Fifteen of the California Zephyr ads I’ve found in National Geographic were cartoon ads. All were placed by Western Pacific, and in most cases the cartoons were drawn by Gerhardt Hurt, about whom little is known other than that he lived in San Francisco and illustrated at least one children’s book titled Scare Boy.
This 1950 cartoon ad from the New Yorker is signed (at the bottom of the top cartoon) “gh” for Gerhardt Hurt. This was also the only cartoon ad I’ve found that was signed by all three railroads and not just the Western Pacific. Click any image for a larger view.
The first cartoon ad I’ve found appeared not in Nat Geo but the New Yorker in 1950. It focused on the health of long-distance passenger rail travel in the face of airline competition. I’ve also found cartoon ads in the New Yorker and other publications that differed from any in the National Geographic series, and Hurt also did at least one cartoon ad promoting Western Pacific freight service.
In February 1951, the first cartoon ad in National Geographic introduced the “most talked-about train in the country” theme.
By October 1951, the Western Pacific could confidently proclaim that the CZ was “the best-loved train in the country.”
November 1951 offers scenery, fun, and luxury as the reasons why the CZ is the most talked-about train in the country.
The January 1952 ad emphasizes the advantage of a vista-dome car for viewing scenery.
February 1952 combines “most talked-about” with the other favorite theme, “look up, look down, look all around.”
The April 1952 ad–the only railroad-placed CZ Nat Geo to appear outside of the months October through March–features a cartoon of the Williams Loop, in which the rails cross over themselves in the Sierra Nevada.
The October 1952 ad doesn’t feature art by Gerhardt Hurt but does have a small photo and quote from noted railfan Lucius Beebe.
In November 1952 we’re back to Hurt’s cartoons emphasizing the features of the CZ not found on competing trains.