May 4, 2020

History of the U.S. Passport


It’s a document millions of U.S. travelers carry with them on every international trip. But have you ever looked closely at this ubiquitous little blue booklet? Every page of the U.S. passport has been carefully designed, and the document itself has a rich history that traces the development of international travel and who has—or has not—had access to it. Here’s how the U.S. passport has evolved since its inception.

The first U.S. passports arrive  

When passports were first issued in the U.S. in the late 1700s, they looked almost nothing like the official booklets we carry today, and they were only given to a select few citizens. “The most famous early U.S. passports were issued by Benjamin Franklin when he was U.S. representative in France in the late 1780s,” says Craig Robertson, author of The Passport in America. These early versions were more like reference letters than a mode of identification. “They were letters of introduction that verify the character of the person bearing them.”

Only U.S. officials or prominent citizens—practically all of whom were men—had access to passports during this time period, and while they were indeed called passports, they weren’t considered a form of identification. They didn’t even have photos or list physical traits. “There was no perceived need to try to link the document to the person,” Robertson says. “Because again the assumption is these are fine standing gentlemen—and they were all gentlemen [during this era]—moving within particular social or political circles. Their word is accepted as true and honest.”


By the late 1800s, U.S. passports were becoming more mainstream, but they were still considered more of a travel perk for the holder than a requirement to cross borders. Few people were traveling abroad, and when they did, such documents were not required to cross another country’s border, unless the nation was engaged in war.

“People who are getting them, they might be taking them to present in European cities when they register at a hotel, but often they’re using them to get into private museums,” Robertson says. “If you’re abroad for a while, and you’re staying in Paris for say, three months, [passports were] being used to collect mail from post offices. Generally speaking, it wasn’t a travel document.”

It was in the wake of the First World War that passports became the official government documents we know today. “Suddenly what happens is European countries want to know who’s crossing their borders,” Robertson says. And the U.S. follows suit, requiring passports with a photo in late 1914.

“In the beginning, there were no rules on what a passport photo should look like,” writesTom Topol, a vintage passport collector and blogger. “So, you can find the most exciting photos from this time.” Some examples he’s found of colorful early passport photos include portraits of people sitting on a horse, posing with their dog, or playing the guitar.

The application fee for a passport was $1, but in 1920 that charge was hiked to $10, a change that most people saw as “outrageous,” according to Robertson. Visa fees around the world were also raised in kind around the world to $10. “This made European travel expensive—particularly for those people of lesser means,” Robertson explains. A century later, and applying for a passport still isn’t cheap—$110 for a new booklet, plus an extra $35 execution fee—restricting who is able to access the document once again.

In 1926, as travel abroad on steamer ships became easier and more popular for those who could afford it, passport photos became more regulated, and the modern booklet with pages for stamps was introduced by the U.S. government. That standard passport format was established by the League of Nations at a conference in 1920, when the majority of the world’s countries agreed to require passports and set uniform guidelines for the document.

The battle against gender bias

Although passports had become mainstream by the ‘20s, different sects of society still had difficulties obtaining their own. Married women, for example, were largely seen as a footnote on their husbands’ passports, where they were simply listed as “and wife,”—often no name was even given. “The assumption here is that no woman would travel alone; that no woman would travel unchaperoned,” Robertson says of that era. Single women were legally able to request their own passports, although few did in that time period. A married woman could request an individual passport and be issued one using her married name (i.e. “Mrs. John Doe”), but using her maiden name was not allowed. Women of the era—some of whom had just fought for and won the right to vote—bristled under this requirement.

“The passport becomes another vehicle to try and push for a recognition that a woman is a woman and even a married woman is not just her husband’s appendage,” Robertson says. “And so a way to do that is to say, ‘Not only do we want passports issued to women individually, but also if a woman uses her birth name or maiden name in everyday life, then she should be allowed to use that on her passport.’”

Gender, Robertson notes, was not listed on passports until 1977, for example. “Why in 1977? The U.S. is prodded into it by the body that governs international aviation,” he says. “The concern is that fashion has created androgyny, so that it’s hard to differentiate between men and women because men now have long hair.”

In fact, the gender binary is the most recent social idea surrounding identity to be confronted on the U.S. passport. Since 2010, transgender citizens have been able to apply for a passport reflecting the current by submitting a physician’s certification that they have had clinical treatment for gender reassignment.

Congress introduced a bill in February that would recognize a third, unspecified gender option on U.S passports that would be marked with an “X” instead of an “M” or “F”—an option that is already recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations’ air regulation arm.

Security tightens – The modern U.S. passport has stayed more or less the same since the 1930s, but one significant change in recent years: a 2007 redesign to the interior pages depicting American landscapes, historic images, and quotes from prominent citizens.  This was done to make it harder to copy or forge the passport

The future of the passport –  There are still innovations happening to the passport today. The most notable? Biometrics.  In recent years, many nations have started to link facial recognition, digital fingerprints, and retina scans to the document via microchip or machine-readable identification page.

Source- Jessica Puckett May 1,2020

April 5, 2019

Wine depicted in ‘Last Supper’ paintings

There is a very Florentine phenomenon of Last Supper paintings in the refectories of convents and monasteries; these images functioned to remind religious diners of the sacrament of the Eucharist, when Christ declares that the bread is his body and the wine is his blood. What wine was served at that table and was it any good?


last supper

Before modern water treatment was introduced, wine was a necessary beverage; people added wine to water to make it potable and water made vinegary wine taste a little better. In Roman and Etruscan times, herbs and spices were added: Pliny the Elder indicates that his first-century contemporaries were fond of adding myrrh, cedar and frankincense to wine. Dr. Patrick McGovern, an expert on ancient wines, cites pepper, wormwood, capers and saffron: “The idea was not just to cover up the signs of a deteriorating wine but to keep the wines for a longer time and produce new, exciting tastes for jaded palates,” McGovern told wine magazine Decanter.

What wine was Jesus drinking? That ancient Passover Seder of eggs, bitter herbs and roast meat was probably paired with a red. Should you wish to emulate it, the closest modern wine would be Amarone, but for a really authentic experience, make mulled wine with the afore-mentioned ingredients.

The food and wine depicted in Florentine convent art does not represent ancient menus but rather contemporary fifteenth- and sixteenth-century dining, so we should turn to this period to discover what was served at these painted meals, and why.

At wine tasting events in modern Italy, you’ll see people sniffing, swirling and swishing, considering scents and flavours, and rating aspects like balance and complexity. Dr. Allen Grieco, a food historian, explains to The Florentine that pre-modern wine tasting was based on very different factors.


“Taste, color and provenance were relevant, but most of all, taste was an indicator of humoural composition; the four qualities—hot, cold, dry and wet—constituted the backbone of scientific thought. Ideally, one sought a balance of humours. Food and wine helped create that, taking also into consideration the four elements, seasons, times of the day and the ages of life.”


This theory dictated an almost medical prescription of appropriate wines; the “pre-modern sommelier” was most often a doctor whose vinous arsenal could stave off plague, ease the chills of old age or calm lust in the young.


Grieco uses medieval and Renaissance medical treatises in his forthcoming book Food, Social Politics and the Order of Nature in Renaissance Italy (Villa I Tatti, Summer 2019) to provide examples of the suitability of wines for specific people. We learn that sweet and powerful wines like Malvasia should be consumed in very small quantities or on special occasions like weddings: too much would cause dangerous overheating of the body and lead to physical and moral consequences. Thus, you would not serve it to categories of people who were “hot,” like lusty young men, but an acidic or weak white wine could temper such problems.


Dietary prescriptions balanced food and drink, so the pairing of salad with red wine—unthinkable today—served to compensate for the coldness of lettuce. This perseveres in the Italian habit of eating peaches in red wine, recorded in the proverb “Pesche, peri e pomi vogliono vini buoni.”                  SALUTI !

March 8, 2019

Festa della Donna ~ International Women’s Day ~ March 8th

Journeys Viaggio

Today is International Women’s Day…a Global Day to celebrate all female achievements–past, present, and future.
Courageous women began it in the early 1900s, holding demonstrations for the right to vote and for equal pay and working conditions.

International Women’s Day, originally called International Working Women’s Day, is celebrated on March 8 every year. It commemorates the movement for women’s rights. The earliest Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York and organized by the Socialist Party of America. On March 8, 1917, in the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd, a demonstration of women for bread and peace began…the beginning of the Russian Revolution. The Union of Italian Women officially declared March 8 Women’s Day in 1945. The United Nations began celebrating in International Women’s Day in the International Women’s Year, 1975. In 1977, the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8…

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December 28, 2018

New Year’s Eve in Venice or Rome

venice-newyearseve VENICE –  A coveted destination for New Year’s Eve, and there is much to do, starting the evening at the typical bacari, small taverns that offer plates of snacks and wine to serve as appetizer. Unless you’ve managed to get an invite for a party in one of Venice’s sumptuous palaces, you could opt for dinner on a boat, while navigating the lagoon until you reach the vicinity of Piazza San Marco, where you can enjoy the classic midnight fireworks display that is one of the highlights of the evening, when people gather for the ‘Bacio di Mezzanotte’, a collective kiss in the most romantic city in the world, a tradition that started 10 years ago.


ROME – The Eternal City celebrates the arrival of the new year for 24 hours, from 9 pm on the 31st to 9 pm on the 1st. It’s called ‘La Festa di Roma’ and involves the following areas: Piazza dell’Emporio, Giardino degli Aranci, Circo Massimo, Via Petroselli, Lungotevere Aventino, Lungotevere dei Pierleoni and Isola Tiberina. At Circo Massimo, there will be several music performances beginning at 9 pm; at midnight there will be a fireworks display, followed by more music, until 3 am. At 7 am on the 1st, Giardino degli Aranci will host a guitar performance by orchestra 100 Chitarre. At 2 pm, there will be a major street party in the area between Piazza dell’Emporio, Giardino degli Aranci, Circo Massimo Lungotevere Aventino, Lungotevere dei Pierleoni e Isola Tiberina, headlined by Rome Parade, which will see 450 U.S. artists, including marching bands, jazz bands, choirs, dancers and cheerleaders, perform along the streets.

October 25, 2018

12 Ways to order Coffee in an Italian Cafe

March 28, 2018

Buona Pasqua

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