In 1855 passports became a standardised document issued solely to British nationals. They were a simple single-sheet paper document, and by 1914 included a photograph of the holder.The British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 was passed on the outbreak of World War I. A new format was introduced in 1915: a single sheet folded into eight with a cardboard cover. It included a description of the holder as well as a photograph, and had to be renewed after two years. The Images above are of a 1930’s passport. A 32-page passport with a dark blue cover, commonly known as the old blue style, came into use in 1920 with the formation of the Passport Service following international agreement on a standard format for passports, and remained in use until late 1988. The passport included: number, holder’s name, “accompanied by his wife” and her maiden name, “and” (number) “children”, national status. For both bearer and wife: profession, place and date of birth, country of residence, height, eye and hair colour, special peculiarities, signature and photograph. Names, birth dates, and sexes of children, list of countries for which valid, issue place and date, expiry date, and a page for renewals at the back. They don’t look that dissimilar to the ones that we hold today.
The Making of the Passport
Having participated in our bookbinding workshop I was pretty confident about recreating a 1930’s passport. I took measurements from my grandparents old passports, as the dimensions hadn’t changed much. It was very difficult to get a clean finish on the leather from cutting out the information panels, on the front cover. I also had issues with the emblem and text on the front. I had never painted leather before, and found that acrylic paint was not suitable. Proper leather paint was needed and I had difficultly sourcing gold. I decided that I was going to have to stick the emblem on instead, which meant that I wasn’t able to emboss the leather either. I took the image of the emblem from the front cover of the 1930’s passport image (shown above). With a little bit of photoshop magic I was able to brighten, resize and crop the image and print it. It was then painted with gold paint and stuck to the front. The same process was used for the text.
Overall I was pleased with the final outcome, even though I hit a few hurdles. It was especially nice to create something with my hands.