$4,720 raised by 57 donors
For 54 years, The Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society has served to interpret the American Railroad Experience, and how that experience contributed to the building and growth of the nation, utilizing the history of the C&O Railway. That history includes, a vast collection of artifacts in the Freight House Museum, passenger cars, freight cars, and locomotives from both the heavy weight and streamline era. Included in this collection is the historic Office Car Chessie 29, named after Chessie, The Railroad Kitten.
CELEBRATING THE 90TH ANNIVERSARY OF CHESSIE, THE RAILROAD KITTEN
Chessie is probably the most endearing and certainly one of the most successful corporate symbols in American history. In 1933, L. C. Probert, a C&O official charged with public relations and advertising, saw an etching in a newspaper of a cuddly little kitten sleeping under a blanket with a paw thrust contentendly forward. At the time, he was developing an ad campaign to popularize C&O's new air-conditioned sleeping car service and hit upon the notion of using the kitten with the slogan "Sleep Like a Kitten and Arrive Fresh as a Daisy in Air-Conditioned Comfort" for the C&O's passenger train ads.
Chessie’s first appearance on behalf of C&O was in the September, 1933 issue of Fortune magazine, in an ad that carried “Sleep Like a Kitten” as its slogan. Printed in black and white, the ad carried no reference to the name of the kitten. The original color etching from which the advertisement was taken is by Guido Grünewald, a Viennese artist who specialized in cats and other animals. It was purchased for $5 for the railway’s use.
The C&O’s advertising agency built a whole campaign around the kitten and chose the name “Chessie” from the railroad’s name. In 1934, the first “Chessie” calendar was produced, with 40,000 copies distributed. Advertisements featuring Chessie appeared in most national magazines as well. Her popularity grew, as did her family. She got two look-alike kittens in 1935, and a mate, “Peake” (from the railroad name as well – Chesapeake = “Chessie-Peake”), in 1937. Soon Chessie, “America’s Sleepheart,” was the talk of the railroad world, and propelled C&O to the top ranks of rail advertising. Chessie's image further expanded in 1973 as she became part of the logo for for the Chessie System.
CHESSIE 29 - Built by Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company in 1950 originally as a 5 Bedroom/Buffet/Lounge Observation Car named New River Club, the car was converted into a Business Car for C&O President Walter J. Tuohy in 1951 with the interior designed by Dorothy Draper of New York who was also commissioned to re-decorate the Greenbrier resort hotel upon its return to the C&O after World War II.
The car was used to transport President Dwight D. Eisenhower during the Cold War era, from Washington, DC to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia for secret discussions that involved construction of the shelter-bunker at the Greenbrier that would house the United States Government in the event of nuclear attack.
In addition to President Eisenhower, the car also was host to a variety of dignitaries such as the Royal Family of Monaco including Prince Rainier III, his wife Princess Grace, the former American actress Grace Kelly, and their children Albert and Caroline.
The car was generously donated to the C&O Historical Society by Mr. Al Barbour of Pennsylvania in 2019, who also funded the cost of transporting the car to the Heritage Center in Clifton Forge.
The goal is to restore Chessie 29 to an operational condition that will preserve the rich history of the car, serve as an example of mid-twentieth century luxury rail travel, and function as a rolling ambassador for the C&O Historical Society in both Clifton Forge and nationwide.
Your generous donation will allow the C&O Historical Society to move forward with restoration efforts to preserve this exceptional and historic piece of passenger train equipment from the streamline era to new generations of rail fans and historians. And if you have not visited the C&O Heritage Center in Clifton Forge, or have not visited for a while, we invite you come and share the wonderful experience of American Railroading as seen through the history of the Chesapeake and Ohio.
All contributors to the Chessie 29 campaign, will receive a certificate of appreciation, a copy of the original Guido Gruenewald etching of Chessie, along with copies of four vintage C&O advertisements featuring Chessie. Those contributing at the Chessie Level of $1,000.00 or more, will receive a limited edition and artist signed specially commissioned 11 X 17 poster of Chessie 29 at Logan, West Virginia. The poster was designed by West Virginia artist Emily Sokolosky and is made through a letterpress process using vintage wood type, hand-carved linoleum, and oil and rubber based ink. The ink colors are hand mixed and each poster is hand pressed individually creating a unique individual print.