Santa Susana Railroad Historical Society

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“100 Years of Fine Art in Railroad Advertising” 

    This is a special pictorial essay dedicated to the well known and forgotten with time railroad advertising artists who produced a phenomenal body of work with a singular subject matter second to none.  

    In the early to mid 1900’s, railroads were the largest and one of the most competitive businesses in America. As is the case today, advertising was the key to achieving or maintaining a competitive edge in drawing customers, especially for the passenger business. If a specific railroad had luxurious, well maintained and regularly on-time passenger trains, the freight shippers would be much more inclined to use their services, even at a higher cost. Therefore, the railroads spared no expense in advertising their premier passenger trains.  

    During this era, nearly all the railroad advertising was done in the print media, which included newspapers, magazines, wall posters, travel guides, postcards, and even the lowly time table. Photo art was almost unheard of from a technology stand point from the 1800’s until the mid 1920’s, and black and white photos couldn't make the colorful marketing statements the railroad needed to present.  Due to advances in color lithography in the early 1900’s, color ads using artwork were reasonably inexpensive, and could be mass produced.  The marketing departments of the more profitable railroads were able to hire some of the finest artists and illustrators of the day for their various publications. Some artists were “discovered” internationally because of the work they had done for the railroads. 

    As time progressed, the style of art changed with the times, as did the railroads. So, come with us to view some wonderful examples of fine art from all over the world painted over the last 100 years, which just happen to have passenger trains as their subject matter.

     We will be adding eight new examples each month for one year. Picture size and quality may vary due to the age or source of the image.

 

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

 

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