A Renown Industrial Designer…in Milwaukee?

Brooks Stevens, a graduate of Cornell University, was a pioneer in the field of  industrial design. He was, in fact, one of the 10 charter members of the Society of Industrial Designers and the only one from the Midwest. One doesn’t necessarily associate Milwaukee with state of the art industrial design, but it was a thriving manufacturing hub in those days.  Stevens designed the logo for Cutler Hammer electrical controls. The first “modernized” farm tractor, designed by Stevens for Allis Chalmers, was so popular it forced the rest of the industry to follow. Then there was perhaps his most well known design...the Oscar Mayer Wiener-Mobile!


"There's nothing more aerodynamic than a wiener," Stevens once remarked when asked about his most endearing design, the Wienermobile. While he did not originate the promotional vehicle-the Oscar Mayer Company of Madison, Wisconsin, came up with the idea in 1936 - Stevens did create the classic shape of the famous frank when commissioned to redesign it in 1958. His main contribution, as he put it, "was to put the wiener in the bun." Previously the vehicle had been a low, inelegant truck with a giant hot dog riding atop it. Taking advantage of the possibilities of molded fiberglass construction, Stevens transformed the lower section into the sculptural form that it is today.

Stevens  had a close relationship with Ralph Evinrude which began when the two were attending the German-English Academy in Milwaukee. Ralph hired Stevens in 1934 to turn the outboard motor, then a rather crude affair with exposed flywheels and square tanks, into a stylish consumer product for the mass market.

Even his obituary was fascinating !

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When I was about 8 and living in Milwaukee this came down our street and stopped in front of our house. All of us kids got whistles!