- Baermann, Walter Peter, 1903-1972
- 12 linear feet
- Call number
- MC 00244
Contains photographs, records of Baermann Associates architectural firm, client files, biographical materials relating to Baermann, files on the N.C. State University Program on Science and Society . The collection also contains artifacts, prints, sketches, drawings, and blueprints.
Walter Peter Baermann was born on September 1, 1903 in southwest Germany. He earned an M.A. in architecture (1924), and a M.A. in mechanical engineering (1926), both from the Institute of Technology in Munich. In 1927, Baermann received a Ph.D. from the University of Munich. He moved to the United States in 1929, beginning his career with well-known designers such as Joseph Urban, Norman Bel Geddes, and Henry Dreyfuss. Baermann, by 1931, became the chief designer for Howe and Lescaze, an architectural firm with offices in New York and Philadelphia. During this period he spearheaded the design for the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society Building, one of the prototypes for the modern skyscraper.
Walter Peter Baermann was born on September 1, 1903 in southwest Germany. He earned an M.A. in architecture (1924), and a M.A. in mechanical engineering (1926), both from the Institute of Technology in Munich. In 1927, Baermann received a Ph.D. from the University of Munich. He moved to the United States in 1929, beginning his career with well-known designers such as Joseph Urban, Norman Bel Geddes, and Henry Dreyfuss. Baermann, by 1931, became the chief designer for Howe and Lescaze, an architectural firm with offices in New York and Philadelphia. During this period he spearheaded the design for the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society Building, one of the prototypes for the modern skyscraper. In 1932, Fortune Magazine listed him among the first twelve successful practitioners of industrial design. One year later, Baermann volunteered as an apprentice in New England industries to familiarize himself with American manufacturing methods, labor conditions, markets, and management methods. In November, 1933, he opened his own industrial design office in Holyoke, Massachusetts. During this time, Baermann began to exhibit his work throughout the region and authored articles in The Architectural Record and The Commonweal.
Combining his interest design and academics, Baermann joined, in 1937, the California Institute of Technology's faculty. He helped organize the Graduate Department of Industrial Design Engineering and was appointed professor and director of the new department. While still in private practice, Baermann lectured widely at universities throughout the United States. Baermann was also a member of the California Division of the President's National Resources Planning Board, and worked as a consultant (labor training specialist) to the War Production Board. In 1941, Baermann continued his academic career as head of the Design Department of Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; later that year, he became Chief of Graphics in the Office of Civilian Defense in Washington, D.C.
Resuming his design career in 1944, first in New York, then in North Carolina, Baermann formed his design company, Baermann & Associates. In 1964, Henry Kamphoefner recruited Baermann to teach at the School of Design at NC State University in Raleigh, NC. Baermann taught in the School of Design, believing that psychology, sociology, engineering, production technology, ecology, and cultural considerations should all be a part of the curriculum. At NC State, Baermann was an active member of the Educational Policy and Continuing Education Committees of the Faculty Senate, and participated in the University Program on Science and Society, securing a Foundation research grant. From 1969-1972 he worked at the Center for Urban Affairs and Community Services; and until the time of his death at the age of sixty nine in November, 1972, he was involved in a joint project on Engineering and Design with the Engineering School of Duke University and NC State University.
The Walter Peter Baermann Papers are divided into nine series and, where appropriate, are alphabetically arranged by subject within each series. The first and most extensive series, Baermann Associates is divided into three subseries: Photographs, Firm Records, and Client Files. The Photograph subseries, which has been kept in its original order, deals almost exclusively with Baermann's work as a design engineer and product design professor. The majority of these photographs depict products that Baermann designed during the career extended from 1930-1972. Firm Records, second subseries, contains general information about Baermann's design practice. This series contains news clippings and magazine articles, documenting Baermann's growing reputation, including a small amount of information about Baermann's architectural designs. The third subseries, Client Files, testify to the extent of Baermann's client base as a practicing design engineer. These files are alphabetically arranged, in keeping with Baermann's file arrangement.They contain brochures, correspondence, design notes, and some photographs. The second series, Baermann Biographical Files, contains general biographical information on Baermann, much of it compiled by either Baermann or his wife, Christine M. Baermann, for press releases, entries in Who's Who, or similar publications. This series houses Baermann's lectures and articles, and some photographic portraits of Baermann. The next series, N.C. State - University Program on Science and Society includes the records from Baermann's work, from 1968-71, as a part of this project. This series reflects the broad base of Baermann's interest in education, and his goal of educating the whole person to become a contributing member of society. Overlapping this interest in education is captured in the series that follows: NC State Design School. The files contain course materials, curriculum studies, and other records relating to Baermann's activities as a professor at the N.C. State. The Artifacts series contains three examples of actual products created by Baermann. Audiotapes and Slides, small part of the collection contain taped interviews between Baermann and clients. The last series, Prints, Sketches, Drawings and Blueprints contains pencil sketches, watercolors, charcoal and ink sketches done by Baermann. Although most of the drawings are relating to his design practice, there are a number of sketches from the 1920-30s that show Baermann's varied interests.
25 boxes, 4 flat files
Organized into nine series:
- Baermann Associates Photographs, 1930s-1972 ;
- Baermann Biographical Files, 1945-1972 ;
- Baermann Associates Firm Records, 1950-1972 ;
- Baermann Associates Client Files, 1940-1972 ;
- University Program on Science and Society, 1968-1971 ;
- NC State Design School, 1964-1973 ;
- Artifacts, 1960s ;
- Audiotapes and Slides, 1968 and undated ;
- Prints, Sketches, Drawings and Blueprints, 1920-1972
Use of these materials
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The materials from our collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.
This collection may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which North Carolina State University assumes no responsibility.
[Identification of item], Walter Peter Baermann Papers, MC 00244, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC
Source of acquisition
Given by Christine Marting Baermann (Mrs. Walter P. Baermann), July 1997
Nell Medlin; Cilla Golas, 1997 October 10
Steven Mandeville-Gamble, 2005 December
The collection is organized into nine principal series:
The Baermann Associates-subseries, photographs, is the most significant part of the collection, containing hundreds of photographs of varying size and quality that document the range of products whose design Baermann influenced in some way, large or small, during his career. The photographs of furniture groups offers the widest range of Baermann's work, though there are also portrait photographs of Baermann and his staff. Note: additional photographs housed elsewhere among Baermann's papers; it was in these cases judged more appropriate to keep photographs with their subjects.
Images of sofas, chairs, tables, lamps (1920s) appliances, machinery, gas heaters (1938), IBM typewriter, 1945
Images of sofas, chairs, tables, appliances, machinery, home furnishings
This series contains typed and handwritten articles by Baermann, biographical data assembled by either Baermann himself or Mrs. Baermann both before and after he came to Raleigh, some personal letters and notes, a few photographs of Baermann, news clippings that reflect a glimpse of the private man, and the manuscripts of several lectures and speeches that Baermann made. For example, this series contains both a typed manuscript and a set of note cards scribbled in Baermann's handwriting for a speech he made sometime in the 1960s to a group of women, entitled, "The Ideal Wife of the Designer." Comparison of the two versions of the same speech imparts some interesting information on Baermann's speaking style and sense of humor.
"The Social Abuse of Language," presented to AIA Southern California Chapter, 1938; Robinson Furniture Co, 1957; NC State Forestry School, 1968; "Trends in Furniture Design," presented to Forest Products Research Society
This subseries, includes general information on Baermann's design firm, Walter P. Baermann & Associates, Inc. that operated in Waynesville, North Carolina and Raleigh from 1950-1972. Also present are notes and records from interviews conducted between Baermann and assorted furniture industry executives. Articles from magazines and trade publications both by Baermann and about his work are found in this series. In addition, there are many news clippings from the North Carolina and Midwest area about Baermann's activities, including several dozen newspaper advertisements from the Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press, promoting furniture made from Baermann's designs. These news clippings and advertisements serve to document the broad base of influence in the 1950-60s that Baermann exerted over the furniture industry. Finally, this series contains a small amount of information that exists about Baermann's work as a residential architect in western North Carolina.
This subseries is the largest one in the collection. Its size alone testifies to the extent and variety of Baermann's activities as a practicing design engineer. The files contain correspondence, notes, drawings, sketches, photographs, brochures and other corporate publications. The Taylor Instrument Company file provides information about Baermann's award-winning design for the "golden ceramic barometer." Another, the Schieffelin file, offers a glimpse of various cosmetic packaging designs ideas and samples. Finally, this series includes Baermann's work on Liberty Magazine in the late 1940s, reflecting only a few of Baermann's graphic design projects. Note: there is also a file containing Braille language.
In 1968 NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, St. Augustine's College, and Shaw University launched a cooperative program among faculty and students whose purpose was to provide the colleges and universities with a means of focusing curricula and departmental resources upon major social problems related to the growth of science and technology. The idea was to explore ways to bridge the isolation of "campus" from "community." Baermann was an active participant in this program, serving as a task group leader on "The Vital University." Since Baermann had long been interested the interdisciplinary aspects of design, he applied his energy and talent to this program. This series contains a number of background articles that Baermann collected in connection with his activities in the program, as well as general correspondence, memoranda, information about meetings, and some of the writings of Don W. Shriver, Jr., the NC State professor who served as overall head of this program.
"From Industrial to Cybernetic Man," typed manuscript (c. 1969) -- "On Interdisciplinary Teaching and Learning," typed manuscript (c. 1969) -- "America is ruled by people with a 1940 consciousness," Technician (Spring 1970) inter alia
Limited in scope and size, the series contains correspondence, articles, brochures, and activities of the NC State Design School. Included in this series are course proposals, annual reports, regulations and policy.
The smallest part of the collection offers three examples of product designs: the Creslon company's manufacture of security belt fasteners and hair curlers and Baermann's design of hospital thermometer sleeves.
There are twelve audiotaped interviews in this series, including telephone conversations related to "Tammi," the resusitation model; staff conference calls between Carl Beal and Walter Baermann, again relevant to "Tammi;" a School of Forestry lecture; and a speech by Baermann, dated 1968. Dates are absent from the audiotapes. Twelve color slides are also provided in this series, dated, spring, 1968, and two reels indicate a 1968 presentation [Strycer?].
The final series in the collection combines over one hundred items ranging from Baermann's early years as an artist, and later, his career as a product designer. The drawings vary in size and subject, featuring a variety of water colors on fiberboard, pen and ink drawings, blueprints, and pencil sketches. These include female nude models; hands and feet; portraits of men and women; and furniture and home designs. There are a number of blueprints of homes, interiors, and a church. Some art work by others are included in the collection. Many are unidentified and dates are often excluded. Index cards identify each client (by alphabetical order) and furniture pieces are in order by subject.
- Hospitals -- Equipment and supplies
- Production engineering
- Industrial engineering -- North Carolina
- Industrial designers
- Hospitals -- Furniture
- Furniture industry and trade -- North Carolina
- Furniture designers -- North Carolina
- Furniture design -- North Carolina
- Industrial design
- Furniture -- Styles -- United States -- History -- 20th century
- Products, Infinite
- Manuscripts (document genre)
- Education, Higher -- North Carolina
- Architects -- North Carolina
- Architecture -- United States -- History -- 20th century
Access to the collection
This collection is open for research; access requires at least 48 hours advance notice. Because of the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to digital files may require additional advanced notice.
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Special Collections Research Center
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Phone: (919) 515-2273
[Identification of item], Walter Peter Baermann Papers, MC 00244, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC