Archive of original designs for Art Deco department store display fixtures.
NY: Lansha Studios, (c. 1922-1934). This collection contains 128 individual pencil designs and 51 photographs of manufactured fixtures used to create department store window and floor displays. The bulk of the designs were made for Lansha Studios, a New York firm established by Lionel Schacht and Eugene P. Lanfranchi as part of Schacht Lanfranchi Inc., which specialized in designing and manufacturing wrought iron furniture and decorations. Schacht was a prolific inventor, who achieved commercial success with a new, shatter-resistant glass door designed for department stores. Lafranchi was a well-known designer of wrought iron, who operated multiple studios in the United States, including in New York and Palm Beach, Florida. Palm Beach was experiencing a building boom in the 1920s, and Lafranchi's work appeared in many of the new homes under construction, as well as in buildings like the Palm Beach Bath & Tennis Club.
Perhaps due to Schacht's connections with department stores, Lansha Studios developed a market for designing and manufacturing the pieces used to showcase items in department store window and floor displays. These were the base structures on which jewelry was draped or hats were hung. They needed to be beautiful and stylish, while not detracting from the goods they were displaying. The designs in the collection reflect this balance, embracing a variety of styles, from Art Deco and Art Nouveau to Greek Revival and even Arts & Crafts. The stands, shelves, hangers, and tables were developed in coordinating lines to allow for a more cohesive window display, and they were specially developed to show off a number of popular consumer goods, including jewelry, gloves, hats, ties, belts, shoes, and more. The fixtures were made from shiny, reflective materials to draw attention and dazzle the eye, most prominently aluminum, brass, black glass, and mirrors, though a few featured wood surfaces for warmth. Department stores, such as Lord & Taylor, Avedon's Fifth Avenue, and Best & Co, used individual or grouped pieces to develop and enhance their window displays, and the collection includes photographs of displays at the former two stores utilizing Lansha fixtures. Three designs, two for belt stands and one for a tie stand, are labeled "Best & Co. N.Y.C.", suggesting that they were created specifically for the company.
The bulk of the original designs in the collection were executed on thin, onion-skin paper, some on folio-sized sheets that have been folded, and some on smaller sheets that have been grouped and pasted to cardstock measuring 19 inches wide by 12 inches tall. Each design bears an item number, and most have additional information written in the margins, such as dimensions, materials, price, and/or customizations available. A few of the drawings are accented with colored pencil, and several cardstock sheets have sketches in the margins or on the back. Fifteen of the drawings are stamped in purple by Lansha Studios, perhaps indicating that these designs were approved for production. Three blueprints of bases for stands of different types are also marked by Lansha Studios.
Forty-eight black & white photographs show manufactured examples of the fixtures and, with the exception of three prints that are smaller than the others, are not represented in the original designs. The majority of the photographs are stamped in purple on the back with the same Lansha Studios mark described above, and also bear item numbers and descriptive information, suggesting that the photographs were used for ordering purposes.
Also contained in the collection are sketched logo designs for 1 Fifth Avenue and the Eighth Street Playhouse. Designed in 1927, 1 Fifth Avenue was one of the first Art Deco skyscrapers in Manhattan, with commercial space at street level and residences above. The three pages of logo designs for the building range from the very stylized to traditional, and some indicate that an art gallery was in the commercial space at the time. The Eighth Street Playhouse, located just down the street from 1 Fifth Avenue, was established in 1929 as the Film Guild Playhouse. It was originally built to accommodate Symon Gould's Film Guild and was designed by "architect Frederick Kiesler to resemble the bellows-like interior of a still camera" (MacDonald). The cinema was renamed the Eighth Street Playhouse in 1930. A rough sketch of the cinema's distinctive interior is on the back of one of the pages, and the designs include variations on a repeating image for a generic logo and a dated drawing, possibly for an event poster.
Another small group of drawings appear to be sample designs for fixtures that were not executed under the auspices of Lansha Studios, as they do not have item numbers, dimensions, or notations included with the bulk of the other designs. A further three folio-sized sheets show rough sketches for what appears to be a heated ottoman that could be raised or lowered electronically.
A final blueprint for an electric master clock gives a clue as to the artist behind the designs in this collection. The blueprint is dated October 1, 1934 and indicates that a patent for the clock was applied for by V. C. Porter. This is most likely Vernon Carroll Porter (1896-1982), who was a designer and artist best known for founding the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit in 1931, with the objective of helping artists during the Great Depression. Porter worked as a freelance designer in New York City from 1925 to 1932, and, while none of the designs in the collection are signed, the back of one of the cardstock sheets bears what looks like Porter's monogram and address.
General wear to drawings and photographs, with a few onion-skin pages torn at margins. Otherwise a fine archive of designs reflecting the confluence of style trends found in New York department stores in the 1920s and 30s. Item #27694