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The Train Takes You II: Posters and Pairings for the Virtual Traveler
The Booth Family Center for Special Collections celebrates the fall 2020 semester with an exhibition for the armchair traveler. The selections represent the golden age of travel between the two World Wars and into the 1950s, when travel by land was primarily via rail and locomotives had transitioned from steam to electric power. During this period a number of independent rail lines were amalgamated into fewer, major railway companies that commissioned vibrant, colorful posters advertising the allure of glamorous destinations. With its title drawn from one of the posters, The Train Takes You includes posters previously displayed in a 2010 Library exhibition. Following our renovation and expansion in 2015, the current exhibition is augmented by additional works depicting related views and subjects. With foreign travel currently restricted, now is the perfect time to revisit these majestic locales and begin planning the long-awaited post-pandemic vacation.
The 19 posters featured online and currently on display in the Library represent the U.K., France, the United States, Australia, South Africa and Switzerland. Complementary works include an important Alpine painting by American landscapist Sanford Gifford, and a recently acquired prize-winning color woodcut by British artist John Platt, along with varied prints and ephemera.
While most of the advertising posters we see today are photographically designed, their predecessors relied on the eye of the artist to embellish upon or artfully extract from the beauty of nature. Whether targeting a domestic or an international clientele, these vivid lithographic posters employ minimal use of text, relying on idealized illustration, sometimes with a catchy phrase, to encourage viewers to book their next exciting trip abroad.
These rare and picturesque travel posters are drawn from the extensive collection of railroad memorabilia assembled by alumnus Jeremiah J. O’Connor and donated to the library by his sister, Margaret M. O’Connor. After receiving his undergraduate and law degrees at Georgetown, O'Connor served in World War II and had a distinguished career in the foreign service. He served as first secretary of the American consulate in Vienna and as consul general in the State Department. When he died at the age of 50 in 1964, O'Connor was working in the Department's inspector corps.
Early Steam Engines
From the collection of Jeremiah J. O’Connor
Gift of Margaret M. O’Connor
This hand-crafted model is a replica of the “Best Friend of Charleston,” the first American-made steam-powered locomotive for scheduled passenger service on a railroad. The Best Friend was designed as a four-wheel engine with a boiler shaped like a porter bottle in the center. It was put into service in Charleston, South Carolina in the fall of 1830. The model was probably made for the centennial anniversary of the South Carolina Canal and Railroad Company which operated the service between Charleston and Hamburg.
This historic poster marked the 100th anniversary of America’s first passenger and freight railway, under the management of the Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road Company. To celebrate this landmark occasion, the company planned an elaborate Centenary Exhibition and Pageant for a three week period beginning September 24th, 1927. The Fair of the Iron Horse, attended by 1.5 million and held west of Baltimore in Halethorpe, Maryland, intended to document all inland transport since the inception of the country. The company erected four mammoth exhibition halls and as its central feature, the “pageant of inland transport in America” featured a historic collection of “actual locomotives, ancient and modern,” as explained in the exhibition catalogue. To augment the B&O’s extensive collection, other railroads contributed examples, including the mighty new King George V sent over by the Great Western Railway of England.
The two men in the foreground of this poster are operating Peter Cooper’s Tom Thumb, a small, experimental engine and the first one built and operated in the United States, from 1829-30. A reproduction of the original was exhibited at the centenary festivities.
The locomotive shown here is the King George V No. 6000, which traveled to the United States for display as a state-of-the-art steam engine in the Baltimore & Ohio Railway Company's pageant in 1927 (See 100 Years of the Railroad above). Ironworkers in Baltimore outfitted the engine with a commemorative plaque and a bell, which can be seen in the illustration.
Produced for the Australian national market, the posters for Victorian Railways attract the viewer with the lure of the dramatic beaches along England’s southeastern coast.
Arthur Sinclair Covey (1877-1960)
Victoria Station is a central London railway terminus constructed in 1860. The last steam engine departed the station in January 1964. Arthur Sinclair Covey was a midwestern artist who had a successful five-decade career as a painter of murals in public and commercial buildings in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. His first mural in 1914, for the Wichita, Kansas public library, established his reputation. Covey studied art in Munich and London after graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1900. During his time in London, Covey worked alongside the printmaker and muralist Frank Brangwyn. This atmospheric drypoint of Victoria Station, with its dark tonal range, is similar in technique to Brangywn’s prints of the period.
Aldyth Russell’s image of children playing on the sand provides the primary message, with the slogan at the bottom which inspired the title of this exhibition.
John Platt (1886-1967)
John Platt’s Giant Stride is a tour de force in the Japanese woodblock tradition. This charming seaside scene shows children playing on a spinning apparatus in various stages of suspended animation. It was awarded a Gold Medal for best print in any medium at the 3rd annual International Exposition in Los Angeles in 1922.
Percy Trompf (1902-1964)
color lithographic poster
J.E. Hackett, Melbourne
This majestic cliffside scene touts the extensive network of Victoria’s Flier, an express service linking the seaside towns listed on the poster with points inland. Melbourne-based Percy Trompf was a successful commercial artist specializing in poster design. He later created posters to support the war effort and served as a pilot for the Royal Australian Air Force during the Second World War.
South Africa Railways
This South African poster beckons visitors from faraway England with its sunbaked mountainous terrain along the route to Sunland, a popular destination in the majestic Sundays River Valley, which stretches from Addo in the south to the village of Kirkwood northwest of Sunland.
The German-born George Paul Canitz studied painting in Dresden and moved to southwest Africa in 1909 on the advice of his doctor. He began exhibiting his work with the South African Society of Artists and became highly regarded for his classical rendering of native landscapes. Canitz opened his own art school and also taught at the University of Stellenbosch, about thirty miles east of Cape Town.
Trans Alpine Networks
The Cantal department in south-central France, a province of the Auvergne region, takes its name from the range of ancient, eroded volcanic peaks covering much of the territory. The highest peak is the Plomb du Cantal, which rises approximately 6,000 feet.
The Swiss town of Martigny is at a junction of roads joining Italy, France and Switzerland, and on the high-speed Simplon line of the Swiss Federal Railway. From Martigny, narrow gauge railroads ascend the nearby mountains on both sides of the Rhône valley. One railroad runs west to the French ski resort of Chamonix, crossing the border at Le Châtelard. This poster tantalizes viewers with a glimpse of the snow covered Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak, framed by dramatic mountains in the foreground.
Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880)
oil on canvas
Sanford Gifford was among the second generation of American landscape painters known as the Hudson River School. This dramatic Alpine scene with a pair of travelers overlooking a cascading waterfall was probably painted from sketches made while Gifford visited Europe from 1855-57, where he traveled with fellow painter Alfred Bierstadt. He wrote in detail about their journey over “the first great road across the Alps” to his father in a letter dated August 24, 1856.
This dramatic Alpine view in bright, Fauve-inspired colors, advertises the Furka-Oberalp, a narrow-gauge mountain railway in the Swiss Alps. The Furka Pass connects the cantons of Graubünden and Uri between Disentis and Andermatt. Its dramatic scenery was the setting for a “cliff hanging” chase sequence in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger.
Urushibara Yoshijiro (aka Mokuchu) (1888 - 1953)
after a drawing by Frank Brangwyn (1867 - 1956)
Urushibara traveled to Paris and then to England in 1912 where he was hired by the British Museum to make one hundred facsimile woodcuts of a famous 4th-century Chinese scroll painting. During his three decades in England, Urushibara partnered with the artist Frank Brangywn to reproduce the latter’s watercolors in two distinctive portfolios. This woodcut depicts the famous Alpine bridge over the precipitous St. Gothard’s Pass, with the older bridge in the foreground, supposedly built by monks, echoed by the higher, arched bridge behind, built in 1830. The bridge’s name refers to a local legend. In that account, a woman lost her only cow which she later spotted across the ravine spanning the Mynach cataract. Seeing an opportunity to entrap a new soul, the devil appeared disguised as a monk, and promised to erect a bridge across the chasm of some 115 feet in exchange for the first living being to cross over it. Perceiving the monk’s true identity, the woman tricked the devil and sent a dog over the bridge in payment of her debt.
Named for a Bavarian saint, the St. Gothard line links Zurich and portions of Germany with Lugano and Italy via another dramatically high Alpine pass. The artist Daniele Buzzi created a number of travel posters, these being his earliest, promoting destinations in Switzerland and Italy. His style transformed in the 1940s and 50s to flattened planes of saturated color.
French National Railways
France’s rail system was nationalized in 1938 with the merger of its five main rail lines to form the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (S.N.C.F.). In the mid-1950s, S.N.C.F. commissioned the country’s leading artists to design posters targeting the international market, with a "Discover France by Train" slogan.
The four landscapes and one map shown here entice the viewer with artful renderings of the beautiful views throughout the country.
The posters below by Foujita and Dufy portray the pastoral charms of the countryside in Normandy along the northwestern coast. Those by Hambourg and Ceria depict the Île de France with its majestic Chârtres Cathedral, and the fishing boats along the coast of Brittany, the westernmost tip of France.
Raoul Dufy (1877-1953)
offset lithographic poster
De Plas, Paris
Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français
Prentiss Taylor (1907-1991)
Gift of Donald E. Smith
This is a Christmas card created by Washington, D.C. artist Prentiss Taylor and sent to his dear friends Betty and Douglas Duffy, owners of the Bethesda Art Gallery and loyal supporters of Taylor’s career. As he explained in the printed greeting, “This view is a souvenir of Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny. Here is the underside of the Japanese bridge reflected in the water lily pond…” Giverny is a popular tourist destination in Normandy in northern France.
Morris Henry Hobbs (1892-1967)
Gift of Reed Isbell in memory of William J. Hobbs
Morris Henry Hobbs served in World War I and practiced initially as an architect in Toledo, Ohio. In the late 1920s, Hobbs became interested in etching, inaugurating a lengthy career as a printmaker. This maritime scene was among his early works, inspired by travel to England, France and Brittany.
These posters were printed in the 1950s, soon after the nationalized British Railways emerged from the Big Four regional railway companies.
The dreamy scenes, all from the north of Great Britain, suggest the rewards of travel off the beaten path. The two posters by Thomas Gilfillan were actually published for British Railways by a Scottish ferry company which is still extant today.
William E. C. Morgan (1903-1979)
William E. C. Morgan was a talented British artist of the inter-war period. As a student at the Slade School in London he won a coveted scholarship to study in Rome where he developed his skill in intaglio printmaking from 1924-27. This large etching was created when Morgan was living at the estate of a patron in Argyll, Scotland.
by James Dixon-Scott
(London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., 1937; reprinted 1947, 1949 and 1950)
Off-Campus Shelving DA866 .D5 1937a
Jack Merriott (1901-1968)
color lithographic poster
Jordison & Co., Ltd., London & Middlesbrough
British Railways (North Eastern Region)
The immense viaduct in this poster is one of the main landmarks in North Yorkshire. It was completed in 1851 and connects the town of Knaresborough with Harrogate, across the river Nidd on the Harrogate rail line. The design of the bridge was intended to complement the ruins of the medieval castle that can be seen looking upstream from the bridge. The castle was part of the vast holdings of the Duchy of Lancaster and was destroyed by Parliamentarian troops in 1648.
Exhibition curated by LuLen Walker, University Art Collection Curator