Need an excuse to disappear into a rabbit’s hole of videos on YouTube? Well here’s a collection of 1950s news briefs, highlight reels and marketing videos that are a fun and illuminating trip back into the mid century era.
Shot on location in San Fransisco, California on October 29 1956 and the newly unveiled Eichler X-100 this news reel footage is an enchanting watch. One of the most popular historical mid century videos around, it’s advertised as an experimental “house for tomorrow taking the pulse of today’s prospective homeowner,” the narrator describes all the innovative features including “new plastics and everything so modern it takes your breath away.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Disneyland one of the gleaming byproducts of the optimism and creativity from the mid century focused on ideas of tomorrow (e.g.Tomorrowland). But it’s often a surprise to many that Walt Disney himself in part commissioned the construction of an experimental house as a park attraction in 1957. Monsanto, already a park fixture by then thanks to their Hall of Chemistry attraction at the park had caught on to the fact the almost a a quarter of plastics manufacturing was for the home. So they took that concept and ran with that designing a house made entirely of plastic and they called it The House of Tomorrow. From the looks of the video it was a hit with visitors. Sadly the House of Tomorrow aged out in the late 1960s as the park sought to remodel and refresh it’s attractions.
This featurette by American Look attempted to explore how modern design “stylists” were shaping America with innovative and futuristic ideas. Using car design as it’s main example the video gives a fascinating glimpse into the process of designing a new product as informed by the modernists’ new streamlined and forward thinking perspective. Oh, and there are plenty of peeks at original Herman Miller furniture pieces and Donald Deskey designs too.
Some of the best historical mid century videos are extravagant advertisements. This highlight reel overviews a range of mid century modern furniture designers in the UK in the 1950s such as Heals, Nigel Walter and Earnest Race. It’s a great celebration of British modernism and the ingenuity of designers intent upon making the future brighter and easier. Plus, it’s not only fun to see clever furniture inventions demonstrated by dapper models touting their smart problem solving designs. It’s also neat to see the rooms and homes in which they are used!
Was there a government-funded initiative to redesign the American kitchen with efficiency and maximum convenience in mind? Yes! According to this video produced by The Housing Staff of the Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics which was a subset of the Department of Agriculture. Their goal was to have the very latest ideas on design that will help the average homeowner cut down on the time and effort of doing kitchen work. Things meant to “reduce the amount of stopping and reaching” for example through proper counter depth and width for baking and even the idea of having a “telephone station nearby for making out menus and market orders” or rotating shelves in corner cabinets. Many of the ideas are standard today. Bless their intrepid hearts.
There’s something about vintage promotional videos that’s just so charming. This one made by Westinghouse Electric about their Total Electric Home built in the mid 1950s. The project was intended to show all the ways electricity can make the modern american home more convenient, comfortable and integrated.
If there’s anything more satisfying than historical mid century videos, it’s historical mid century how-it’s-made type video. This one about wallpaper shows the process of hand painting, wood cutting and even flocking wallpaper in a variety of ways. All set to a swingin’ soundtrack no less.
Have you got a favorite historic mid century video? Let us know!
If you’re looking for more to watch for mid century inspiration, check out this post on the top movies and tv shows set in the mid century.