Charles Merzbach

As has been observed on another page, Charlie Merzbach was a colorful character in the model railroad business.  In the late 1940’s until the 1970’s, he was the US Agent for Fleischmann, a Nürnberg toy manufacturer with a line of H0 trains, adding an additional line of N-Scale trains in 1968. In the early 1960’s, he also became the US Agent for Arnold, doing so at least until the late 1960’s, if not longer.  But this dry description does not do justice to the man.

Charles Merzbach at HIAA Show, New York, circa 1955 Photo copyright and courtesy of Hal Carstens

 As my memory serves, and in talking with others who are knowledgeable about the postwar days of the model railroad hobby, Merzbach is remembered for using another colorful individual in his advertising in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s period.  Many of his early advertisements featured a famous strip tease artist, or in the polite language of that day, an exotic dancer.

This being a family oriented web site, we can only assume that their relationship was purely one of mutual appreciation for German made model electric trains. I am sure that this probably raised more than a few eyebrows even in that day. By today’s effete standards, we can only imagine what sort of uproar would have developed, but you have to remember that the major market for model trains in the time just after World War II was returning military personnel.

After spending four years fighting Nazis and crawling from island to island across the Pacific, these were not people who were easily offended.  And, the attention getting value of an attractive woman is a well established technique in advertising. Perhaps, after looking at the lovely young lass, these GI’s then turned their attention to the trains and realized that here was a hobby that would be acceptable on the home front, something sure to keep them near to their lovely brides and families.  In short, it doesn’t matter where you get your appetite as long as you eat at home.

The exotic dancer in question apparently was Blaze Starr (“Miss Spontaneous Combustion”)(b., 1932), a startlingly famous performer of that era.  In earlier times, she had consorted with Earl K. “Kingfish” Long, an equally startlingly famous governor of Louisiana.  After Uncle Earl left this mortal world with his last suitcase filled with fifties, Starr moved back to New York. And the rest is history....

An individual associated with one of the model railroad industry publishing houses related to me that Mr. Merzbach preferred to book his advertising in the inside back cover of one of their magazines. The publishing house in question is a wholesome one, redolent of family values, so the presence of Ms. Starr in the back cover of their magazine presented a substantial conflict for them.  Once Mr. Merzbach’s new advertising copy arrived at their offices, a talented member of their art staff would dutifully airbrush out any possibly offending expanses of flesh, effectively reining in Ms. Starr’s considerable talents.

Mr. Merzbach passed on in 1992.

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