This lovely poster for Royal Mail Lines, Ltd is not advertising mail delivery or shipping services. Rather, it is promoting its cruises to a variety of destinations throughout the world, boasting that it offers “cruising at its best.”
Royal Mail Lines was formed in 1932 as the re-branded successor to the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, and this vintage poster is from the mid-1930s.
It’s interesting that the focal point of the poster is the Royal Mail Lines’ house flag, unfurled and flying in perfect weather. This impressive flag is a red saltire (an “X” shaped cross), with the Royal Crown superimposed on it. Royal Mail Lines was one of only a few British shipping companies permitted to have the Royal Crown on its house flag. This was obviously a source of pride and prestige for the company and explains why this poster is all about the flag rather than the ship.
We can only see the bow of the boat that is flying the flag but can tell it’s not a large steamship used for ocean voyages. Instead, it’s a longboat – a small boat that can be launched from a large ship to make a quick run delivering people or supplies to a pier. This lovely polished wood boat with its decorative trim brings to mind all of the elegance and individualized service that the best of cruising offered in the 1930s.
The scenery in the background is beautiful as well. The deep blue water has scattered white-caps, and the sky is cloudless - perfect cruising weather. The sun-kissed shoreline in the distance is hazy and exotic-looking; perhaps it’s Istanbul or some other beautiful destination waiting to be explored.
This unique poster was designed by Percy Padden (1885-1965), a British painter and graphic designer who designed many posters for Royal Mail Lines, Ltd. It does a masterful job of selling exclusivity, elegance and social status (bestowed by the Royal Crown) as part of the cruising experience.
If you enjoy cruises, you’ll love this vintage poster.