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Conant Ball Company

American Modern

Author: 
Carroll Gantz
Designer: 
Wright, Russell
Date: 
1935
American Modern

This line of furniture in natural maple was designed by Russell Wright, manufactured by Conant Ball Company for Macy's, and first introduced in 1935 under the name Modern Living. It immediately became popular as the first modern furniture in the US, and later was appropriately re-named American Modern. A similar line was also produced in bleached "blond" maple. The success of these lines made Wright instantly famous to the public. Russel Wright (1904-1976), after study at Princeton, apprenticed with Norman Bell Geddes and first worked as a stage designer. He began a business in 1930 with his wife, Mary, designing and producing spun-aluminum decorative accessories for the home. Wright is credited as one of the first to explore aluminum decoratively, as earlier use was essentially as cooking utensils. His only earlier furniture design was the first "sectional" sofa, manufactured by Heywood-Wakefield for Bloomingdale┬╣s and introduced in 1934. Wright championed the principles of informal living, and by many, was considered the pioneer of "organic" design. In 1938 he established a "casual living" concept of accessories, re-naming his firm Russell Wright Accessories. In 1939, de designed and introduced the highly successful American Modern ceramic dinnerware, manufactured by Steubenville Pottery. In 1940, he initiated a patriotic nationwide project to promote low cost design called The American-Way, which unfortunately was eclipsed by the start of war and abandoned. At the same time, he closed his accessory business and with several partners, formed a new firm, Raymor, which continued to sell his products as well as a range of internationally-designed products after the war. In 1944, Wright was one of the founders of SID, a predecessor of IDSA. In 1951, he and his wife published A Guide to Easier Living, promoting casual and inexpensive contemporary design for the home.

Sources: 
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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