Empire State Cigarette Lighter, ca. 1931
In 1931, the Empire State Building surpassed the Eiffel Tower as the tallest building in the world. Its towering form and the rise of the New York City skyline around it had a wide-ranging influence across contemporary art and design production. The stepped forms of the skyscraper owe their profile to the introduction of a 1916 New York City zoning law that required the use of setbacks that then permeated the design of many objects. Beginning in the late 1920s, everything from cocktail sets by Norman Bel Geddes to furniture forms by Paul Frankl showed the influence of the urban exterior on the domestic interior as the stepped profile of the skyscraper was adapted and applied across media. This aluminum cigarette lighter shows how the skyscraper style reached beyond the sophisticated up-market buyer to middle- and lower-market consumers as well. At just about four inches tall, this lighter was a skyscraper in miniature and its shiny simplicity exhibits modernism’s penchant for smooth unadorned surfaces. The 1930s were the period when many Americans began smoking and the most significant health effects had not yet manifested themselves. Therefore smoking and its accessories were fashionably associated with the modernity of the city of which this lighter’s architectural form is a symbol.
This object was
George R. Kravis II.
It is credited
Gift of George R. Kravis II.
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Its dimensions are
H x diam.: 10 × 5 cm (3 15/16 × 1 15/16 in.)
Cite this object as
Empire State Cigarette Lighter, ca. 1931; Manufactured by Unknown ; cast aluminum; H x diam.: 10 × 5 cm (3 15/16 × 1 15/16 in.); Gift of George R. Kravis II; 2018-22-73
This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Energizing the Everyday: Gifts From the George R. Kravis II Collection.