One point of feedback that I received while doing market research on the Arrowhead brand is that the company risks implying its products are limited to the transition era or earlier. The thought is that, with the association the brand draws to the West, it may be natural to presume the products will fall within the same geographic or an earlier era.
I found this to be a trenchant observation.
On one hand, the railroad and the lore of the frontier West seem to be intrinsically entwined. In the 1800s, when laying track was the going affair, railroads went westward. Expansion was to the frontier. Although there are exceptions, the strength of this trend is remarkable. And perhaps because of this, our conceptions of the West and railroads are highly correlated.
Through the 1950s, railroads employed some of the most creative forces in industrial design. Given the output of their labor, it seems as though these teams saw the West as a venerable source of inspiration, and their work represents the denouement of the industrial aesthetic. Not just good, but so good that history may treat their efforts as types to epitomize all industrial design. Brands like The Super Chief, Hiawatha, and N&W's The Powhattan Arrow are monuments that transcend the railroad universe and speak to the masses.
The proposition that an Arrowhead product line might be limited to this era is an interesting insight into the implications of the brand image. Because, on the other hand, the West was thoroughly crossed by the 1970s, and the austerity of the period ended the budget for glamour marketing. But, the ethos of railroading didn't pass because the network was mature or the marketing departments removed the spotlight. The cowboy spirit still lives in the ballast and creosote, and sometimes, the trek across the vast is as lonely as it ever was.
Nothing communicates this better to me than Blair Kooistra's photograph below. This is the cowboy's renaissance.
Arrowhead's first announcement is upcoming. Connotations to era and geographic be damned, it is a model as prolific on the east coast as the west.
Raise the glass! Exciting things lie ahead.