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Jack Morgan (1903-1986)
Home | John Richard 'Jack' Morgan

John Richard 'Jack' Morgan

Carroll Gantz, FIDSA
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Jack Morgan (1903-1986)

 U.S. industrial designer, born Juan Ricardo Morgan in Guatemala City, Republic of Guatemala, who moved to Canada with his family in about 1913. At age 11 he won first prize for a watercolor at the Canadian National Exhibition that included all children of his age in the Dominion. He became a student of a renowned Canadian landscape painter, Thomas John ‘Tom’ Thompson (1877-1917), and as a painter, traveled extensively abroad to Brussels, Berlin, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Paris and London. He lived briefly in California, New England, New York, and Mexico, eventually becoming an accomplished artist with a studio in Wheeling, IL, producing paintings that were powerful, colorful, and expressive. He had two one-man shows in Chicago and exhibited in Palm Beach, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.


However, his love of exotic automobiles probably inspired him in the mid-1920s to attend the Detroit Technical Institute. In 1927, he started his career with the C.G. Spring and Bumper Company and in 1928 he joined Harley Earl’s infant Art & Color Section at General Motors, which had just been formed the previous year.  There, he designed the first automobile bumper to be integrated into the overall design. He worked in the Pontiac studio under Frank Hershey. In 1928, GM had a styling staff of 50.


In 1934, he became chief product designer at Sears Roebuck’s first design department in Chicago, and designed the Sears ‘Waterwitch’ outboard motor, which was displayed at the highly publicized 1934 Machine Art exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. He also designed vacuum cleaners, kitchen cabinet consoles, and much of Sears appliance merchandise, including the first ‘turtle neck’ washing machine tub. In 1943 he left Sears, and hired Jon W. Hauser (1916-1999) to replace himself.


In 1944 he opened his own office in Chicago, Jack Morgan Associates, with a staff that included Harry Giambrone, John Defner, and Burton Kelly. From 1948 he consulted with Dormeyer Corporation designing hand mixers and hand drills. Other clients included Hotpoint, Magic Chef, RCA (stoves), Camfield, Webcor, and Amerock in the 1960s, maker of cabinet handles.


Morgan was a colorful personality who wore dapper clothes and had a romantic designer mustache. He affected a Latino persona, had a wonderful sense of humor, and called himself Juan Ricardo, which, of course, was his real name. He was a member of ASID, and was active in its Chicago annual meetings in the 1950s. After his retirement he continued his career in fine art, as described earlier. His last address in 1986 was in McHenry, IL.



100 Years of Design consists of excerpts from a book by Carroll M. Gantz, FIDSA, entitled, Design Chronicles: Significant Mass-produced Designs of the 20th Century, published August 2005 by Schiffer Publications, Ltd.
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