Marshall B. Johnson research collection of industrial design and housewaresCreation: 1870-2018 Creation: Majority of material found within 1938-2018
Marshall Johnson (1938-), an industrial designer, 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 began working at Black & Decker, Inc., designing portable power tools and lawn and garden power tools. He went on to work as a corporate industrial designer for ALCOA, and later as a designer of small appliances and cookware for Wear-Ever, Proctor Silex, and Hamilton Beach, as those companies merged and evolved through the years. The Marshall B. Johnson Research Collection for Industrial Design and Housewares consists of Johnson's career files and artifacts from the various companies for which he worked, historical and research materials on the companies and their products, files on industrial designers, and Johnson's personal papers, which include materials on his family, childhood, education, interests, and other activities.
- Creation: 1870-2018
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1938-2018
- Johnson, Marshall (Person)
78.5 Linear Feet
Biographical and Historical Note
Marshall B. Johnson (1938-) is an industrial designer who worked for some of the most well-known small appliance companies, designed many popular consumer products, and often did 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). By the fourth grade, Johnson had begun building model cars, singing in school and church choirs, and learning to play the trombone. Later he began designing and building model cars, which became a lifelong hobby, and for which he won several awards. After reading a U.S. government career pamphlet, he became interested in Industrial Design in 1952. 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 the Rhode Island School of Design in 1960 with a BFA 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, Johnson was transferred to the ALCOA's cookware subsidiary, Wear-Ever Aluminum, Inc., in Chillicothe, Ohio. It was there 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. He worked with the famous industrial designer, Thomas Lamb (1896-1988), 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/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 was 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 he retired 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.
In addition to his busy career, Johnson's professional interests also led him to serve on the board of the IDSA (Industrial Designers Society of America) and as chair of the Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic chapters of the IDSA at various times. Before retiring, he established two IDSA design advisory sections and provided custom product models for over forty-five housewares industry shows. His numerous volunteer activities included many projects involving young people, among them, Black Youth Achievement, Junior Achievement, Project Business for eighth and ninth graders, chairing Sea and Explorer Scout Groups, speaking to and working with high school and college classes about careers in industrial design, and also serving on school board advisory councils. He was very active with the Jaycees, serving in many high-level positions, and he served on the Boards of the Southern Ohio Speech and Hearing Center and the Goodwill. He volunteered for the Hanover (Virginia) Habitat for Humanity and the Central Virginia Food Bank and served on church mission committees. In addition, he remained active in his musical interests, playing in and managing a jazz quartet and helping to organize community concert bands.
Johnson married Katherine Wright in 1964, and they had two daughters.
The Marshall B. Johnson research collection for industrial design and housewares is divided into three series:
Series I. The Marshall B. Johnson papers, is divided into five subseries. Subseries A is arranged by company in chronological order, then by subject or type of file; Subseries B is arranged by subject; Subseries C is filed chronologically by binder; Subseries D is filed by subject, then chronologically; Subseries E is arranged by company name, then alphabetically by product name.
Series II. Small Appliances and Housewares Research Materials is divided into 10 subseries. Subseries A is arranged by company name, then by subject or type of file; Subseries B is organized by topic; Subseries C is filed by author's last name; Subseries D is arranged by subject; Subseries E and F are arranged alphabetically; Subseries G is arranged alphabetically by subject; Subseries H and I are arranged by Wear-Ever drawings and Kensington Ware drawings, then by drawing number. Subseries J is arranged by Related company, alphabetically by product, then other companies arranged alphabetically by product.
Series III. Other Industrial Designers and Design Firms is arranged in alphabetically by last name of designer or design firm name.
Scope and Content
The Marshall B. Johnson collection for industrial design and housewares is comprised of three important groups of records, most of which relate to his career and the companies for whom he worked. The main part of the collection consists of his files, concept design and final drawings, patents, models and prototypes, and final products for those companies: Black & Decker, Inc., Towson, Maryland (1960-1967); ALCOA, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (1967-1971); Alcas/Cutco, Olean, New York; and Chillicothe, Ohio (1972-1983); Wear-Ever Aluminum, Inc., Chillicothe, Ohio (1971-1988); Proctor-Silex, Chillicothe, Ohio (1983-1988) and Glen Allen, Virginia (1988-1990); and Hamilton Beach/Proctor Silex, Glen Allen, Virginia (1990-2001). The collection also includes his Personal Papers, which consist of materials on his family, childhood, education, and his interests and non-work related activities. There are also pocket diaries from his college years until he retired, which detail his work and personal activities.
The second group contains the many research materials that Johnson compiled throughout his career. Whenever he was designing or working on a particular product, he would research its history and look at other examples, both historical and contemporary. Also, when he was employed by Hamilton Beach, he researched and compiled company histories and product information in order to write the history of the Hamilton Beach company. He found that the various companies had merged with or absorbed many other smaller companies through the years, and these are well documented in this collection.
In addition to historical ephemera such as trade catalogs and ads, this series also contains numerous photographs of many brands and types of products and examples of some relevant products. Many of the companies for whom he worked did not have an archivist, so Johnson saved many materials that were being discarded. There are historical materials for the companies, such as early production drawings for Wear-Ever aluminum cookware and their Kensington Ware gift line, Hamilton Beach payroll and other ledger books dating from the company's founding, and other such items.
The third series consists of biographies and drawings by various industrial designers and design firms. Many of these were staff designers for various companies. The design firms in this subseries were firms that the companies hired to help with design ideas for new products when their own staff was pressed for time. Johnson carefully saved this material which otherwise would have been lost. Industrial designers in this group not related to any of the companies for whom Johnson worked were designers whom Johnson admired and for whom he saved articles and other information.
Location of Copies
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archive.
No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.
Language of Materials
Donation of Marshall B. Johnson, 2002
The following materials are located in Hagley's Published Collections Department:
Adkins, Jan. Bridges: From My Side to Yours. Brookfield, CT: Roaring Brook Press, 2002.
Auerbach, Stevanne. Toys for a Lifetime: Enhancing Childhood Through Play. New York: Universe Publishing, 1999.
Buying Appliances: Consumer Education Series Book 3. New York: Xerox, 1967. Cathy, S. Truett. Eat Mor Chikin, Inspire More People: Doing Business the Chick-fil-A Way. Decatur, GA: Looking Glass Books, 2002.
Chaline, Eric. History’s Worst Inventions and the People Who Made Them. New York: Metro Books, 2009.
Flatow, Ira. They All Laughed…: From Light Bulbs to Lasers: The Fascinating Stories Behind the Great Inventions That Have Changed Our Lives. 1st HarperPerennial ed., New York: HarperPerennial, 1993.
Fleming, Kevin. Delaware Discovered. Annapolis, MD: Portfolio Press, 1992.
Foley, John, Ross Mason, and General Foods Ltd. The Food Makers: A History of General Foods Ltd. Banbury, Oxon: General Foods, 1972.
Forsee, Aylesa. Frank Lloyd Wright: Rebel in Concrete. Philadelphia: Macrae Smith Company, 1959.
Graf, Rudolf F., George J. Whalen. How It Works Illustrated: Everyday Devices and Mechanisms. 1974. New York: Harper & Row, 1975. Greene, Carla. I Want to Be a Telephone Operator. Chicago: Childrens Press, Inc., 1958.
Hennessey, James, and Victor Papanek. Nomadic Furniture 1. New York: Pantheon Books, 1973.
Hennessey, James, and Victor Papanek. Nomadic Furniture 2. New York: Pantheon Books, 1974.
Justin, Margaret M., and Lucile Osborn Rust. Today’s Home Living, Revised. Chicago: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1953. Knauer, Kelly, editor. Great Inventions: Geniuses and Gizmos: Innovation in Our Time. Special Edition of Time. New York: Time Books, 2003. Koslow, Philip. Great Inventions. Chicago: Kidsbooks, Inc., 1998.
National Design Council. Design for People. Ottawa, Canada: Information Canada, 1975.
The National Inventors Hall of Fame. Washington, DC: National Inventors Hall of Fame, 1993.
Newson, Alex. Fifty Watches That Changed the World. London: Conran Octopus, 2015.
Padgett, Marty. Bobcat: Fifty Years. St. Paul, MN: Motorbooks, 2007.
Panati, Charles. Panati’s Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things. New York: Chartwell Books, 2016. Perino, Angia Sassi, and Giorgio Faraggiana. Bridges: Triumphs of Engineering. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 2004. Pripps, Robert N., Doug Mitchel, Marci McGrath, and Chris Smith. John Deere: Yesterday & Today. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, Ltd., 2010.
Samuelson, Timothy. But, Wait! There’s More!: The Irrisistible Appeal and Spiel of Ronco and Popeil. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2002.
Shea, Ammon. The Phone Book: The Curious History of the Book That Everyone Uses But No One Reads. New York: Penguin Group Inc., 2010. Small Inventions That Make a Big Difference. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society, 1984.
St. George, Judith, and David Small. So You Want to Be an Inventor? New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2002.
The Triborough Bridge Authority: Fiftieth Anniversary. New York: Triborough Bridge Authority, 1941.
Vital Gaps in New York Metropolitan Arteries. New York: Triborough Bridge Authority, 1940.
Walker, Richard, Richard Tames, John Man, and Charles Freeman. Inventions That Changed the World. New York: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1999.
Support for the processing of this collection was provided by a grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission.
For the most part, materials dating to the time of Johnson's employment by a particular company and relating to a product or project on which he was working were kept with his career files. Materials dating to the years before he worked for a company were filed as research materials under the Small Appliance and Housewares Research Materials subseries. Also, since Johnson's files and the drawings do not always reflect the actual date that a company was sold or merged, those files and drawings were kept together by the company name actually on that item. In some cases, a product was continued for many years and through many company name changes. In such a case, as in the Super Shooter files, the files were kept together in their original order, regardless of the company name.
Industrial designers and design firm files and drawings were separated and filed as a separate series. In a few cases, when Johnson worked very closely with them, their materials were kept with Johnson's files. In those cases, notes have been added to the designer's files referencing Johnson's career files.
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- Marshall B. Johnson research collection of industrial design and housewares
- Gail A. Stanislow
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