Scope and Contents
The papers of designer, writer, illustrator, and muralist John Vassos measure 18.7 linear feet and date from 1915 to 1989. The papers include biographical materials, personal and professional correspondence, writings and writing project files, Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) files, Radio Corporation of American (RCA) files, Silvermine Guild of Artists files, general professional and committee files, printed materials, four scrapbooks, photographic materials, and artwork.
Biographical materials include various biographies and resumes, passports for Ruth and John Vassos and other vital documents, one unidentified interview transcript with Vassos, property boundaries, leases, and scattered financial materials among other material. Correspondence is primarily professional in nature and is with colleagues, industrial design organizations in which Vassos' was involved, organizations and individuals with which Vassos' may have done consulting work, and others. Personal correspondence includes exchanges with a few WWII military colleagues and friends, and several files of personal correspondence between Ruth and John Vassos during his deployment in WWII.
John Vassos was a prolific writer and illustrated and wrote a number of articles, books, essays, and play scripts. Writings and writing projects include handwritten and typed drafts of book manuscripts, including Vassos' autobiography; sketched mock-ups with illustrations and layouts for articles and books; publishing contracts and correspondence; and writings by others. Notable published books include Contempo, Phobia, and Ultimo.
Vassos' involvement in the founding and eventual merging of major U. S. industrial design organizations is documented within the IDSA files, which include materials on ADI, IDI, ASID, SID, and IDEA.
Vassos' thirty-plus year career as a consultant designer with RCA is documented through various materials, including contract agreements, correspondence, design plans and sketches, expense reports, project proposals, and various other materials. And as the president and an active member of the Silvermine Guild of Artists, Vassos kept extensive files on Guild activities, including building proposals and sketches, logo designs, exhibitions, school plans and lesson structures, photographs, and printed materials.
Vassos' involvement with numerous other professional organizations and committees as a consultant designer, illustrator, member, and muralist, is documented through general professional and committee files. Vassos designed appliances, bicycles, flatware, knives, pens, radios, rifles, television sets, and turnstiles, in addition to painting murals, designing several buildings, and doing interior design work for theaters. Companies include: General Electric Company; M. Hohner, Inc.; the India Industries World Trade Fair; International Society for Arts and Decoration; Kuljian Corporation; Packard Motor Car Company; Perey Manufacturing Company; Prudential Lines, Inc.; Remington Arms Company, Inc.; Remington Dupont; and Savage Arms Corporation, to name a few.
The collection also includes printed materials; three clippings scrapbooks on the Silvermine Guild and School, and one scrapbook assembled by a Greek student, George Second; and photographic items: approximately 97 glass lantern slides, various negatives, color slides, and photographs of John Vassos and others, as well as images of products and designs, and two photo albums of industrial design work.
Artwork includes extensive figure and illustration sketches in pen, pencil, charcoal, watercolor, and other media; two paintings by Vassos; mural design drawings and sketches; sketches of products and designs; and several sketches and a collection of silkscreen prints by other artists, including Dorothy Byard and Bernard Sanders.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The John Vassos papers were donated from 1989 to 1990 by Paul Johnes, Vassos' nephew.
John Vassos' papers are also at Syracuse University.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care and Preservation Fund.
Multiple accessions were merged, processed, and a finding aid prepared by Anna Rimel in 2016 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution's Collections Care and Preservation Fund. The Archives of American Art has implemented accelerated processing when possible to increase information about and access to more of our collections. For this collection, accelerated processing included arrangement to the series, subseries and folder levels, adhering to the creator's original arrangement as much as possible. Generally, folder contents were simply verified with the original folder titles, but items within folders were not arranged further. All materials were rehoused in archival folders and boxes for long-term stability, but staples and other fasteners have not all been removed.