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Drawing, Design for Streamline Sleeper Car with Two Seat Compartment

This is a Drawing. It was designed by Raymond Loewy and made for (as the client) Pennsylvania Railroad. It is dated January 16, 1935 and we acquired it in 2012. Its medium is airbrush and watercolor, gouache, brush and metallic paint, graphite on paperboard. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

This is one of two drawings proposed for acquisition that reveal Raymond Loewy’s ideas for passenger car interior for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company (PRR). Loewy worked for the railroad from 1934 through 1952. Like his competitor, Henry Dreyfuss, who was hired by the New York Central Railroad, Loewy designed everything from locomotives (K4 class, S-1, GG-1, and T-1) and car interiors to dinnerware, napkins, and menus.
The earlier drawing (2012-1-2), dated 1935, represents a concept—radical for its time—for a streamline sleeper car and compartment with a double seat that partially unfolds to form a bed. The rolled seats, porthole windows, and speed lines on the walls are all characteristic elements of 1930s streamlining.
While this streamline interior illustrates an idea that PRR was not yet ready to embrace, the second drawing (2012-1-1), dated a year later, represents a more practical, albeit less beautiful, solution to updating a car interior. This drawing shows a design for the MP-5 passenger car in which Loewy has merely restyled an existing commuter car by adding a streamline panel to the ends of the seats, coloring the seats a bright yellow, and changing the flooring to linoleum.
Neither of the two Loewy drawings appears to have been implemented by the railroad, but both are important drawings as they were created relatively early in his career and illustrate two approaches utilized by the designer: one, an advanced concept drawing and, the other, a more pragmatic solution to modern styling.
At the time of proposed acquisition, the museum holds four Loewy drawings and one photostat showing redesigns of the K4 class of PRR locomotives. All of these, however, are exterior views. The two interiors under consideration would provide a fuller picture of Loewy’s early work for the PRR, and would be a major addition to the museum’s collection. The collection also includes a 1957 Dorothy Draper design for a Corvair 880 airplane lavatory, which complements the Loewy interior designs in the category of transportation design. In addition, the museum holds a large number of interior designs for 19th- and 20th-century spaces that would make interesting comparisons with the Loewy interiors.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled High Fashion Train Interior.

It is credited Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund.

  • Drawing, Design for Sportshack
  • brush and gouache, black ink, airbrush over stencil, graphite on illustration....
  • Gift of Donald Deskey.
  • 1988-101-1515

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Its dimensions are

29.2 x 41.3 cm (11 1/2 x 16 1/4 in.)

It has the following markings

Loewy office label affixed to verso

It is signed

Signed in pen and white gouache, lower right: Loewy "35"

It is inscribed

On label, verso: Raymond Fernand Loewy/580 Fifth Avenue, New York City/Two Seat Compartment (fixed), RL./Drawing no. 26/date 1/16/35

Cite this object as

Drawing, Design for Streamline Sleeper Car with Two Seat Compartment; Designed by Raymond Loewy (American, b. France, 1893–1986); Client: Pennsylvania Railroad (United States); USA; airbrush and watercolor, gouache, brush and metallic paint, graphite on paperboard; 29.2 x 41.3 cm (11 1/2 x 16 1/4 in.); Museum purchase from General Acquisitions Endowment Fund; 2012-1-2

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Drawing, Design for Streamline Sleeper Car with Two Seat Compartment |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=28 March 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>