||The voluminous papers of Norman Bel Geddes, 1873-1964 (bulk 1914-1958), document his
industrial design and theater work in equal measure and, frequently, in great
detail. The papers are divided into three series: I. Industrial Design and Theater
Files, 1873-1964 (bulk 1915-1958), II. Office and Clipping Files, 1917-1961 (bulk
1945-1958), and III. Personal Files, 1870-1959 (bulk 1930-1958). Within each series,
materials are arranged by job number (000-988), then by format. Most job numbers
correspond either to theatrical productions staged or designed by Bel Geddes,
design projects undertaken on behalf of corporate clients. Coverage ranges from
single folder to hundreds of items. The collection also reveals the contributions
and perspectives of Bel Geddes' clients and collaborators, in particular the
photographers Francis Bruguière, Maurice Goldberg, and Frances Waite whose
photographs and negatives are found throughout the collection.
||Bel Geddes's industrial design work is documented with client correspondence,
proposals, presentation books, contracts, research data, budgets, estimates,
specifications, drawings, models, and publicity materials such as clippings and
photographs. In addition, files for most projects from the 1930s and 1940s include
job diaries and photographic record copy books.
||Works represented in the theater segment of the collection include theatrical
productions (dramas, spectacles, marionette plays, musical comedies, motion
pictures, operas, and the circus) as well as architectural structures (theaters
television studios), writings by Bel Geddes, and sources of design ideas.
Documentation of theatrical productions and architectural structures includes
models, renderings, drawings, scripts, scores, production record books, photographs,
publicity materials, correspondence, programs, legal documents and contracts,
specifications, and source data. Notable among the original writings is Bel Geddes'
autobiography, Miracle in the Evening, the working
papers for which contain information Bel Geddes gathered as well as manuscript
drafts, galley proofs, correspondence with the publisher, and photographs. Other
publishing efforts are documented, including Horizons, Inwhich, and Magic Motorways.
||The Office and Clipping Files contain correspondence with prospective clients,
contracts, information about plays Bel Geddes considered producing, directing,
writing, articles by and about Bel Geddes, and information about exhibitions of
works. Also included are a large number of clippings arranged by subject, and
sources of design ideas such as manuscripts of plays and pictorial and graphic
materials. The largest office file, "Prospects" (job
no. 936), contains records of work that did not lead to job contracts. "Publicity" (937) contains material that was not
necessarily related to a particular job. The clipping files include files on
architecture, costume, interior sets, arts and crafts, natural phenomena, sculpture,
and theater buildings.
||The Personal Files document Bel Geddes' personal life, from the cars and homes he
owned to travel and family matters. "Correspondence and
Autographs" (957) contains letters that were removed by Bel Geddes from
other job files. Correspondents include authors, architects, journalists, actors,
designers, directors, and photographers. Family correspondence (960) is also
extensive, particularly between Norman and his wives Helen Belle Sneider, Frances
Waite, Ann Howe Hilliard, and Edith Lutyens. Some family photographs are located
this file; others are located in "Photographs: Personal
and Family" (977) which holds a number of photographs of Bel Geddes. Files
for "Jamaica" (973) and "Spain - Operations" (985) document Bel Geddes' overseas offices and
residences during the 1950s.
Note on Arrangement: The order of the job numbers reflects the practice Bel Geddes developed in the
1940s when he began to assign a number to each design project as it was
undertaken. He then applied the system retrospectively to earlier projects, and
the resulting arrangement is roughly chronological. For each series, job numbers
are as follows: I. Industrial Design and Theater Files, 0-899; II. Office and
Clipping Files, 900-950; III. Personal Files, 951-988. For theater projects,
materials are arranged within each job number by formats which correspond to
classification codes used by Frederick J. Hunter in his Catalog of the Norman Bel Geddes Theatre Collection, q.v. page