The June 1961 issue of Parents’ Magazine featured a story entitled, You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy, in the Better Homemaking section. Writer H. Robert Childs made some common sense suggestions, i.e. acoustical fiberboard ceiling tiles, wall-to-wall carpeting, heavy drapes, felt cushions to ‘dissipate the vibration of such devices as typewriters,’ etc.
What stood out most about the article, though, were the illustrations. Imagine if you could see the noise that is all around you. Illustrator Robert J. Lee presents that scenario in a just-short-of-jarring almost whimsical way. Below are select scans from the article provided by flickr member Leif Peng.
You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy top illustration, Parents’ Magazine, June 1961
You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy full illustration, Parents’ Magazine, 1961
You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy teenage girl’s room detail, Parents’ Magazine, 1961
You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy dad’s workshop detail, Parents’ Magazine, 1961
You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy dad’s little helper detail, Parents’ Magazine, 1961
You Can Make Your Home Less Noisy little cowboy detail, Parents’ Magazine, 1961
Maybe it’s a good thing that we can’t see noise. Sometimes hearing it and feeling it can be just about enough. *heh*
Susan smiles during her drive in the ’57 Chevy. (photo source:amour sournois)
Susan blinked. What was she doing in the car? Where was she? She didn’t remember getting into the car, or starting the engine, or driving all the way from sunny Saskatchewan to the depths of southern Chile. Maybe her valium prescription was getting a little overzealous, she thought, as she pondered how she was going to get back home before her husband finished work.
A forerunner of the 1960s Spirograph, the 1908 Horsman WONDERGRAPH allowed kids to create roulette curves with the help of a mechanical device. It was sold through the Sears catalog in 1908.
Fast forward to 1962.
Inspired by a Victorian idea for creating patterns using cogs and wheels, an English mechanical engineer named Denys Fisher designed a tool originally intended as an industrial drafting instrument. Using perforated interlocking gears and the point of a pen, Fisher’s invention would trace sine and cosine waves by using the gears as a moving stencil. This idea never materialized – Fisher had another plan.
In 1965 Fisher introduced his repurposed invention at The Nuremberg International Toy Show – SPIROGRAPH was a hit.
Unlike earlier mechanical geometric design drawing kits – i.e. the WONDERGRAPH – SPIROGRAPH’s varied cogs, wheels, and racks, allowed for more interactivity and hands-on play. The relative ease of use made it possible for people of all ages to feel that they too could create interesting bits of art.
Found Spirograph Drawings (1) via Mike Leavenworth on Flickr: ‘We found a nearly complete Spirograph Set with these (essentially) flawless images – all on one page and no do-overs!’
The mathematical formulas inherent in Spirographs are intuitively recognized by the user. The visible interplay between art and math helps teach logical pattern rules. In the UK, SPIROGRAPH won the Educational Toy of the Year three years running from 1965 to 1967 and became Toy of the Year in 1967.
1967 UK SPIROGRAPH Drawing Set – The British version manufactured by The Denys Fisher Toys Group contained instructions on how to create drawings of animals, including the owl pictured on the box. (Photo via Daily Mail)
In 1966 Kenner Toys purchased the marketing rights to SPIROGRAPH for American consumers. It became the number one selling toy in the US for Christmas in 1967.
In 1969 Kenner introduced SUPER SPIROGRAPH PLUS. This set included interlocking arced racks, a geared square, and a triangle, adding larger and even more interesting design possibilities.
The 1969 Kenner SUPER SPIROGRAPH PLUS set (Photo via eBay)
Various other Spirograph-related products were sold, including a SPIROTOT (a Spirograph designed for toddlers), and various refill packages. Other Spirograph products included the Spiroscope, with a kaleidoscope capable of bringing new depth and view to your Spirograph drawings; a Sparkle Spirograph, featuring glitter pens; and a kinetic art Spirograph in which the pen swings on a pendulum, drawing the pattern with the power of physics. As of 2009, there are electronic versions of Spirograph for creating designs on the computer. Math Playground has an online version called, Spiromath – The Intersection of Math and Art – it can be found here.
Denys Fisher’s SPIROGRAPH has gone on to become an art design classic for the ages.
In 1970 Fisher sold his company to Hasbro (making SPIROGRAPH a registered trademark of Hasbro, Inc.) and Fisher became a wealthy man. In 2002, the inventor of the Spirograph passed away at the age of 84. While Fisher the man may be gone, his legacy endures in the countless number of artists, mathematicians, and designers whom his drawing toy inspired throughout the years.
Sound Feelings believe in carrying on the SPIROGRAPH tradition and they market a ten color pen that features ‘the original “thin-style” ballpoint pen tips that are required to fit through the narrow holes of the Spirograph gears.’ Their promo graphics cover the virtues of Fisher’s invention.
Nat is a bookbinder and crafter extraordinaire. After her husband gave her a vintage SPIROGRAPH set in 2011 she’s added it as another tool in her creativity tool-kit.
One of Nat’s early SPIROGRAPH works: I couldn’t help myself! Of course I just had to draw one straight onto my current embroidery, and stitch it up. (Photo: Smallest Forest)
Kathrin Jebsen-Marwedel is an artist who presents her love of illustration in Moleskine planners. She posted the entry below on Flickr in August 2009.
This post ends with a splendid example of SPIROGRAPH in the early-21st century. Si Keshi created a multi-color multi-patterned design called, Spirograph Madness. Afterwords, using the basic Paint computer app, Keshi inverted the image creating Spirograph Madness Inverted. The original Spirograph Madness can be seen here. Denys Fisher would have been pleased.
GE electric flying suit for the U.S. Air Corps – 1941
When GE designed this electric flying suit for the U.S. Air Corps, pressurized airplane cabins were not yet in use. At high altitudes, cabins could reach temperatures capable of freezing flesh to metal.
The image above shows a test of a GE electric flying suit at 63 degrees below zero in a cold room at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey in 1941. GIF by Kevin Weir / flux machine.