02 05 2014 1325

Welcome Ever Smiles* 1920s Arrivals




(*Troilus and Cressida, William Shakespeare, 1602)

Arriving at European Hotels (1920s)

Receiving an important guest at European hotels in the 1920s involved a whole army of staff. In the beginning, guests arrived by coach. In the outgoing 19th and the beginning 20th century, by rail or ship. Only from the 1930s on they would arrive by airplane.

The hotel had to telephone to check up on the times of trains, which were often delayed (e.g. The Orient Express could be half a day late!). If a delay occurred, the full compliment of management and staff had to remain waiting whatever the hour. Finally, carriages equal to the number of guests were sent off to the station each one with a page boy who had to be on the platform to meet the guest.

Footman and bellboy in front of The Savoy, London
Footman and bellboy in front of The Savoy, London.

Countless and cumbersome pieces of luggage – sometimes 40 items per couple was common – were taken up to the hotel separately. The average stay in one of these premises was at least 15 days up to one month or more.
Gentlemen were often accompanied by their valet, even their secretary, and ladies by their maid, while their chauffeur joined them with the car.


The doorman and the bellboys will keep a lookout for arrivals and ring the bell as soon as they saw them, to warn the manager and head porter to be ready.

Pages from a Register of Aliens for the Hotel de Paris, Cromer, Norfolk between 1916 and 1919. As well as the usual Guest Register, all hotels, inns and lodging houses had to keep a Register for Aliens who were staying there. All foreign and local guests staying at the hotel signed this register even though many of them lived permanently in Britain.

artur toscanini check in vienna bristol hotel

On the European continent the procedure was slightly different. Guests like for example Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini had to sign an official registration form, the carbon copy of it went directly to the foreign police department and also served as a receipt for the guest tax, which had to be paid by the hotel (ultimately by the guest).


The Savoy London’s archives reveal some of the guest history cards of its famous patrons. Actress Marlene Dietrich expected 12 pink roses and a bottle of Dom Perignon upon arrival. Katherine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Enrico Caruso and their likes had these guest records, non-VIP guests were not included in this collection. View image to see it enlarged.

hotel arriving usher paris
After the customary welcome, the head porter or an usher (as seen here in Paris at the Elysée Palace Hôtel) would then see the guests to the rooms.

japanese emperror, vienna hotel imperial, hirohito

At the Imperial Vienna, Austria’s first 5*superior hotel, the tradition is still alive. Important guests are welcomed at the door by the general manager. He then takes them by foot to the Royal Suites, after climbing a staircase of truly Imperial dimensions. Here you see Emperor Hirohito of Japan and his wife, impressed by a painting showing the former Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph.


From the archives of The Most Famous Hotels in the World®




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