Oral history interview with Marshall JohnsonCreation: 2018 October 24
Marshall B. Johnson (1938-) is an industrial designer who worked for some of the most well-known small appliance companies and designed many popular consumer products, as well as often doing their graphic and packaging design. This is an interview with Marshall Johnson in which he talks about his life and career as an industrial designer.
- Creation: 2018 October 24
2 WAV files.
Marshall B. Johnson (1938-) is an industrial designer who worked for some of the most well-known small appliance companies and designed many popular consumer products, as well as often doing their graphic and packaging design. He was born in Mineola, Long Island, New York, on December 5, 1938. He was the oldest of four children born to Madeline Ramsauer Johnson (1909-2005) and Loyal Johnson (1904-1999). He became interested in industrial design in 1952 after reading a U.S. government career pamphlet. An unfortunate accident in his high school chemistry class left him blind in one eye, but that did not deter him from pursuing his dream of being an industrial designer. He graduated from Rhode Island School of Design in 1960 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in industrial design and a minor in art education.
Following graduation, Johnson became the first staff designer hired by Black and Decker, working seven years in Towson, Maryland, as their package engineer/product designer. In 1967, he moved to Pittsburgh to join the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) corporate design staff, where he designed an oceanographic ship, the Alcoa Seaprobe; the ALCOA Center Engineering Research Building; furniture; and numerous products using aluminum. In 1971, he was transferred to ALCOA’s cookware subsidiary, Wear-Ever Aluminum, Inc., in Chillicothe, Ohio, where he designed cookware and small appliances, such as the first hot air corn popper, electric food gun (Super Shooter), and kabob cooker (Kabob-It and Kabob 2), to name a few. He also designed products for ALCOA’s Alcas/Cutco Division in Olean, New York, and worked with the famous industrial designer Thomas Lamb to use Lamb's revised handle for a line of Wear-Ever’s cookware.
ALCOA then sold Wear-Ever to Wesray Products, Inc., in 1982. In July and August of 1983, Wesray also acquired the Proctor-Silex Division of SCM Corporation, a manufacturer of kitchen appliances, and changed its name to Proctor-Silex, Inc. Shortly afterward, Wesray merged the two companies into one: WearEver-ProctorSilex, Inc. In 1988, the merged companies were in turn acquired by NACCO Industries, Inc. and moved to Glenn Allen, near Richmond, Virginia. The Wear-Ever brand and cookware division were sold to Mirro/Newell in January 1989. NACCO Industries, Inc., purchased Hamilton Beach, Inc., from Glen Dimplex of Ireland in 1990 and consolidated as Hamilton Beach/Proctor-Silex, Inc. After Wear-Ever was sold, Johnson stayed with Proctor-Silex through these various mergers until his retirement from Hamilton Beach/Proctor Silex in 2001. Despite these companies' tumultuous history, Johnson continued to be successful in his career. He holds twenty-five design patents and one mechanical patent.
Scope and Contents
In this interview, Marshall Johnson tells the story of how he became an industrial designer after he read about the field in a pamphlet at school; the various companies he has worked for over the years; and some of his favorite projects, including a research ship and a cookie gun. He describes how he used his skills to aid charitable causes. He explains the ways in which industrial design is different from engineering, explaining that designers envision how a customer might expect to use a product rather than building the product from scratch.
Existence and Location of Copies
View this collection online in the Hagley Digital Archives.
No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.
Language of Materials
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Oral history interview with Marshall Johnson
- Benjamin Spohn
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description:
- Script of description: