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Object Timeline

1940

  • Work on this object began.

1949

  • Work on this object ended.

2016

2019

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Radio, 1940–49

This is a Radio. It is dated 1940–49 and we acquired it in 2016. Its medium is bent wood, molded plastic. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

Ray and Charles Eames designed numerous molded plywood objects from chairs and tables to folding screens and children’s toys. Less well-known are their smaller-scale experiments in molded plywood radio housings. The couple began working with molded plywood in 1940, and their early essays led to the award-winning designs Charles and Eero Saarinen submitted to The Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Design Competition in 1941. In the midst of World War II, the US Navy commissioned the couple to develop improved leg splints. The resulting design incorporated compound curves to mimic the human leg using the so-called Eames Process, wherein a number of sheets of plywood are glued together to create more organic lines than previously possible using earlier bent wood techniques pioneered by Alvar Aalto and Marcel Breuer.

After the war, the Eameses continued to experiment with molded plywood, and eventually electronics manufacturers recognized the advantages of the material as a more durable, affordable, and lighter alternative to heavy plastic casings. The couple was commissioned to produce radio housings using their signature process, resulting in a wide range of wood housings that married technology with nature. This radio was designed for Emerson Radio Corporation and shows a soft geometry whose façade is punctuated with molded plastic buttons and a horizontal grill. It is estimated that approximately 200,000 Eames molded plywood radios were produced, first by Evans Wood Products and later by Herman Miller.

This object was donated by George R. Kravis II. It is credited Gift of George R. Kravis II.

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Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 16.5 × 27.9 × 14 cm (6 1/2 in. × 11 in. × 5 1/2 in.)

Cite this object as

Radio, 1940–49; bent wood, molded plastic; H x W x D: 16.5 × 27.9 × 14 cm (6 1/2 in. × 11 in. × 5 1/2 in.); Gift of George R. Kravis II; 2016-5-18

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Energizing the Everyday: Gifts From the George R. Kravis II Collection.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/404734493/ |title=Radio, 1940–49 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=26 April 2019 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>