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First Lady Laura Bush, 100-year-old industrial designer Viktor Schreckengost, and U.S. President George W. Bush at the presentation of the 2006 National Medal of Arts in the Oval Officeof the White House on November 9, 2006
|Born||June 26, 1906
Sebring, Ohio, United States
|Died||January 26, 2008 (aged 101)
Viktor Schreckengost (June 26, 1906 – January 26, 2008) was an American industrial designer as well as a teacher, sculptor, and artist. His wide-ranging work included noted pottery designs, industrial design, bicycle design and seminal research on radar feedback. Schreckengost’s peers included designers Raymond Loewy, Norman Bel Geddes, Eva Zeisel, and Russel Wright.
Born and raised in Sebring, Ohio, Schreckengost was one of six children. His father worked at a ceramics factory from which he brought home material for his children to model. Every week he held a sculpture contest among the children, the winner of which accompanied his father on his weekend trip into the local big city, Alliance, Ohio. Only years later did Schreckengost realize that his father systematically rotated the winner. His younger brothers Donald and Paul Schreckengost also went on to careers as ceramicists.
Schreckengost graduated from the Cleveland School of the Arts (now the Cleveland Institute of Art) in 1929, at which time he earned a partial scholarship to study at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Vienna. To make the trip, he borrowed $1,500 from two owners of Gem Clay, an industrial ceramics manufacturer in Sebring. When he returned six months later, Schreckengost paid back his loans—a lucky event for the men from Gem Clay, since separate bank failures during the Great Depression would have otherwise wiped them out.
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Schreckengost taught industrial design at the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) for more than 50 years and was a professor emeritus at CIA until his death. He was also the youngest faculty member ever at CIA (then known as the Cleveland School of the Arts). Schreckengost founded CIA’s school of industrial design, the first of its kind in the country. His notable students include Giuseppe Delena, chief designer at Ford Motor Co.; Larry Nagode, principal designer at Fisher-Price (father of Ryan Nagode); John Nottingham and John Spirk, founders of innovation firm Nottingham Spirk, inventors of the first Dirt Devil handheld Vacuum; Joe Oros, head of the studio at Ford that designed the 1965 Ford Mustang, Sid Ramnarace, designer of the 5th generation Ford Mustang and Jerry Hirschberg, designer of the Infiniti J30 and the 1971 boat tail Buick Riviera.
Schreckengost enlisted in the Navy at age 37 to help the Allies in World War II. He was flown on secret missions to Europe where he used his modeling knowledge to help improve the radar used in the Battle of the Bulge. Later he helped design prosthetics for wounded soldiers. He retired from the Naval Reservesas a Captain. Schreckengost was also good friends with Cleveland safety director Eliot Ness.
The Viktor Schreckengost Foundation homepage indicates:
Every adult in America has ridden in, ridden on, drunk out of, stored their things in, eaten off of, been costumed in, mowed their lawn with, played on, lit the night with, viewed in a museum, cooled their room with, read about, printed with, sat on, placed a call with, enjoyed in a theater, hid their hooch in, collected, been awarded with, seen at a zoo, put their flowers in, hung on their wall, served punch from, delivered milk in, read something printed on, seen at the World’s Fair, detected enemy combatants with, written about, had an arm or leg replaced with, graduated from, protected by, or seen at the White House something created by Viktor Schreckengost.
Schreckengost designed the Jazz Bowl for Eleanor Roosevelt during his association with Cowan Pottery. He created (at the time) the largest freestanding ceramic sculpture in the world, Early Settler at Lakewood High School in Lakewood, Ohio. He designed bicycles manufactured by Murray bicycles for Murray and Sears, Roebuck and Company. With engineer Ray Spiller, he designed the first truck with a cab-over-engine configuration, a design in use to this day. And he created simple, modern dinnerware designs that became popular throughout the United States.
Tributes and legacy
Schreckengost lived in Cleveland Heights, Ohio with his second wife Jean, and he celebrated his 100th birthday in June 2006. The Viktor Schreckengost Foundation planned more than 100 exhibits of his work, with at least one in each US state, to celebrate the milestone. The exhibits opened in March 100 days before his 100th birthday. Schreckengost attended an exhibit in New York City to open the shows. The night before his birthday he was honored at Cain Park in Cleveland Heights by a large and appreciative crowd. Also in 2006, Schreckengost was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor the federal government can bestow on an American artist. He and the nine other winners were feted in an Oval Office ceremony by President George W. Bush and the First Lady Laura Bush on November 9, 2006.
Schreckengost died on January 26, 2008 at age 101 while visiting family in Tallahassee, Florida — predeceased by his three sisters, Pearl Eckleberry, Ruth Key, and Lucille Jackson, and his two brothers, Paul and Donald Schreckengost.
In 2000, the Cleveland Museum of Art curated the first ever retrospective of Schreckengost’s work. Broad in scope, the exhibition included sculpture, pottery, dinnerware, drawings, and paintings. The centerpiece of the exhibit was the Jazz Bowl. The industrial design portion included many of his famous designs such as safer and cleaner printing presses, economical pedal cars, cab-over-engine trucks, banana-seat bicycles, electric fans, and lawn chairs. Then in his 90s, Schreckengost made many personal appearances at the exhibit. In April 1991, Schreckengost traveled with Henry B. Adams, then curator of the CIA, to Norfolk, Virginia to address the Hampton Roads chapter of the American Institute of Architects at age 93.
- “Related links”. East Liverpool, Ohio: The Museum of Ceramics.
- “The Ferchill Group”. Retrieved 2011-08-12.
- Makovsky, Paul (4 February 2008). “Industrial Designer Viktor Schreckengost dead at 101”. Metropolis Magazine.
- “Viktor Schreckengost Foundation”. Retrieved 2010-06-07.
- Rohrlich, Marianne (11 May 2006). “Belatedly, Stardom Finds a 20th-Century Master”. The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-28.
- “Viktor Announced as 2006 Medal of Arts Recipient”. Viktor Schreckengost Foundation. 2006-11-10. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
- Litt, Steven (2008-01-27). “Viktor Schreckengost has died at age 101”. The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2008-01-27.