What We Saw in the GM Exhibit

In 1933, no one had any idea that General Motors would soon become the nation’s largest builder of railroad locomotives. So it is not surprising that this brochure, which was distributed at Chicago’s Century of Progress exposition, focuses on GM’s main consumer product, automobiles.

Click image to download a 3.6-MB PDF of this brochure.

For the fair, GM installed a complete moving assembly line for making Chevrolets. Fairgoers could visit the exhibit and order a new Chevrolet in the morning, and pick it up before leaving the fair in the afternoon. The assembly line was powered by two 600-horsepower Winton Diesel engines, which are pictured on the second page of this brochure. GM had purchased Winton in 1930, later wrapping it up in its Electro-Motive Division.

When Burlington Route President Ralph Budd saw these engines, he later said, “immediately, I was set afire,” as he was the first to realize that these small engines were powerful enough to pull an entire train. Each one was half the size, but twice as powerful, as the engines in the oil-electric locomotive that the Great Northern Railway had purchased in 1926 when Budd was president of that road. Budd ordered one of these Diesels to be installed in a streamlined train built by Budd, thus giving birth to the first Zephyr.

Outside of the historic importance of the picture of those Diesels, I find this brochure to be somewhat creepy in its delusion that it is some sort of letter to home about the fair. Written in the first-person plural from the point of view of someone who supposedly doesn’t know much about General Motors, it can hardly have fooled anyone into believing that it was authored by anyone other than GM advertising writers.

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