Showing posts from 2010

Just a thought...

I find it interesting that Paul McCobb Design Associates employees prior to 1956 are really rather hard to find and frequently impossible to locate and/or find out much about their continuing careers. Those folks hired after 1956 are easy as their careers flourished upon departing Paul McCobb Design Associates. I am starting to get the idea that Paul McCobb had access to a much higher caliber of employee post 1956.

Hitting the wall

There comes a time in any project of this nature where you hit a wall, where it seems there can't possibly be any more information out there to be found. This can be very frustrating when you still have unresolved questions and no clear way to find the answers, but, as I have discovered, this is part and parcel of the research process and there's really nothing to it but to take a step back and find something else to focus on.
Recently I have been very hard pressed to find any new tidbits of data so I did what I always do when I hit these plateaus, I start going through the files already in my research archive; further organizing, annotating and filing the bits and pieces that I have already collected. 
Part of doing this forces me to send my scanned clippings through a text recognition program. This is the kind of drudge work which I am normally loathe to take upon myself especially when you take into account the huge backlog of articles in my research archive and the glacial s…

The Planner Group - All 'Round Square

It's stark sleekness and simplicity of line made the #1305 All 'Round Square a longstanding staple of  Paul McCobb design in the 1950's. Where other designs came and went the All 'Round Square seemingly never went out of style. Measuring 20" x 20" x 16" it was made entirely of  rather crudely welded 1/2" round wrought iron with flat tabs welded to the top of the frame to attach the seat. 

The McCobb original should not be mistaken for the Frederic Weinberg stool which is of remarkably similar construction. The Weinberg stool measures 16" x 16" x 14". 

Nominally a part of the Planner Group the All 'Round Square, manufactured by the Winchendon Furniture Company, was introduced into the line in Spring/Summer 1952. The earliest known reference to it in my research archive is this Frank Brothers ad taken from the July 13, 1952 issue of the Long Beach Press-Telegram (below). It was sold at the time for $19.95. 

The ad mentions a comp…

The sincerest form of flattery

Every so often there pops up an item which on first look seems so obviously to be by a known designer that even the most experienced and knowledgeable people will not bother to question it’s provenance and authenticity since it’s creator seems to be proven by the “look and feel” of the object itself. The truth of the matter is that the Mid Century was rife with design copycats and outright knockoffs and not everything should be taken at face value. The following quote is taken from the August 22, 1954 New York Times article “The Pros and Cons of Copying” by Betty Pepis: 
 Designer Paul McCobb says of his inexpensive Planner Group: “Approximately a dozen manufacturers copied this line. Of this number we can name at least three who purchased our goods, brought them into their factory and copied them right down to the last detail. We were also given reports that the merchandise was being sold openly as direct copies. Prices were the same as the original—or above.”And architect George Nels…

Linear Group Room Divider post updated

The Linear Group Room Divider post has been updated to reflect new information about the construction and manufacture of these pieces. It seems likely now that Imperial Furniture made the initial production run (untagged and using hook eyes as a connection method for the shelves) and Calvin Furniture the remainder of the production (Calvin Furniture tag, aluminum center support across top shelf, aluminum tabs as connection method for the shelves).

"A Tale of Two Chairs" blogpost updated (again)

Just added a modern color photo of the Planner Group 1535 chair in my own collection to the "A Tale of Two Chairs" article.

Calvin equals Paul McCobb?

The name Calvin Furniture has become almost synonymous with Paul McCobb. So much so that pieces which are clearly labeled as being made by other manufacturers (such as the Connoisseur Collection pieces by H. Sacks and Sons) are occasionally listed as being by Calvin even though the furniture label clearly states otherwise.

The truth is much furniture that you will see by Calvin is designed by Paul McCobb, but not all of it.
In the late 50's and early 60's Calvin Furniture continued their business relationship with B. G. Mesberg National Sales and Directional Furniture even after Paul McCobb was no longer designing for those concerns.
It’s important to know that Paul McCobb was not the designer for Calvin Furniture. Paul McCobb was the designer for Directional/B. G. Mesberg National Sales, Calvin Furniture was one of the many furniture manufacturers contracted to manufacture Paul McCobb's designs.
The earliest non-Paul McCobb designed group manufactured by Calvin that I am awa…

"A Tale of Two Chairs" blogpost updated

Updated the A Tale of Two Chairs (or Clifford Pascoe vs. Paul McCobb) article with new larger and clearer images

The Daybed that Paul McCobb should have designed...

I received a complete scan of the 1953 Modernmasters catalog yesterday courtesy of the Ball State University Library Drawing and Documents Archive. If you have been following the blog you will know of my interest in Clifford Pascoe and Modermasters as regards a chair Pascoe designed which is commonly mistaken for a similar chair by Paul McCobb (see A Tale of Two Chairs (or Clifford Pascoe vs. Paul McCobb)).

But there's more to it than that, in 1952/53 Pascoe designed an entire range of furniture in birch with wrought iron bases very much in the style of Paul McCobb's 1950/51 Planner Group collection. This Modernmasters collection included various McCobb influenced coffee, end and dining tables and also, as I discovered yesterday, a wrought iron based daybed (or Lounge Bed as it is referred to in the catalog). It was the Daybed that I was looking for.

I had long suspected that Pascoe might have had a Daybed in his collection for Modermasters but hadn't been able to find any t…

Reaction buttons

Just created several reaction buttons for the bottoms of the blog posts
Like, Don’t Like, More Info, and More Like This
Are there any other buttons that you folks who are reading this blog would like to see? Let me know in the comments!

Timeline Corrections

Several items on the timeline were incorrectly identified as being part of Paul McCobb’s work for Directional, fixed now.

1956 Linear Group 497 Coffee Table and 496 Room Divider manufactured by the Imperial Furniture Co. of Grand Rapids, MI

1956 Linear Group Room Divider

If you are as familiar with Paul McCobb's work as I am you will know that these pieces are infrequently tagged with the familiar Calvin Furniture tags as are all of the other designs from the Linear Group. Most every example I have ever seen is unlabeled. This lack of a label bothered me from time to time, I just didn't understand why this particular piece would occasionally show up unlabeled.
Back in June I found the answer while going through the paperwork for a show that Paul McCobb did. I didn't realize at the time that I had found the answer, it was just another tidbit of information to go into the research archive for later consumption.
In 1958 Paul McCobb put together a show for the American Federation of Artists titled "Kaleidoscope - Changing aspects of American Design 1875 - 1960". The show was a traveling pictorial display detailing the evolution of American furniture towards Contemporary and was shown around the US and i…

Timeline Moved

Moved the timeline post to it's own page. Click on the tab above to easily get to the new timeline page.

1951 Directional Modern #1699 Corner Table

1951 Directional Modern #1699 Corner Table

A true rarity!
A genuine Paul McCobb Directional Modern #1699 Corner Table by Furnwood Corp. of Brockton, MA circa 1951
To the best of my knowledge no pieces from this group have ever come to auction. There's almost no documentation whatsoever for this earliest of Paul McCobb's furniture designs barring a single reference on pg. 128 of William J. Hennessey's indispensable "Modern Furnishings for the Home" (reprinted by Acanthus Press in 1997) and an unattributed image of the table along with two early Paul McCobb chairs (also unattributed) in a photo depicting a new Karagheusian carpet in the March 1952 issue of Furniture Age pg. 44.
The legs and structure are solid Honduran Mahogany and the top is of Honduran Mahogany veneered Plywood which is unusual for Paul McCobb's designs as they were most frequently of hardwoods, veneered or solid.
The scale of it astonishes me, the table is 34" (l) x 34" (w) x 24" (…

Timeline Addition and Change

Added Daryl Products to 1962
Changed the 1962 Alside entry to reflect new information

Timeline Changes

Moved Blair Series 690 Chairs from 1962 to 1961
Added Mutschler Series 800 Office Arrangements to 1961

Timeline Updated

Added entries for a carpet that Paul McCobb designed for Edward Fields in 1959 and an entry for Alside Inc. a manufacturer of Prefab Aluminum Houses starting in 1962.


Spent the day today with Paul McCobb's daughter Melissa and her husband Andrew sorting through a recently re-discovered archive of her father's design work (it's amazing what you can find in the attic some days).
The upshot is I now have in my possession several project reference binders, chock full of press photos, furniture catalogs, and 35mm color slides put together by Paul McCobb himself as a reference for his work.
It is an incredible cornucopia of new and better information+ new and better images.
But it's only on loan so I will need to make quick work of it, scanning and cataloging all the new information.
The Gift Craft office set is in it and the Electro-Voice Organ (both of which I had been having a very hard time finding elsewhere); Mutschler, Blair, Lane, Widdicomb and Paul McCobb showroom catalogs, plus the 1955 Executive Office catalog. There are real surprises in here, things that I did not even suspect existed (no pictures of any globes though...) and a g…

Globes Revisited

When I started researching the globes I was operating under the basic assumption that the date of the globes was appropriate to the period in which Paul McCobb might have likely designed them, which is to say 1952 to 1959. Later I learned this assumption was inherently flawed as further research and study revealed that the globes were in fact produced in the 1970's.
The problem this presented is that when I contacted Replogle to ask them about it I specifically asked them about their production during the 50’s, 1950 to 1959! To which they replied that they had not manufactured anything of the sort in that time period. With that answer in hand I believed I had reached a dead end in this line of enquiry. I despaired of ever finding who manufactured these globes.
A year ago when I started on this line of research it had never occurred to me that the timeline estimate could possibly have been quite so wrong and misleading. It was only recently after revisiting my notes on the globes tha…

A word about updates

This blog of mine is a living breathing thing. What I post on here is information based upon my continuing research into the life and design career of Paul McCobb (just like the title says). The act of writing a post on a subject does not signify that I have stopped researching this particular topic. I write when I believe that I have sufficient information to present my case clearly and authoritatively.
Some of you might have noticed that there have been alterations and additions recently to older posts like the Design Timeline and the Lamp Post. As I get better information I will include it here providing it is pertinent to the subject at hand...
The best is yet to come!

And now... The Wine Racks

Paul McCobb was a hard worker. People who knew him well frequently had this to say about him. He and his wife Molly were constantly working.
What’s interesting is that he somehow managed to keep working (if we are to believe certain items commonly attributed to him) for several years after he passed away. Now that’s what I call dedication!
Obviously there have been mistakes made along the way as far as Paul McCobb attributions are concerned, much of my blogging on here has been about debunking these misattributions and today’s blog post is no exception as I delve into yet another common misattribution, the wine racks.
Though commonly attributed to Paul McCobb these Wrought Iron, Leather and Butcher Block Wine Racks were in fact designed by Arthur Umanoff for Shaver Howard and distributed by Raymor around 1971/1972 with the possibility that they might have started manufacture as early as 1967 and possibly continued production as late as 1980.
I first became aware of the probable correct a…

The case against the Globes

Have you ever seen the "Paul McCobb" World Globes? The ones frequently attributed to Directional? The ones with the very nice curved brass frames and a Replogle globe? They really are rather gorgeous, aren't they? There's only one problem, it seems highly unlikely that they were actually designed by Paul McCobb.
Over the past year I have scoured books, newspapers, industry periodicals, furniture catalogs, library collections, etc, traveling around the country where necessary, gathering data about Paul McCobb's work. I have 100's of hours invested in this research. I now have a database containing several thousands of articles from 1936 to 1969 weighing in at a little over 3 gigs of data. One thing I have not found over the past year's research is a single mention of Paul McCobb ever having designed a Globe. With this much information you would think that I might have found some reference, somewhere, anywhere, but as best I can determine there is nothing th…

A Cautionary Tale: Researching the Paul McCobb lamp designs

When I first became interested in Paul McCobb I did what everyone does nowadays. I looked it up on-line.
Having wasted a lot of time google’ing Paul McCobb and not really finding much of substance I realized I was going to have to do more than just search the Internet if I truly wished to learn the subject.
The problem with doing "research" on line is that no-one is editing the Internet. Anyone can publish anything in a webpage and no-one is checking their information. For instance: Do a Google search for "Paul McCobb lamp", and click on the very first link. This brings you to a very nicely designed and well thought out web page with examples of Paul McCobb furniture and lamps, it certainly looks official. The website is which advertises itself as a “Reference data base for collectors of design objects”. 
Before we go much further it’s important to mention something about the way that many websites gather their content; it’s called “aggregating”. Aggre…