Magazine article Humanities

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Magazine article Humanities

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Article excerpt

"When Raymond Loewy and the century were young, the look of life was different," a journalist once said. "Everyday objects were bulky, colors were dowdy and machines bristled with ungainly protuberances."

Modern advertising and industrial design would shape a new, constantly changing world where the pace was faster, the colors brighter, the machines sleeker and smoother.

The list of Loewy designs is legendary. Cosmopolitan magazine declared in 1950, "Loewy has probably affected the daily life of more Americans than any other man of his time." he stood as the most prominent figure in streamlining, the most influential American industrial style of the century. His locomotives, passenger trains, ferries, ocean liners, automobiles, buses, and airplanes did much to set the tempo and to shape the look and feel of consumer civilization in America and around the world. His clients, products, and packages included such icons as the Pennsylvania Railroad, Greyhound, Frigidaire, Coca-Cola, Studebaker, Armour, International Harvester, Nabisco, Lucky Strike, Air Force One, Shell, the U.S. Post Office, Exxon, the supersonic Concorde, and NASA's manned space vehicles. Under the leadership of his partner William Snaith, Loewy's firm played a key role in the creation of postwar suburbia, particularly its department stores, shopping centers, and supermarkets.

Consumer culture had its origins in the last decades of the nineteenth century, when it supplanted an America that was more agrarian, more rural, more religious, and more oriented to production than consumption. The new hallmarks, critic William Leach wrote, were "Acquisition and consumption as the means of achieving happiness; the cult of the new; the democratization of desire; and money value as the predominant measure of all value in society."

Visual appearance and an up-to-date look came to count in almost every aspect of this modern life. …

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