Servel, Inc., the sole manufacturer of gas absorption refrigerators since 1926, introduced the Wonderbar, a compact portable refrigerator designed by industrial designer and Servel VP of Product Planning, Donald Dailey. The Wonderbar, made almost completely of Bakelite plastic, was designed to get refrigerators into rooms other than the kitchen. Servel also later introduced the first automatic ice-maker in its full-sized refrigerator, also styled by Dailey and his staff.
Donald Earl Dailey (1914-1997) was born in Minneapolis, MN. He studied marketing and engineering at the University of Toledo (1934-1936) and design at the Toledo Museum School of Design (1936-1937). He began his career in 1937 as design director for Harold Van Doren and Associates of Toledo, and opened a second office in Philadelphia for Van Doren in 1940. He established his own firm in Philadelphia in 1946. In 1950 he became product manager at Servel, Inc. In 1952, he was named their Vice President in charge of Product Planning, and is credited with inventing the term "product planning" and its role for designers in corporations. He left Servel in 1955 to re-establish Don Dailey Associates Inc. in Evansville, IN . Don was an early member of SID and the last president of ASID in 1964 before it became part of IDSA.
Servel was founded in 1902 as the Hercules Buggy Works, and became a manufacturer of electric refrigerators (the name is short for "Serve Electrically"). In 1925, Servel purchased US rights to a new AB Electrolux gas-heat driven absorption refrigerator invented by Swedish engineering students Carl G. Munters and Baltzar von Platen.
In 1952, this line of cutlery was introduced into its Cutco product line by Alcas, a subsidiary formed by ALCOA and Case Cutlery in 1948. It featured the first scientifically-designed ergonomic handle known originally as the “hand perfect” handle and later as the Lamb Wedge-Lock handle (“It wedges the fingers apart and locks the thumb and fingers on place”) by Thomas B. Lamb, who started the handle design in 1941, studied 700 pairs of hands, patented the concept in 1945, and first exhibited it in 1946. In 1948, Lamb’s handles were featured in an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, and in 1954, featured articles about Lamb and his handles appeared both in the New Yorker and in the very first issue of Industrial Design magazine, giving him wide visibility. The design became known as the “Lamb Handle,” and Lamb, as the “Handle Man.” Versions of it were designed and licensed by Lamb for manufacture on pots, pans, hair dryers, bayonets, gavels, kitchen tools, squeegees, surgical instruments, suitcases, sickles, spoons, screwdrivers, police clubs and hundreds of other products. Thomas Babbitt Lamb (1897-1988) was born in New York City and, while working as a textile designer (he started at age 13), studied at the Art Students League and New York University, later establishing his own office in the textile design field. He also wrote and illustrated children’s books in the 1920s, and had many cartoons published. He had a monthly page in Good Housekeeping magazine called “Kiddyland Movies” which spawned a line of children’s products. Early on, Lamb became fascinated with hands through drawing and studying their anatomy while creating medical illustrations for surgeons. During World War II he developed an improved crutch arm-rest concept for crippled soldiers. Through subsequent intensive user research of hand forces, angles, curves and finger strength, he perfected his invention of the efficient and comfortable ergonomic handle for which he became well-known.
In 1954, the Sweepmaster, designed by James G. Balmer, Jr., IDSA and Frederick W. Hertzler; and engineered by Carl B. Denny, all of Harley Earl Associates, Inc., was introduced by the Bissell Carpet Sweeper Company. The Sweepmaster won a design award in 1955 from the Industrial Designers Institute (IDI), which was the only US design organization presenting national design awards between 1951 and 1965. The Bissell sweeper was invented in 1876 by Anna and Melville Bissell in Grand Rapids, MI. Thirty years later, in 1906, over 3000 per day were being produced, and Bissell announced that its sweepers were "the only brand advertised nationally to consumers". This was two years before Hoover introduced its first vacuum cleaner. A more recent Bissell design, the Trio Vac, a lightweight stick vac designed by INNO design, Inc. and Bissell Industrial Design, was introduced by Bissell in 1992. Harley J. Earl (1893-1969) automotive designer, was born in Hollywood, where his coach-maker father in 1908 founded the Earl Automobile Works, and from 1911, built custom car bodies for film stars. Don Lee, a West Coast Cadillac distributor, bought the company (including Harley) in 1919. Earl's talents were soon recognized by Larry Fisher, Cadillac Division president, and Earl was sent to Detroit in 1925 where he established GM's Art and Color Department in 1927. He became VP in 1940, and dominated GM design policies until his retirement in 1958, naming William Mitchell as his successor. In 1945 he established his own firm, Harley Earl. Inc., which in 1964 merged with Walter B. Ford Design Associates, Inc. to form Ford & Earl Design Associates. James Gilmore Balmer, Jr., IDSA (b. 1922) is a US industrial designer born in Pennsylvania and graduated from Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1943. He worked from 1946 to 1959 for Harley Earl Associates, Inc., serving in a variety of positions, and ending as executive vice-president.