, the process is called serigraphy and the mesh is made from a different material.