Microphone (Model W-1248)


Webster-Chicago Corporation ( American, 1914 - 1969 )

c. 1936–1940
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General Description

This ribbon microphone, with its teardrop-shaped Bakelite casing and aggressive stack of chrome ribs, exudes the essence of streamlined style. From buildings to the most mundane of domestic articles, machine functionality encased in a curvilinear shroud of seemingly aerodynamic design suggested a fascination with speed and technology. Often overriding practical concerns, streamlining provided a sleek glamour to objects which otherwise might have been overlooked by manufacturers and consumers. During the 1930s, designers such as Raymond Loewy and Walter Dorwin Teague found great success in altering the appearances of locomotives and cameras to meet this new aesthetic, even if their creations often failed to meet great commercial success. Unlike vehicles such as Chrysler's Airflow (1934), stationary objects gained no functional benefits from streamlining, but rather visually expressed their association with the power and technology of modern steamships, locomotives, and automobiles. Mirroring the efforts of the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition (1933-34), the futuristic look of such objects appeared to offer a nation struggling against the ills of the Great Depression hope for a better world.

The smooth teardrop shape of this microphone would have had little effect on the quality of the sound it recorded; instead its neatly integrated design was intended to be visually pleasing to the performer and audience. Live radio transmissions allowed performances to be experienced around the world.

Drawn from

  • Kevin W. Tucker, DMA unpublished material, 2003.
  • Kevin W. Tucker, DMA unpublished material, 2009.

Web Resources

PBS American Experience
Read more about Industrial Designers and Streamliners

Webster-Chicago Corporation
Learn more about the Webster-Chicago Corporation