THE GREAT HENRY DREYFUSS
and the Royal Quiet DeLuxe Makeover
The day I was born, April 5, 1948, Life magazine ran this advertisement:
Sixty-three years later, I am the proud owner of four of these Henry Dreyfuss-designed Royal Quiet DeLuxe portable typewriters.
Sounds a bit greedy, I know, but I waited a long time for one of these. Then earlier this year the chance to buy four, each at a very reasonable price, came along almost at once. I couldn't resist.
They all arrived from the US in beautiful condition. So it proved well worth the wait, as these are now among my very favourite typewriters.
Henry Dreyfuss applied for a patent for this fresh design of the Royal QDL on this day in 1945.
Freyfuss assigned them, of course, to the Royal Typewriter Company of New York, and the patent was issued on May 1946.
I know a few of our Typospherians own these great machines, including Ted. As well, David in Zurich not so long ago acquired this fantastic and rare gold-plated model:
The Dreyfuss design was gold plated for Royal’s Golden Jubilee (50th anniversary) celebrations in 1954, but they were mostly in a deep black. I wasn’t aware there was a grey model until David posted on his a week ago. He is very justifiably proud of it.
In Dreyfuss's description with his patent application, the great designer called this “a new, original, and ornamental design for typewriting machine".
There can be no doubt Royal approached Dreyfuss, then at the height of his designing powers, to come up with this “original and ornamental” look for the QDL.
It would unquestionably have added a lot of appeal to the machine. In its advertising for this immediate post-war model, the last Royal to have the “glass” keytops, the company certainly made much of Dreyfuss’s hand in the design.
Henry Dreyfuss was one of America’s truly great 20th century industrial designers, and came to be considered “the founding father of American industrial design”.
Dreyfuss was born in Brooklyn on March 2, 1904, the son of Lewis (also known as Louis, born New York, 1879) and Austrian-born Elsie G. Dreyfus (Henry was listed in the US census of 1910 under the family name of Dreyfus, not Dreyfuss. He was listed as Henry H. Dreyfus). The young family lived with Lewis’s German-born merchant father Moritz Dreyfus, close to Columbia University in Manhattan. But Moritz died, aged 64, in March 1913, and Lewis, aged just 36, two years later. Nonetheless, Henry was sent to Europe, returning to the US from Naples in 1922, aged 18 (and listed at Ellis Island as Henry H.Dreyfuss).
Dreyfuss continued his studies as an apprentice to Norman Bel Geddes(below), completing them in 1924. Between that year and 1928, he produced 250 stage sets.
At 25, Dreyfuss opened his own office for theatrical and industrial design. He began designing clock faces, first for the Western Clock Company of Peru, Illinois, in 1930 (and later designed Big Ben for General Time Instruments of New York).
He moved on to a washing machine and a cheque-writing machine. A Dreyfuss feature article in Fortune magazine in 1934 was a turning point. By the time he was designing an entire bathroom for Crane Corp of Chicago, in 1936 - right down to the bath spout, showerhead and toilet - Dreyfuss was being recognised as a “celebrity designer”, a designer of the future. Sure enough, by 1951 he was on the cover of Fortune.
Dreyfuss “dramatically improved the look, feel and usability of dozens of consumer products. As opposed to Raymond Loewy and other contemporaries, Dreyfuss was not a stylist: he applied common sense and a scientific approach to design problems. His work both popularised the field for public consumption, and made significant contributions to the underlying fields of ergonomics, anthropometrics, and human factors.”
It was said of Dreyfuss that “the main reason for his success was the core concept of his works – designing for people. His idea was simple: every point of contact between what is designed and the customer-user must be positive, a delight, it must make people happier. Dreyfuss also told us that good design gives to the user self-assurance, efficiency, and satisfaction.”
You can put that in triplicate for the Royal QDL.
Dreyfuss designs include:
* Situation Room for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during World War II.
* General Electric flat-top deluxe refrigerator.
* Western Electric 302 tabletop telephone for Bell Laboratories.
* Hoover Model 150 vacuum cleaner.
* Westclox Big Ben alarm clock.
* New York Central Railroad streamlined Mercury train, both locomotive and passenger cars, for the Hudson Valley Line.
* NYC Hudson locomotive for Twentieth Century Limited.
* Democracity model city of the future at the 1939 New York World's Fair. This city, in the Perisphere, forecast an American city and its suburbs in 2039.
* John Deere Model A and Model B tractors.
* Wahl-Eversharp Skyline fountain pen.
* Bell 500 desk telephone.
* Honeywell T87 circular wall thermostat.
* Model 82 Constellation vacuum cleaner for Hoover.
* Princess telephone.
* Trimline desk telephone
* Polaroid SX-70 Land camera.
* And, of course, the Royal QDL portable typewriter.
Here are a selection of his telephones (plus an iron and a dress Dreyfuss designed):
Dreyfuss was also a consultant for Lockheed, RCA, Sears Roebuck and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In 1955 Dreyfuss wrote Designing for People, an autobiography which features his "Joe" and "Josephine" simplified anthropometric charts. In 1960 he published The Measure of Man: Human Factors in Design, an ergonomic reference. Other words include Industrial Design: A Pictorial Accounting 1929-1957 (1957) and Symbol Sourcebook: An Authoritative Guide to International Graphic Symbols (1972).
Dreyfuss became the first vice-president of the Society of Industrial Designers, which was established in 1944, and the first president of the Industrial Design Society of America (IDSA), which was formed by the merger of IDI, ASID and IDEA.
Dreyfuss joined the University of California at Los Angeles in 1963 and was a trustee for California Institute of Technology. He retired in Pasadena in 1969, but continued to serve the profession. In 1971 he represented the American National Standards Institute and chaired the first meeting of the International Organisation of Standards Technical Committee in Berlin.
He died in South Pasadena, California, on October 5, 1972. He and his wife, Doris Marks, who was terminally ill with liver cancer, committed suicide. They were found in a car, killed by self-inflicted carbon monoxide poisoning.
Russell Flinchum’s Henry Dreyfuss, Industrial Designer: The Man in the Brown Suit was published in 1997.
The American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Arthur Baldwin was born on this day in 1924.
He died, aged 63, on December 1, 1987, in Saint-Paul de Vence, France.
British journalist and broadcaster Alan Donald Whicker was born in Cairo on this day in 1925. He turns 86 today.
The great Irish actor Peter Seamus Lorcan O'Toole was born on this day in 1932. He turns 79 today (remarkably!).
O’Toole achieved stardom in 1962 playing T. E. Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia. He went on to become a highly-honoured film and stage actor. He has been nominated for eight Academy Awards, and holds the record for most competitive Academy Award acting nominations without a win. He has won four Golden Globes, a BAFTA, and an Emmy, and was the recipient of an Honorary Academy Award in 2003 for his body of work.
O’Toole was born in either Connemara, County Galway, Ireland, or Leeds, Yorkshire, England, depending on who you wish to believe. If you haven’t yet seen The Ruling Class (1972), please catch up with it now.