Reference Library Update – Bel Geddes

The logo of Norman Bel Geddes

Norman Bel Geddes logo. Image from Wikipedia.

 

Norman Bel Geddes.

Norman Bel Geddes, circa 1925. Image from NYPL Digital Collections.

For October’s reference library update, Driving For Deco brings you a career profile of industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes (1893 – 1958).  The article appeared in the July, 1930 issue of Fortune magazine. Bel Geddes began his career as a set and stage designer working for the Metropolitan Opera. In the 1920’s shows he designed included The Miracle and Fifty Million Frenchmen. In the mid 1930’s he would design the set for Sidney Kingsley’s play Dead End.

The Miracle, 1924.

The Miracle, New York production 1924. Set by Norman Bel Geddes. Image from NYPL Digital Collections.

Dead End, 1935.

Norman Bel Geddes set for Dead End, 1935. Sidney Kingsley’s Pulitzer Prize winning play at the Belasco Theater. Image from NYPL Digital Collections.

Turning from the theatre in the late 1920’s Bel Geddes ventured into the brand new field of industrial design. He achieved new fame by redesigning many standard products. Ranging from kitchen appliances, to cars and other forms of transportation, to homes and factories, nothing was too small or too large for Bel Geddes to tackle. In 1932 he authored the book Horizons in which he outlined his theories and ideas.

 

1932, Horizons by Norman Bel Geddes

Horizons by Norman Bel Geddes, 1932. Image from abebooks.com

Today, original 1932 editions of this book are rare and can sell between $250.00 and $950.00.

 

Norman Bel Geddes ideas for planes, ocean liners and cars went far beyond anything of his time. He took streamlining further than any of his contemporaries. Bel Geddes liked to push limits knowing these designs would never materialize.

 

Airliner No. 4

Norman Bel Geddes Airliner No. 4 (1929-1932). Image from Keiththomsonbooks.com

"Whale"Ocean Liner.

“Whale” Ocean Liner designed by Norman Bel Geddes, 1932. Image from oobject.com

Locomotive No. 1

Locomotive No. 1 by Norman Bel Geddes, circa 1932. Image from oobject.com

 

Motor Car No. 9, 1932

Norman Bel Geddes Motor Car No. 9, circa 1932.

 

Of all the designs that Norman Bel Geddes created, three are most accessible to collectors today. The 1938 Soda King Syphon bottle, Revere’s magazine stand and the iconic “Manhattan” cocktail set are available with a good deal of cash.

Soda King White

Bel Geddes – Paxton Soda King, White. 1938

Magazine stand for Revere.

Norman Bel Geddes’ magazine stand for Revere. Image from einnasirrod.com

Manhattan Cocktail Set

The Manhattan cocktail set for Revere designed by Norman Bel Geddes. Image from the Museum of Fine Arts of Houston.

 

Futurama booklet

Futurama brochure, 1939. Image from oldcarbrochures.com

The best showcase for industrial designers in the 1930’s was the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  Bel Geddes created its most popular exhibit, General Motors, Futurama. This massive display provided a glimpse into 1960 America in a simulated coast-to-coast airplane flight. Massive highways with radio controlled cars provided access to cities with different levels for automobiles and pedestrians. There would also be plenty of green space to spend leisure time. Industrial zones would be a good distance away from residential neighborhoods. Many of the ideas that Bel Geddes designed for Futurama would come to fruition in the 1950’s and later.

 

General Motor's building, NY World's Fair.

Norman Bel Geddes General Motors Pavillion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Image from The New York Times.

 

To read the Fortune article profiling Norman Bel Geddes industrial design career, click on the cover below.

 

Fortune Magazine, July, 1930.

July, 1930 Fortune Magazine

 Anthony & Chris (The Freakin’, Tiquen’ Guys)

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