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Sail away: Liverpool shipping posters

Posted on Friday 28th February 2014
Picture of a Liverpool shipping poster from 1935 showing two women carrying baskets on their head with a ship in the background

Blue Star poster 1935 © National Museums Liverpool

How Liverpool shipping lines reached out to the world

A new exhibition at Merseyside Maritime Museum will show how Liverpool shipping companies promoted themselves to the world for more than a century.

Sail Away: Liverpool Shipping Posters opens on 16 May and contains 14 posters used between 1880 and 1997 to publicise transatlantic travel.

Early posters show matter-of-fact departure times from the Pier Head to Canada and America when ships were simply a means of getting from A to B.

The exhibition looks at different eras including a golden age of sea travel in the 1950s; a time when people boarded liners to relax and unwind as cruising became popular.

All the posters are from the Merseyside Maritime Museum collections and many are on display for the first time.

Ian Murphy, Deputy Director, Merseyside Maritime Museum: “This exhibition is a fascinating insight into the way shipping companies advertised their services and shows how Liverpool was a gateway to the world.

“It’s interesting to see the different roles shipping lines played over a period of 120 years. In the 1880s, posters simply stated destinations and times. Thirty years on shipping posters were giving different messages – about emigration, golden opportunities and a fresh start in the New World.

“The latter images in Sail Away: Liverpool Shipping Posters give visitors a glimpse into a golden age and the romance of ocean travel.”
The exhibition comes a time when Liverpool is enjoying its busiest year ever for cruise travel. This summer Liverpool will welcome 52 cruise ships, bringing 70,000 visitors to the city.

One of the more colourful and exotic posters in the exhibition is from 1935. Blue Star Line’s Arandora Star to South Africa, Java, Malaya, Ceylon and Egypt. The poster depicts the vessel berthed alongside palm trees swaying in a tropical paradise.

Another, advertises Ellerman’s City Line to India. A majestic liner portrayed with a backdrop of the Taj Mahal.

The exhibition will also explore the artistry and style of individual designers and illustrators like Kenneth Shoesmith, Dorothy Newsome and Odin Rosenvinge using original artworks from the collection. 

For more details about Shipping Posters: www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/sailaway| Twitter: #SailAway

About National Museums Liverpool

National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic.

We attract more than 2.7m million visitors every year. Our venues are the International Slavery Museum, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum,  Museum of Liverpool, Sudley House, Border Force National Museum, Walker Art Gallery and World Museum.    

Merseyside Maritime Museum is situated at the Albert Dock. It contains a variety of objects associated with the social and commercial history of the port of Liverpool. Highlights include ship models, maritime paintings, colourful posters from the golden age of liners and even some full sized vessels. There is also the major current exhibition Titanic and Liverpool: the untold story. This tells the story of Liverpool's links to the ill-fated liner.