The Great Train Store - March 18, 2014

Our "Signage of the Tour" series continues today with a great concept:  The Great Train Store. Most people love trains.  In fact, the original Great Train Store stores were located in old train stations. Families would get off a real-life train, then detour into the store and buy something train related entirely spontaneously, whether it was a Thomas the Tank Engine for young Billy, a t-shirt with the name of the town where they pulled in for Becky, or a balsa wood airplane for Chris.  The first store opened in St. Louis' Union Station (we believe in 1994, but are still looking to confirm that), then others popped up in converted train stations all over the country.  Then they got really ambitious.

Stores opened in shopping malls from California to South Carolina, dozens of them selling train and hobby pieces at full retail prices at a time when the internet seriously began to under-price retailers.  They simply could not keep up.  By the year 2000, the Dallas, Texas-based chain filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and then the stores started closing.  We at the ATT blog believe the sign we have on display in our Toy Box likely came from the store that was once in the King of Prussia Mall near the location for the American Treasure Tour.  We are sorry to lose such a fun store, but glad we can at least keep its memory alive.


We at the blog wanted to ask you what town in the United States had the first indoor shopping mall to complement our subject today, but we realized the potential firestorm we could unleash, as many different cities may try to claim this honor.  Instead, we want to play it safe with a more politically correct question:

What is the prettiest color of the following choices?

a)  Gray

b)  Puce

c)  Mauve

d)  Military Green

e)  Ochre

Answer Below


American.  Express.  Together, those two words describe a powerful force that has impacted society for exactly 164 years.  It was founded as an express mail company by Henry Wells and William Fargo, who partnered up and opened their doors in the Tribeca District of Manhattan, New York City and gained a monopoly in the movement of express shipments in the state before they expanded into money orders, then traveler's checks, then they moved into other parts of the country, going as far west as California, then jumping overseas into other countries.  It was not until 1958 that the first American Express credit cards were distributed and, as they say, the rest is history.  Millions of people now buy services and items on credit, and American Express remains one of the most prominent and well-respected cards around the world.

There are thousands of cultural destinations in the United States that give people the opportunity to see important, thought provoking and fun artifacts, art, and memorabilia.  It may be difficult for people to realize the American Treasure Tour is not the only destination for culture-hungry visitors, but it's true.  On this day in 1990, bad people broke into the Boston-located Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and stole twelve paintings in what is one of the largest thefts of art in United States history, amounting to $300 million in irreplaceable art.  The museum was established by Gardner to share her wonderful collection of paintings, sculpture, and her very house itself, and is very, very worth visiting when you are in Boston.  But the empty spots remain on the walls where these paintings belong.  If you find them, please return them:


Yesterday, we celebrated the birthday of the fifth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Roger Taney, who decided against the freedom of a slave, Dred Scott, and in so doing pushed the country towards Civil War. Today, we acknowledge another important man whose actions may have proven even more damaging to maintaining the Union in those days - and he was a Vice President under two Presidents!  John C. Calhoun was born in 1782 in South Carolina, and entered politics.  The intellectual giant and brilliant orator spoke out in defense of the "peculiar institution" that was slavery, going so far as to advocate breaking up the union when he felt that northern politicians threatened his way of life.  He died before the War happened, but many considered his words a strong influence on southern sentiment at the time.  A tough bird, but a man of conviction (whether you agreed with that sentiment or not), happy birthday, Mr. Calhoun! 

If you haven't figured it out yet, the group of writers who create the ATT blog are some of the bigger history nerds you will ever find.  While we prefer to celebrate the birthdays of our First Ladies, we are also reluctantly willing to recognize the big days of the actual presidents, too. Today, we celebrate the only "sandwich" president:  Grover Cleveland!  He remains the only man to serve two non-consecutive terms, from 1885 to 1889, and again from 1893 to 1897.  He probably should have stopped after his first term, though, since an economic depression dominated his second term.  Could not have been much fun for him, but how could he have known when he ran for re-election that that was going to happen?


The ship of democracy, which has weathered all storms, may sink through the mutiny of those on board. - Grover Cleveland

Answer:  d)  Military Green, of course!  (Please Note:  this is fact, based solely on personal preference. No major studies were conducted to determine this.)