Designing Modern America: Broadway to Main Street

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From the 1920s through the 1950s, two individuals, Joseph Urban and Norman Bel Geddes, did more, by far, to create the image of America and make it synonymous with modernity than any of their contemporaries. Urban and Bel Geddes were leading Broadway stage designers and directors who turned their prodigious talents to other projects, becoming mavericks first in industrial design and then in commercial design, fashion, architecture, and more. The two men gave shape to the most quintessential symbols of the modern American lifestyle, including movies, cars, department stores, and nightclubs, along with private homes, kitchens, stoves, fridges, magazines, and numerous household furnishings. Illustrated with more than 130 photographs of their influential designs, this book tells the engrossing story of Urban and Bel Geddes. Christopher Innes shows how these two men with a background in theater lent dramatic flair to everything they designed and how this theatricality gave the distinctive modernity they created such wide appeal. If the American lifestyle has been much imitated across the globe over the past fifty years, says Innes, it is due in large measure to the designs of Urban and Bel Geddes. Together they were responsible for creating what has been called the Golden Age of American culture.