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Leslie O. Merrill Collection of Streamliner Railroad Ephemera and Photographs: Finding Aid
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Related materials in the Huntington Library
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Leslie O. Merrill Collection of Streamliner Railroad Ephemera and Photographs
    Dates (inclusive): 1882-2008
    Bulk dates: 1935-1970
    Collection Number: 646607
    Collector: Merrill, Leslie O.
    Extent: Over 3,000 pieces of ephemera and photographs in 29 boxes + 165 prints and posters
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Rare Books Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This is a collection of streamliner railroad ephemera, photographs, prints and posters, most of which was produced in the heyday of the American streamliner, the late 1930s to 1955. Also included are items on early aerodynamic experiments of the 19th century; manufacturers and designers; and foreign railroads, particularly in Europe. Passenger brochures and photographs make up the bulk of the collection, with especially extensive files on Union Pacific; Southern Pacific; New York Central; Chicago, Burlington and Quincy; and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroads.
    Language: English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item]. Leslie O. Merrill Collection of Streamliner Railroad Ephemera and Photographs, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Gift of Mr. Leslie O. Merrill, 1976-2008.

    Biographical Note

    Mr. Leslie O. Merrill (1920-2009) was a life-long collector of streamline railroad materials. His interest began at age 14, when the new "Pioneer Zephyr" streamliner train passed through his hometown of Syracuse, New York, in 1934. He built his collection largely by writing and visiting railroad headquarters, requesting and receiving the newest brochures and photographs. He also made his own photographs of streamliner trains in travels all over the country, and sometimes purchased items. Professionally, Merrill was a director of the San Mateo County Historical Association and Museum for several years in the 1960s-1970s. He died in 2009 in Santa Barbara, California.

    Scope and Content

    This collection of railroad ephemera, photographs, prints and posters concerns only streamliner trains—the wind-resistant, "streamlined" designs first appearing on major U.S. railroads in 1934 and peaking in the glamour years of the American streamliner, late 1930s to 1955. The sleek, fast trains were promoted for their speed, luxury and comfort compared to older, heavyweight steam locomotives. The bulk of the collection is composed of passenger brochures, with especially extensive files on Union Pacific; Southern Pacific; New York Central; Chicago, Burlington and Quincy ("the Burlington"); and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe ("the Santa Fe") railroads. There are also many materials on Amtrak (formed in 1971), and foreign railroads, particularly in Canada, Europe and Japan.
    Besides brochures, other printed materials include: manufacturer’s pamphlets, employee newsletters, press releases, blueprints of railcars, copies of U.S. Patent Office design applications, menus, lounge car stationery, baggage stickers and other items. The photographs are mostly railroad-issued 8 x 10-inch prints showing train exteriors and richly designed dining cars, lounge cars, sleeping cabins and domed observation cars. There are also many high-quality small-format photographs made by Leslie Merrill and other amateur photographers, 1938 to 1960s. The prints and posters mostly consist of promotions for U.S. railroads, with several notable pre-World War II posters for European railroads.
    An important section of the collection covers early streamlining experiments of the late-19th century: Samuel R. Calthrop’s "air-resisting" train of 1865; Frederick U. Adams’s "Windsplitter" of 1893; Joe V. Meigs’ "Meigs Elevated Railway" monorail in 1880s Boston; and William Riley McKeen Jr.’s aerodynamic McKeen Motor Car of the 1900s.
    In addition to railroad history, other topics of social and cultural historical interest are:
    • Depictions of African Americans and Native Americans in mass-marketed train travel brochures. There are many examples that reflect American cultural and class stereotypes in the early- to mid-20th century.
    • History of food and drink: See numerous dining car and beverage menus (not always noted in container list).
    • History of advertising, graphic design and typography represented in 20th-century railroad print advertising.

    Related materials in the Huntington Library


    The collection has primarily been kept in the collector’s original arrangement and is organized in the following five series:
    • 1. Railroads, United States (Boxes 1-15)
    • 2. Subject files (streamliner-related) (Boxes 15-19)
    • 3. Railroads, Foreign (Boxes 20-23)
    • 4. Oversize and miscellaneous items (Boxes 24-29)
    • 5. Prints and posters (165 loose items)

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company.
    Budd Company.
    McKeen Motor Car Co.
    Pullman Company.
    Southern Pacific Railroad Company.
    Union Pacific Railroad Company.
    Diesel locomotives.
    Electric railroads.
    Railroads -- History -- Pictorial works.
    Railroad travel.
    Railroads – Employees.
    Advertising – Railroads -- Specimens.
    Graphic design (Typography)—Specimens.
    African Americans -- Employment.
    African Americans -- Pictorial works.
    Indians of North America -- Pictorial works.
    Indians in popular culture.
    Calthrop, S. R. (Samuel Robert), 1829-1917
    McKeen, William R., Jr., 1869-1946
    Meigs, Joe V. (Joe Vincent), 1840-


    Ephemera -- United States -- 19th century.
    Ephemera -- United States -- 20th century.
    Ephemera -- United States -- 21st century.
    Leaflets (printed works).
    Motion pictures (visual work) -- 20th century.
    Printed ephemera.
    Promotional materials.
    Slides -- Color -- 1950-1970.