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High Flyers

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Between 1934 and 1947 the Big Four group of railway companies (Great Western, Southern, London & North-Eastern and London Midland & Scottish) worked alongside Imperial Airways to operate Railway Air Services. This airline operated domestic air services across the United Kingdom. One of our archive collections, the Forsythe Collection of Transport & Travel Ephemera, contains publicity material that comes from not only the railways but also all forms of transport such as airlines from the late 1950s to the 2000s.

Caption: Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/A/4, ALS2/113/B/3, ALS2/113/A/6

Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/A/4, ALS2/113/B/3, ALS2/113/A/6

It was whilst working through the Forsythe Collection that myself and another volunteer came across some guides about air travel for prospective travellers from several airlines which caught our interest. The most fascinating of these sought to provide a “detailed guide to happy, well planned air travel for women.” This booklet, which was written in the late 1970s, speaks to a new generation of independent female travellers. Written in a breezy, conversational style it focuses on women’s interests and concerns.

Caption: Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/B/3

Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/B/3

The booklet offered several pages of tips for those struggling to decide what to put in their suitcases, cautioning the readers: “With arrangements made for your overseas jaunt, stop dreaming and do a spot of clear-headed thinking on what to wear. A little time spent on it will pay dividends later.” The booklet includes sample wardrobes for city breaks and beach holidays:

Caption: Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/B/3

Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/B/3

It suggested that “Denim’s fine only if your holiday is to be very very casual.” As well as advising that travellers take “1 fold-up umbrella, because yes! It even rains in Paradise, sometimes!”

Caption: Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/B/

Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/B/

The booklet gives useful tips for “beauty in-flight and at your destination” that advised to “avoid using hair lacquer. When you pass through the tropics it tends to become sticky, and not only makes your hairset become limp, but irretrievable.”

Caption: Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/B/3

Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/B/3

As well including practical guides to shopping and local cuisine in different countries, there is also a helpful table that details the cost of having a haircut across the world:

Caption: Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/B/3

Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/B/3

As we all set on our holidays both near and far away, this leaflet provides a great reminder of a time when air travel was imbued with an aura of glamour and airlines lured travellers with the promise of a chic and exotic holiday once they had touched down at their destination. How do your experiences of flying compare to the sophisticated image of air travel that is depicted in booklets such as this?

The Forsythe collection (ref: 2009-7053) is available to view in Search Engine.

Written by Tania Parker

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