Known as the “Little Train That Could” or “The Last Interurban”, the Chicago, South Shore, and South Bend Railroad has served the Northwest Indiana/Chicago area as a major commercial and recreational transportation link for 90 years. The South Shore Line has reflected the triumphs and misfortunes of the Calumet Region throughout the twentieth century. For its first two decades, it survived good times and bad until its landmark purchase by Samuel Insull’s Midland Utilities in 1925. Insull launched an aggressive marketing campaign producing booklets, movies, and in particular a set of colorful, artistic posters, which attracted many from Illinois to Northwest Indiana’s steel mills and sand dunes.
As many as fifty color lithographed posters displayed in railroad depots, on Chicago “L” platforms, and elsewhere, highlighted fun in the Indiana Dunes, local flora and fauna, and the strength of heavy industry, all characteristic of the Calumet Region. Prominent Chicago artists rendered these scenes and many won acclaim for high artistic standards. Indeed, Oscar Rabe Hanson’s Homeward Bound by South Shore Line won both the Art Directors Club and Barron Collier medals in 1927.
Moonlight in Duneland tells the story of that poster campaign through the reproduction of more than forty known surviving posters. Additional advertising items from the 1920s and 1970s are sprinkled throughout the book, along with original art by Dale Fleming and Mitchell A. Markovitz. In addition, four essays describe the background of Insull’s marketing genius and its artists. William D. Middleton’s essay details Insull’s purchase of the South Shore Line and its rebirth. Bob Harris, in “Not Just Selling Railroad Tickets: The Role of the South Shore Line Poster Art in the Development of Northwest Indiana,” describes the hands-on, intense involvement of the railroad and its ad campaign in the industrial, residential, and recreational development of the Region. In “Commercial Illustration, Poster Painters, Railway Men,” Mitchell A. Markovitz provides a glimpse into the poster artists’ world, along with a personal memoir of his own experiences as a South Shore Line poster artist. Finally, John Paul Laue explains how a group of dedicated South Shore Line enthusiasts saved the road when it was threatened again with extinction in the 1970s in “South Shore Recreation: A Fun Way to Save a Railroad.”
While Moonlight in Duneland pays tribute to eras gone by, it also debuts a new period of growth in Calumet Region pride and development. Sponsored by the Northwest Indiana Forum, new poster art has been commissioned to advertise the many wonders of the area. Several of those images grace the pages of this book, providing the reason for the slogan, “A Region in Renaissance.”