AT THE CAPTAIN’S TABLE—THE GOOD LIFE AS GLIMPSED BY VINTAGE CRUISE SHIP MENUS

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One of the most ephemeral instances of original vintage graphic poster art comes to us in the form of menus for the cruise ship pleasures of fine food and companionship in the days when “going on a cruise” was a rare distinction. Pictured here is the cover pertaining to an event—on the Canadian National (Pacific Coast) Steamships liner, “S.S. Prince George”—on Saturday, September 4, 1948. The Prince George is shown with its lights fetchingly twinkling on a B.C. inlet with totem poles and Northern Lights blazing and providing the long-ago travellers with memories to last a lifetime. Ephemera with a powerful difference, when given a chance to touch us.

 

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On the back of this little nugget of niceties, we have this modernist promotion for CN’s Jasper National Park facilities (the idea being stopping over there on the return trip to the East). Having nothing to do with today’s extreme fitness, this post-War idyll delights in aspects of mobility and recording undreamed of a few years before.

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The magic ship once again, seen in a close-up, for the menu of September 2, 1948. Much is made here, of the contrast between rugged (otherwise inaccessible) territory and delicate attentions to creature comforts.

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Long-ago attention to service and excellence—the musical play-list to accompany the meal.

 

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For the menu of the Canadian Pacific Cruise Ship, S.S. Princess Kathleen, in July, 1950 (“Farewell Dinner”), we have a more deluxe litho essaying the same visual territory as that of the competitor shown in the visuals above. Here CP gives us an overall theme—“Land of the Aurora”—and a bit of reverie from poet, Robert Service: “There’s a land where the mountains are nameless/ And the rivers all run God knows where…” (Our little find even includes the party hat for the event that was clearly as important a milestone as New Year’s Eve!

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And the piece de resistance, an autograph page in hopes of life-long amity!)

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Let’s travel farther into this hidden gold mine. Here an evocation of fantasy for a cruise to exotic Bermuda in 1959.

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A dinner to remember!

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On Friday, April 16, 1937, a splendid meal was anticipated by way of this menu graced by the great British graphic designer, Charles Pears. Here we have for that illustrious ship, the Queen Mary, a rendition of another of Cunard’s star-ships, the “Mauritania,” carrying us off to ports around the globe. Truly un embarras de choix!

 

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To carry off our farewell to this fabulous subject, we have another Queen Mary menu, from Friday , June 18, 1937, evoking wide open spaces that grace shipping routes—perhaps in hopes of conjuring away the heartbreak of War just around the corner.

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