Warren McArthur (1885-1961)

American industrial designer and manufacturer, active Los Angeles and New York.


McArthur was born in Chicago into unusually privileged and progressive circumstances: Frank Lloyd Wright designed the family home in 1892, and the McArthurs were among the first people in the area to own an automobile.

After completing his architectural and engineering studies at Cornell in 1908, McArthur designed a number of lamps, one of which is still produced today. He settled in Phoenix, Arizona in 1911. There, along with his equally entrepreneurial brother Charles, he opened the first twelve car dealerships in the state. McArthur made good use of his professional training; he modified the standard automobile radiator to prevent it from overheating in the desert climate, and, in 1924, designed an early form of the recreational vehicle which he named the Wonderbus. He also found time to open the first radio station in Arizona, and to establish the Arizona Museum. But he seemed to find his true calling in 1930, when he began to design glamorous aluminum furniture using revolutionary dyeing and joining techniques.

McArthur patented his manufacturing processes, set up a factory in Los Angeles, and began to produce a wide variety of sofas, chairs and tables. His pieces quickly became popular ¬ó at first among the Hollywood elite ¬ó but eventually, they could be found anywhere from ordinary living rooms to airplane cabins. His best known designs include the Ambassador Armchair (1932) and the Biltmore chair (1933), both created for hotels.

McArthur manufactured seating for army bombers during World War II. Shortly thereafter, his own passion for aluminum furniture faded. Neglected since the 1960s, his work has since been rediscovered, and today enjoys enormous popularity among collectors.

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