Log in

No account? Create an account

Design History

"All art is useless" - Oscar Wilde

Journal Info

FMM Candlesticks
Design History


Skipped Back 20

June 6th, 2008

William B. Stout (1880-1956)
Rear engine V8
aluminum body

Wm. B. Stout built the first cantilever wing plane, the first tri-motor, and was a technical advisor for Henry Ford. He spent most of his life trying to develop the 'Aerocar', a flying car for commercial use. But my favorite of all of his designs is the elegant Egyptian revival, Scarab Travelling Machine.

The Scarab is often considered the first production minivan. Stout wanted the Scarab to be an office on wheels, complete with fold out table and additional chairs. Other models included a fold out bed and even a cocktail bar. Nine to Eleven versions were built between 1934-1946. Additional styling by John Tjaarda, who developed the rear engine Tjaarda-Ford show car of 1933, that famously influenced F. Porsche on the design of the VW Beetle.

Steering wheel design

William Stout and his model Aerocar

Photos of the 1936 model.
Great Wikipedia Article

May 18th, 2008

...to this entry: http://community.livejournal.com/design_history/19529.html

A Christian group in San Diego has taken offence at it*:


(Link via disinfo.)

*Er, the logo, not the entry. ;o)

May 4th, 2008

Everyman Library was a series of low-priced classics produced in England and New York at the beginning of the 20th C. They were not produced to last forever, and the volumes in my mom's library were already falling apart in the 60s when I first saw them - they were of the stamped paper cover series shown above (there was also a more costly hardbound edition). Below are title pages from her set of Dickens, and one Voltaire. As you will see the styling was heavy Arts & Crafts, blending into Art Nouveau. The endpapers were the same throughout the series. The series has recently been relaunched, see here.

see the restCollapse )

May 1st, 2008

(no subject)


Walter Crane

April 30th, 2008

I just returned from an auction at Christies, London, where I watched a major pissing contest to acquire Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh's The White Rose and the Red Rose. It was put up for auction alongside its "sister" panel, The Heart of the Rose, both of which were in private collections together since they were crafted in 1902. Today, they were auctioned in separate lots, and in the end will go to two different buyers.

The White Rose and the Red Rose was the first lot to go up, and the estimate (for each) was £200,000 - £300,000. I was hoping to see the pair go for a million, but thus far the bidding had mostly been just hitting the bottom estimate (save two Josef Hoffman side chairs which, at a hammer price of £32,000, more than doubled their top estimate). The pissing contest for the Macdonald panel began between two phone bidders at the £400,000 pound mark.

It ended at £1,500,000. For just the one panel. That's $3 million dollars, btw.

These works are at the core of my own research, so I was very excited that the panel achieved this value (money brings recognition and perceived value where it went unnoticed before). However, I can't tell you how much my heart sank when I watched the Christie's rep hang up the phone before the next lot - the sister panel - bidding began.

To add insult to injury, The Heart of the Rose only went for £450,000. This panel is often commented as the more beautiful of the two, but regardless of that, to go for less than a third of the first was just completely bizarre.

Sorry I don't have an image to post, I'm on the go. But you can see the panel, along with the complete auction results (which includes VAT and buyer's premiums), here: http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/searchresults.aspx?intSaleID=21499#intSaleID=21499

It was an exciting auction, and if you are into the art market, one could call it a great success. But for this design historian,it was disheartening. Huh, that is an unintended pun. While the panels are lovely on their own, they have a certain power together... I cherished seeing them that way for perhaps whst is the last time.

April 11th, 2008

Details of a very modern makeover here: http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/starbucks_back_to_the_future.php

Edit: The Business Week perspective on the story...

"Brown is certainly a color that communicates coffee."


April 10th, 2008

(no subject)

Dejah Thoris White
Last month I posted a couple of early Leyendecker pieces and mentioned he beat out Maxfield Parrish in a contest for Century magazine.
I haven't had any luck finding Parrish's entry. If anyone has a link to that image, I would love to see it posted here.
In the meantime here is an example of an early Maxfield Parrish. Enjoy.

April 7th, 2008

(no subject)

Hello all you design history lovers.

I am in desperate need of some advice and support.

I am 20 years old and have been an obsessive fan of mid century modern design since even before this community was started. I created the community, midcenturymod, when I realized how much I loved this stuff and have been enamored by the sight of vintage furniture even more than I ever have!

I have decided to make this my CAREER.

A career in either appraising or the history of decorative arts and furniture. I have big dreams of collecting 50's danish and modern furniture ... I have dreams of appraising estates of people who have big collections of modern furniture such as the ones you all post pictures of! Or better yet, working in a MUSEUM with full benefits and working with an entire team of people dedicated to conserving modern art, with my specialty in the modern movement.

What do you think of that? It's such an outlandish career path, but it's something I'm so passionate about. I'm young and have yet to decide on a major... I am thinking of majoring in Art History and getting my "Material Cultures" certificate at the University of Wisconsin in Madison


Click link for more information and give me your thoughts and ideas on this program, and if you think it is the appropriate choice for schooling. I have e-mailed the instructors of the program and neither of them have responded... I may just have to end up visiting the school and talking with them in person, but for now I ask you to evaluate the program! PLEASE! I need advice from people who LOVE and STUDY the history of design and have turned their love into a career!!!!!

I may also possibly be getting my appraising certificate from northwestern university in chicago, and I want to pursue this "Furniture Conservation Training Program" at the Smithsonian Conservation Institute.

But the thing is... All of this schooling costs money. I know I could get scholarships and stuff, but how am I going to afford to pay for all this schooling and support myself when in reality an art history degree with some material cultures program may potentially lead me nowhere in obtaining a job that I can live off of...


I NEED YOUR THOUGHTS, OPINIONS, ETC on where you believe the market for mid century modern is going, and if you think the value of the furniture is going up.

I personally believe the value of mid century modern furniture will greatly increase, seeing as the older it gets, the more valuable it will become. From the research I have done, it seems as though more antique books, art galleries, and auction houses are featuring pieces from this era. I Also believe more and more people are catching on and seeing how influential modern pieces have been in today's design world.

I plan on writing books on mid century modern design and furniture someday, and basically becoming an expertise in this area. I have already started with forming a collection of 50's interior design books. I have several 50's "American Home" magazines from the 50's, and have already started with collecting mid century modern fabrics, lamps, furniture, and decor. (my collection is tiny, though, seeing as how I don't have a lot of money working part time at an ice-cream store being a full time student).

I would also like to say thank you to whoever has read this, and I sincerely appreciate the ones who come forward and give me advice. I don't know a whole lot of people in my real life who appreciate these things as much as I do. I know people exist out there, though. I'm also glad to have been the creator of a community on live journal that has flourished as much it has. Places like though, are great, and can give a lot of insight into how mid century modern furniture and decor are a definitive part of the history of design.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this community :)

x posted to midcenturymod, art_historians, and vintagecolor

March 25th, 2008

It's very hard for people in modern times to understand the concept of post-mortem photography, which was an accepted and even common thing in the 19th century. In the days before Polaroids, camcorders, and digital photos, families who wished to preserve the memory of their loved ones looked to photography. What began as simple photos of deceased loved ones slowly evolved into a design craft of its own, with staging, lighting, decoration, posing, and other production qualities that often resembled second funerals and memorials in and of themselves. The practice eventually faded in popularity (both here and overseas) in the early part of the 20th century.

When looking at these pictures, try to look on them with respect, and within context. These were living people (and pets), with families who loved them, and their decision to do this was done out of love.. Some had money to hire a professional photographer, some had little money at all. What we look at as "morbid" or "bizzare" was simply their efforts to preserve the memory of someone they cherished given the technology they had.

Think of the ways we memorialize our own dead.. Post-mortem photography has been replaced by glittery memorial webpages laden with animated gifs and embedded MIDI music.. Are we really any different?

March 24th, 2008

Ancient... Compact, hand held, easy to store, inexpensive, replacible, fairly efficient.

Old..A little less compact, a little less easy to store, a little less efficient.

New.. Not compact at all, requires setup time, requires more manual effort, overengineered, not easilly replacable, will likely end up under the counter, and rarely used.

Newest: Now requires running water, not sharpenable, expensive, more manual effort, and even more time to complete.

March 22nd, 2008

I am absolutely incapable of telling you how much I love Russian constructivist art. :) Doing so would require me to wax philosophical, and therefore become something other than simplistic and geometric in my delivery. THAT is how much I love it. :)


From "The Mind and Face of Bolshevism", René Füllöp-Miller, London 1926.

The NEW ERA is upon us! WE MUST BUILD for the FUTURE!

Muahahahaha.... YESSSS!!! YESSSSSSS!!!! Transform the churches into ENGINEERING STRONGHOLDS!!!! :)

Aaaahaahah! SCIENCE and INDUSTRY are your new gods! YOU must RUN like CLOCKWORK!

(*giggle*)...SACRIFICE your flesh and blood to lubricate the gears of PROGRESS!

March 20th, 2008

Medieval Wooden Toilet Seat, Finland, ca. 1100.

Believe it or not, toilet seats were once considered something superfluous, even a luxury. Toilets at this point in European history, even for royalty, would be almost unrecognizable to us today.. The typical commode consisted of either a hole in the floor leading to a compost or well, or in a hole formed in a raised niche carved into a wall. If you were lucky, you had a chamber pot, and a servant to empty it for you. Not much attention was paid toward issues of comfort and cleanliness. This example actually came from a castle in Finland--a toilet seat fit for a king!

Modern Medieval-style Toilet Seat

Historically innacurate, but fun, this "medieval toilet seat" is a purely modern concept. On the bright side, it fits on any standard throne, AND it wont give you splinters. :)

Full Book Jacket below the cut
Beresford Egan
Cover Jacket for Moonchild, A Prologue
By Aleister Crowley
The Mandrake Press

Aged twenty-three, Beresford Egan, began his career lampooning Radclyffe Hall's novel The Well Of Loneliness (1928). Over the next six years he produced illustrations and book covers for works by Aleister Crowley, Pierre Louÿs and Charles Baudelaire, and of course Oscar Wilde.

Beresford Egan
De Sade

Egan The Moralist
Also from De Sade

More images below the cut...Warning some are a little immodest
Read more...Collapse )

March 19th, 2008

These mugshots were selected for their being typical of their time...Some institutions used more advanced cataloging techniques than others, some used photography before others, etc... but these are generally representative of the decades in which they were made.

A typical mugshot from 1883:
Just a photograph, and an inmate number. No other details encoded in the image. Interestingly, the subject shown here was probably ordered to stand with his torso and waist pressed up against a metal stand placed behind him, to minimize movement while the exposure was taken.

A typical mugshot from 1893:
No forms to fill out -- Just a handwritten name, inmate number, crime, and date of conviction become components of the mugshot.

A typical mugshot from 1916:
Forms emerge. Mugshots now feature a photo, a profile, inmate number, name, age, and huge amount of biometric data. Fingerprints were not widely used as identification at the time.

A typical mugshot from 1938:
The popularization (and acceptance) of fingerprint identification around 1920 replaces the need for detailed biometric data to be recorded with the mugshot. Note the rolled fingerprint near the top of the black divider.... Right index finger, apparently. :)

Eveready, probably best known these days for batteries and flashlights, also dabbled in fashion accessories around the turn of the last century. This is one of several illuminated stick-pins they produced, for use in parties and other social events. The wearer carried around a small battery and switch that could light up the pin discretely.

As you can see, the basic design of the flashlight hasn't changed much since the 1890's:

March 18th, 2008

J.C. Leyendecker
Magazine Cover

In 1896, a 21 year old Leyendecker won a Century Magazine cover competition beating out Maxfield Parrish, who placed second. His winning entry which you probably recognize is below. This led to cover assignments to other national magazines, like Inland Printer and the Four O'Clock. The style we associate with Leyendecker starts to really form around 1900. But it is fun to look at his early heavily art nouveau influenced work.

1896 winning cover competition entry, larger image below the cut

J.C. Leyendecker
Magazine Cover

Read more...Collapse )

March 16th, 2008

A "battledoor" (sometimes "battledore") is sort a combination bookmark, cheat sheet, and primer. The equivalent still exists today, inside things like the folders of a Trapper Keeper---Remember how the folders inside a Trapper Keeper had a a little ruler printed inside it, a table of unit conversions, common formulas, and the like? Battledoors were similar to that, in that they often contained rudimentary information like alphabets, religious text, etc as a study aid.

This particular example appears to be for younger students. Designed to be folded in half to fit inside a book, maybe with the flap sticking out or also folded over. Note the well-worn flap along the left edge. :)

Wanna buy an eel? :)

A set of attractively colored and textured fabric swatches, nicely presented...still looks nice, to this day..almost 90 years later.

(no subject)


Not too far off, when it came to the cordless phone... But...

The rowboat-style wheelchair doesn't make alot of sense from an engineering standpoint..If mobility is your goal, you're going to want a device that conserves momentum, ala a wheelchair. You're making the rider/occupant work harder by using smaller wheels. More wheels on the ground also means more movement constraint and more effort required to move forward.

For handicapped individuals who hate themselves, perhaps. :)
An apparently Bauhaus-inspired lawnmower from "Things Seen", 1970.. Apparently a design periodical from the UK:

I wonder if the neighbors would laugh. :)
Powered by LiveJournal.com