Check out these fun facts about passport history to impress your friends at your next cocktail party.
The modern US passport is a far leap from the passportsof yore. Passports (or passport-like documents) have been used in some capacity for thousands of years around the world, and they’re regularly changing to suit the times. Check out these fun facts about passport history to impress your friends at your next cocktail party.
When were passports invented?
The earliest known reference to paperwork that served the purpose of modern passports dates back to approximately 450 BC. In the book of Nehemiah in the Hebrew Bible, an official serving the king of Persia asks permission to travel to Judea, and the king gives him a letter that shows who he is and requests safe passage.
Flash forward 1,800 years and you’ll find what many consider the first true passport. In a 1414 Act of Parliament, King Henry V of England created a passport like document to help his subjects prove who they were in foreign countries. It wasn’t until 1540, however, that the term “passport” was first used (also in England).
When did passports become required documents?
You may be surprised to learn that passports weren’t all that important until World War I. During WWI, European governments began introducing passport requirements at international borders for security reasons and to control the emigration of citizens from different nations. Passport requirements became standardized and remained in place after the war, much to the annoyance of many European citizens.
Have US passports always looked like they do now?
No! The current US passport measures approximately 4 7/8″ x 3 3/8″. It’s the perfect size to fit in your pocket and keep with your other important travel documents. But before World War I, American passports measured 11″ x 17″. Imagine lugging that thing around in a foreign country!
What security features do passports have?
The United States was the first country to have machine-readable passports. Customs officers have been able to scan passports from the United States since 1981. Back in 2006, new US passports began using RFID technology. In other words, if you’ve received a passport in America since 2006, there is a chip embedded in the cover that makes it harder for thieves to use.
What color are US passports?
Most people in America carry standard navy blue US passports, but that’s not the only color they come in. US diplomats carry passports with black covers. Military personnel who are conducting official government business carry maroon passports. And for a while citizens had the option of getting a green passport to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the US Consular Service. But the vast majority of Americans carry the traditional blue passport.