Wednesday, June 23, 2010

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 attribution while interviewing a former Raymor designer last year. After describing the Wine Racks to him in some detail (it was a phone interview) he said “Arthur was doing stuff like that with the Butcher Block and the Leather”. As I questioned him further we were able to establish that “Arthur" was in fact Arthur Umanoff and that the company he thought likely to have produced these pieces was Shaver Howard, one of the Raymor concerns, but he couldn’t remember what years they might have been produced beyond suggesting late 60’s early 70’s as that was the time that he himself worked as a designer for Raymor.

So now I had an idea of where to look and what to look for. Unfortunately other things kept pushing this project off to the side. A few abortive attempts at searching out Arthur Umanoff had yielded some suggestive information from the late 60’s showing markedly similar designs for Shaver Howard but nothing with the signature leather straps.

When next I had the opportunity to try searching out this information I had better luck. Searching Shaver Howard turned out to be the charm as there were a limited number of articles in the ProQuest Historical Newspapers database I was able to finally find an image of one of the leather and wrought iron wine racks clearly attributed to Shaver Howard in an ad in the December 3, 1971 Issue of the LA Times (Below).

“Large wrought iron dome shaped wine rack holds 67 bottles. 75.00
Small 4-bottle in wrought iron and leather from Shaver Howard. At 10.00. In our Arts/Gifts.”


In the advertisement above from late 1971 we see an image one of the leather and wrought iron wine racks which gives us information establishing date of production and manufacturer. So that’s part of the puzzle, it pretty clearly establishes that these were not designed by Paul McCobb as they are produced several years after he died by a company he had no known affiliation with. Arthur Umanoff, however, had a long standing affiliation with Shaver Howard, as their designer, as seen in the article clippings below

Arthur Umanoff Etageré for Shaver Howard circa 1967

Arthur Umanoff Bar and Bar Stool for Shaver Howard circa 1967


Unfortunately the record I have been able to assemble is fragmentary, I have yet to uncover images of the larger wine racks in period ads or editorials, but I think that there is enough information here, to, in the very least, cast some serious doubts as to the veracity of anyone claiming that Paul McCobb designed these wrought iron and leather wine racks.

Addendum: Since writing this I have been in contact with Arthur Umanoff's daughter. She has most generously agreed to grant me access to her archive of materials related to her father's design career in the coming weeks. I am very excited to see this material and hope to be able to amend this post with better, more authoritative information once I have gone through the archive. Watch this space!

7 comments:

  1. Thank you for this! I was always convinced that those were a Umanoff design; they just look so much like his other Raymor-distributed pieces.

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  2. I had a feeling after the globes, the wine racks were next. Great work! Also, I want that etagere.

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  3. Gene

    There's one (Umanoff Etagere) available on Ebay right now (unattributed), Ebay item number 380127563585.

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  4. Nothing unique in people being productive after their (alleged?) demise. As examples, Elvis Presley & Marilyn Monroe. Additionally, Edgar Rice Burrows published books after his death and I think some old, dead, German, music writer did the same, although I'm not sure, since I pay minimal attention to old, dead, German, music writers.

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  5. What you say is true, but not in this case. Every shred of information I have points to there being no new Paul McCobb design lines after 1965.

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  6. Thanks for the tip, Jonathan.

    It is great that you're sorting this stuff out and putting the information up on your blog. I hope it has an affect - there is an incredible amount of misattribution out there, and it seems to me that, by and large, the dealers and auction houses don't want to be corrected.

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  7. Gene

    It depends on the auction house, both LA Modern and Wright have been absolutely stellar about reversing a misattribution once given the correct information, others less so.

    The dealers have been following suit once the information is widely disseminated, no one want's to be the holdout when the correct information is readily available and easily visible to the general public.

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