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Free to Use and Reuse: Travel Posters

Faraway states, natural wonders and beautiful beaches—these are the settings that often come to mind as we start to plan our summer vacations. They also form the backdrop of hundreds of travel posters in the Library’s collections, including an assortment featured this month on the Library’s home page. The featured posters are U.S. government works, in the public domain or cleared for public use by copyright owners—meaning you can use them as you wish.

Frank Hazell’s poster of West Point as seen from the window of a train car.

Travel posters are now sometimes sold at auction for tens of thousands of dollars, but they began as ads for a burgeoning industry. Following advances in color lithography, railways began producing art-oriented posters in the late 1800s to sell seats. Steamship lines, resorts, hotels and later airlines adopted the medium as well, some employing well-known graphic artists to tempt travelers with scenes of glamour, beauty, adventure and leisure. Travel posters enjoyed the height of their popularity from the 1920s through the 1950s.

Frank Hazell (1883–1958) was a landscape artist who also worked in advertising in New York City. He painted travel posters and brochures and taught advertising art at the Grand Central School of Art. His commissions included a 1920s painting of the United States Military Academy at West Point as seen from the window of a New York Central Lines car traveling alongside the Hudson River in the autumn. The image is part of the Library’s online Artist Poster Collection. Hazell also did poster art for steamship companies and other institutions.

Katherine Milhous (1894–1977), an artist, illustrator and writer, supervised the Philadelphia Federal Art Project, a branch of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), from 1935 to 1940. Her duties included creating posters promoting Pennsylvania into which she incorporated familiar Pennsylvania Dutch designs. Several Milhous posters are included in the Library’s online collection of WPA posters. Milhous won a Caldecott Medal in 1951 for “The Egg Tree,” a children’s book she wrote and illustrated about the Pennsylvania Dutch Easter.

One of Katherine Milhous’s Pennsylvania travel posters.

This month’s featured posters are just a small sample of the Library’s digital collections that are freely available for your use. The digital collections comprise millions of items, including books, newspapers, manuscripts, prints and photos, maps, musical scores, recordings and more. Whenever possible, each collection item has its own rights statement. Please remember that rights assessment is your responsibility. For more information, see the Library’s guidance about copyright and Library collections.

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