Cunard’s RMS Lusitania magic lantern slides

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There’s nothing new about marketing. The Victorians understood the power of advertisements and promotions. You only have to look at photographs of streets in any city to see ads on buildings, horse buses and trams. Indeed, many of them are for products that we are still familiar with today, so the fact that these companies have survived so long suggests that their early advertising worked.

Promotion is a little different of course, more subtle, intended to make us aware of the benefits of a maker or product, so that when we’re ready to buy one, we’ll choose that particular brand.

These three magic lantern slides are from a set of twelve promoting Cunard’s latest transatlantic liners, RMS Lusitania and RMS Mauretania, both of which were launched in 1906, so we can assume that the slides are from around that date. This was before aircraft carried fare-paying passengers so, if you wanted to travel between Europe and America, an ocean-going liner was the only option. A number of shipping lines competed for passengers and these slides, perhaps shown as part of a Cunard sponsored lecture tour, would have demonstrated why you should choose Cunard instead of its rivals.

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The first slide simply shows the size of the ships in comparison to the Great Pyramid. The second illustrates the development in the power of Cunard’s ships (measured in horse power) since the start of the line in the late 1830s. The third, perhaps the most interesting, shows the crew that is required to keep a ship of this size at sea, including 50 cooks, 390 engineers and 350 stewards.

Well, I’m very impressed. I’ll send a telegram today to those nice people at Cunard to reserve a cabin for my next trip ….. but shall I take the Lusitania or the Mauretania! I wonder which will be the safest?

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