Monday, March 9, 2009

Capitol Dome Logo

The iconic B&O Railroad symbol, know as the “Capitol Dome Logo” was designed by artist and designer Otto Kuhler (July 31, 1894August 5, 1977). Kuhler was one of the best known industrial designers and artists in America. Throughout his career he designed sports cars, street and subway cars, a typewriter, heat insulated food containers, passenger and freight cars but is, perhaps, best know for his streamlined designs for steam and diesel locomotives. His extensive concepts for the design modernization many American railroads still inspire design today. In addition he was a prolific artist of industrial aesthetics and of the American West.
Kuhler (pronounced "Cooler") became a U.S. citizen in 1928. Eight years before he had married Simonne Gillot, daughter of a Belgian doctor. They had one daughter, Winona married Zabriskie, and one son, Renaldo, who became known as a natural-history museum artist.
As art director of the
B&O Employee’s Magazine in the 1930’s and 40’s Kuhler was instrumental in developing the blue and gray color scheme used on the company’s passenger sets and the modernized herald of B&O. At the time, the B&O’s Public Relations Department had developed a marketing scheme centered on the railroad’s exclusive lines in and out of Washington D.C., thus inspiring his use of the Unites States Capitol dome as the central element of their brand. This symbol, instantly recognizable, has had a lasting effect on American popular culture.

When B&O turned to streamlining its Washington-New York run Kuhler could finally establish his concept of a "bullet nose" design on a steam locomotive that became known as "Kuhler type". The first "Kuhler type" locomotive pulled the famous
Royal Blue train, the B&O’s signature passenger train between Washington and New York.
B&O “Kuhler Type” streamlined P-7 locomotive pulling the blue, gold and gray liveried Royal Blue passenger train across the Thomas Viaduct in Elkridge, Maryland.

Eventually the Kuhlers sold their New York home and moved to a ranch near Pine, Colorado. Cattle raising, functional building design and painting the American West would occupy the autumn of his life. At age 75 he sold the ranch and moved to Santa Fé, New Mexico. Eight years later he moved to
Denver, Colorado, where Kuhler died at age 83.

Kuhler’s design for a fanciful gas station and canopy (1958).

Kuhler’s etchings, watercolors and paintings of industrial scenes and Western landscapes are found in museums and private collections around the World.

Pittsburgh (watercolor) by Otto Kuhler

Courtney B. Wilson
Executive Director