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How Were Travelers Identified Before Photograhy

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Jan 8th, 2005, 03:51 AM
  #1
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How Were Travelers Identified Before Photograhy

My passport photograph shows me without a beard, but I have one now. I wasnt questioned about it, but the screeners looked very carefully at me.

I wondered what happened before photography. How did the ordinary person whos were travelling, even for vacations, identified? Did they have a person of authority describe the person giving birthmarks, etc.

I googled passport, photos, before photograpy, etc got no answer.

It sounds minor but I am curious.

Any legitmate answers, please.
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Jan 8th, 2005, 04:39 AM
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In Indiana we didn't get photo drivers' licenses until the mid 70's. When I got mine in '77 they had just been around a year or two.

Before that it was a piece of paper with an address and a description: eye & hair color, height & weight. Pretty darn generic actually. People could easily pass them around to be older for purchasing alcohol if they wanted.

Don't know about passports. My first one in '79 had a picture.
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Jan 8th, 2005, 04:42 AM
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ira
 
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This might help you, Unc.

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Jan 8th, 2005, 06:34 AM
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This is your second post of the day, ira, with this enigmatic light bulb, as if it signfies something. What gives?

My apologies if I am missing the obvious meaning.

Best wishes,

Rex
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Jan 8th, 2005, 06:50 AM
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Rex, I think Ira uses the lightbulb the way others use the rosebud, smiley face, beer mug, etc. I think he may have meant to provide a link to a website and didn't do it.
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Jan 8th, 2005, 07:08 AM
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Here's an interesting site:

http://www.ukpa.gov.uk/history.asp

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Jan 8th, 2005, 07:14 AM
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we've got two threads going on this, with responses, here is the other one

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34550664
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Jan 8th, 2005, 07:48 AM
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Hiya Gang:
I didnt realized I had posted this two times,I didnt like the original heading since it didnt mention travelers, so I thought I changed the title, not realizing there were two.

I didnt expect the humor but those who know me know that I loved it.

I was talking to my daughter and I said it's possible that people went to an authority and had a sketch made and then the traveler would complain about making their nose to big, or not got her smile quite right.
I repeat I was curious
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Jan 8th, 2005, 07:53 AM
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Sorry Gang:
I made a mistake and set up two postings, didnt mean to do it.
Lots of good and funny responses, but I havent found a legitmate answer
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Jan 8th, 2005, 07:53 AM
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Forget it, I just repeated the above message thinking I had put it on the other site...you know what I mean.
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Jan 8th, 2005, 08:09 AM
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Art is obviously suffering from jetlag.
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Jan 8th, 2005, 08:15 AM
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I don;t kow how long passports have had photos on them - but photoraphy has been around a lot longer than international vacation travel has been popular (1850's vs 1910's/20's) - so perhaps they just used photos - like we do.

(I'm sure when the British did the Grand Tour after Waterloo - it was just a written description.)
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Jan 8th, 2005, 08:20 AM
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I actually have an old British Passport dated 1814 - momentous times indeed in Europe.
It's a simple sheet of paper (somewhat between A4 and A3 in size beautifully printed in engravers/copperplate type with a couple of spaces left blank for the name of the bearer to be written in. The priont is still clear however the handwritten ink has almost entirely faded, though the name looks to be "Thos. William Spenser Esq." though it could be Theo.
There is certainly no mention of any distinguishing marks or ways to tell Thomas Spenser apart from any other bearer of the piece of paper.
I doubt whether US Homeland Security would be too impressed with it -biometrics, fingerprints, iris scans and barcodes don't feature at all.

Dr D
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Jan 8th, 2005, 11:58 AM
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Wow, Dr, that is very interesting. Maybe it was enough to just have a passport since the official is, in effect, saying the bearer of this passport is legitmate, etc.

An interesting find.
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Jan 9th, 2005, 06:24 AM
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In "Europe's Last Summer" by David Fromkin there is this quote on page 13:
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According to the historian A.J.P. Taylor, "until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state." You could live anywhere you liked and as you liked. You could go to practically anywhere in the world without anyone's permission. For the most part, you needed no passports, and many had none. The French geographer Andre Seigfried traveled all around the world with no identification other than his visiting card: not even a business card, but a personal one.
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A little further on the same page:

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One could easily feel safe in that world. Americans felt it as least as much if not more so than Europeans. The historian and diplomat George Kennan remembers that before the 1914 war Americans felt a sense of security "such as I suppose no people had ever had since the days of the Roman Empire." They felt little need for government. Until 1913, when an appropriate amendment to the Constitution was ratified, the Congress was deemed to lack even the power to enact taxes on income.
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