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Phoebe Snow Railroad Advertising Icon

Updated on February 15, 2011

In 1903 the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad had the route from Buffalo to New York City, they had competition and needed to attract passengers. There were looking for an advertising slogan.

The company owned, along with the railroad, a coal mining company. They mined hard, or anthracite, coal. This type of coal was somewhat cleaner than soft coal and produced less smoke and soot.

The company decided that the cleaner coal was the thing they should focus on in the advertising. They imagined a female passenger, dressed all in white, who could ride the line and still have a spotless dress at the end of her trip.  The name Phoebe Snow was invented.

A pretty woman was drawn traveling on the train in a spotless white dress. Equally important to the success of the campaign was the slogans accompanying the pictures. The first one was

Says Phoebe Snow

About to go

Upon a trip to Buffalo,

“My gown stays white

From morn till night

Upon the Road of Anthracite.”

Mrs. Marion E. Murray modeled for the first images of Phoebe Snow, but left after 4 years to purse a career on the stage. Other models replaced her, but none became famous.

The advertising continued until WWI, when a coal shortage forced the railroad to switch to softer, dirtier coal. They could no longer used the advertising since it emphasized clean Anthracite

Phoebe Snow made brief appearances in the 1930’s and again during WWII with the slogan

“Our first job now,” says Phoebe Snow,

“Is getting troops to Tokyo!

Civilian travel won’t be fun

Until these westward trips are done.”

In 1949 the Phoebe Snow train route was inaugurated with great fanfare. Mrs. Murray christened the luxury train. It made the trip from Buffalo to Hoboken in 8 hours. But the heyday of trains had passed and in 1960, the railroad merged with Erie railroad and the Phoebe Snow was discontinued in 1962. The line was briefly started up again going to Illinois but it didn’t last long.

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      Mohan Kumar 6 years ago from UK

      Astonishing piece of history and well illustrated by the images. Something I didn't know about, I love learning new bits of info like this and thank you so much for sharing! voted up!