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Deutsches Technikmuseum - January

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:

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Exhibit of the Month January 2017

Photo: A burgundy-red model of a railway carriage: The roof can be flipped open to reveal the sleeping car interior furnishing, which is reminiscent of a doll´s house.

Toy model of a MITROPA sleeping car, manufactured by Märklin, end of the 1930s (gauge 1, scale 1:32). Older Prussian carriages with skylights served as the design model. © SDTB / photo: C. Kirchner

Graphic: Elegant burgundy-red MITROPA sleeping carriages rush in front of stylized skyscrapers in a futurist big city scenery.

MITROPA advertising poster, 1929 © Museum Folkwang / Deutsches Plakat Museum (German Poster Museum), Essen

Toy models of 1930s MITROPA railway coaches

One hundred years ago on 1 January 1917, the "Mitteleuropäische Schlafwagen und Speisewagen-Gesellschaft" (sleeping and dining car company) MITROPA began operations.

Its founding in the middle of World War I was politically motivated since many of the sleeping and dining cars in Germany had up until then been operated by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL), which was owned by the wartime enemies France and Belgium.

After the war, MITROPA soon became synonymous with luxury travel. The American author Thomas Wolfe raved about the good food and the finely dressed passengers in the dining car, about the aura of wealth, elegance and luxury and about the tasteful and distinguished furnishings.

The Berlin graphic artist Karl Schulpig (1884-1948) played a crucial role in creating these impressions. For example, he devised the elegant burgundy-red livery of the MITROPA railway carriages that set them apart from the dirty-green monotony of the Reichsbahn´s rail carriage fleet.

Graphic: The MITROPA logo consists of an angularly stylized eagle over a wheel while the lettering is canted off at the corners like a woodcut.

MITROPA logo and lettering by the Berlin grafic artist Karl Schulpig © Arjan den Boer

A distinctive trademark for a modern image

Schulpig was one of the pioneers of logo design; his trademarks for the Allianz Insurance Company or Bolle remained in use for decades.

For MITROPA, he designed the distinctive angular lettering and eagle logo.

Advertising posters reinforced the image of a modern company by depicting the burgundy coaches speeding past a backdrop that was reminiscent of the big city as shown in the film "Metropolis".

Even the toy industry counted on the symbolic power of colouring and logo as can be seen by our Object of the Month, three Märklin models from the 1930s: Although greatly reduced and simplified, these models still convincingly portray vehicles of that type from 1927 - and carried the aura of wealth, elegance and luxury into the children´s bedrooms of the time.