This image was part of a 1920s poster campaign by the electric interurban railroads and utilities in the Chicago area, likely the best railroad campaign of the 20th century focusing on a single urban area in the U.S. The design by Ervine Metzel displays extraordinary economy of color, text, and motif. Yet the image of a fish and lure unequivocally suggests the potential pleasures awaiting those who traveled on the North Shore interurban to northern Illinois and Wisconsin lakes. While the lakes sported resorts, many urbanites simply visited the lakes for a day of fishing, then returned to Chicago. Railroad commuter lines in most American metropolitan areas offered similar possibilities. The simple title, "By the North Shore Line," was the theme for a series of posters. Other railroads also used the fishing theme for their advertising, but Metzel's poster did it best. The New York Art Directors Club awarded this poster a prize in 1925, and it looks modern today. In 1917, more than 18,000 miles of interurban lines were being operated in virtually every state, but concentrated in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin. The interurban made its last stand in the American Midwest, and Chicago remained an important hub for lines radiating in three directions; the Chicago South Shore & South Bend, operated today by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, remains in service. Chicago’s electric railroads were bold, innovative, and artistic in their pursuit of passengers and freight. The companies reached out to the public in many ways. But their posters are one of the most colorful—and taken-for-granted—examples of American commercial art. Following their introduction by the Chicago interurbans, main-line railroads created poster campaigns, especially the New York Central, Pennsylvania, Northern Pacific, Santa Fe, and Southern Pacific.
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