This key from the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad dates from the 1920s or earlier. Made by Loeffelholz, it would be right at home with a Milwaukee Road collector, filling a spot in the long history of one of America's most famous midwestern railroads before it embarked on an expansion to the Pacific Ocean.
CONDITION is interesting - it does appear to have been used, but shows very few signs. It could be called "almost New Old Stock," likely having been made near the end of service. You can see very light barrel striations mostly on the side with the maker mark. The bit edges and barrel end are not sharp so it would appear to have been used for a short time, hence much of the barrel striation would have been worn off. It displays very well with CM&STPRR stamped in block letters taking up one entire side of the bow.
Color is a very attractive deep gold, with NO metal damage anywhere.
BACKGROUND: The CM&StP arose from its earliest beginning in 1847, when the Milwaukee & Waukesha Railroad was incorporated in Wisconsin, with a goal of linking the developing Lake Michigan port city of Milwaukee with the Mississippi River. Not long after a successful incorporation, the M&W changed its name to the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad in 1850. It would be driven into receivership by the nationwide financial panic of 1857. Following numerous mergers, takeovers and acquisitions along with successfully obtaining land grants that would be critical to future success, the railroad emerged as the Milwaukee & St. Paul. Thanks in part to input from wealthy investors, in 1874, the name was changed to Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul and success ensued. By 1887, the railroad had lines running through Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Its corporate headquarters were moved from Milwaukee to the Rand McNally Building in Chicago, America's first all-steel framed skyscraper, in 1889 and 1890.
Lofty goals would prove the CM&StP's undoing. A planned Pacific Extension, including subsequent electrification, cost the Milwaukee Road $257 million, over four times an original estimate of $60 million. To meet this cost, the Milwaukee sold bonds, which began coming due in the 1920s. Traffic never met projections, and by the early 1920s, the railroad was in serious financial condition, exacerbated by the railroad's purchase of several heavily-indebted railroads in Indiana. The company declared bankruptcy in 1925, ending the CM&StP when it reorganized as the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad in 1928.
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