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Does anyone here know where I might be able to find some information/images of the touring car belonging to Bessie Smith - the Blues singer from the 1920's?

I did find a google image of the car used in the film 'Bessie', showning it as a brown or maroon single decker.

However, I heard recently on the radio that it was in fact a 74 foot yellow car with a kitchen on the 'lower level'. The only mention of it I could find on Bessie Smith's Wikipedia page was that it was a '72-foot-long railroad car'.

Some say it was custom built for her, but it's not clear whether she bought it with her own money or if it was provided by Columbia Records.

Many thanks
 

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John, here is a snippet that might save you hours on a 'Snipe Hunt'

History Voiture à impériale Double deck carriages date to at least as early as the second half of the 19th century. In France several hundred voitures à impériale with seats on the roof were in use by the Chemins de fer de l'Ouest, Chemins de fer de l'Est and Chemins de fer du Nord by 1870, having been in use for over 2 decades; the design was open at the sides with a light roof or awning covering the seats. In the 1860s M.J.B. Vidard introduced two-storied carriages on the Chemins de fer de l'Est, with a full body, windows, and doors; the same design lowered the floor of the lower storey to keep the center of gravity low. Vidard's carriages had a total height of 13 feet 8 inches (4.17 m) with the head height in the lower part of the carriage only 5 feet 5 inches (1.65 m); the carriages had a capacity of 80 persons (third class) in a 2 axle vehicle of 13 tons[which?] fully loaded.[5] The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad placed bilevel cars in commuter service in the Chicago area in 1950. These were successful, and led to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway introducing long-distance Hi-Level cars on Chicago–Los Angeles El Capitan streamliner in 1954.[6][7] In 1968, the four experimental double-deck power cars entered service in Sydney, Australia,[8] enabling the first fully double-deck Electric Multiple Unit passenger train in the world.
 

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I did find something useful.

Bessie Smith Biography: Love on the Road | SparkNotes
"While Bessie Smith spent a great deal of money on her own family, she also made sure she traveled in style. She bought a custom-made railroad car for her and her troupe when they traveled. The car was a lavish affair, with two stories, a full kitchen, four bedrooms and a bathroom, and when Smith and her troupe traveled, it became a mixture of hotel, bordello, and saloon. "

And of course, the reason for the car is explained here:
Bessie Smith - New World Encyclopedia
"Being a black artist in the 1920s and 1930s led Smith to face situations that equally successful white artists did not encounter. This included Columbia having to buy her a personal train car because she was not permitted in the 'whites only' first-class car. Smith's brother Clarence suggested the railroad car in 1925. It was custom made for Bessie by the South Iron and Equipment Company and with two stories, seven staterooms that slept four, a kitchen, and a bathroom it was large enough to comfortably hold everyone in her show. It was also recognizable; painted bright yellow with green lettering everyone knew when Smith's show came to town.[14] Also, in July 1927 robed members of the Ku Klux Klan appeared at one of her tent performances and began to pull up the tent stakes. When Smith heard of what was happening she left the tent and confronted the men shaking her fist at them and ordering them to "… pick up them sheets and run!" After continuing to curse at them the KKK members left and Smith returned to her performance.[15] "

Fascinating stuff. Glad you asked!
 

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This is very interesting as I am both a model railroader and a Jazz fan. I had heard of Duke Ellington's band touring in a (rented?) Pullman car but did not know that Bessie Smith had done this also. I wanted to find a photo of the Ellington Band posing in front or near the car to identify what Pullman drawing it would have been in order that I could make a model of it. Or if any one has the information as to which type of car it was I would be very happy if they could help me out on this. I have already built two HW Pennsylvania cars in metal and know that I could do it. From what I saw in documentary films, I beleive the Basie band traveled in Busses. But that may not be the case? One of the things that pleased me about modeling PRR is that a great number of great Jazzmen were born in cities served by the Pennsy!
 

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here is some information that i know....

The Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale, Miss., is located on Sunflower Avenue, a street that winds along with the curves of the silty Sunflower River. The compact brick-fronted building leans down the rise with one story at street level and the second, lower one crouched behind and underneath. Since 1944, the Riverside has been a modest layover for travelers. Seven years before that, though, it was still the G.T. Thomas Afro-American Hospital, a facility earmarked for black patients under Jim Crow law, and it was in the fall of 1937 when Bessie Smith died there, after a car accident on Highway 61 on the way from Memphis to Clarksdale — a stretch of about 75 miles well-traveled by performers during the days of the chitlin circuit. Some accounts of Bessie Smith's last hours add the detail that her ambulance was turned away from a segregated hospital en route, and the extra miles she spent riding, injured, sealed her fate.
But that's a dramatic embellishment to an already tragic story. Smith was a star at the time of her death, a quantified success. She had been a headliner on the Theatre Owners Booking Association black vaudeville circuit, had starred in the two-reel 1929 talkie St. Louis Blues and had sold hundreds of thousands of records. Still, any blues historian will tell you, no ambulance driver would have even tried to stop, under Jim Crow law in 1937, at a white hospital with a black patient.
On Easter Sunday 2019, the river behind the Riverside is so still at low tide it looks like slick, coffee-colored dirt, with trees rising up out of its banks adding to the impression that water is land. The building seems to sit placidly, almost dipping its haunches in the river. Out front, there's a marker from the state of Mississippi's Blues Trail project, a heavy dark-blue placard trimmed in brassy filigree and emblazoned with images and text about the site's importance — it became a hotel in 1943 and hosted Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Sam Cooke, among others — as well as Smith's death.
The Mississippi Delta, especially as defined by the official blues markers that help guide tourism, is really not all that big: From their junction in Clarksdale, highways 49 and 61 branch out like a wishbone. At the widest part, it takes less than an hour to cut across from Greenwood – the likeliest burial spot for Robert Johnson – to Greenville, which has several Blues Trail markers of its own. It only takes about six hours to shoot straight from Memphis down to New Orleans, although, of course, for fans of the evolution of American popular music, there are plenty of places to dally in between. And it's a strange landscape, if you take 61 or 49 instead of the interstate. The miles roll on at a sedate speed limit, lanes bordered on either side by wet rice fields or dry brown acres knobbly with cotton bolls.
These are the kind of roads Bessie Smith's car was on when it crashed north of Clarksdale, and they don't look much different today. A Blues Trail smartphone app makes it easy to navigate between sites like the B.B. King Museum in Indianola, with its state-of-the-art interactive digital music exhibits or the squat white buildings of the old Parchman Farm, which is still the operating Mississippi State Penitentiary. It'll take you to the little churchyard in Greenwood that always seems to be slightly flooded, where the Robert Johnson grave marker is laden with liquor bottles, flowers, handwritten notes and on a weekend last spring, a silver watch draped over the granite.
There's the Dockery Farm plantation, too, where Charley Patton once worked in the fields and played music, a lushly green site that buzzes with insect noise between three or four creaky wooden buildings. Inside the old cotton gin, next to the machinery, a screen plays a short documentary film about the last generation of Mississippians who lived and worked on the plantation, in the middle of the 20th century. You press a button and it loops, and if nobody is there, the voices just keep going inside the weathered walls, telling their stories to the empty humid air.
 

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Thanks for this description Sophiadevon 189. Unfortunatly noone seems to have the info on Duke Ellingtons Pullman car either. But as a railroad modeler and Jazz & Blues fan I would be interested in making a model of that car. I tried writing to the Duke elleington foundation in New york, but never got an answer.
Best, Simon
 

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This is very interesting as I am both a model railroader and a Jazz fan. I had heard of Duke Ellington's band touring in a (rented?) Pullman car but did not know that Bessie Smith had done this also. I wanted to find a photo of the Ellington Band posing in front or near the car to identify what Pullman drawing it would have been in order that I could make a model of it. Or if any one has the information as to which type of car it was I would be very happy if they could help me out on this. I have already built two HW Pennsylvania cars in metal and know that I could do it. From what I saw in documentary films, I beleive the Basie band traveled in Busses. But that may not be the case? One of the things that pleased me about modeling PRR is that a great number of great Jazzmen were born in cities served by the Pennsy!
Hi, did you ever make the Ellington car?
 

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No unfortunatly because I was never able to find a photo of it or to find out what Pullman diagram it was. It doesn't matter because I am hard at work with my new layout, but when it will be finnished I would like to take up that project. I learned about this on a radio show about Ellington, a famous Argentinan director was talking about the time after the war when Django Reinhardt was invited to tour with the Ellington band. That tour was organised in a pullman car for the whole 17 musicians, both great way to travel from city to city and a much safer proposition in the south with the Jim crow laws. On the first morning Django went to the bath room to shower and shave and was astounded by what he saw: It seems there was a flowered underwear contest going on in the band!
Ellington did some very interesting compositions around the railway theme like his "Happy go Lucky Local". One can understand this when one thinks about the endless touring in his Pullman car. Of course Bessie Smith's car would be a nice one to model also.
Railroads had a great deal to do with jazz and blues history. Fats Waller died on the Santa Fe's Super Cheif on the way to LA as he had become a big star by 1940. It seems he had overdone his dinner and a few drinks in the Fred Harvey diner, when he returned to his sleeper he didn't even notice that the heating wasn't working He died that night.
One of my pet thing about modeling the Pennsy is the incredible number of Jazz musicians and blues artists who were born on cities it served. And of course there is the Boogie Woogie, and the blue note does have some relation with a trains chime whistle howling in the night.
 

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No unfortunatly because I was never able to find a photo of it or to find out what Pullman diagram it was. It doesn't matter because I am hard at work with my new layout, but when it will be finnished I would like to take up that project. I learned about this on a radio show about Ellington, a famous Argentinan director was talking about the time after the war when Django Reinhardt was invited to tour with the Ellington band. That tour was organised in a pullman car for the whole 17 musicians, both great way to travel from city to city and a much safer proposition in the south with the Jim crow laws. On the first morning Django went to the bath room to shower and shave and was astounded by what he saw: It seems there was a flowered underwear contest going on in the band!
Ellington did some very interesting compositions around the railway theme like his "Happy go Lucky Local". One can understand this when one thinks about the endless touring in his Pullman car. Of course Bessie Smith's car would be a nice one to model also.
Railroads had a great deal to do with jazz and blues history. Fats Waller died on the Santa Fe's Super Cheif on the way to LA as he had become a big star by 1940. It seems he had overdone his dinner and a few drinks in the Fred Harvey diner, when he returned to his sleeper he didn't even notice that the heating wasn't working He died that night.
One of my pet thing about modeling the Pennsy is the incredible number of Jazz musicians and blues artists who were born on cities it served. And of course there is the Boogie Woogie, and the blue note does have some relation with a trains chime whistle howling in the night.
Wonderful to hear from you. Yes, I too couldn’t find a photo. Thanks for the very interesting information and observations.
 
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