Compacts during the Travel Boom

International travel became the trend as cars and ships became more popular. Designs include scenery at the travel destination; some being used as commemorative items for boarding a ship, with a suitcase as the motif. The Expo also attracted much attention, as characterized by exotic oriental designs.

Red Suitcase


This fun suitcase compact owes its design to the explosion in international travel in the 1930s, and the status attached to suitcases plastered with stickers from around the world. The stickers on this compact are from popular American tourist destinations of the day – Miami, Hawaii and Bermuda – together with a Great White Fleet sticker that pays homage to the US Navy fleet that circumnavigated the globe. A Statler Hotels map decorates the back, suggesting that this compact was made to advertise the hotel.

Blue Suitcase


One of many suitcase compacts celebrating the travel boom. The leather straps and corner guards of the suitcases of that time are rendered faithfully in brass. This compact features stickers of popular tourist destinations – Havana, Rome, and Bermuda – on the front, with Miami and Luray, Virginia, on the back, together with a Great White Fleet sticker. The compact, which springs open when the suitcase handle is depressed, still contains loose powder and pink blush.

Black Suitcase


Decorated with the names of major European cities, such as Paris, Salzburg, Rome, Budapest, London, Monte Carlo and Praha, this stylish compact was perhaps designed to appeal to an aspiring high society globetrotting lady. The suitcase design is also stylish. It was sold in the gift shop of the famous ocean liner, the Queen Mary.

Leather Suitcase


A compact that faithfully replicates a little suitcase right down to use of real leather. International travel boomed in this era, and suitcases plastered with stickers from around the world were seen as status symbols. Compacts that mimicked such suitcases were very popular, but leather-coated compacts like this are rare. This one is decorated with Mexico, Paris and Havana – the latter a famous tourist destination up until around 1960. Women no doubt cast their thoughts to far distant lands every time they used such compacts.

Green Suitcase


This suitcase compact differs from most others made at the time in sporting the triangular pennants of top American universities. The pennants of Fordham, Tulane, NYU and Vassar decorate the front of this compact, and California, Penn State and Harvard are on the back. They were all elite universities. It is likely that such compacts were designed to celebrate noted teams participating in intercollegiate sports, and were sold in university book and gift shops.


1920sUKChrome alloy,Butterfly feather

This compact, made to be sold as a souvenir of the RMS Scythia, is in our collection of compacts featuring British ocean liners built in the 1920s. It has been skillfully designed using celluloid and morpho butterfly wings to give the impression of a ship floating at sea. The powder sifter inside is of an unusual design in which the metal frame is depressed to use it.


1920sUKBrass,Butterfly feather

One in our ships collection, this compact was made as a gift to commemorate the Anchor Line ocean liner S.S.Britannia. Real morpho butterfly wings, iridescent in different shades of blue and turquoise depending on the angle of the light, were used for the background sea. This use of butterfly wings was quite common in Britain and Brazil. This is a rare item made in the 1920s when world cruises on ocean liners were extremely popular.


1932UKBrass,Butterfly feather

A compact that commemorates an ocean liner. Created as a cruise ship, the T.S.S.Strathnaver served in the Second World War as a troop ship, before returning to its original role after the war. “Strath” is Gaelic for “river valley,” so Strathnaver refers to the valley of the River Naver in Scotland. It is also the name of an ancient province. Because the wings of a morpho butterfly have been used to embody the sky and sea, this compact shimmers with different shades of blue and turquoise depending on the angle of the light. This particular compact is the best preserved of its type in our collection, and showed particularly dazzling polarization.



A compact that takes as its motif the RMS Queen Elizabeth, an ocean liner named after Elizabeth, the wife of Britain's King George VI. Featured in a James Bond film, and well-known even in Japan, the ship, made by Cunard, went into service in 1940. It was the largest ship ever built, a record that remained unbroken for 48 years. Used as a troop carrier in WWII, it went on to serve for many years as a transatlantic liner before being retired to Hong Kong to be converted into the floating Seawise University, but a fire destroyed it during the conversion works in 1972, and it sank in Hong Kong Harbor. These compacts were very popular as cruise souvenirs.



A compact that commemorates the RMS Media, a British ocean liner. It is distinctive for the use of a silkscreen print as the animation. The RMS in front of the ship's name stands for “Royal Mail Ship,” indicating that the ship was also an official mail carrier, which was regarded as a great honor. The memories of the ship that carried so many important communications, cargo and passengers live on to this day in the form of this compact.



A compact that uses an ocean liner, the Accra, as its motif, one of many such ship compacts in our collection. The picture of the ship, looking very much like a frame from an animation film, is sandwiched between brass and plastic using a technique that Stratton, the maker, is famous for. The transparent film is an ideal medium to give the appearance of a ship floating on water for this compact.


Late 1920sBrazilChrome alloy,Butterfly feather

This compact exemplifies the beautiful nature and scenery of Rio with genuine feathers of a butterfly and silhouettes. The ocean and sky look like they are shining from the light reflected from the polarized feathers. The creativity of using polarized feathers on the ocean, which turns from blue to green, and the sky, which turns from blue to purple, is just exquisite. Inside the compact, rather dark pressed powder can be found, leading us to imagine that the owner was a tanned lady. A unique compact, made in an era when people started to appreciate the beauty of nature, generating a boom in international travel.

Painted Malachite


A compact that grabs the eye immediately with its vibrant contrast of green and gold. The green lid looks like malachite, but is in fact a painted enamel imitation that speaks eloquently of the skills of craftsmen in Europe where such stone was in short supply. The surrounding goldtone openwork is decorated with rose-cut rhinestones of the crown that add to the appeal of this elegantly shaped compact.



A Persian-style compact from Volupte Inc. that depicts a colorful 18th century hunting scene, complete with hunting dogs. The details of the pattern are thrown into relief by the application of white enamel to the pitted brass surface, with cerulean blue, red and other enamels being used to show off the hunters and animals. The design appears to have been influenced by Persian miniatures influenced in turn by Byzantine culture.

Persian Rug


A Persian-style compact from Volupte Inc. that catches the eye with its vivid colors and detailed artwork reminiscent of a Persian rug. Its design clearly shows the influence of early Persian Byzantine miniatures. The same design was used on the lids for a number of years, but inside, changes were made over time. We have two compacts with the same lids, but differing in their internal specifications.

Byzantine Rug


A Persian-style compact from Volupte Inc. that is notable for the wonderful patterns that also coat the sides and back. The design features elephants, peacocks and a variety of other birds. This design proved to be very popular, and was used for a number of years. We have two compacts with the same lids, but differing in the design of their powder compartments. This compact features a round compartment not fitted with a powder door.

Garden of Eden


One of many Persian-style compacts from Volupte Inc. This one takes the Garden of Eden from the Old Testament's Book of Genesis as a motif, with Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge in the center surrounded by a wonderful array of large and small animals. This compact serves as an exquisite reminder that appreciation of the beauty of women started with Eve taking a bite of the forbidden fruit of the Tree, an event that led in time to the birth of cosmetics and compacts like this.

Persian Big Compact


One of many Persian-style compacts made by Volupte Inc. This is the largest of its kind, measuring 96-mm square. Its design shows the influence of early Persian miniatures, which were influenced in turn by Byzantine culture, an art form that became very fashionable as a design element in Europe at that time. Common to all compacts in this series is the detailed artwork and wonderful patterns that also decorate the sides and back.

Flower Garden


This compact was made by the Mary Dunhill Company that was famous for its floral perfumes. The delightful design depicts a vividly colored flower garden against a backcloth that shows oriental design influences. Dunhill made a matching lipstick case, which we also have in our collection. Even today, women like matching accessories, and this compact was no doubt pitched at the time as one of a pair of items.

Flower Garden Lipstick


This lipstick case still holds a gorgeous coral red lipstick. A matching compact was probably influenced by the perfumes also produced by its maker. At the time, as with powder compacts, lipstick cases were sold separately from the substance.

Green Flower


A dainty compact for delicate female hands. The metal mirror inside conceals a blush. This type of compact appears frequently in magazines of the time, suggesting they were popular among women of this era.

Wafer Thin

1938USABrass,Yellow artificial gem

As its name suggests, this was a remarkably thin compact, but it catches the eye also with its detailed openwork on powder-colored enamel, and a blue gemstone in its center that sparkles brightly despite being artificial.

Pure Flower


A pure white square compact studded with gold flowers decorated in their centers with rhinestones. A matching lipstick case still contains red lipstick from the era in which it was made. This piece is special as it comes with a case to hold both powder compact and lipstick, making it a forerunner to multi-functional carryall compacts.


1935〜1936USAChrome alloy,Jade

An oriental design embellished with jade in the center. The black background emphasizes the jade. This is a multi-purpose compact, with rouge and powder fitted into the underside of the lid, leaving enough space inside for cigarettes as well.