Jet Age Design: The Aurora Clock

James Kraus

Aurora Clock. Kirsch, Hamilton, Corchia, and de Harak, 1970

Mankind has been using light to tell the time since the days of ancient Egypt. While early shadow clocks and sundials utilized light and shadow, a new clock was developed in 1970 that displayed the time using coloured artificial light generated by rotating polarization filters.  Continue reading

Auto Universum on Cocktail Nation Radio

James Kraus

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 11.38.48 AM (2)

Be sure to tune in! All-transistor push-button AM radio, 1963 Studebaker Lark Regal

Yours truly visited sunny Palm Springs, California for Modernism Week, a ten-day celebration of Mid-Century Jet Age architecture and design, and recapped the trip for listeners of Cocktail Nation. We discussed a variety of topics.   Continue reading

Jet Age Design: The Playboy Town House

James Kraus

JK - 5

Glass, structural steel and exposed-aggregate concrete define the exterior façade. The Jaguar depicted in the carport was described as a high performance gran tourismo. The E-Type had been introduced just months before these illustrations were rendered.

Far beyond a mere “girlie magazine,” Playboy in the 1960s was a glossy gateway to the good life. Like a worldly uncle or urbane older brother, it dispensed a cornucopia of knowledge regarding women, wine, cocktails, gourmet cuisine, sports cars, hi-fi gear and other pleasurable pursuits of the man about town.

From the beginning, Playmate pictorials were enhanced with the latest modernist furniture creations from Bertoia, Eames, Saarinen and other highly esteemed Mid-Century masters.  Continue reading

Jet Age Design: The Clairtone Project G

by James Kraus

Clairtone Project G, 1964

Clairtone Project G, 1964

In the 1960s, dedicated audiophiles listened to their music through a system of separate components. Most others enjoyed listening via the recent invention of the Console Hi-Fi, also known in the UK as a Radiogram. These furniture-like units usually incorporated a tuner, turntable, preamp, and amplifier together with a set of speakers. The first of these were monaural, but by the early sixties, most were stereophonic. Some even included a television, making them an early form of entertainment center.   Continue reading

Jet Age Design: The Tappan Fabulous 400 and Frigidaire Custom Imperial Flair

by James Kraus

Fab III

Tappan Fabulous 400.

American appliance manufactures began upgrading and stylizing their wares in the 1950s to add Jet Age glamour to the heretofore humble workhorses of the household. The movement gained extra momentum in 1953 when Frigidaire introduced the first popular-priced appliances available in colour finishes. As an alternative to traditional white, buyers could now opt for Stratford Yellow or Sherwood Green. Other manufacturers responded with their own special palettes, and in short order all major kitchen appliances were being produced in a rainbow of colour from pastel pink to charcoal grey.  Continue reading

Porsche, the Targa Florio and the Crocodile

by James Kraus

Umberto Maglioli and Vic Elford savor their victory at the 52nd Targa Florio, 1968. Photo: Vic Elford Collection

Many manufacturers offer polo shirts these days, but they are all knock-offs; all but one, that is. The one true authentic original short-sleeve mesh polo shirt is the Lacoste Classic Piqué L1212 Polo. It’s been around for 77 years.

It was invented by René Lacoste, a French tennis champion who twice triumphed at Wimbledon, won the U.S. Open on two occasions and thrice took victory laurels at the French Open. He was ranked Number One Player in 1926 and 1927.

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Louis Réard: Never to be Forgotten

by James Kraus

Engineer Louis Réard

Engineer Louis Réard

When one is discussing creatively gifted automotive engineers, a few fabled and legendary names are normally exhumed and bandied about: Ferdinand Porsche, Hans Ledwinka, Dante Giacosa, Alec Issigonis, André Lefèbvre…

Too often in the midst of such discourse, enthusiasts fail to recall the accomplishments of Louis Réard. Monsieur Réard was an engineer at Régie Nationale des Usines Renault SA in Billacourt, where he helped develop and refine such 1930’s models as the Primaquarte and Nervasport. However, what makes Louis notable, and what thrusts him into the pantheon of such august company, is what he accomplished in women’s prêt-à-porter.

On the 5th of July 1946, he summoned the press to the most fashionable swimming pool in Paris, the Piscine Molitor in the exclusive 16ème arrondissement. There he presented dancer Micheline Bernardini, fresh from the risqué Casino de Paris on Rue Clichy. She came out wearing nothing but a bra, two triangles of cotton and some string.

Louis Réard, automotive engineer, invented the bikini.

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