Featured Looking for info on Vintage 1930s Art Deco "Heroic" Plaques

Discussion in 'Antique Discussion' started by rjbuttliere, Feb 26, 2024.

  1. rjbuttliere

    rjbuttliere New Member

    I'm new here and wanted to inquire whether anyone has ever seen these plaques or other variations of the same kind?

    I managed to collect the "Industry" and "Transportation" plaques (attached below) at an antique store in Wisconsin, where the seller informed me they were believed to have originated as wall plaques from the 1933 Century of Progress fair in Chicago. Since they are likely architectural remnants (evidenced by the fastening holes near the edges of the disks), and not souvenirs, I can only assume they are quite rare. I was also told by that seller these were two of four unique plaques she once had. Further inquiries with Chicago museums and World's Fair archives have not turned up any more information.

    The Communication plaque attached below is the only image I have managed to find online of another variation. Alas, it was merely an image and not a listing, so the search continues.

    Has anyone here ever seen these? Or perhaps you might know of any experts who could point me in the right direction to find more of them? I suspect that luck will ultimately be the surest way to find more, but thought it was worth asking nonetheless.
    I appreciate any help in this. Thank you!

    Attached Files:

  2. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

  3. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    that's a good find for starters......

    what the seller told you is a good story at best and spurious at least...:wacky:

    We here do not use luck as a method , but instead rely on expertise and through detective work.:cool:
    It may turn out though.....to be lucky, you found us.;)

    & now...once more into the breach !!!:happy:
  4. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    oh..... I'll ask a MOD to move this thread to... the Antique FORUM so more eyes can get on it...... as the Intro Forum is used more to say hi and tell us about yourself.

    So...Welcome !

  5. rjbuttliere

    rjbuttliere New Member

    Thanks a lot! Looking forward to finding out more!
    komokwa likes this.
  6. TT Antique

    TT Antique Well-Known Member

    In Judith Miller's Art Deco book (DK collector's guide), in the Silver/Metalware chapter, she mentions Norman Bel Geddes, Russel Wright and also the company Chase Brass and Copper Co. as major players in the US in that art deco period (in metal related designs). Maybe you could search under those names. Under Norman Bel Geddes she mentions a presentation plaque he did for General motors. I googled it.


    Hope it helps

  7. rjbuttliere

    rjbuttliere New Member

    Thanks for the recommendation! I should have specified the material of the plaques, as they are actually some sort of plaster or terra cotta with traces of gold paint.

    This is part of what leads me to suspect their impermanence (i.e. World's Fair?) and/or specific use as architectural ornaments.
  8. TT Antique

    TT Antique Well-Known Member

    I see. In that case try to refer the aforementioned book. It has various art deco design categories (and materials), with many color photos, artist names and background historical infos for various countries. You might find a lead...

  9. wlwhittier

    wlwhittier Well-Known Member

    Welcome...and Good Fortune!
  10. Debora

    Debora Well-Known Member

    I think those are very interesting. Don't have any insight to add except... This is not a 1933 silhouette.

    Transportation Plaque.jpg

    Here's a still from the film Air Hostess, which came out in 1933 the same year as the Chicago World's Fair. The silhouette is typical 1930s -- long, narrow with natural shoulder, mid-calf skirt and soft cap.


    The silhouette on the plaque is early 1940s. Strong shoulder, inverted V bodice, defined waist, below-the-knee skirt length with structured cap. Here's a United Airlines uniform from 1939-1940.

    Screenshot 2024-02-26 at 6.39.51 PM.png

  11. wlwhittier

    wlwhittier Well-Known Member

    Uhh...yeah, I see what you mean, Debora.
    So, if not Century of Progress...was there anything of significance before the war ended, or in the later '40's?
  12. Debora

    Debora Well-Known Member

    Not post-war 1940s. Hemlines went all the way down to the ankle with the New Look. They could have been produced for anything. Molded, no? Could have been multiples. Some sort of architectural detail? Could have been a civic building. A photograph of the backs would be helpful. You never heard back from Joe Haupt? Interestingly, he seems to be based in the Twin Cities, not far from where you found your plaques.

    wlwhittier likes this.
  13. rjbuttliere

    rjbuttliere New Member

    Hmm, very interesting. Perhaps this points more in the direction of the 1940 fair in New York?

    Joe Haupt (on Flickr) did reply regarding his "Communication" plaque: he found it at a Maryland yard sale. The sellers only knew it came down from an elderly family member's belongings.
    wlwhittier likes this.
  14. Debora

    Debora Well-Known Member

    So one in Maryland and two in Wisconsin. There's no reason to think these were part of a fair or exhibition and -- given their size (7"?) seems kinda unlikely.

  15. rjbuttliere

    rjbuttliere New Member

    For me, the only reason to suspect the fair are the generic themes of the plaques which correspond to common pavilions at most fairs. That, and the likely material being less durable, especially given the wear of the gold paint on the Transportation and Industry plaques.

    There are also the telltale, tiny holes along the radiating lines of the disc on each plaque. On the Communication plaque, you can clearly see wires strung through two of these holes on the upper part of the disc. Perhaps that points to a quick means of affixing the plaques, rather than some more permanent backing. Speaking of which, the backsides are completely unadorned and unlabelled.
  16. Debora

    Debora Well-Known Member

    Well, here. You can research this (if you haven't already.) 1939 New York World's Fair. The Pan American Union Building. Highlighted the interrelationship "in areas of transportation, communication and commerce."


    Screenshot 2024-02-26 at 7.51.22 PM.png
    kentworld likes this.
  17. rjbuttliere

    rjbuttliere New Member

    Now that is interesting... Tugging on that thread a bit, the Pan American Unity mural (1940) by Diego Rivera is referenced quite a bit, which itself was produced for the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco (also in 1940).

    The style of the mural and the overall aesthetic of the Golden Gate Expo is much more consistent with those of the plaques. At least on initial examination. This might be a good topic to further explore in this search...
  18. Poppies

    Poppies Member

    Maybe you imagine as they were used in a similar way as those at minute 2:10 ?

  19. komokwa

    komokwa The Truth is out there...!

    still like to see the backs, as we live and die here by photographs ........;):happy::happy:
    Debora likes this.
  20. TT Antique

    TT Antique Well-Known Member

    But are you supposing and looking for one of a kind plaques ( for each sector) ?or were there some multiples of each sector though they are rare now? If it is the former you certainly have triumphed already by having absolute three rare pieces. If it is the latter, though they are hard to find , there is a chances to come across them with your determined search. It reminds me of the Jazz bowls from the 1930s. There could be more than 100 out there still undiscovered, though they appear in auction once in a while.

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