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American Decorative Arts
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Designer: Henry Dreyfuss, American, 1904–1972
Manufacturer: International Silver Company, American, founded 1898

Flatware for the 20th Century Limited


Silver plate

Dinner knife: 8 7/8 in. (22.543 cm)
Luncheon knife: 9 in. (22.86 cm)
Teaspoon: 6 in. (15.24 cm)
Tablespoon: 6 15/16 in. (17.621 cm)
Salad fork: 7 in. (17.78 cm)
Dinner fork: 7 1/2 in. (19.05 cm)
Butter knife: 6 7/8 in. (17.463 cm)<
John C. Waddell Collection, Gift of John C. Waddell, B.A. 1959
The 20th Century Limited was the lead train of the New York Central Railway since its founding in 1902, providing luxury service between New York and Chicago. Facing increased competition from the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broadway Limited, New York Central hired Henry Dreyfuss to redesign its flagship train in 1934. Dreyfuss overhauled the train from engine to observation car. Unlike many streamlined designs, which encapsulated machinery within curved shells, Dreyfuss articulated the forms of the locomotive. The front of the boiler had a hemispherical nose with a longitudinal fin, mounted above a raked plow; the wheels were left exposed and given metallic accents to accentuate their movements. The interior of the train was of equal importance to Dreyfuss. The furnishings were spare but comfortable, and a complex lighting system created dramatic lighting effects. The dining car had walls of glass to break up the narrow space and was outfitted with all the amenities of a fine restaurant. This extensive place setting from the 20th Century Limited underscores the elegance of the traveling experience: the range of specialized forms attests to the variety of foods available and the formality of the service. 
     Dreyfuss unified the disparate elements of the 20th Century Limited through a single design element: a series of horizontal bands that appeared on the carpets, stationery, glassware, sugar packets, and plates. On the flatware, manufactured for Dreyfuss by International Silver Company, he turned the lines sideways and extended them the length of the handle. The lines evoke parallel train tracks as well as speed lines. The logo of the New York Central appears on the reverse of each element. 
Designed in New York, New York
Manufactured in Meriden, Connecticut
On view*
20th century

John C. Waddell, New York, 2006–10; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


John Stuart Gordon et al., A Modern World: American Design from the Yale University Art Gallery, 1920–1950 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011), 139–40, no. 87.

“Acquisitions,” https://artgallery.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Pub_Bull_acquisitions_2011.pdf (accessed March 1, 2012).

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.