L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

« Previous Post | L.A. at Home Home | Next Post »

New postage stamps are love letters to the pioneers of American industrial design

June 30, 2011 |  6:07 pm

Pioneers of Industrial Design Forever 
The U.S. Postal Service has given its stamp of approval for a dozen iconic household products. At a ceremony at the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum on Wednesday, the postal service released Pioneers of American Industrial Design, above, a pane of 12 Forever stamps. (The selvage of the stamp sheet features a photograph of a 13th design, the Airflow fan by Robert Heller, circa 1937.)  

The edition, 32 million individual 44-cent stamps that will be on sale for a year, follows a 2008 commemorative set of stamps honoring Charles and Ray Eames. The new series focuses on designers of Machine Age products, a style that emerged during the Depression. Manufacturers wooed customers with futuristic household goods in materials such as Bakelite, aluminum and chrome. Meant for mass manufacturing, these designs departed from the more ornate detailing of the then-popular Art Deco style, adopting a streamlined appearance influenced by the silhouettes of planes, trains and ocean liners. 

Peter Muller-Munk's Normandie pitcher (top row, left) takes its shape and name from the famous 1930s French steamship. A zeppelin-esque 1933 pencil sharpener (top row, third from left) was created as a prototype by Raymond Loewy, who designed the packaging for Lucky Strike cigarettes and the Shell Oil logo.

Eliot NoyesSome of the designs, such as the Gilbert Rohde clock, are groundbreaking examples of minimalism. Others, such as Walter Dorwin Teague's 1934 Kodak camera, echo the facades of big city skyscrapers.

Vintage dinnerware enthusiasts will be pleased to note the inclusion of Fiesta ware and Russel Wright cutlery, and the addition of Henry Dreyfuss' iconic rotary dial Model 302 Bell telephone is particularly apt.

At 50 years old, the IBM Selectric electric typewriter is the youngest of the products. (We'd ask if you were old enough to remember it, but, well, that would be impolite.) Eliot Noyes designed the time-saving machine and influenced a generation of designers including his daughter, Derry, who served as the art director for the Pioneers of American Industrial Design stamps. 

A sheet of 12 stamps can be purchased for $5.28 at post offices, online or by calling (800) 782-6724. For collectors, a sheet with first-day-of-issue postmarks is $7.78 at the USPS online store.


Landmark Houses: our series on classic homes

-- David A. Keeps

Photo credits: U.S. Postal Service