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A Legacy of Tramp Art
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This book presents over 600 historical images and introduces newly discovered artists of tramp art. Made from society’s discards, primarily wooden cigar boxes and wooden crates, tramp art is the story of the common man, unschooled in the arts, taking a simple tool to carve a legacy from the heart for all to enjoy and celebrate.
                                   
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LATEST ARTICLE_______________________________________

Getting the Red Carpet Treatment
by Bob Brooke

 

Where did the much-overused phrase “the red carpet treatment” originate? It all started with the 20th Century Limited, the New York Central Railroad’s high speed overnight Pullman train between New York and Chicago.



At each New York departure, Red Cap attendants at Grand Central Station rolled out a crimson carpet for passengers boarding the all-Pullman streamliner for Chicago. From 1938 until the last run in 1968, passengers walked down this carpet to their waiting cars. Stretching from the observation car to the engine, the football field length rug, especially designed for the Century, gave birth to the phrase “the red carpet treatment."

The glamorous departure aboard New York Central’s 20th Century Limited equaled a sailing on the Queen Mary. Pullman was the only way to travel overnight by train in America. At each departure, attendants gave carnations to male passengers and flowers and perfume to the ladies. Porters helped passengers to board while waiters stood at attention in the dining cars while chefs busily prepared the evening’s dinner.

It took less than 16 hours each way for the train to travel between the two cities along the New York Central’s “Water Level Route,” ensuring passengers a smooth and swift ride. The railroad inaugurated this train, targeted at upper class and business travelers, to compete against the Pennsylvania Railroad which ran along a more mountainous route. It made few station stops along the way and used track pans to take water at speed.

The Century departed New York’s Grand Central Station at 6 P.M. and arrived the next morning at Chicago’s La Salle Street Station at 8:45 A.M. After boarding, passengers settled in for the evening, enjoying cocktails in the observation car, dinner with views of the Hudson, a good night sleep and then with breakfast in bed or in the dining car. Dress was business formal.

In the 1920s the New York-Chicago fare was $32.70 plus the extra fare of $9.60, plus the Pullman charge of $9 for a lower berth, for a total of $51.30. For that passengers received a bed closed off from the aisle by curtains—a private compartment cost more. In 1928, the peak year, the train earned revenue of $10 million and was believed to be the most profitable train in the world.

The Dining Cars
Built by the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company, the train’s two dining cars, aptly named The Century Club, each had four distinctive dining sections, seating 64 persons at tables at one time, a lounging ante-room and a steward's office. They came equipped with radios, automatic record changing phonographs and lighting systems by which the cars can be either brightly or dimly illuminated. In the observation car, which also had a radio, a speedometer had been installed for the speed fans.

The New York Central spared no expense with the cars’ decoration, commissioning industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss to design the menu covers including the matchbook covers, as well as the table linens, silver, and china. The menu included caviar, filet mignon and lobster.

Menu prices in 1939 included the 20th Century Dinner for $1.75 with Canape of Russian Caviar as a starter. Passengers could enjoy Filet Mignon for an extra 60 cents, and enjoyed traditional American Apple Pie topped with New York Central French Vanilla Ice Cream.

The dining car stewards had notebooks filled with their particular meal and drink requests. One of them claimed he knew 75 per cent of the passengers and could call 15,000 people by their name. He knew that Marshall Field would order one martini but expected to find two in the shaker, Bing Crosby liked his wheat cakes piping hot at 6 A.M. and Robert R. McCormick wanted apple pie a la mode.

Bartenders in the three club cars took orders for Manhattans, Scotch highballs and very dry Martinis from Chicago meatpacking executives headed for New York. The train’s crew estimated that passengers consumed 50 per cent of the cocktails sold in private rooms and suites.

Passenger “A” List
The railroad kept passenger lists for each “sailing” of the Century. Bob Hope, Bette Davis or Doris Day might be aboard. But the Century was really the train for Chicago’s elite. The Wrigleys, Blairs, Bards, and Fields were “the Century regulars” and occupied the bedroom suites, compartments and drawing rooms.

The 20th Century Limited was a repository of the coming and goings of the rich–their habits of dress or drinking, their minds and their manners. The Century was operated like a private club and the lengthy dining car aptly named the Century Club. To businessmen, the Century was a symbol of the immutable fulfillment of a scheduled pattern; to luxury travelers it was the last word in conservative opulence.

Regular passengers included Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, Lillian Russell, "Diamond Jim" Brady, J. P. Morgan, Enrico Caruso, and Nellie Melba.

Businessmen could enjoy a shave from one of the Century barbers while the train’s secretary made calls ahead to confirm business appointments.

The Streamliner
In 1938, the New York Central commissioned Dreyfuss to design a new streamlined train in the Art Deco style, replacing the traditional black exterior of its other trains with two shades of gray, with aluminum and blue striping running the entire length of the new Century. It consisted of eight all-room Pullmans, accommodations including snug roomettes, single and double bedrooms, compartments, and drawing rooms, plus two dining cars. Built at a cost of $6,162,000, the new train was an expression of the best engineering talent of the railroad and the Pullman Company.



Dreyfuss decorated the interior of the new train in harmonizing shades of blue, gray and rust with leather upholstery in the public cars. He eliminated open berths , and sleeping accommodations are provided in suites, double bedrooms compartments and roomettes, each equipped with complete toilet facilities.

After World War II, Dreyfuss designed a newer train, pulled by Diesel locomotives. General Dwight D. Eisenhower ceremonially inaugurated the new set in 1948 and actress Beatrice Lilly christened the streamliner with a champagne bottle filled with water from the Hudson, Lake Erie and Michigan symbolizing the “water level route.”

Few trains have carried the aura of Central's original streamlined version of the Limited, which featured perhaps the greatest example of shrouding ever applied to a steam locomotive. As flag bearer of the "Great Steel Fleet" the Limited's service was second-to-none, matched only by the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broadway. As interest in rail travel waned after World War II and a merger with the Pennsylvania Railroad looming by the late 1960s, New York Central chose to discontinue its once proud creation fearing service would slip to unacceptable levels.

The Century made its final run on December 2, 1967. The half-filled train left Grand Central Terminal on track 34 for the last time. As always, attendants gave carnations to men boarding the train, and perfume and flowers to the women. The next day, it straggled into LaSalle Street Station in Chicago 9 hours 50 minutes late due to a freight derailment near Conneaut, Ohio, necessitating a detour over the Nickel Plate—New York, Chicago and St. Louis—Railroad.

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