Object Timeline

1953

  • Work on this object began.

2016

  • We acquired this object.

2017

2019

  • You found it!

Textile, Choo-Choo, 1953

This is a Textile. It was designed by Laura Jean Allen and produced by Associated American Artists. It is dated 1953 and we acquired it in 2016. Its medium is cotton and its technique is printed. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Laura Jean Allen, the illustrator known for covers of The New Yorker and for her children’s books, was one of Associated American Artists’ most prolific artists. Her creations ranged from textiles to ceramics, and she often served as the face of AAA in its magazine advertisements. (1) In Choo Choo, one of the rare AAA designs to appear in black and white, line drawings of trains, clocks, weathervanes and compasses appear in white on a solid black ground. This is one of five of her textile designs being presented for consideration.

In a 1954 publicity photograph from United Press, Allen wears a skirt designed from Choo-Choo. Sitting in front of an easel, she works from a model wearing a shirt in the same pattern. (2) Swimwear company Catalina used the design to create men’s and women’s bathing suits in 1953. (3)

Choo-Choo may have inspired competitors to release almost identical designs, including those in J. C. Penney’s Masterpiece Prints collection. (2) It was one of Allen’s more popular textiles, used by sportswear company Catalina for women’s bathing suits and men’s sport shirts and by Vogue Patterns for a halter-style sundress in February-March 1954. (3)

Multiple examples of Allen’s work, including garments fashioned from her Sunspots and Imperial Seal prints, are included in the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art’s traveling exhibition, “Art for Every Home: Associated American Artists, 1934-2000.”

(1) Gail Windisch, Sylvan Cole Jr., and Karen J. Herbaugh, Art for Every Home: Associated American Artists, 1934-2000 (Manhattan: Marianna Kistler Beach Museum, Kansas State University, 2016): 208.
(2) Ibid., 206.
(3) Karen J. Herbaugh, “Index of AAA Textile Designs,” in Art for Every Home: An Illustrated Index of Associated American Artists Prints, Ceramics, and Textile Designs (Manhattan: Marianna Kistler Beach Museum, Kansas State University, 2016), http://hdl.handle.net/2097/19686.

This object was donated by American Textile History Museum. It is credited American Textile History Museum Collection.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 91.4 × 87.6 cm (36 in. × 34 1/2 in.)

Cite this object as

Textile, Choo-Choo, 1953; Designed by Laura Jean Allen (American, 1916 - 2003); cotton; H x W: 91.4 × 87.6 cm (36 in. × 34 1/2 in.); American Textile History Museum Collection; 2016-35-47

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/1108711625/ |title=Textile, Choo-Choo, 1953 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=17 June 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>