Henry Dreyfuss (March 2, 1904 – October 5, 1972) was an American industrial designer. Dreyfuss and his firm received worldwide recognition for a wide spectrum of consumer and commercial product designs. His design philosophy was based on applied common sense and scientific principles and resulted in significant contributions to human factor analysis and consumer research.
Dreyfuss and his associates designed some of the most ubiquitous and iconic products of twentieth-century America. For example, from the 1930s through the 1960s, Dreyfuss designed telephones for the Western Electric company and the Bell System.
Among his conceptions were locomotive and passenger cars for the streamlined Mercury train, created in 1936. Dreyfus noted in his memoirs that the layout of the chairs, divans, and tables was intended to replicate the atmosphere of “a fine club”.
Dreyfuss’ work marked a turning point in railroad design. His steamliners were the first to be created as a unit, inside and out, integrating everything from locomotive design to dinner china. They were comfortable, efficient, and cost-effective.
In 1938, Dreyfuss created a streamlined iteration of the NYC Hudson locomotive for the 20th Century Limited. Advertised as "The Most Famous Train in the World", it traveled between Grand Central Terminal in New York City and LaSalle Street Station in Chicago, Illinois, along the railroad's Water Level Route. The train’s style was described as "spectacularly understated ... suggesting exclusivity and sophistication”. Passengers walked to the train on a crimson carpet which was rolled out in New York and Chicago specifically for the 20th Century Limited.
In the year of its last run, The New York Times said the Twentieth Century Limited "...was known to railroad buffs for 65 years as the world's greatest train". "Transportation historians," said the writers of The Art of the Streamliner, "consistently rate the 1938 edition of the Century to be the world's ultimate passenger conveyance—at least on the ground".