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Kern Dental Equipment Collection

Creator:
Kern, George Robert, 1894-1962 (cabinet maker, machinist)  Search this
Kern, George Robert, Jr., 1919-1987  Search this
Source:
Medical History, Division of (NMAH, Smithsonian Institution).  Search this
Names:
Densco, Inc.  Search this
Fairfax Manufacturing Company.  Search this
Hazleton Laboratories.  Search this
Kern Laboratory Equipment Company.  Search this
Hazelton, L. W.  Search this
Henninger, R. G.  Search this
Former owner:
Medical History, Division of (NMAH, Smithsonian Institution).  Search this
Extent:
3 Cubic feet (9 boxes)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Correspondence
Drawings
Patents
Blueprints
Advertisements
Date:
1936-1970
Summary:
Blueprints, drawings, patent applications, patents, product photographs, correspondence, bills and receipts, advertising, and published articles related to the Kerns' products. The bulk of the material, 1949-1958, is from George Kern's files. It primarily relates to the development and marketing of the Dentagraph and high speed dental drills before the formation of the Fairfax Manufacturing Company in 1957.
Scope and Contents:
This collection includes blueprints and drawings, patent applications, patents, product photographs, correspondence, bills and receipts, advertising, and published articles related to the Kern's products. The bulk of the material, dating from 1949 to 1958, is from George Kern's files. It primarily relates to the development and marketing of the Dentagraph and high speed dental drills before the formation of the Fairfax Manufacturing Company in 1957. Most of the FMC material document's Kern's role as a stockholder. However, a large portion of the blueprints and drawings were created by his son or other FMC employees. Several of the patents are George Kern, Jr.'s, and there are copies of other people's patents that relate to the Kerns' patents or inventing activities. The collection has been arranged in chronological order within five series.
Arrangement:
The collection is divided into five series.

Series 1: Personal Papers, 1952-1959

Series 2: Product Files, 1945-1968

Series 3: Marketing Records, 1936-1962

Series 4: Client Files, 1949-1958

Series 5: Competitor Files, 1957
Biographical / Historical:
George Robert Kern was born in 1894 and died in 1962. He was an Arlington, Va., area cabinet maker and machinist who went on to invent several pieces of dental equipment that helped revolutionize the field of dentistry in the early 1950s he was joined in these endeavors by his son, George Kern, Jr.

The elder George Kern began working with dental equipment according to his promotional material because of his own experience with poor fitting dentures. As a machinist accustomed to tight tolerances, he knew it must be possible to make dentures fit better. The result of his work was the Dentagraph and his first patent, granted in 1950. In 1948 a company, Kern laboratory, was incorporated to manufacture the Dentagraph and license the "Dentagraph Tech nic." He also sold dental laboratory benches and dental molding materials under the name Kern Laboratory Equipment Company. Kern's Dentagraph was used by the National Standards Laboratory to test denture materials and the laboratory further improved the device. Apparently Kern received the rights to produce and market this improved tool.

In the early 1950s he began working on high speed dental drills. He developed both a water turbine drill and an air turbine drill. The water turbine drill was manufactured by Bowen Company of Maryland under the trademarked name Turbo Jet. In 1957 the company acquired the rights to this tool and its trademark.

Kern and his son improved on the water turbine drill, and in 1957 formed Fairfax Manufacturing Company (FMC) to produce an air turbine drill and the improved water turbine drill. The senior Kern was a participating stockliolder, receiving stock in return for rights to his inventions. George Kern, Jr., L. W. Hazleton (President of Hazleton Laboratories, a biological (research and development company), and R. G. Henninger (General Manager of Hazleton Laboratories) were the company officers. The stockholders included dentists who also tested the companies new products. Densco, Inc., a Colorado dental equipment company, marketed Kern's products from around 1954, and in 1957 the company began to market Fairfax Manufacturing Company's products.

George R. Kern, Jr., was born in 1919. He left public school in the tenth but took courses in industrial electricity and industrial engineering. He worked for worked the National Bureau of Standards for two years building and installing laboratory equipment. In 1951 he began working at Hazelton Laboratories as Superintendent of Maintenance. He patented several pieces of

Dental equipment and specialized parts for dental equipment. He died in 1987.
Related Materials:
The Division of Medicine and Science has several examples of the Kerns' dental equipment, including a Dentagraph and a number of hand pieces.
Provenance:
Collection donated by John Kern, 1992, December 22.
Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Rights:
Usage or copyright restrictions in effect. Contact the repository for details.
Occupation:
Cabinetmakers -- 1930-1970  Search this
Inventors -- 1930-1970  Search this
Machinists -- 1930-1970  Search this
Topic:
Dental instruments and apparatus -- 1930-1970  Search this
Dental technology -- 1930-1970  Search this
Dentistry -- 1930-1970  Search this
Dentures -- 1930-1970  Search this
Inventions -- 1920-2000 -- United States  Search this
Genre/Form:
Correspondence -- 20th century
Drawings -- 1930-1970
Patents -- 20th century
Blueprints -- 20th century
Advertisements -- 20th century
Citation:
Kern Dental Equipment Collection, 1936-1970, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0479
See more items in:
Kern Dental Equipment Collection
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0479

Joseph B. Friedman Papers

Source:
Rosen, Judith B.  Search this
Reiss, Linda A.  Search this
Leeds, Pamela B.  Search this
Friedman, Robert A.  Search this
Creator:
Friedman, Joseph Bernard, Dr., 1900-1982  Search this
Friedman, Betty  Search this
Flexible Straw Corporation.  Search this
Flex-Straw Co.  Search this
Former owner:
Friedman, Robert A.  Search this
Leeds, Pamela B.  Search this
Reiss, Linda A.  Search this
Rosen, Judith B.  Search this
Names:
Klein, Bert  Search this
Extent:
8 Cubic feet (17 boxes, 2 oversize folders)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Ledgers (account books)
Correspondence
Blueprints
Photographs
Videotapes
Personal papers
Date:
1915-2000
Summary:
Papers relating to the development of the flexible drinking straw, Friedman's manufacturing company, and Friedman's other inventions, such as an ice cream scoop, fountain pens, and household appliances.
Scope and Contents:
Papers relating to the development of the flexible drinking straw, Friedman's manufacturing company, and Friedman's other inventions, such as an ice cream scoop, fountain pens, and household appliances. Includes company ledgers, preliminary sketches, blueprints, correspondence, a video cassette, and photographs.
The Joseph B. Friedman Papers encompass the years 1915-2000, with the bulk of the material ranging between 1925 and 1965. This collection is a near complete source for the understanding inventive process of an American entrepreneur. In the case of the flexible straw, the evolution of the invention can be traced from early concept drawings through its manufacture and production, to the development of advertising and marketing materials. Records of necessary design modifications in the flexible straw and legal issues concerning Friedman's invention through its various stages are present here. In addition to providing a detailed linear account of the flexible straw, these papers reflect the varied interests and additional accomplishments of Friedman's invention career. The collection is arranged in three series to reflect the subjects of the material, namely personal papers, invention materials, and corporate records. Materials within each series are arranged by topic and type, and then chronologically.

Series 1: Personal Records (c.1920s-1940) contains family photographs, personal correspondence, education and employment records. Friedman's education records are in Subseries A, while the records of his careers in optometry, insurance and real estate are contained in Subseries B. Subseries C contains personal financial records, including bank statements and income tax returns. Correspondence, photographs, family history items and death certificate are located in Subseries D.

Series 2: Invention & Patent Materials (1915-1967) consists of invention records that include original concept drawings, legal records and patents, marketing correspondence, and the business records of Friedman's sole proprietorship invention business, the Commercial Research Company. It is important for researchers to note that information on the assignment of straw patents and their machinery, all associated legal records to those specific issues, as well as patent defense case research, and straw advertising and marketing after 1938 may be found in Series 3. Series 2 is divided into several subseries. Subseries A - I are patented inventions arranged chronologically by patent issue date, and include research and development, legal records and correspondence, and advertising and marketing materials. Subseries J - M contain unpatented inventions and business records, as well as multiple concept drawings and invention lists that refer to both patented and unpatented inventions. Researchers interested in the conceptual development of the straw should review the information contained not only in Subseries E: Drinking Tube and Subseries H: Flexible Straw, but also in Subseries L: Invention Lists & Drawings for straw ideas that were drawn on lists or sketches with other concepts. Additionally, researchers interested in the manufacturing device for the straw should review Subseries I: Apparatus & Method for Forming Corrugations in Tubing, as well as Subseries K: Unpatented Inventions, for the Flexible Straw & Method of Forming Same information.

Series 3: Flex-Straw Corporate Records (1938 - 1967) includes correspondence relating to the company and its formation, financial statements, tax returns, legal documents, patent assignments, royalty information, patent defense case research and records, and documents pertaining to the advertising and marketing of the flexible straw. Researchers should note that all conceptual and developmental details relating to the straw and its manufacture, as well as the original patents and their specifically associated legal correspondence can be found in Series 2. Series 3 is divided into several topically arranged subseries. Subseries A consists of the organizational materials for the company, including the minutes, by-laws and limited employee records. This subseries also contains two day books belonging to Joseph B. Friedman recording his appointments and personal notes from 1947 and 1950. Subseries B includes company related correspondence, organized by the correspondent. It begins with general correspondence, from 1939 - 1963, and continues with the letters of Bert Klein (1945 - 1950), David Light & Harry Zavin (1938 - 1962), and Betty Friedman (1940 - 1954). Much of the operational information on the company may be found in the letters Betty Friedman wrote and received from her brother. Subseries C holds the financial records of the company, including financial statements, ledgers, bank statements, check books, tax returns and royalty statements. Subseries D consists of legal records and correspondence, including such topics as changes in entity type, patent assignments, fair trade agreements and patent defense. Subseries E contains the advertising and marketing records of the company. This includes published material relating to the Flex-Straw specifically, as well as some advertising for flexible straws in general. Pencil concept drawings of Flex-Straw packaging and advertising art are drawn on the reverse of Pette calendar pages, and international advertising materials for the product are also present. Product testimonials, distributor bulletins, and corporate letterhead that traces the progression of company locations can also be found here.
Arrangement:
The collection is ivided into three series.

Series 1: Personal Records, circa 1920s-1940

Series 2: Invention and Patent Materials, 1915-1967

Series 3: Flex-Straw Corporate Records, 1938-1969
Biographical / Historical:
Joseph B. Friedman (1900 - 1982) was an independent American inventor with a broad range of interests and ideas. Born in Cleveland, Ohio on October 9, 1900, Joseph was a first generation American and the fifth of eight children for Jacob Friedman and Antoinette Grauer Friedman. By the age of fourteen, he had conceptualized his first invention, the "pencilite" lighted pencil, and was attempting to market his idea. Over the course of his inventing career, he would experiment with ideas ranging from writing implements to engine improvements, and household products to sound and optic experiments. He was issued nine U.S. patents and held patents in Great Britain, Australia and Canada. His first patent was issued for improvements to the fountain pen on April 18, 1922, (U.S. patent #1,412,930). This was also the first invention that he successfully sold, to Sheaffer Pen Company in the mid 1930s. In the 1920s, Friedman began his education in real estate and optometry. He would use both of these careers at different points in his life to supplement his income while improving his invention concepts. Although he was working as a realtor in San Francisco, California, the 1930s proved to be his most prolific patenting period, with six of his nine U.S. patents being issued then. One of these patents would prove to be his most successful invention - the flexible drinking straw.

While sitting in his younger brother Albert's fountain parlor, the Varsity Sweet Shop in San Francisco, Friedman observed his young daughter Judith at the counter, struggling to drink out of a straight straw. He took a paper straight straw, inserted a screw and using dental floss, he wrapped the paper into the screw threads, creating corrugations. After removing the screw, the altered paper straw would bend conveniently over the edge of the glass, allowing small children to better reach their beverages. U.S. patent #2,094,268 was issued for this new invention under the title Drinking Tube, on September 28, 1937. Friedman would later file and be issued two additional U.S. patents and three foreign patents in the 1950s relating to its formation and construction. Friedman attempted to sell his straw patent to several existing straw manufacturers beginning in 1937 without success, so after completing his straw machine, he began to produce the straw himself.

The Flexible Straw Corporation was incorporated on April 24, 1939 in California. However, World War II interrupted Friedman's efforts to construct his straw manufacturing machine. During the war, he managed the optometry practice of Arthur Euler, O.D., in Capwells' Department Store in Oakland, California, and continued to sell real estate and insurance to support his growing family. Joseph obtained financial backing for his flexible straw machine from two of his brothers-in-law, Harry Zavin and David Light, as well as from Bert Klein, a family associate. With their financial assistance, and the business advice of his sister Betty, Friedman completed the first flexible straw manufacturing machine in the late 1940s. Although his original concept had come from the observation of his daughter, the flexible straw was initially marketed to hospitals, with the first sale made in 1947.

Betty Friedman played a crucial role in the development of the Flexible Straw Corporation. While still living in Cleveland and working at the Tarbonis Company, she corresponded regularly with her brother and directed all of the sales and distribution of the straw. In 1950 Friedman moved his family and company to Santa Monica, California. Now doing business as the Flex-Straw Co., sales continued to increase and the marketing direction expanded to focus more strongly on the home and child markets. Betty moved west in 1954 to assume her formal leadership role in the corporation. Additional partners and investors were added over time, including Art Shapiro, who was initially solicited as a potential buyer of the patent. On June 20, 1969, the Flexible Straw Corporation sold its United States and foreign patents, United States and Canadian trademarks, and licensing agreements to the Maryland Cup Corporation. The Flexible Straw Corporation dissolved on August 19, 1969.

Dr. Joseph Bernard Friedman died on June 21, 1982. He was survived by his wife of over 50 years, Marjorie Lewis Friedman, his four children Judith, Linda, Pamela and Robert, and seven grandchildren
Separated Materials:
Straw samples and an original dispensing device (ice cream disher) are located in the Division of Culture and the Arts

A mandrel prototype from the original flexible straw manufacturing machine is held by the Division of Work and Industry.
Provenance:
Daughters Judith B. Rosen, Linda A. Reiss and Pamela B. Leeds, and son Robert A. Friedman donated this collection and its related artifacts to the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History on May 1, 2001.
Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Inventors  Search this
Inventions -- 1920-2000 -- United States  Search this
Ice cream scoops  Search this
Ice cream industry  Search this
Household appliances  Search this
Fountain pens  Search this
Drinking straws  Search this
Paper products  Search this
Patents  Search this
Genre/Form:
Ledgers (account books)
Correspondence -- 20th century
Blueprints
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- Silver gelatin -- 1950-2000
Videotapes
Personal papers -- 20th century
Citation:
Joseph B. Friedman Papers, 1915-2000, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0769
See more items in:
Joseph B. Friedman Papers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0769
Online Media:

[Flexible straw : drawing]

Artist:
Friedman, Joseph Bernard, Dr., 1900-1982  Search this
Collection Source:
Rosen, Judith B.  Search this
Reiss, Linda A.  Search this
Leeds, Pamela B.  Search this
Friedman, Robert A.  Search this
Collection Creator:
Friedman, Joseph Bernard, Dr., 1900-1982  Search this
Friedman, Betty  Search this
Flexible Straw Corporation.  Search this
Flex-Straw Co.  Search this
Extent:
1 Item (Pencil on paper., 14 cm x 17 cm.)
Container:
Box 3, Folder 13
Type:
Archival materials
Drawings
Sketches, conceptual
Date:
[1930s.]
Scope and Contents:
Friedman's conceptual sketch for his flexible straw invention. Text on verso in pencil.
Local Numbers:
AC0769-0000006a.tif (AC Scan: drawing)

AC0769-0000006b.tif (AC Scan: verso)

01076904.tif (original AC Scan No.)
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Inventions -- 1920-2000 -- United States  Search this
Inventors  Search this
Drinking straws  Search this
Genre/Form:
Drawings -- 1930-1940
Sketches, conceptual
Collection Citation:
Joseph B. Friedman Papers, 1915-2000, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
See more items in:
Joseph B. Friedman Papers
Joseph B. Friedman Papers / Series 2: Invention and Patent Materials / 2.5: Drinking Tube / Drinking Tube, Research & Development, 1937, undated
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0769-ref814
Online Media:

Henry Booth Collection

Creator:
Booth, Henry, 1895-1969  Search this
Names:
Amalgamated Textiles Limited.  Search this
Eastman Kodak Co.  Search this
Hillandale Farms  Search this
Hillandale Handweavers  Search this
PhotoMetric Corporation  Search this
Richard Bennett Associates, Inc.  Search this
Booth, Virginia  Search this
Extent:
2.5 Cubic feet (7 boxes)
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Scrapbooks
Glass plate negatives
Pamphlets
Photographs
Date:
1942 - 1974
Summary:
Papers document Henry Booth's invention, use, and marketing of the PhotoMetriC custom tailoring system.
Scope and Contents:
The Henry Booth Collection, 1942-1974, focuses primarily on the PhotoMetriC custom tailoring system. It consists of advertisements, brochures, photographs, glass slides, a 16mm film, correspondence, financial records, meeting minutes, an operating manual, scrapbooks, magazines, and a guest register.
Arrangement:
The collection is organized into five series.

Series 1: PhotoMetriC Apparatus Materials, 1948-1965

Series 2: PhotoMetriC Advertising and Press Materials, 1942, 1948

Series 3: PhotoMetriC Retail Materials, 1958-1974

Series 4: PhotoMetriC General Business Materials, 1947-1974

Series 5: Hillandale Handweavers, 1960-1962
Biographical / Historical:
Henry Booth was a textile jobber who invented the PhotoMetriC custom tailoring system in the 1940s, an innovation which temporarily revolutionized a small corner of the custom clothing industry.

Henry Booth (1895-1969), son of a Methodist minister, was born in Canada and raised in England where his grandfather, General William Booth, founded the Salvation Army. In 1911, Henry Booth came to the United States from England on the Lusitania. He worked in the textile industry for a few years; specifically as a manager for John B. Ellison jobbing offices in Portland and Seattle. In 1922 he formed his own firm with Harry Kemp and Robert Walker. By 1929, Booth moved east to New York City in order to pursue his career in the textile industry. He formed Amalgamated Textiles Limited with John and Blake Lawrence. In 1938, Booth met Curt Erwin Forstmann and entered into an agreement whereby Amalgamated Textiles Limited became fabric stylists and sole agents for the Forstmann Woolen Companies.

In the early 1940s, Booth came up with the idea for the PhotoMetriC camera system to be used in the custom tailoring industry. The system consisted of a specially-designed arrangement of nine mirrors. Eight mirrors reflected separate views of the customer and one mirror reflected the customer's name and other information. These angled mirrors allowed a photograph to be taken which showed the customer from the front, back, side, and top. A slide of this photographic measurement would be sent, along with the customer's garment order, to the manufacturer. When the order arrived, the tailor would project the customer's image on a special screen which facilitated the taking of certain physical measurements. With the aid of the PhotoMetriC calculator, the tailor translated the measurements into specifications for a customer-specific garment. When finished, the garment would be mailed directly to the customer's home. According to testimonials in the collection, the garments fit perfectly the first time, every time. The PhotoMetriC system both saved the tailor money and relieved the customer of the inconvenience of having to return to the tailor again and again for time-consuming fittings, alterations, and adjustments.

The camera which supported this invention needed to be virtually foolproof, enabling the average shop clerk to reliably collect the necessary data. To this end, Booth took his idea to the Eastman Kodak Company, where he worked with Dr. Kenneth Mees, Director of Research and Fred Waller, a camera expert. Waller designed the camera; the remainder of the system design was done by Booth. The PhotoMetriC system made its debut in two Richard Bennett stores in New York City on May 17, 1948. It was subsequently licensed to other select retailers such as: The Custom Gentleman (Englewood, NJ); Nathan's (Richmond, VA); The Golden Fleece (Point Pleasant Borough, NJ); and Joseph's (Terre Haute, IN).

Hillandale, a Brooklyn, CT farm which Booth purchased about 1940, was later used to produce hand woven wool fabrics. These fabrics were used extensively by various PhotoMetriC retail outlets. Henry Booth's son, Robert (b. 1924), took over farm operations circa 1960 and opened a retail outlet on the premises which featured a PhotoMetriC fitting room which provided custom tailoring until the mid-1970s. Robert Booth, with his wife, Jimmie, operated the Golden Lamb Buttery Restaurant in Brooklyn, Connecticut. It closed in 2017.

Patents of Henry Booth:

United States Patent: #2,037,192/RE #20,366, "Visible inventory and sales recording device, April 14, 1936

United States Patent: #2,547,367, "Method and apparatus for testing fabrics, April 3, 1951

United States Patent: #2,547,368, "Cloth rack," April 3, 1951

United States Patent: #2,563,451, "Photographic fitting method," August 7, 1951

United States Patent: #2,624,943, "Proportionally balancing garments," January 13, 1953

United States Patent: #2,664,784,"Apparatus for measuring objects by photography," January 5, 1954

United States Patent: #2,688,188, "Apparatus for proportionally balancing garments," September 7, 1954
Related Materials:
Materials in the Archives Center

Virginia "Jimmie" Booth Collection, 1936-1998 (AC0729). Jimmie Booth is the wife of Robert Booth and she was a buyer for Lord and Taylor.

Materials in the National Museum of American History

The Division of Information Technology, and Society, now the Division of Culture and the Arts, holds a PhotoMetric camera, stand, and measuring harness in the Photographic History collection.
Provenance:
This collection was donated by Henry Booth's son, Robert Booth, in April 2000.
Restrictions:
The collection is open for research.
Rights:
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.
Topic:
Tailoring  Search this
Fashion  Search this
advertising -- 20th century  Search this
Garment cutting  Search this
Inventions -- 1920-2000 -- United States  Search this
Inventors -- 1940-1990  Search this
PhotoMetric (camera system)  Search this
Photography -- Equipment and supplies  Search this
Genre/Form:
Scrapbooks -- 20th century
Glass plate negatives
Pamphlets -- 1950-2000
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- 1940-2000
Photographs -- Glass -- Silver gelatin -- 20th century
Citation:
Henry Booth Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0726
See more items in:
Henry Booth Collection
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0726
Online Media:

Gerber Fabric Cutter Video Documentation

Creator:
Liebhold, Peter  Search this
Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.  Search this
Names:
Gerber Company.  Search this
Gerber, H. Joseph, 1924-1996  Search this
Extent:
2.5 Cubic feet (9 boxes )
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Videotapes
Date:
1995-1996
Summary:
The Gerber Fabric Cutter S-70 is part of a systematic approach to layout and cutting that has revolutionized the needle trades. This video history contains original, master, and reference videos, Dictaphone microcassettes, and tape digests and notes documenting the development, operation and use of the Gerber Fabric Cutter S-70 in three locations: H.I.S., Inc., in Bruceton, Tennessee (Chic blue jeans use of cuter); General Motors in Grand Rapids, Michigan (automotive use of the cutter); and Gerber Scientific Instrument Company in Hartford, Connecticut (Gerber corporate office and invention factory). The video footage documents H. Joseph Gerber, engineers, assembly workers, operators, and other technicians who worked with the cutter at the three locations. The footage from the Tennessee and Michigan sites provides insight into the complexity of introducing a new technology into the workplace and documents operators and managers discussing the effect of the cutter on workflow, quality, personnel, and attitudes towards the job. The footage from the Connecticut site documents the engineers who developed the cutter and provides valuable insight into the invention process. This collection includes oral history audio tapes, original, master, and reference videos, and notes documenting visits to Bruceton, Tennessee, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Hartford, Connecticut.
Scope and Contents:
The Gerber Fabric Cutter S-70 is part of a systematic approach to layout and cutting that has revolutionized the needle trades. It applies numerical control to the sizing of patterns and cutting of fabric. The use of this type of equipment made possible a radical change in the make-up of the cutting room workforce. This video history contains original, master, and reference videos, Dictaphone microcassettes, and tape digests and notes documenting the development, operation and use of the Gerber Fabric Cutter S-70 in three locations: H.I.S., Inc., in Bruceton, Tennessee (Chic blue jeans use of cuter); General Motors in Grand Rapids, Michigan (automotive use of the cutter); and Gerber Scientific Instrument Company in Hartford, Connecticut (Gerber corporate office and invention factory). The video footage documents H. Joseph Gerber, engineers, assembly workers, operators, and other technicians who worked with the cutter at the three locations. The footage from the Tennessee and Michigan sites provides insight into the complexity of introducing a new technology into the workplace and documents operators and managers discussing the effect of the cutter on workflow, quality, personnel, and attitudes towards the job. The footage from the Connecticut site documents the engineers who developed the cutter and provides valuable insight into the invention process.

The collection is arranged into five series: Series 1, Notes, 1995-1996; Series 2, Audio tapes (microcassettes), 1996; Series 3, Original videos (BetaCam SP), 1996; Series 4, Master videos (BetaCam SP), 1996; and Series 5, Reference videos 1⁄2" VHS), 1996.

Series 1, Notes, 1995-1996, includes documentation created by Peter Liebhold in preparation for his site visits to Bruceton, Tennessee, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Hartford, Connecticut. The documentation includes lists of potential interviewees, questions to ask of the employees, and general notes detailing observations at each site. The H. Joseph Gerber interview file consists of a brief tape digest keyed to each of the seven microcassettes, notes from the interview, and the questions asked of Mr. Gerber. The Gerber Scientific Instrument Company file contains a video digest for only three interviews: Ed Roth, Fred Rosen, and Larry Wolfson.

Series 2, Audio tapes (microcassettes), 1995 June, consists of seven Dictaphone microcassettes of oral history interviews with H. Joseph Gerber conducted by Peter Liebhold, Curator, American History Museum and Stanley Leven, Director and Secretary of Gerber Scientific Instrument Company.

Series 3, Original Videos (BetaCam SP), 1996, consists of thirty-eight BetaCam SP video tapes totaling approximately nineteen hours of footage.

Series 4, Master Videos (BetaCam SP), 1996, consists of twenty-six BetaCam SP tapes totaling nineteen hours of footage.

Series 5, Reference videos (1/2" VHS), 1996, consists of twenty-six 1⁄2" VHS tapes for a total of thirteen hours of footage.
Arrangement:
The collection is divided into five series.

Series 1: Notes, 1995-1996

Series 2: Audio tapes (microcassettes), 1995 June

Series 3: Original videos (BetaCam SP), 1996

Series 4: Master videos (BetaCam SP), 1996

Series 5: Reference videos (1/2" VHS), 1996
Biographical / Historical:
Heinz Joseph "Joe" Gerber was born in Vienna, Austria, on April 17, 1924. In 1940, Gerber escaped the Nazis and immigrated to New York City and then to Hartford, Connecticut, with his mother Bertha Gerber, a dressmaker. Gerber's father, Jacob, is presumed to have died in a concentration camp. Gerber attended Weaver High School and graduated in two years (1943). He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, on a scholarship and earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering in 1947. As a junior at RPI, Gerber developed the Gerber Variable Scale, his first invention. The earliest version of the variable scale was fashioned from an elastic band removed from a pair of pajamas. Gerber created a rubber rule and scale that could flow with a curve, expand, contract, and turn a corner. The scale allows for direct reading of curves, graphs, and graphical representations, giving direct numerical readings of proportions, spacing and interpolation. The Variable Scale became the building block of what would become Gerber Scientific Instrument, Inc.

With financial assistance from Abraham Koppleman, a newspaper and magazine distributor in Hartford, Gerber and Koppleman formed a partnership and incorporated Gerber Scientific Instrument Company in 1948. Gerber served as president, Koppleman as treasurer, and Stanley Levin as secretary. The manufacture of Variable Scale was jobbed out and the distribution was conducted from Hartford. Gerber also worked as a design analytical engineer for Hamilton Standard Propellers of United Aircraft and for Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Shares of Gerber Scientific Instrument Company were eventually sold to the public in 1961, and in 1978, the company changed its name to Gerber Scientific, Inc. In the 1960s and 1970s, Gerber developed the first series of precision, computer-driven cutting systems for the apparel industry called the Gerber Cutter. The cutters introduced automation to the garment industry. In 1967, Gerber realized that the U.S. garment industry, due to a lack of automation, was faced with increasing overseas competition. Gerber's solution was to engineer the Gerber Fabric Cutter S-70, a machine that cuts apparel quickly and effectively while using less cloth.

Gerber holds more than 600 United States and foreign patents. Many of his patents relate to the United States apparel industry. In 1994, Gerber was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Clinton for helping to revolutionize the optical, garment, automotive, and other industries. His pioneering achievements include:

-a generation of data readers (electromechanical devices that converted graphical

-data directly into computer readable format);

-projection systems that interactively converted information from aerial;

-photographs for use in computers;

-devices that plotted digital output data from computer cards or tape;

-digital numerically-controlled drafting machines which verify the accuracy of the cutting path of numerical machine tools;

-a photoplotter (drafting machine configured with a unique light source to directly draw high accuracy layouts of printed circuit board masters on photographic film or glass with light beams);

-and systems with laser technology to draw at high speeds. (1)

Subsequent subsidiaries of Gerber Scientific, Inc., are: Gerber Garment Technology, Inc., (GGT); Gerber Scientific Products, Inc. (GSP); Gerber Systems Corp. (GSC), and Gerber Optical, Inc., (GO). GGT makes computer-controlled cutting and design equipment for apparel, automotive, aerospace and other industries. GSP produces systems for sign-making and graphic arts industries. GSC makes production systems for printing, industrial machinery and other industries. GO makes equipment for the optical-lens manufacturing industry. (2)

In 1954, Gerber married Sonia Kanciper. They had a daughter, Melisa Tina Gerber, and a son, David Jacques Gerber. H. Joseph Gerber died on August 9, 1996, at the age of 72.

Sources

(1) National Medal of Technology, 1994.

(2) W. Joseph Campbell, "High Tech and Low Key as Gerber Scientific Mounts a Recovery Philosophy Reflects Innovative Founder," Hartford Courant, May 16, 1994.
Related Materials:
Materials in the Archives Center

The Gerber Scientific Instrument Company Records, 1911-1998 (AC0929)

Materials in the Division of Work and Industry, National Museum of American History

Early model Gerber variable scale. See accession 1994.3104.01.

Gerber Cutter, Model 70. See accessioon 1995.0229.01.
Provenance:
This collection was created by the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation with American History Cuartor Peter Liebhold, Division of Work and Industry.
Restrictions:
Collection is open for research but the original videos are stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at archivescenter@si.edu or 202-633-3270.
Rights:
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. Researchers must use reference copies of audio-visual materials. When no reference copy exists, the Archives Center staff will produce reference copies on an "as needed" basis, as resources allow. Series 3, Original Videos, 1996, is located off-site; please inquire.
Topic:
Inventors -- 1940-1990  Search this
Machinery -- 1940-1990  Search this
Work -- 1940-1990  Search this
Factories -- 1940-1990  Search this
Fabric cutters -- 1940-1990  Search this
Inventions -- 1920-2000 -- United States  Search this
Industrial factories -- 1940-1990  Search this
Automation -- 1940-1990  Search this
Cutting machines -- 1940-1990 -- North Carolina -- Connecticut -- Michigan  Search this
Computerized instruments -- 1940-1990  Search this
Genre/Form:
Videotapes -- 1990-2000
Citation:
Gerber Fabric Cutter Video Documentation, February 1995-1996, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Gerber Fabric Cutter Video Documentation, 1995-1996, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0609
See more items in:
Gerber Fabric Cutter Video Documentation
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0609

[Sketches for the "Dagger Comb" : journal page,]

Author:
Tupper, Earl Silas, 1907-  Search this
Names:
Inventors -- 1930-2000  Search this
Collection Creator:
Tupper, Earl Silas, 1907-  Search this
Tupper Corporation  Search this
Extent:
1 Item (Graphite on paper., 11" x 8-1/2"?)
Type:
Archival materials
Sketches
Holographs
Manuscripts
Date:
February 13, 1937
Scope and Contents:
Holograph: loose-leaf notebook page, 5 holes, containing text and sketches for a Tupper invention, a folding comb which he called a dagger comb. Located in Box 3, Folder 4.
Local Numbers:
03047007 (AC Scan No.)
Collection Restrictions:
Collection is open for research but master (preservation) tapes are stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Contact the Archives Center for information at archivescenter@si.edu or 202-633-3270.
Collection Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Combs  Search this
Inventions -- 1920-2000 -- United States  Search this
Genre/Form:
Sketches -- 1930-1940
Holographs -- 1930-1940
Manuscripts -- 1930-1940
Collection Citation:
Earl S. Tupper Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
See more items in:
Earl S. Tupper Papers
Earl S. Tupper Papers / Series 2: Early Business Papers and Scientific Notes / Notes on Inventions
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_component:sova-nmah-ac-0470-ref807

Grace Jeffers Collection of Formica Materials

Creator:
Jeffers, Grace  Search this
Formica Corporation.  Search this
Names:
Faber, Herbert A.  Search this
Loewy, Raymond  Search this
O'Conor, Daniel J.  Search this
Stevens, Brooks  Search this
Extent:
18 Cubic feet (59 boxes, 11 oversize folders )
Type:
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Scripts (documents)
Videotapes
Posters
Samples
Advertisements
Brochures
Blueprints
Photographs
Newsletters
Exhibition catalogs
Catalogs
Correspondence
Date:
1913-2003
Summary:
The Grace Jeffers Collection of Formica Materials consists of textual files, photographs, slides, negatives, drawings, blueprints, posters, advertisements, product brochures, newsletters, and informational pamphlets documenting the history of the Formica Corporation and the use of Formica brand plastic laminate.
Scope and Contents:
The Formica Collection, 1913-2003, consists of textual files, photographs, photo slides, drawings, blueprints, posters, advertisements, product brochures, informational pamphlets, and research notes documenting the history of the Formica Corporation and the use of Formica brand plastic laminate.
Arrangement:
The collection is arranged into ten series.

Series 1: Corporate Records, 1920-1992, 2003

Subseries 1.1: Annual reports, 1949, 1966, 1988

Subseries 1.2: Correspondence and company identity, 1920-1988

Subseries 1.3: Corporation histories and timelines, 1949-1991, undated

Subseries 1.4: Newspaper clippings and articles, 1934-2003

Subseries 1.5: Awards, 1940s-1987

Subseries 1.6: Patent information, 1925-1994

Subseries 1.7: Photographs, 1927-1966

Series 2: Personnel Records, 1943-1992

Series 3: Newsletters, Magazines, and Press Releases, 1942-1990

Subseries 3.1: Newsletters, 1942-1988

Subseries 3.2: Press releases, 1973-1990

Series 4: Product Information, 1948-1994

Series 5: Advertising and sales materials, 1913-2000

Subseries 5.1: Advertising materials, 1913-2000

Subseries 5.2: Sales materials, 1922-1993

Series 6: Subject Files, circa 1945, 1955-1991, 2002

Series 7: Exhibits, 1981-1994

Series 8: Grace Jeffers Research Materials, 1987-1997

Series 9: Audio Visual Materials, 1982-1995, undated

Series 10: Martin A. Jeffers Materials, 1963-1999

Subseries 10.1: Background Materials, 1965-1999

Subseries 10.2: Employee Benefits, 1963-1998

Subseries 10.3: Product Information, [1959?]-1997

Subseries 10.4: Advertising and Sales Records, 1987-1999
Biographical / Historical:
Since its founding in 1913, the history of the Formica Company has been marked by a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. The history begins with the discovery of Formica by two men who envisioned the plastic laminate as breakthrough insulation for motors. Later, Formica became a ubiquitous surfacing material used by artists and architects of post-modern design. The various applications of the plastic laminate during the twentieth century give it a prominent role in the history of plastics, American consumerism, and American popular culture.

The Formica Company was the brainchild of Herbert A. Faber and Daniel J. O'Conor, who met in 1907 while both were working at Westinghouse in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. O'Conor, head of the process section in the Research Engineering Department, had been experimenting with resins, cloth, paper, and a wide array of solvents in an effort to perfect a process for making rigid laminate sheets from Kraft paper and liquid Bakelite. O'Conor produced the first laminate sheet at Westinghouse by winding and coating paper on a mandrel, slitting the resulting tube, and flattening it on a press. The finished product was a laminated sheet with the chemical and electrical properties of Bakelite that were cut into various shapes and sizes. O'Conor applied for a patent on February 1, 1913, but it was not issued until November 12, 1918 (US Patent 1,284,432). Since the research was done on behalf of Westinghouse, the company was assigned the patent, and O'Conor was given one dollar, the customary amount that Westinghouse paid for the rights to employees' inventions.

Herbert Faber, Technical Sales Manager of insulating materials, was excited about O'Conor's discovery. Faber saw limitless possibilities for the new material. However, he quickly became frustrated by Westinghouse's policy limiting the sale of the laminate to its licensed distributors. After failing to persuade Westinghouse to form a division to manufacture and market the new material, Faber and O'Conor created their own company. On May 2, 1913, the first Formica plant opened in Cincinnati, Ohio. On October 15, 1913, the business incorporated as the Formica Insulation Company with Faber as president and treasurer and O'Conor as vice-president and secretary. The company began producing insulation parts used in place of or "for mica," the costly mineral that had been used in electrical insulation.

Like most new companies, Formica had modest beginnings. Faber and O'Conor faced the challenge of looking for investors who would let them maintain control over the company. Finally, they met J. G. Tomluin, a lawyer and banker from Walton, Kentucky, who invested $7,500 for a one-third share in the Formica Company. Renting a small space in downtown Cincinnati, Faber and O'Conor began work. The company's equipment list consisted of a 35-horsepower boiler, a small gas stove, and a variety of homemade hand screw presses. By September 1913, Tomluin had brought in two more partners, David Wallace and John L. Vest. With the added capital, O'Conor, Faber, and Formica's eighteen employees began producing automobile insulation parts for Bell Electric Motor, Allis Chalmers, and Northwest Electric.

Initially, the Formica Company only made insulation rings and tubes for motors. However, by July 4, 1914, the company obtained its first press and began to produce flat laminate sheets made from Redmenol resin. Business gradually grew, and by 1917 sales totaled $75,000. Fueled by World War I, Formica's business expanded to making radio parts, aircraft pulleys, and timing gears for the burgeoning motor industry. In the years that followed, Formica products were in high demand as laminate plastics replaced older materials in washers, vacuum cleaners, and refrigerators. By 1919, the Formica Company required larger facilities and purchased a factory in Cincinnati.

During this time, patent battles and legal suits emerged to challenge Formica's success. On June 11, 1919, Westinghouse sued Formica for patent infringement on its laminated gears; Formica won. Later that year, Westinghouse brought two new lawsuits against Formica. The first was for a patent infringement on the production of tubes, rods, and molded parts; the second was over an infringement based on a 1913 patent assigned to Westinghouse through O'Conor. Formica prevailed in both suits.

Legal battles did not deter the company. Having to defend itself against a giant corporation gave Formica a reputation as a scrappy contender. Finally, Faber and O'Conor made a quantum leap in 1927, when the company was granted a U.S. patent for a phenolic laminate utilizing lithographed wood grains of light color, forming an opaque barrier sheet which blocks out the dark interior of the laminate. In 1931, the company received two more patents for the preparation of the first all paper based laminate and for the addition of a layer of aluminum foil between the core and the surface, making the laminate cigarette-proof. These patents would allow Formica to move from a company dealing primarily with industrial material to the highly visible arena of consumer goods.

In 1937, Faber had a severe heart attack which limited his activity within the company. O'Conor continued as president, encouraging new product lines, including Realwood, as a laminate with genuine wood veneer mounted on a paper lamination with a heat-reactive binder. With the introduction of Realwood and its derivatives, manufacturers started using Formica laminate for tabletops, desks, and dinette sets. By the early forties, sales of Formica laminate were over 15 million dollars. The final recipe for decorative laminate was perfected in 1938, when melamine resins were introduced. Melamine was clear, extremely hard, and resistant to stains, heat, light, less expensive than phenolic resins. It also made possible laminates of colored papers and patterns.

Due to World War II, Formica postponed the manufacturing of decorative laminate sheets. Instead, the company made a variety of war-time products ranging from airplane propellers to bomb buster tubes.

The post-World War II building boom fueled the decorative laminate market and ushered in what would come to be known as the golden age for Formica. The company, anticipating the demand for laminate, acquired a giant press capable of producing sheets measuring thirty by ninety-six inches for kitchen countertops. Between 1947 and 1950, more than 2 million new homes were designed with Formica brand laminate for kitchens and bathrooms.

Formica's advertising campaigns, initially aimed at industry, were transformed to speak to the new decorative needs of consumer society, in particular the American housewife. Formica hired design consultants, Brooks Stevens, and, later, Raymond Loewy who launched extensive advertising campaigns. Advertising themes of durability, cleanliness, efficiency, and beauty abound in promotional material of this time. Advertisers promised that the plastic laminate, known as "the wipe clean wonder," was resistant to dirt, juices, jams, alcohol stains, and cigarette burns. Atomic patterns and space-age colors, including Moonglo, Skylark, and Sequina, were introduced in homes, schools, offices, hospitals, diners, and restaurants across America.

The post-war period was also marked by expansion, specifically with the establishment of Formica's first international markets. In 1947, Formica signed a licensing agreement with the British firm the De La Rue Company of London for the exclusive manufacture and marketing of decorative laminates outside North America, and in South America and the Pacific Basin. In 1948, Formica changed its name from the Formica Insulation Company to the Formica Company. In 1951, Formica responded to growing consumer demand by opening a million square foot plant in Evendale, Ohio, devoted to the exclusive production of decorative sheet material. In 1956, the Formica Company became the Formica Corporation, a subsidiary of American Cyanamid Company. A year later, the international subsidiaries that Formica formed with De La Rue Company of London were replaced by a joint company called Formica International Limited.

The plastic laminate was not merely confined to tabletops and dinette sets. Formica laminate was used for skis, globes, and murals. Moreover, well-known artists and architects used the decorative laminate for modernist furniture and Art Deco interiors. In 1960, Formica's Research and Development Design Center was established, adjacent to the Evendale plant, to develop uses for existing laminate products. In 1966, the company opened the Sierra Plant near Sacramento, California. Such corporate expansion enabled Formica to market its laminates beyond the traditional role as a countertop surface material.

In 1974, Formica established its Design Advisory Board (DAB), a group of leading designers and architects. DAB introduced new colors and patterns of laminate that gained popularity among artists and interior designers in the 1980s. In 1981, DAB introduced the Color Grid, a systematic organization of Formica laminate arranged by neutrals and chromatics. The Color Grid was described as the first and only logically arranged collection of color in the laminate industry. DAB also developed the Design Concepts Collection of premium solid and patterned laminates to serve the needs of contemporary interior designers.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the corporation continued to produce laminates for interior designers, artists, and architects. In 1982, Formica introduced COLORCORE, the first solid-color laminate. Due to its relatively seamless appearance, COLORCORE was adopted by artists for use in furniture, jewelry, and interior design. The introduction of COLORCORE also marked the emergence of a wide variety of design exhibitions and competitions sponsored by the Formica Corporation. In 1985, Formica Corporation became independent and privately held. Formica continues to be one of the leading laminate producers in the world with factories in the United States, England, France, Spain, Canada, and Taiwan.

For additional information on the history of the Formica Corporation, see:

DiNoto, Andrea. Art Plastic: Designed for Living. New York: Abbeville Press, 1985.

Fenichell, Stephen. Plastic: The Making of a Synthetic Century. New York: Harper/Collins, 1996.

Jeffers Grace. 1998. Machine Made Natural: The Decorative Products of the Formica Corporation, 1947-1962. Master's thesis. Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts.

Lewin, Susan Grant, ed. Formica & Design: From Counter Top to High Art. New York: Rizzoli, 1991.
Related Materials:
Materials at the Archives Center

Leo Baekeland Papers, 1881-1968 (AC0005)

DuPont Nylon Collection, 1939-1977 (AC0007)

J. Harry DuBois Collection on the History of Plastics, circa 1900-1975 (AC0008)

Earl Tupper Papers, circa 1914-1982 (AC0470)

The Division of Medicine and Science holds artifacts related to this collection. See accession # 1997.0319 and #1997.3133.
Provenance:
This collection was assembled by Grace Jeffers, historian of material culture, primarily from materials given to her by Susan Lewin, Head of Formica's New York design and publicity office when the office closed in 1995. The collection was donated to the Archives Center by Grace Jeffers in September 1996.
Restrictions:
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Researchers must use reference copies of audio-visual materials. When no reference copy exists, the Archives Center staff will produce reference copies on an "as needed" basis, as resources allow. Contact the Archives Center for information at archivescenter@si.edu or 202-633-3270.
Rights:
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Topic:
Plastics industry and trade  Search this
Plastics -- 1920-2000  Search this
Plastics as art material -- 1920-2000  Search this
Plastics in interior design -- 1920-2000  Search this
advertising -- plastic industry -- 1920-2000  Search this
Plastic jewelry -- 1920-2000  Search this
Laminated plastics -- 1920-2000  Search this
Exhibitions -- 20th century -- United States  Search this
House furnishings -- 1920-2000 -- United States  Search this
Housewives as consumers -- 1920-2000  Search this
Electronic insulators and insulation -- Plastics -- 1920-2000  Search this
Inventions -- 1920-2000 -- United States  Search this
Women in advertising  Search this
Women in popular culture -- 1920-2000  Search this
Genre/Form:
Scripts (documents)
Videotapes
Posters -- 20th century
Samples -- 1920-2000
Advertisements
Brochures
Blueprints -- 20th century
Photographs -- 20th century
Newsletters -- 20th century
Exhibition catalogs
Catalogs
Catalogs -- 1920-2000
Correspondence -- 20th century
Citation:
Grace Jeffers Collection of Formica Materials, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Identifier:
NMAH.AC.0565
See more items in:
Grace Jeffers Collection of Formica Materials
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
EDAN-URL:
ead_collection:sova-nmah-ac-0565
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