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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To read the Fortune article profiling Norman Bel Geddes industrial design career, click on the cover below.
Anthony & Chris (The Freakin’, Tiquen’ Guys)
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