George Sisk Pin-Up Blotters, 1952-1956

The third railroad represented by George Sisk was the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin, which got its start as the Aurora, Elgin and Chicago. It changed its name when it came out of bankruptcy in 1922, and Samuel Insull took it over in 1926.


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The signature on this pin-up art is unreadable, but it has been attributed to Jerry T. N. Thompson. Thompson was an assistant to Earl McPherson, who made calendars for Brown & Bigalow. When McPherson was crippled by polio in 1951, Thompson took over the work. Continue reading

George Sisk Pin-Up Blotters, 1950-1951

The Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee or North Shore line was formed by Insull in 1916 through the consolidation of several other railroads. As the name suggests, it connected Chicago with Milwaukee, providing both rapid passenger service and freight service to local businesses.


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All but the last of today’s blotters feature paintings by Gil Elvgren. Continue reading

George Sisk Pin-Up Blotters, 1948-1950

The Chicago, South Shore & South Bend or South Shore line was formed by Insull in 1925 when he took over another bankrupt railroad. The line is notable for owning Little Joe electric locomotives similar to those owned by the Milwaukee Road. Unlike most electric interurbans built in the early twentieth century, it survives today as a Diesel freight railroad, while the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District continues to run electric passenger trains on the South Shore line.


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Earl Moran’s work became particularly well known when it was featured in Life magazine in 1940. In 1946, a young would-be starlet named Norma Jean Dougherty asked Moran to use her as a model. Later known as Marylin Monroe, she was the model for the art on the February, 1948 blotter. Continue reading

George Sisk Pin-Up Blotters, 1945-1948

The three railroads that George Sisk represented were all once part of the Insull empire. Samuel Insull was one of the first to realize that the electric power industry had huge economies of scale, and by 1929 he controlled 4,400 power companies in 39 states. Because many electric interurban lines generated their own power, he purchased those as well.


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The pin-up art on the blotter from September, 1945 is unsigned, but it was by Edward D’Ancona. Little is known about him, but like Gil Elvgren, he first sold his art to St. Paul publisher Louis F. Dow, some speculate that D’Ancona was also from St. Paul. Continue reading

George Sisk Pin-Up Blotters, 1940-1942

George Sisk was the Kansas City agent for three electric interurban lines in Chicago. For at least 22 years, he gave his customers monthly blotters featuring a calendar, a map of the lines he represented, and a pin-up girl. The January, 1940 blotter features a blonde painted by Earl Moran, whose painting career stretched from about 1931 to 1982.


Click any image to download a PDF of that blotter.

These blotters are all from the Dale Hastin collection. While Sisk must have distributed more than 500 blotters, I only scanned 27 in Dale’s collection, which is a reasonable sample of what these blotters were like. Continue reading

C&NW 400 Dinner Menu

C&NW’s 1962 timetable showed the 400 leaving Chicago and Minneapolis at about 11 am and arriving at their opposite termini at about 7 pm, so there was time to serve both lunch and dinner in the diner. This 1964 dinner menu is sparse by 1950s dining car standards, but more extensive (and more expensive) than yesterday’s cafe menu.

Click image to download a 2.9-MB PDF of this menu.

The table d’hôte side offered a “special 400 steak dinner” for $5.50 (nearly $45 today), broiled fish or pork chops for $3.00 (about $24 today), and a Spanish omelet for $2.85. All came with soup or juice, potatoes and vegetable, salad, bread, beverage, and dessert. The a la carte side offered corned beef hash with a poached egg, five sandwiches, a chicken salad, and various desserts and beverages.

C&NW 400 Cafe Car Menu

Dated 1960, half of this menu offers a variety of alcoholic beverages and the other half has a much shorter selection of dinners. The menu doesn’t say so, but it obviously was used in the train’s cafe car rather than the full diner.

Click image to download a 1.0-MB PDF of this menu.

For a $1.25 (a little over $10 in today’s money), passengers could have their choice of broiled fish, chopped round steak, or a combination salad bowl, all of which came with soup, bread, and a beverage. The fish and beef also came with potatoes and vegetables. Dessert was an extra 25 cents. These prices seem quite reasonable, especially considering many of the alcoholic drinks were $1.

C&NW 1958 Lunch Menu

The cover of this menu is probably meant to show off the C&NW as an exemplar of modern transportation in comparison to whatever kind of transport is being serviced by the blacksmith in the foreground. Inside, this is a lunch menu for a “Football Special” taking people from Iowa City to Madison for the Iowa-Wisconsin game on October 18, 1958.

Click image to download a 1.3-MB PDF of this menu.

That game must have been exciting, as Wisconsin was undefeated up to that point while Iowa had won two games and tied one. Wisconsin’s newly expanded Camp Randall Stadium held its largest crowd up to that point as 65,251 people crammed into 63,425 seats. Iowa managed to win by 20 to 9, and went on to win the conference, the Rose Bowl, and be ranked number 2 in the nation after undefeated LSU. Continue reading

The North Western Limited

Until it introduced the 400 in 1935, the North Western Limited was Chicago & North Western’s premiere train. Advertised in the 1920s with the uninspiring (by today’s standards) slogan of “As fine as any train can be,” the overnight train left Chicago at 6:30 pm and arrived in Minneapolis at 7:50 am. By 1939, the train had been speeded up so it could leave Chicago at 11 pm and get to Minneapolis at 8:50 am. The train continued as the overnight companion of the 400 until the former was discontinued in 1959.

Click image to download a 121-KB PDF of this stationery. Click here to download a 95-KB PDF of a matching envelope.

The texture of this stationery suggests it is very old. The slogan, “electric lighted,” indicates it is from the early 1900s, as the St. Paul Road (what we now call the Milwaukee Road) was a pioneer in electric lighting in the 1890s and the C&NW wouldn’t have been far behind.