Object of the Day

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Optical Amusements
While fidget spinners are the latest trend in handheld amusements, spinning phenakistiscope discs such as the example shown here charmed 19th-century audiences. These discs were the first widespread devices that created an illusion of fluid motion. Before cinematography, adults and children alike were captivated by objects that combined art and optical illusion, and much of...
Moderne Mystery
It is not very often that a clock’s origins provide as much mystery as that of the Zephyr clock. Designed during the mid-30s, it was originally attributed to Kem Weber, a German émigré designer who created several iconic designs of the Streamline Moderne style until evidence arose via a 1938 Lawson Time brochure that Weber...
Centennial Souvenir
This souvenir handkerchief of Horticultural Hall at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia is unusual for its diagonal placement of the building in the center of the square. In the collection at the New York Historical Society there is a printed textile with six uncut handkerchiefs – there are views of the Art Gallery, Horticultural...
When Craftsmanship Meets Representation
One thing that has always stuck out to me is the way in which small physical representations have the power to spread ideas through society. Therefore, of course, I was drawn to the Cooper Hewitt’s model and prototype gallery, where I first encountered this striking piece. Architecture has always been a driving force in society,...
Butterflies on Stripes
Whenever I come across this paper I always stop and give it a second glance, not sure whether to love it or hate it. Twelve years later it still grabs my attention. Keep in mind this is an inexpensive machine printed paper. If you can disregard the stripes for a minute, the butterflies and roses...
Gatsby’s Return
This 1947 book cover for The Great Gatsby was designed by Alvin Lustig (American 1915–1955) as part of the New Classics project. Initiated in 1939 by New Directions Publishing, the New Classics project created a series of cutting edge reprints of classic novels.  When F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel was first published in 1925, it garnered...
Picasso’s Birds
In 1953, Dan Fuller, president of Fuller Fabrics, invited five of the 20th century’s most distinguished artists: Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, and Raoul Dufy, to collaborate on a line of textiles to be called the Modern Master Series. The concept was unique in that the artists were not commissioned to produce...
Visions of Egypt for the Armchair Traveler
This is a classic and rather timeless pattern created by John Rombola whose unique drawing style stands apart from other mid-century designers. Rombola gives character to his whimsical designs, a mix of naïve and fantastical, through his use of brilliant color and pattern. Egypt contains numerous icons of ancient Egypt including a very fashionable Cleopatra,...
Radio waves
Set against a black background, this drawing of a cherry-red radio demands attention.  Its oblong form and stepped surface are echoed by curving red lines that float above and beneath the body.  These may be details, intended to show highlights that would be reflected on the curved surface, but there is also something less literal...