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The Danger Signal--United States Mutual Accident Association

Artist/maker unknown, American. Published by Currier & Ives, 115 Nassau St., New York, 1835 - 1907.

Made in New York, New York, United States, North and Central America


Color lithograph

Image: 17 x 28 3/4 inches (43.2 x 73 cm) Sheet: 19 3/4 x 29 7/8 inches (50.2 x 75.9 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Kathy and Ted Fernberger, 2009

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disaster [x]   trains [x]  

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Many popular stories and pictures of trains glorified their strength and speed, but others expressed resistance and nostalgia. Americans who remembered their colonial roots and Jeffersonian agrarian ideals feared the tyranny of big corporations like the railways. Newspapers covered snowbound trains and exploded engines with a tabloid zeal, detailing technological failures and tallying victims. These disasters undermined the promises made by private railroad investors, who claimed the railways would effortlessly unite all of the nation's areas and people.

Insurance companies made their own promises, pertinent to the thrills and threats of modern travel, by referencing the broken vows of the train industry and exploiting the anxieties of the time. In The Danger Signal, desperate conductors attempt to signal an oncoming train, with the words "United States Mutual Accident Ass'n" emblazoned on one car and "Accident Insurance at Half Rates" on another.