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Viktor Schreckengost Dies at 101

by Tom Carrier (02/01/08).
The Murray Torpedo pedal car
The cab over engine design that provided more cargo for drivers who were paid by the load
The Jazz Bowl commissioned by Eleanor Roosevelt, c. 1930s
The Murray Monterey bicycle
The Mercury Wagon
Viktor Schreckengost


The lawn chair
The National Medal of the Arts

He wasn’t particularly well known, but he liked it that way. Yet, Viktor Schreckengost was considered an American Da Vinci because, as an industrial designer over 70 years, he is personally responsible for many of our collectibles today.

Do you collect early bicycles, like the 1939 Murray Mercury or the Murray Torpedo pedal car? You might have sat in his 1950s style lawn chair or cooled yourself on his electric fan? These were all from the talents of Viktor Schreckengost. He lived to be 101.

His works include: Desk designs, machinery, automobiles, the lawn chair, sculptures, paintings, pottery, glass, dinnerware, ceramics, military hardware, art, children’s toys, the electric fan, pedal cars, wagons, commercial trucks, theater design. Oh, man, I’m tired just from listing them all!

At first, Viktor intended to work as a cartoonist and registered at the Cleveland Institute of Art (the CIA) in the early 1920s. He graduated at age 25, instead, as a master at ceramics. He stayed and continued to teach at the CIA until he was named Professor Emeritus in 1972, all the while exhibiting at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and others.

The Jazz Bowl was an early triumph. It is the ultimate design that conjured up the Age of Jazz like nothing else. Commissioned by the White House by Eleanor Roosevelt, one large bowl was auctioned off in 2004 for $254,000. Only about 52 or so were ever made. A poor man’s version of the electric blue bowl sold for $60,000 (the design was painted rather than etched like the larger bowl).

By the mid 1930s, he began his career in industrial design. At Limoges he created the Americana pattern. At the White Motor Company, he co-designed the cab of a truck to sit over the engine instead of behind it. It was revolutionary for the time, since it allowed for more cargo and drivers were paid by the cargo.

For Murray-Ohio, a bicycle manufacturer, he unveiled a new bicycle, along with a sculpture The Four Elements, at the 1939 World’s Fair. Pedal cars for kids came next. It is said that Murray sold over 100 million of Viktor’s bicycles and pedal car designs.

His talents even helped create more accurate radar systems for the U.S. Navy during World War II.

The artwork, the dinnerware — all of his design work was recognized by President George W. Bush and Viktor was awarded the National Medal of the Arts in 2006.

Visit the Viktor Schreckengost Foundation site at:

http://www.viktorschreckengost.org/

You’ll be amazed at the breadth of talent that one man could have. His contributions will be with us for as long as children play, beauty lives, and collectors collect.

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