This 1937 Czech tubular steel trade catalog Kovový nábytek //Vichr a Spol is a recent addition to the Cooper Hewitt Library’s extensive collection of furniture trade literature. The library collects these invaluable primary resource materials from all periods, styles, designs and countries. This is a photogravure catalog issued by Vichr, one of the major Czech producers of tubular steel furniture in the interwar period. Czechoslovakia had the necessary raw materials and a long history in the iron and steel industries going back to the 16th century; in the later 19th century Czech steel production boomed with the demand for tubular steel for production of beds and institutional products.
Before World War I, the Vichr factory started producing small, functional household necessities: coat-racks and some metal furniture, but once the war began the demand for metal hospital beds, and related equipment dominated Czech tubular steel production. The period between the two world wars saw a revolution in the use of new materials in design, and the emergence of diverse avant-garde movements in the arts and architecture. Tubular steel came into use for household furnishings through designers such as Marcel Breuer from the Bauhaus, and the bentwood style using tubular steel of the Thonet furniture firm. The fashionable modern appeal, functionality and versatility helped spread its popularity and use as a high fashion material by innovative European companies and designers.
This trade catalog enhances our rare collection, which includes another recent acquisition of a Vichr 1930’s trade catalog, Kovový nábytek (Metal furniture), and two other steel furniture catalogs from companies in the Czech Republic. The front covers of both of the Vichr catalogs and the top of every page displays the trademark symbol for Vichr of a triple-riveted “V” in front of two crossed mallets contained within a circle. After the war, Peter Vichr moved the factories to Prague and again the popularity of the simple lines and variety of applications of tubular steel encouraged Czech designers and furniture companies to produce their own styles of furniture.
Kovový nábytek //Vichr a Spol offered furniture and interior furnishings for practical, everyday use for a mass market. Tubular steel bed frames, desks, even baby cribs were available for purchase. One page shows an entire room furnished with tubular steel furniture–from beds, to mirrors, to tables. Vichr also manufactured coat trees, plant stands and other furnishing accessories. This blog was written with the research assistance of Adrienne Meyer, graduate of the New School Parsons Masters program in the History od Design and Curatorial Studies.
Elizabeth Broman is the Reference Librarian, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Library