Friday, May 11, 2018

The Secret Origin of Wigwam, part 2

Continuing the never-before-told origin of Mother Road's sidekick, Wigwam!

The Santa Fe Railroad is one of America's most traveled and storied cross-country expressways.  I dare say it was the "Route 66" of railroads, with service from Chicago to Los Angeles, to boot.  Of course, such a journey would bring passengers right through Arizona, and notable stops included Winslow and the Grand Canyon.

One of the tickets (heh) to the Santa Fe Railroad's success was its marketing.  In the early '60s, many of their print ads included a young Native America boy, named Chico. According to this article on the website Bid On Travel:
While Chico’s name emphasized the Hispanic heritage of much of Santa Fe’s operating territory, his clothes and feather evoked images of the Navajo and other lands of native peoples its trains passed through. 
Amtrak’s Southwest Chief still travels through a portion of the Navajo Nation on former Santa Fe tracks. 
I will let others decide if Chico would be politically correct today, but he has to be one of the most effective corporate symbols ever created. He set the tone.
Considering the debate over images like the Washington Redskins' mascot, Chico probably wouldn't survive much past a marketing pitch meeting today.  In fact, if his likeness didn't still exist in those vintage advertisements, and if a certain spell didn't bring Route 66 icons to life just a few years ago, some might say he'd be lost to the annals of Americana forever.  Yet, a glance at the graffiti that adorns Route 66's landmarks to this day might lead one to believe that a Native American boy haunts the highway, maybe even bringing those very vandals to justice.

To be concluded!

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