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White Star Line Related Suitcase
Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) name in shipping the White Star Line (WSL) conjures up images of travel at its most opulent and tragedy at its most dire. The full name of the company was Oceanic Steam Navigation Company or White Star Line of Boston Packets, but was more commonly simply known simply as 'The White Star Line'. Founded here in the UK in 1845, WSL operated a fleet of clipper ships that sailed between Britain and Australia. The White Star Line was bought by Thomas Ismay in 1868. and his son Bruce took over as company director in 1899 after the death of his father. White Star was one of the first shipping lines to offer third Class accommodation, in addition to First and Second Class.
Rather than compete with the smaller and faster liners belonging to its main rival Cunard, White Star concentrated more on comfort and reliability, rather than just speed. This was demonstrated by the innovative Olympic-class liners, Olympic, Britannic and the ill-fated Titanic, all built by the Belfast shipyard of Harland & Wolff. In 1934, White Star merged with its chief rival, Cunard Line and was operated as Cunard-White Star Line until 1950. Subsequently the Cunard Line operated as a separate entity, but since 2005 has become part of part of Carnival Group.
Our modest suitcase is little more than a large hat box and certainly fits the description of 'shabby chic' and judging from the wear shown it is much travelled. Despite this it is however lifted by a number of original and rather special shipping labels. To the handle is attached a fine White Star Line Cabin Class example for the Liverpool Service and further indicating a 'State Room' has been reserved in 'Cabin Class' and the luggage is 'Wanted on the Voyage'. The reverse side has sections for the passengers and steamers name, the room number and the port where the luggage is to be landed as well as the foreign address. If this was ever completed the details have now faded. This label was printed in the USA by Dennison. Beside it is a further WSL sticky label, again printed in the USA, which we believe to date from around 1910 and again confirming the case is wanted on the voyage. This one is named to 'Williams' and the room number appears to be 6B.Sadly the other details we can no longer decipher. This label is pasted over another but we have no clues to its origins.
On the case end is further adhesive 'White Star line Wanted on Voyage' label and again we believe dating to the early 20th century, and pasted over an earlier one below. This has been typed and is named to a 'Derek Williams'. His cabin number on this occasion was 52 and the voyage was booked to Liverpool and his overseas address is shown as 8, John Street, London, W.C.2. Our research indicates its centrepiece was the Royal Terrace, but was subsequently demolished and John Street and Duke Street now form present day John Adam street. In addition to the initials embossed to the top of the case 'A.M.' we have a final label on the handle indicating the case and perhaps its contents was put into store at Bentalls Furniture Depository at Kingston-on Thames on 3rd October 1938. The name on the label is 'Badcock' so a further mystery! Bentalls Department Store and Depository opened in 1932 but the site has now been redeveloped and is the location of 'The Bentalls Centre'.
So you will see despite its shabby appearance this small case is of historical interest, dating back it seems to the early 20th century and clearly has a long and interesting story to tell. It appears appears to be made from a leatherette material which shows significant wear and some staining. The brass lock is still working but the key is missing. The interior is lined with green baize and shows age related wear. Elastic luggage retaining straps are still in place. It measures 17" x 14" x 11" (43 cm x 36 cm x 28 cm). The interest in this item is of course in its shipping labels. It may be possible with further research to establish which WSL ocean liners it sailed on but we will leave that to the next custodian. In the mean time it is nice to find a totally original example that has been put away and untouched for close on the last 80 years - as we say in the trade a genuine 'sleeper'! As with all items on offer feel free to ask for further detailed pictures of the case and its labels.