A collection of magazine and newspaper articles, academic papers, advertisements, press releases, typed and hand-written correspondence, speeches, drafts, and other materials relating to Belle Kogan and her career as an industrial designer.
Industrial designer, of Russian birth, who was trained in art and manufacturing in the United States. She opened her own design studio, Belle Kogan Associates (BKA) in New York City in the early 1930s and did free-lance design work in a variety of materials until her retirement in 1972. Miss Kogan's corporate clients included, among others, Reed & Barton, Ebeling & Reuss, Towle Manufacturing Co., Federal Glass Co., Red Wing Potteries, Bausch & Lomb, Boonton Molding Co., U.S. Glass Co., Bakelite Corp., Muench-Kreuzer Candle Co., Libbey Glass, National Brush Co., Prolon Plastics, Dow Chemical, Beacon Plastics, Haviland China Co., Mallory Randall and Maryland Plastics Co.
Formatted Contents note:
(from covers) I. Life and career -- II. Silver, gold, pewter, iron, brass, steel, aluminum -- III. Silver and other metals (continued) -- IV. Small appliances, graphics & packaging, furniture -- V. Glass, plastics, candles, pressed wood -- VI. Pottery -- VII. Articles & speeches on general design topics -- [Supplemental article]. Red Wing art pottery, kitchenware, and dinnerware designed by Belle Kogan / Bernard and Barbara Banet.
Collection compiled by Belle Kogan and Bernard A. Banet.
Decorative arts -- History -- 20th century -- Sources Search this
This material does not cover all clients and projects undertaken by Dreyfuss. This collection consists of theater design materials, industrial design materials, primarily, though not exclusively, from the 1950s and 60s, draft copies of his books, including extensive research files for the "Symbol Sourcebook," texts of lectures delivered by Dreyfuss, and biographical material. Included is Dreyfuss's Brown Book which provides an outline of his achievements. Photographs and slides of many of his designs are included. Materials relating to three publications include original drafts of the books with author notes, drawings, photographs, correspondence, and research materials. Also contains materials relating to the symbols exhibition held at the Hallmark Gallery in New York City in 1972.This collection was the source of many of the objects and issues addressed in Cooper-Hewitt's 1997 exhibition, "Henry Dreyfuss: Directing Design", and companion book, "Henry Dreyfuss, Industrial Designer: The Man in the Brown Suit", both conceived by Russell Flinchum. 311 reels of microfilm documenting most of the projects undertaken by Dreyfuss Associates were created by the firm and added to the collection later.
Materials are arranged into four record groups: 1) Biographical information; 2) Theater design; 3) Industrial design; and 4) Publications.
The biographical material is arranged into four sub groups:1) Lectures and Articles by Dreyfuss; 2) Articles about Dreyfuss; 3) Dreyfuss firm promotional mailings; and 4) Other material (photos, awards, etc.).Each sub-group is filed chronologically.
The Industrial Design records are divided into two sub groups:Early Industrial Design, 1929-1935, and Industrial Design, 1936-1969, and arearranged alphabetically by client name.
The publication materials arearranged alphabetically by title of publication.
Industrial and stage designer. Born New York, March 2, 1904. Attended Society for Ethical Culture High School in New York. Apprenticed to designer Norman Bel Geddes, 1922-1924. Established his own industrial design firm in 1929. His clients included Bell Telephone Laboratories, Deere & Company, Honeywell, Inc., Polaroid Corporation, General Electric, the 1939-40 and 1964-65 New York World's Fairs, New York Central Railroad, Hoover Company, Singer Sewing Machine Company, Royal Typewriter Co., Lockheed Aircraft, McCall's magazine, and others.
Dreyfuss was a founding member of the Society of Industrial Designers, and the first president of the Industrial Designers Society of America. He is best known for his designs for the Bell 500 and Trimline telephones, the Westclox Big Ben alarm clock, Deere & Company tractors, Polaroid's Automatic 100, Swinger, and SX-70 Land Cameras, and New York Central Railroad's 1938 Twentieth Century Limited. In the 1950s, Dreyfuss was one of the pioneers in the application of anthropometrics (the study of human dimensions and capabilities) in his designs. In 1969, Dreyfuss retired from his firm, but remained active as a corporate consultant. He was the author of several important books including: "Designing for People", 1955; "Measure of Man", 1959; and "Symbol Sourcebook", 1972.
Location of Other Archival Materials Note:
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Applied Arts Department. Models and realized objects including control knobs for GM and Deere vehicles, plastic plates and various ceramic pieces with international symbols, Trimline telephones, an RCA Victor radio, a Westclox "Big Ben" alarm clock, and a Presco "AirClip" hair clipper.
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Drawings and Prints Department. Hundreds of drawings of designs for tractors, train, plane, and ship interiors, television and radio cabinets, product labels, logos, packaging, office buildings, and costumes.
Other archival repositories containing Dreyfuss materials include: AT&T Archives, Warren, New Jersey; Deere & Co. Archives, Moline, Iowa; Honeywell Archives, Minneapolis, MN; Hoover Company, Canton, Ohio; Polaroid Archives, Cambridge, MA; Billy Rose Theater Collection, New York Public Library; Ethical Culture/Fieldson School Archives, New York; New York Central System Historical Society, Inc.
United Scenic Artists Local 829 Archives, New York; New York World's Fair 1939-40 Archives, Manuscript Division, New York Public Library; and San Diego Aerospace Museum Archives.
Henry Dreyfuss and Doris Marks donated his papers to Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, in the fall of 1972.
Additional materials were transferred to the museum in 1973 from the University of California at Los Angeles, which held a small collection of material deeded by Henry Dreyfuss in 1962.
311 reels of microfilm were donated to the museum in 1992.
Unrestricted research use onsite by appointment. Permission of staff required to photograph material.
The papers of Reginald R. Isaacs measure 22.54 linear feet and date from 1842 to 1991, with the bulk of the material from 1928 to 1991. The collection includes Isaacs's personal and professional papers, as well as extensive research material he collected and created for his two-volume biography, Walter Gropius: The Man and His Work.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of of architect, instructor, writer, and city planner Reginald R. Isaacs (1911-1986) measure 22.54 linear feet and date from 1842 to 1991 with the bulk of the material dating from 1883 to 1985. The collection includes Isaacs's personal and professional papers, as well as extensive research material he collected and created for his two volume two-volume biography of Bauhaus architect, Walter Gropius: Walter Gropius: The Man and His Work. The bulk of Walter Gropius' papers are housed at the Busch Reisinger Museum at Harvard University, and the Bauhaus Archiv in Germany.
Series 1 to 12 contain contain biographical, legal, and financial material; personal and professional correspondence; project and subject files; writings and publications; teaching files; works of art; scrapbooks; printed material; and photographs relating to Isaacs' personal and professional career.
Series 13 forms the bulk of the collection and pertains specifically to the writing and publication of Isaacs' biography of Gropius. It contains research material, correspondence (much of it with Gropius), drafts of the manuscript, publication correspondence, photographs and illustrations, and printed material. Some of the research material, including some of the photographs and illustrations that were used in the biography, appear to have been original documents of Walter Gropius, while large portions of the material are photocopies of the originals, many of them in German.
The collection is arranged into fourteen series. Glass plate negatives are housed separately and closed to researchers.
Series 7: Writings, 1940-1986, undated (Boxes 3-4, 22; 2.0 linear feet)
Series 8: Teaching Files, 1954-1973 (Boxes 4-5; 1.0 linear foot)
Series 9: Works of Art, 1965-1967, undated (Box 5, OV 23; 3 folders)
Series 10: Scrapbooks, 1929-1969 (Box 5; 2 folders)
Series 11: Printed Material, 1842-1844, 1913-1986, undated (Box 5; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 12: Photographs, 1959-1981, undated (Boxes 5, 22; 7 folders)
Series 13: Walter Gropius Biography, circa 1880s-1991, undated (Boxes 6-22, OV 23, MGP 1, MGP 2, MGP 4; 16.0 linear feet)
Series 14: Unprocessed Addition, 1974-1985 (Box 24; 1.0 linear foot)
Born in Canada in 1911, Reginald R. Isaacs began working in architectural offices at age 14, later coming under the influence of "Beaux-Arts diplomes" at the University of Minnesota and Harvard and subsequently under that of Walter Gropius at Harvard University. He later studied sociology and planning at the University of Chicago under Louis Wirth and Rexford Guy Tugwell.
Isaacs served on the staffs of city planning commissions in Minneapolis, Syracuse, and Chicago, and in the federal government in the National Youth Agency, Public Housing Authority, and Housing and Home Finance Agency. His architectural practice in Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and other cities included the design of housing, colleges, and hospitals. He was director of planning and development for Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago, 1945-1953, where Walter Gropius, planner Walter Blucher, and sociologist Louis Wirth collaborated with him as consultants. He was a United Nations expert on regional planning in South America, and a planning consultant for the Ford Foundation, the U.S. State Department, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Recommended by Walter Gropius, Isaacs served as the Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning at Harvard University from 1953-1978. He was also Chairman of the Graduate School of Design's Departments of City and Regional Planning as well as Landscape Architecture. Throughout his career he lectured at universities throughout the United States and in almost every country of Central and South America and in the Caribbean.
In 1962 Isaacs and Gropius began their collaboration on Walter Gropius: The Man and his Work, until the death of Gropius in 1969. The first volume of the biography was published in German in 1983, with the second volume following in 1984. Isaacs died of a massive heart attack in 1986, never realizing his goal to see an English-language edition which was published posthumously in 1991 by the Estate of Reginald Isaacs.
1911 -- Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
1935 -- Received Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Minnesota
1939 -- Received Masters of Architecture degree from Harvard University, Graduate School of Design
1947-1950 -- Studied sociology and planning with Louis Wirth and Rexford Guy Tugwell at the University of Chicago
1945-1953 -- Director of planning at Michael Reese Hospital, Chicago, Illinois
1951-1953 -- Guest lecturer at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design with Walter Gropius and also served a two-year term as a member of the Board of Overseers Committee to Visit the Graduate School of Design
1953-1978 -- Named the Charles Dyer Norton Professor of Regional Planning
1953-1964 -- Chairman of the Department of City and Regional Planning
1953-1958 -- Chairman of the Department of Landscape Architecture
1962 -- Began collaboration with Walter Gropius on the biography Walter Gropius - The Man and his Work
1969 -- Walter Gropius dies
1983 -- Walter Gropius, Der Mensch und Sein Werk, Volume 1 published by Gebr. Mann Nerlag, Berlin
1984 -- Walter Gropius, Der Mensch und Sein Werk, Volume 2, published by Gebr. Mann Nerlag, Berlin
1986 -- Isaacs dies
1991 -- Walter Gropius: An Illustrated Biography of the Creator of the Bauhaus, published by the Estate of Reginald Isaacs. The Papers of Reginald R. Isaacs donated to the Archives of American Art by his son, Henry Isaacs.
The collection was donated to the Archives of American Art by Henry Isaacs, son of Reginald Isaacs, in January 1991. An additional 1.0 linear foot was donated by Merry White, daughter of Reginald Isaacs, in 1997.
This collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment and is restricted to the Washington, D.C. research facility.
The papers of Reginald R. Isaacs are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights, as possessed by the donor, have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
The records of Wedge Innovations document the invention and development of a new hand tool, the SmartLevel, an electronic builder's level; also included are company management and policies.
Scope and Contents:
The SmartLevel story gives excellent insight into the life cycle of a small Silicon valley start-up in the 1980s. SmartLevel's creator, Wedge Innovations, established a market for a new product, achieved national distribution, off-shore manufacturing, and product licensing, before going out of business due to pressure from profit-hungry venture capitalists.
The records of Wedge Innovations is a "tool biography" that documents the invention and development of a new hand tool, the SmartLevel, an electronic builder's level first conceived in 1985 by Andrew Butler. The SmartLevel Collection is divided into seven series: Corporate Records, Engineering Records, Financial Records, Marketing Records, Operations Records, Product Development Records, and Corporate Culture, reflecting both the organizational structure of Wedge Innovations and the company's working environment.
Series 1, Corporate Records, 1985-1993, address the overall management of Wedge Innovations and document its policies, especially through the company's annual business plans, 1986-1992, and the monthly reports prepared for the Board of Directors' meetings, 1989-1992. This series also details the workings of each department through weekly departmental reports. The staff meetings files, July-November 1989, February 1990-November 1992, are particularly useful for understanding the day-to-day operation of the company.
Series 2, Engineering Records, 1985-1993, document the design and development of the SmartLevel from its conception in 1985 as the WedgeLevel, through its production as the SmartLevel in 1989, and through its refinement into the Pro SmartLevel and the Series 200 SmartLevel in 1991. The design process is particularly well documented through Andrew Butler's and Kevin Reeder's design notebooks and through the detailed technical drawings done by Butler, Reeder, and Ronald Wisnia. Also well documented are the efforts made to solve the many problems associated with the development and quality control of the electronic sensor module that was the heart of the SmartLevel.
Series 3, Financial Records, 1985-1992, include Wedge's summary financial statements from 1985 to 1992.
Series 4, Marketing Records, 1986-1992, document customer and dealer relations through marketing department correspondence, operational records, and advertising campaigns. This series is particularly rich in promotional material (1988-1992), such as advertisements, advertising copy, photographs, product promotion plans, and videotapes that demonstrate the varied features and uses of the products.
Series 5, Operations Records, 1990-1993, document the manufacturing process and the Company's offshore operations.
Series 6, Product Development Records, 1986-1993, document the company's intended development of an entire "Smart Tools" line.
Series 7, Corporate Culture, 1985-1996, contains employee photographs and oral history interviews with key Wedge personnel conducted in 1995 and 1996 by David Shayt, Division of Work and Industry, National Museum of American History. The interviews discuss the background of the participants, the company's origins and history, product development, the Silicon Valley context, and the efforts of Wedge Innovations successor firm, SmartTool Technologies.
The collection organized into seven series.
Series 1, Corporate Records, 1985-1993
Series 2, Engineering Records, 1985-1993
Series 3, Financial Records, 1985-1992
Series 4, Marketing Records, 1986-1992
Series 5, Operations Records, 1990-1993
Series 6, Product Development Records, 1986-1993
Series 7, Corporate Culture, 1985-1996
Biographical / Historical:
Andrew G. Butler (b. 1955), the founder of Wedge Innovations exhibited an interest in building construction and an entrepreneurial spirit early in life. From age 12 to 17 he built a boat that he then sailed alone from California to Tahiti, where he spent several years as an independent carpenter and building contractor. After returning to the United States, he earned a B.S. degree in electromechanical engineering from Stanford University (1983) and became a software specialist for Bechtel Construction. In 1985, he conceived of an idea for an electronic carpenter's level that could read a range of angles. Butler formed Wedge Innovations in 1986. He worked in the basement of his home in order to develop and market this level, selling his boat to finance the venture. He hired Marilyn Crowell as his secretary and Robert Nagle and Dan Kellogg as engineers. This company developed the sensor technology and software necessary to build the company's first product, the WedgeLevel. The heart of this tool was an electronic sensor circuit connected to a microprocessor capable of measuring the tool's orientation. This sensor module fit into an ergonomically-designed teak rail with anodized aluminum edges jointly developed by Butler, engineering design consultant Kevin Reeder, and engineer Ronald Wisnia.
In 1987, Wedge moved to Santa Clara to begin manufacturing the WedgeLevel. The transition from a research and development concern to a manufacturing company proved difficult, due to manufacturing and financial difficulties. It was difficult to obtain a reliable yet inexpensive source of teak for the rails, designs for a plastic composite and aluminum rail were developed, while offshore manufacturing of the sensor components was established. Overarching all concerns was the persistent difficulty of obtaining sufficient investment capital. While managing his growing company, Butler also began planning for a line of hand tools that combined microelectronics and user-oriented, ergonomic design. In 1988, the company changed the name of its product to SmartLevel in order to emphasize the company's proposed line of Smart Tools. That same year, the company adopted a new corporate logo, a stylized W with a red wedge, signaling its growing maturity. Promotion of the product also began through demonstrations of the prototype done by consultant building contractor, Rick Feffer.
In January 1989, the SmartLevel prototype was launched at the National Association of Home Builders Show in Atlanta, Georgia. The favorable publicity generated by this launch and by the company's media campaign generated many orders. To supply these orders, Wedge moved to larger quarters in Sunnyvale on April 1, 1989. In June 1989, Wedge gained further publicity by donating several SmartLevels to a Habitat for Humanity project in Milwaukee, where former president Jimmy Carter used one. Although Wedge expected to ship the first SmartLevels in July 1989, there were considerable delays in manufacturing. In particular, there were stability and performance problems with the sensor, which engineer Ken Gunderson was brought in to remedy. The sensor module was re-engineered to be more rugged and the level was redesigned with a plastic composite and aluminum rail. The new level, known as the Pro SmartLevel, was intended for the professional construction market. The first SmartLevels were shipped on September 5, 1989.
In 1990, patents were granted to Andrew Butler, Donald G. Green, and Robert E. Nagle for an inclinometer sensor circuit and to Butler and Ronald Wisnia for a carpenter's level design. That same year, Brian Bayley joined Wedge as Vice-president for Engineering, and Edwin "Win" Seipp joined as Project Manager - DIY SmartLevel. Seipp's responsibility was to develop a low-cost, "do-it-yourself" version of the SmartLevel, which was eventually called the Series 200 SmartLevel. This level had an all-aluminum rail and a non-removable sensor.
In September 1990, the company moved to San Jose and by 1991 had over 60 employees. Although sales continued to grow and name recognition of the product was quite strong, Wedge had difficulty meeting the expectations of its investors. Butler entered into financial negotiations with the Macklanburg-Duncan Corporation, a large-scale manufacturer of hand tools, to seek investment in his company. These negotiations led in November 1992 to the acquisition of Wedge by Macklanburg-Duncan, which dissolved all but Wedge's engineering section. Macklanburg-Duncan today manufactures a "SmartTool" level, while Butler co-owns D2M (Design To Market), a company that develops new product ideas for the market.
1992 -- Butler negotiates with Macklanburg-Duncan for a merger to save Wedge. In the midst of the negotiations, Butler is fired by his Board of Directors. Butler regains control of Wedge three months later, fires the replacement president, and sells Wedge outright to Macklanburg-Duncan, which dissolves all but the engineering functions of Wedge.
1991 -- Wedge sponsors a "New Product Development Conference," where numerous designs for new hand tools are worked on. SmartLevel sales and name recognition grows but not quickly enough to meet overhead expenses of new facility or investors' demands.
1990 -- Yet more redesign work, both in-house and with Kevin Reeder, who also develops idea for "SmartTube" carrying case (not built). Patents granted to Andy Butler et al. for inclinometer sensor circuit and carpenter's level design. Wedge hires Brian Bayley as vice-president for engineering to develop a low-cost model of the SmartLevel. The all-aluminum Series 200 SmartLevel is born. Wedge moves to larger facilities in San Jose.
1989 -- SmartLevel launched at National Association of Home Builders show in January. Good press coverage, but cannot meet orders. More publicity from Habitat for Humanity project when former President Jimmy Carter uses a SmartLevel. But stability and performance problems plague sensor. More redesign work results in more rugged Pro SmartLevel. The first SmartLevels shipped on September 5, 1989.
1987-1988 -- Wedge moves to Santa Clara; intends to begin manufacturing and todevelop an entire line of "Smart Tools" but encounters financial and engineering difficulties; Wedge consults with independent design engineer, Kevin Reeder, on level design. Intensive redesign effort develops the SmartLevel, made of plastic and aluminum rail.
1986 -- Wedge Innovations founded in the basement of Butler's house; basic sensor design worked out; teak & aluminum WedgeLevel developed.
1985 -- Idea for electronic carpenter's level formulated by Andy Butler.
Materials at the National Museum of American History
The Division of Work and Industry, National Museum of American History contains artifacts related to the SmartLevel Collection. These include five SmartLevels (Accession #1991.0823; 1996.0284; 1996.0285; 1996.0288; and 1996.0289). They are an original teak WedgeLevel, a Pro SmartLevel, a Series 200 SmartLevel, a Bosch version of the SmartLevel, and a Macklanburg-Duncan SmartTool level. There are also four sensor modules (torpedo levels), two sensors, two carrying cases, one cap, one tee shirt, and one wooden puzzle with the inscription "The World Isn't Just Level and Plumb."
The collection was donated by Andrew Butler, SmartLevel inventor and company founder, Brian Bayley, Vice-President for engineering at Wedge Innovations from 1989-1992, and Kevin Reeder, an independent industrial designer, 1995-1997.
The collection is open for research use.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
The papers of designer, illustrator, and muralist John Vassos measure 18.7 linear feet and date from 1915 to 1989. The papers include biographical materials, personal and professional correspondence, writings and writing project files, Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) files, Radio Corporation of American (RCA) files, Silvermine Guild of Artists files, general professional and committee files, printed materials, four scrapbooks, photographic materials, and artwork.
Scope and Contents:
The papers of designer, writer, illustrator, and muralist John Vassos measure 18.7 linear feet and date from 1915 to 1989. The papers include biographical materials, personal and professional correspondence, writings and writing project files, Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) files, Radio Corporation of American (RCA) files, Silvermine Guild of Artists files, general professional and committee files, printed materials, four scrapbooks, photographic materials, and artwork.
Biographical materials include various biographies and resumes, passports for Ruth and John Vassos and other vital documents, one unidentified interview transcript with Vassos, property boundaries, leases, and scattered financial materials among other material. Correspondence is primarily professional in nature and is with colleagues, industrial design organizations in which Vassos' was involved, organizations and individuals with which Vassos' may have done consulting work, and others. Personal correspondence includes exchanges with a few WWII military colleagues and friends, and several files of personal correspondence between Ruth and John Vassos during his deployment in WWII.
John Vassos was a prolific writer and illustrated and wrote a number of articles, books, essays, and play scripts. Writings and writing projects include handwritten and typed drafts of book manuscripts, including Vassos' autobiography; sketched mock-ups with illustrations and layouts for articles and books; publishing contracts and correspondence; and writings by others. Notable published books include Contempo, Phobia, and Ultimo.
Vassos' involvement in the founding and eventual merging of major U. S. industrial design organizations is documented within the IDSA files, which include materials on ADI, IDI, ASID, SID, and IDEA.
Vassos' thirty-plus year career as a consultant designer with RCA is documented through various materials, including contract agreements, correspondence, design plans and sketches, expense reports, project proposals, and various other materials. And as the president and an active member of the Silvermine Guild of Artists, Vassos kept extensive files on Guild activities, including building proposals and sketches, logo designs, exhibitions, school plans and lesson structures, photographs, and printed materials.
Vassos' involvement with numerous other professional organizations and committees as a consultant designer, illustrator, member, and muralist, is documented through general professional and committee files. Vassos designed appliances, bicycles, flatware, knives, pens, radios, rifles, television sets, and turnstiles, in addition to painting murals, designing several buildings, and doing interior design work for theaters. Companies include: General Electric Company; M. Hohner, Inc.; the India Industries World Trade Fair; International Society for Arts and Decoration; Kuljian Corporation; Packard Motor Car Company; Perey Manufacturing Company; Prudential Lines, Inc.; Remington Arms Company, Inc.; Remington Dupont; and Savage Arms Corporation, to name a few.
The collection also includes printed materials; three clippings scrapbooks on the Silvermine Guild and School, and one scrapbook assembled by a Greek student, George Second; and photographic items: approximately 97 glass lantern slides, various negatives, color slides, and photographs of John Vassos and others, as well as images of products and designs, and two photo albums of industrial design work.
Artwork includes extensive figure and illustration sketches in pen, pencil, charcoal, watercolor, and other media; two paintings by Vassos; mural design drawings and sketches; sketches of products and designs; and several sketches and a collection of silkscreen prints by other artists, including Dorothy Byard and Bernard Sanders.
This collection is arranged as 11 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1915-1975 (0.4 linear feet; Box 1, Box 16, OV20, OV35)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1927-1986 (2.3 linear feet; Boxes 1-3)
Series 3: Writings and Writing Projects, circa 1929-1989 (1.0 linear feet; Boxes 3-4, OV20)
Series 4: Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), circa 1938-1976 (2.0 linear feet; Boxes 4-6, Box 16, OV21)
Series 5: Radio Corporation of America (RCA), circa 1930s-1976 (2.1 linear feet; Boxes 6-7, Box 15, OV22-24, OV26)
Series 6: Silvermine Guild of Artists, 1915-1986 (1.9 linear feet; Boxes 7-9, Box 16, OV27-28)
Series 7: General Professional and Committee Files, circa 1920s-1983 (3.8 linear feet; Boxes 9-11, Boxes 15-16, OV26, OV29-39, RD57)
Series 8: Printed Material, circa 1928-circa 1985 (1.6 linear feet; Boxes 11-12, Box 16)
Series 9: Scrapbooks, circa 1940s-1953 (0.8 linear feet: Box 13, Box 17, Box 19)
Series 10: Photographic Materials, 1919-circa 1989 (1.7 linear feet; Boxes 13-14, Box 16, Box 18, OV40-41, Lantern Slide Boxes 58-59)
Series 11: Artwork, circa 1930s-circa 1970s (1.7 linear feet; Box 14, Box 18, OV25, OV42-56)
Biographical / Historical:
John Vassos (1898-1985) was an author, designer, illustrator, and muralist, active in Norwalk, Connecticut.
Vassos was born John Vassacopoulos, in Romania to Greek parents, attended Robert College in Turkey, and joined the British Fleet to serve in World War I. He immigrated to Boston in 1919, where he washed windows and studied art and illustration with John Singer Sargent at the Fenway Art School. In 1924, he moved to New York City where he studied at the Art Students League under John Sloan.
Vassos began his career as an illustrator for various magazines, in addition to writing, illustrating, and publishing over fourteen books, most notably, Contempo, Phobia, and Ultimo. He worked on many publications with his wife, Ruth Carrier, who often wrote what he then illustrated in the late 1920s through the 1930s.
Employed as an industrial designer at the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), he established their first internal design department in 1933. He contributed a number of RCA product designs, including radios, radio cabinets, and televisions during his time as a consultant and designer. In addition, he designed RCA's first electronically decorated living room for the New York World's Fair, "America at Home" pavilion. He remained as an industrial design consultant with RCA through 1964. Vassos went on to work as a consultant designer to create utensils with Remington Dupont, the first Lucite pen for Waterman, and redesigned turnstiles for Perey Manufacturing Company, among many other companies. In addition to product design work, Vassos did interior design work for restaurants and theaters, and painted murals for a number of companies, hotels, and movie theaters.
During World War II, Vassos served in the U. S. Army Air Corps developing camouflage techniques and conducting special operations in Greece while also writing a number of publications, including informational advertisements and flyers, as well as several brief illustrated books warning about carelessness with regards to camouflage and equipment.
In 1938, Vassos founded the American Designers Institute (ADI) and became president again in 1948. He was instrumental in the merger of the major industrial design associations, the Industrial Designers Institute (IDI), Industrial Design Education Association (IDEA), American Society of Industrial Designers (ASID), and the Society of Industrial Designers (SID), into the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), where he was elected the first Chairman of the Board in 1965.
Additionally, he was president of the Silvermine Guild of Artists in Connecticut for ten terms from 1936 to 1955, where he designed the logo and raised significant funds with help from his influence with RCA. Between 1938 and 1940, the Guild held an exhibition titled Social Statements and included works by various members, to which he contributed two oil paintings of his own.
Vassos died in 1985 in Norwalk, Connecticut.
John Vassos' papers are also at Syracuse University.
The John Vassos papers were donated from 1989 to 1990 by Paul Johnes, Vassos' nephew.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.
The John Vassos papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
The papers of painter, photographer, lithographer and industrial designer Charles Sheeler measure 4.9 linear feet and date from circa 1840s to 1966, with the bulk of the material dating from 1923-1965. The collection documents Sheeler's family, personal life and career through financial and medical records, awards, correspondence, writings, an autobiography, journal and notebooks, scrapbooks, exhibition catalogs and announcements, printed materials, photographs, funeral records and artwork by Sheeler and others. The collection is particularly rich in Sheeler's writings, and also includes Sheeler's industrial designs and manufactured artwork. Notable photographs include Sheeler with Edward Weston, Edward Steichen, and John Marin.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of painter, photographer, lithographer and industrial designer Charles Sheeler measure 4.9 linear feet and date from circa 1840s to 1966, with the bulk of the material dating from 1923-1965. The collection documents Sheeler's family, personal life and career through financial and medical records, awards, correspondence, writings, an autobiography, journal and notebooks, scrapbooks, exhibition catalogs and announcements, printed materials, photographs, funeral records and artwork by Sheeler and others. The collection is particularly rich in Sheeler's writings, and also includes Sheeler's industrial designs and manufactured artwork. There are photographs of Sheeler with Edward Weston, Edward Steichen, and John Marin.
Biographical materials date from 1875, and 1928-1965, and include funeral records, medical records, insurance, tax, and scattered financial records. There is one folder of records relating to artwork and exhibitions, as well as Sheeler's numerous certificates, prizes and awards, and the condolence book used at his funeral.
Correspondence consists of Sheeler's personal and professional correspondence dating from 1937-1966 with friends, artists, dealers, collectors, photographers, and curators. Notable correspondents include Ansel Adams, Walter and Louise Arensberg, William Lane, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, George Waters, William Carlos Williams, and Edward Weston. The series also includes correspondence with the Archives of American Art, Sheeler's biographer Constance Rourke, and with publishers, editors, children, and the general public. Lastly, there are condolence letters written to Musya Sheeler following Sheeler's death in May 1965.
Writings include Sheeler's journal dating from the 1950s-1963 and two notebooks containing notes, addresses, recipes, etc. Also found are Sheeler's writings on artists, drafts for articles, and a manuscript and notes for an autobiography that Sheeler wrote for Harcourt Brace. The autobiography became the basis for Constance Rourke's biography Charles Sheeler: Artist in the American Tradition published in 1938. The writing series also includes a short story by Musya Sheeler, and an illustrated short story by friend Dorothy Eidlitz.
The scrapbook series contains two oversize scrapbooks dating from 1930s-1960s that include newspaper and magazine clippings about Sheeler and his artwork, exhibition announcements and brochures, a poem, and a thank you letter from Abby Aldrich Rockefeller.
Additional printed materials date from 1923-1966 and document Sheeler's numerous exhibitions, notably his partnership with Edith Halpert and the Downtown Gallery. Found here are clippings, copies of magazines, exhibition announcements and catalogs, museum bulletings, books, and miscellaneous items.
Photographs date from circa 1840s-1963 and include photographs of Sheeler's family, of Sheeler, and of Sheeler with friends and colleagues. There is one daguerreotype, two ambrotypes, and two tintypes of Sheeler's family and of Sheeler as a child. There are copyprints of these originals. Additional photographs are of Sheeler's mother and father (or possibly Sheeler's grandparent), of Sheeler, of Sheeler with his wife Musya, Sheeler with William Lane, Sheeler with Edward Weston, and Sheeler with Edward Steichen and John Marin. The series also includes photographs of Sheeler's collection of Shaker furniture, and photographs of exhibitions.
Artwork by Sheeler dates from circa 1930s-1960s and includes artifacts of manufactured pieces based on his industrial designs. Found are a glass tumbler, salt and pepper shakers, a tea spoon, fabrics designed by Sheeler, and sketches. The series also includes a drawing by Peggy Bacon and a photograph by Minor White.
The collection is arranged into seven series. Materials are arranged by material type and chronologically or alphabetically thereafter:
Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1875, 1928-1965 (Boxes 1, 5, OV10; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1937-1966 (Box 1; 0.5 linear feet)
Series 3: Writings, circa 1930s-1965 (Boxes 1-2 ; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 4: Scrapbooks, 1930s-1960s (Boxes 2, 6; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1923-1966 (Boxes 2-4, 7; 1.5 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1840s-1963 (Box 4, OV11; 0.4 linear feet)
Series 7: Artwork, circa 1930s-1960s (Boxes 4-5, 8-9, OV12-OV14; 1.1 linear feet)
Painter, photographer, lithographer and designer, Charles Rettew Sheeler Jr. was born on July 16, 1883 to Mary Cunningham Sheeler and Charles Rettew Sheeler in Philadelphia. He attended the School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia from 1900-1903 and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he studied under William Merritt Chase. He found early success as a painter and exhibited at the Macbeth Gallery in 1908.
Around 1910 Sheeler took up photography, and by 1912 financially supported himself photographing buildings for local Philadelphia architects. The following year, Sheeler exhibited six paintings at the 1913 Armory Show in New York. In the mid 1910s, Sheeler began to collect American antiques, and by the 1920s was actively acquiring Shaker crafts and furniture.
In 1916, Sheeler was hired by Marius de Zayas of the Modern Gallery in New York to photograph objects and artwork. From 1917-1924, he worked as the staff photographer for the Modern Gallery and moved to New York in 1918. In 1920, Sheeler was hired as a still photographer for The Arts Magazine.
In 1926, Sheeler was hired by Edward Steichen to work as a fashion and celebrity photographer for Conde Nast Publications. His photographs were regularly featured in Vogue and Vanity Fair, but Sheeler also worked as a still life photographer for numerous advertising agencies. The following year, he was commissioned by the advertising firm N.W. Ayer and Son to photograph Ford Motor Company's new plant at River Rouge.
While working as a photographer, Sheeler continued to paint and used the subjects and composition of his photographs as a basis for his painting. His paintings Skyscrapers, 1922; Upper Deck, 1929; and American Landscape, 1930 are examples of Sheeler's technique of merging photographic imagery with painting and his overall precisionist style.
In 1931, upon the advice and guidance of Edith Halpert of the Downtown Gallery, Sheeler began to paint more often and to photograph less. Halpert became Sheeler's primarily dealer, and from 1931-1966 regularly exhibited his paintings and drawings. With Halpert's support, Sheeler produced Classic Landscape, 1931; American Interior, 1934; Silo, 1938; Amoskeag Canal, 1948; and Convolutions, 1952. In addition to Sheeler's partnership with Halpert, his work was exhibited by other galleries and museums throughout the United States and abroad.
In 1939, Sheeler married his second wife, Musya Metas Sokolova (1908-1981) and, in 1942, the couple moved to Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. Sheeler continued to paint and photograph until he suffered a debilitating stroke in 1959. After 1959, Sheeler remained active exhibiting his artwork until his death on May 7, 1965 in Dobbs Ferry, New York.
The Archives of American Art holds several collections that are related to Charles Sheeler.
There are two oral history interviews with Sheeler conducted by Mary Bartlett Cowdrey in December 1958, and by Martin Friedman in June 1959. The Archives also has the records of the Macbeth Gallery, which include a substantial amount of correspondence with Sheeler from 1907-1921, and the Downtown Gallery records, which also include correspondence with Sheeler, photographs of Sheeler and his artwork, exhibition publications, clippings, press releases, and audio visual materials dating from 1904-1972.
Also found in the the Archives is a loan of Charles Sheeler letters filmed on reel NY/59-5 containing letters written by Sheeler to his psychologist and art collector, Dr. Helen Boigon, art student George Craven, and friend William Carlos Williams, all dating from 1939-1958. There is a collection of six letters of Sheeler letters addressed to Doris Royce, possibly an art critic, dating from 1949-1957. Miscellaneous manuscript collections include one letter written by Sheeler to E.P. Richardson in 1958, and another letter written to Frank Crowninshield in September, 1939.
Portions of Sheeler's papers that were originally loaned for microfilming were not included in the later gifts and are available only on microfilm reel NSH-1. A watercolor study microfilmed on reel 1811 was later transferred to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. These materials are not described in the container list of this finding aid.
Charles Sheeler's wife Musya initially loaned the papers to the Archives of American Art for microfilming in 1958, 1965, and 1966. In June, 1966, she donated most of the earlier loaned materials. In 1964, Sheeler's friend Howard Lipman donated three photographs of Sheeler with Edward Steichen and John Marin. The third accrual was transferred to the Archives by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery Library in June 1979.
The collection is open for research. Use requires an appointment.
The Charles Sheeler papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to copyright laws.
This collection does not represent the entire Parzinger archive. The German firm, K.P.M., has the drawings Parzinger produced for the line of ceramics and a part of the documentation for the work in the United States was damaged or lost in a 1951 flood in the Madison Avenue office. However, enough of the archive remains to document a significant part of the designer's work from the 1940s-1970s. Included in the collection are brochures, ad sheets, magazine pages, chart-like sheets of furniture designs, drawings or blueprints, clippings, photographs, press articles, and pages of notes. The collection does not include business papers which were deliberately excluded for space reasons.
Materials are arranged into ten record groups: I. Furniture Designs for Willow & Reed, Salterini, Parzinger Originals and others; II. Silver Design; III. Ceramic/China Design; IV. Designs for Objects made of non-precious metals; V. Objects of Miscellaneous or Obscure Materials; VI. Designs for Enamel Work; VII. Designs for Textiles and/or Wallcoverings; IX. Lighting Fixture Design (electric); and X. Miscellaneous Items. There are also seven 3-ring binders containing photographs of Parzinger's furniture, silver, ceramics, and metalwork from the 1930s--the 1970s. There are notes on the backs of many of the photographs. There are also sketches of his designs for clients. Binder 7 contains photographs of 63 furniture designs by T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings.
Tommi (Anton) Parzinger (1903-1981) was born in Munich and received professional design training there at the Kunstgewebeschule (School of Arts and Crafts).He began his career as a freelance designer in Germany and Austria, working in ceramics, wallpapers, lighting, textiles, and furniture. In 1932 he came to the United States as a prize for winning a poster contest for North German Lloyd, the steamship company. In 1935 he settled in New York and became associated with Rena Rosenthal ("smart furniture and accessories shop") as a designer of china, glassware and furniture. Furniture became is primary focus in 1938 he became a designer for Charak of Boston. In 1939 he formed his own business, Parzinger, Inc., 54 East 57th Street, designing silver as well as furniture. Renamed Parzinger Originals in 1946, the firm also had addresses at 32 East 57th Street; 601 Fifth Avenue and 441 Madison Avenue. Donald Cameron became his partner. In addition to his own firm, he designed furniture, fabrics, lighting and a range of accessories for other firms, including Salterini (wrought iron), Hofstatter (furniture), Dorlyn (brass), and Willow & Reed (rattan). He also produced custom designs for interior decorators and many private clients. In 1996 and 1998 his work was shown by Palumbo Gallery, 972 Lexington Avenue, New York City.
Separated Materials note:
The Cooper-Hewitt departments of Drawings and Prints, Applied Arts, and Textiles and Wallcoverings has additional materials on Parzinger in their collections.
All materials were donated to the museum by Donald Cameron in 1998.
Unprocessed; access is limited; Permission of Library Director required; Policy.