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Armitage, Merle (13 February 1893–15 March 1975), book designer, author, and impresario, was born near Mason City, Iowa, the son of Elmer Ellsworth Armitage and Lulu Jacobs. He claimed 12 February as his birth date in honor of Abraham Lincoln. Armitage grew up in Texas and spent his youth in the West, where he lived on a number of ranches. Primarily self-educated as a civil engineer, he worked for the Kansas City, Mexico & Orient Railroad (later the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company). He claims to have abandoned that career because of severe eyestrain. He then worked in the publicity department of the Packard Motor Company, where it is thought he learned graphic design. He also became interested in stage design and worked in New York City. He served in World War I as an instructor in mechanical engineering....

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Baldwin, Billy (30 May 1903–25 November 1983), interior decorator, was born William Williar Baldwin, Jr., in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of William Baldwin, an insurance executive, and Julia Bartlett. He was brought up in a well-to-do, traditional family in the affluent section of Roland Park. He graduated from the Gilman Country School for Boys, and went on to Princeton University to study architecture. However, he dropped out because he preferred “spending time in New York at museums and galleries and [doing] things” ( ...

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Bayer, Herbert (05 April 1900–30 September 1985), artist, industrial designer, and architect, was born in Haag (near Salzburg), Austria, the son of Maximilian Bayer, a rural government bureaucrat, and Rosa Simmer. Bayer traced his lifetime interests in nature and art to early alpine treks with his father and to watercolor landscape painting encouraged by his mother....

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Bertoia, Harry (10 March 1915–06 November 1978), sculptor and designer, was born in San Lorenzo, near Udine, in northeastern Italy, the son of Giuseppe Bertoia, a miner and laborer. His mother’s name is unknown. He was given his English name by his father, who had previously lived in Canada. As a teenager Bertoia emigrated with his father to Canada and then to Detroit, where his brother had earlier settled. Bertoia enrolled in Cleveland Junior High School in Detroit. Because of his talent in drawing he was allowed to enroll in a special class for artistically gifted students at Cass Technical High School, also in Detroit, where he received his first formal training in art, including metalsmithing. In 1936 he attended the School of the Detroit Society of Arts and Crafts on scholarship to study painting and drawing. In 1937 Bertoia received another scholarship based on his metalwork to attend the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan....

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Buckland, William (14 August 1734–Nov. or Dec. 1774), craftsman, designer, and architect, was born in Oxford, England, the son of Francis Buckland, a small property-owning farmer, and Mary Dunsdown. On 5 April 1748 he was apprenticed for a term of seven years to a London joiner, James Buckland, who may have been his uncle. Joinery, the craft of smoothly fitting together small pieces of wood, was taught according to rules and standards established by a trade organization, which was organized along the lines of a traditional medieval guild. In eighteenth-century England formal academic architectural training was absent, and it was primarily out of the ranks of the building trades that ambitious men, armed with drawing skills, rose to claim the title of architect....

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Colman, Samuel (04 March 1832–27 March 1920), painter and decorative artist, was born in Portland, Maine, the son of Samuel Colman, a publisher, and Pamela Chandler. By 1839 Colman’s father had established himself as a successful bookseller and publisher in New York City. The source of Colman’s artistic education is unclear; however, he is said to have studied, or at least sketched, with the Hudson River School painter ...

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Conkwright, P. J. (23 October 1905–31 January 1986), book designer, was born Pleasant Jefferson Conkwright in Bristow, located in what was then Oklahoma Territory, the son of Pleasant Jefferson Conkwright and Mildred Fox Conkwright, missionaries. In 1908 the family settled in Salpupa, southwest of Tulsa, where P. J.'s father remained a pastor at the First Baptist Church until his retirement in 1941. In Salpupa P. J. produced Sunday school bulletins on a duplicator for his father. His enthusiasm for printing developed further, and as a teenager he worked part time in a local print shop. He also printed his Boy Scout newspaper on his own small press....

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de Wolfe, Elsie (20 December 1865–12 July 1950), actress and interior decorator, was born in New York City, the daughter of Stephen de Wolfe, a physician, and Georgina Copeland. She was baptized Ella Anderson de Wolfe. Her father had been raised in Nova Scotia and educated at the University of Pennsylvania; her mother, also reared in Canada, was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. Elsie attended private schools in New York until the age of fourteen and was then sent to Scotland to finish her education under the tutelage of her mother’s cousin, Dr. Archibald Charteris. Owing to Charteris’s connection to royal circles, she was presented to Queen Victoria and London society at age seventeen, an unusual honor then for an American girl. This experience focused her vision of life on elegance, refinement, fashion, and good taste....

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Deskey, Donald (23 November 1894–29 April 1989), industrial and interior designer, was born in Blue Earth, Minnesota, the son of Robert Deskey, a German immigrant and proprietor of a dry goods and clothing store, and Fannie Katsky. In 1912, after graduating from high school, he left rural Minnesota and moved to California. During the following three years he worked at a variety of jobs, including bartending, drafting, and surveying. Beginning in 1915 he also attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied architecture and painting. He left college in 1917 to enlist in the army, but at the end of the war he resumed his peregrinations in the West. In 1920 he began a career in advertising and publicity in Chicago, and the following year he moved to New York, where despite meager resources he opened a successful advertising agency....

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Draper, Dorothy (22 November 1889–10 March 1969), interior decorator and columnist, was born in Tuxedo Park, New York, the daughter of Paul Tuckerman and Susan Minturn. She grew up in the environs of New York in an exclusive resort community where her parents were among the founding members in 1886. Educated primarily at home with a governess and tutor, her formal schooling was minimal, including two years at the Brearley School, a private girls’ school in New York City. Annual trips to Europe gave her a cosmopolitan exposure to the world, and she was presented at Sherry’s in 1907. Although she did not have any academic design training, her background and upbringing among the elite families of the Northeast contributed to her subsequent success as a decorator. She had complete confidence in her taste, and her social connections proved to be important in acquiring future clientele....

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Dreyfuss, Henry (02 March 1904–05 October 1972), industrial designer, was born in New York City, the son of Louis Dreyfuss, a supplier of theatrical props and costumes, and Elsie Gorge. Dreyfuss attended New York City’s Ethical Culture High School, from which he graduated in 1922. At Ethical Culture, Dreyfuss absorbed a seriousness of purpose and a set of progressive and reformist ideals that remained with him for the rest of his life. In 1924 Dreyfuss apprenticed himself to designer ...

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Charles Eames. [left to right]Ray Eames and Charles Eames. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103825).

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Eames, Charles (17 June 1907–21 August 1978), architect, furniture designer, and filmmaker, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of Charles Ormond Eames, a Pinkerton security officer, and Marie Celine Adele Pauline Lambert. In 1921 Eames’s discovery of photographic equipment belonging to his father, who had died that year, initiated his lifelong interest in photography. He began his formal architectural education at Washington University in St. Louis on a scholarship in 1925. Prior to his enrollment, Eames had worked as a laborer with the LaClede Steel Company and as a designer of electrical lighting fixtures with the Edwin F. Guth Fixture Company, and while attending the university he worked summers as a draftsman in a St. Louis architectural office, Trueblood and Graf. He left school in 1928, his sophomore year. Despite his lack of a formal degree in architecture, other jobs and contacts in St. Louis substantially contributed to his education and to the development of his interests and skills in all aspects of design....

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Ray Eames. [left to right]Ray Eames and Charles Eames. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-103825).

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Eames, Ray (15 December 1912–21 August 1988), designer and filmmaker, was born Ray Kaiser in Sacramento, California, the daughter of Alexander Kaiser, an insurance salesman, and Edna Mary Burr. In 1933, after graduating from the May Bennett School in Millbrook, New York, she began studying painting with Hans Hoffmann in New York City. She was a founding member of American Abstract Artists, which first exhibited as a group in 1937 in New York City....

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Norman Bel Geddes Photograph by Arnold Genthe, 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-G401-T-4759-003).

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Geddes, Norman Bel (21 April 1893–08 May 1958), scene and lighting designer, industrial designer, and producer, was born Norman Melancton Geddes in Adrian, Michigan, the son of Clifton Terry Geddes and Gloria Lulu Yingling. He was educated in public schools in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois before attending the Cleveland School of Art and the prestigious Chicago Art Institute by the time he was sixteen years old. When he was in his early twenties, Geddes had his earliest successes as a magazine and poster artist in Detroit, Michigan. He designed his first theatrical production, ...

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See Herter, Gustave

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Catherine Hoover Voorsanger

Herter, Gustave (14 May 1830–29 November 1898), and Christian Herter (08 January 1839–02 November 1883), craftsmen, were born in Stuttgart, Germany, the sons of Johanna Christiana Maria Barbara Hagenlocher and Christian Herter, a cabinetmaker and woodworker.

Gustave’s full name at birth was Julius Gustav Alexander Hagenlocher; his mother was unmarried at the time. When she married Christian Herter, Sr., he adopted Gustave, who eventually added the extra letter to his first name. Gustave immigrated to New York in 1848 at the age of eighteen, renounced his German citizenship two years later, and quickly distinguished himself among a burgeoning population of immigrant craftsmen. Although unsubstantiated, it is said that he was employed by Tiffany, Young & Ellis as a silver designer until 1851. He then established a short-lived cabinetmaking concern, called Herter, Pottier & Co., with a young French émigré craftsman named Auguste Pottier; this partnership lasted only until 1853. Concurrently, Herter seems to have been associated with Erastus Bulkley, a well-established New York cabinetmaker, and from 1853 until 1858 their firm, Bulkley & Herter, is listed in the local directories. From 1854 the firm was located at 547 Broadway, then at the heart of the carriage trade, an address at which Herter remained until 1869....

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Hunzinger, George Jakob (12 September 1835–1898), furniture designer and manufacturer, was born in Tuttlingen, Germany. The names of his parents, who eventually divorced, are not known. Little is known of his early years in Germany. His family is alleged to have descended from a long line of cabinetmakers who worked near the German-Swiss border. Immigrating to America in 1859 after his father’s remarriage, Hunzinger was part of a large mid-nineteenth-century movement of German cabinetmakers who came to Brooklyn and New York City. He married Marie Susanne Grieb, also an immigrant from Tuttlingen, on Christmas Day 1859. They eventually had eight children. Their two sons both followed their father as furniture makers and designers....