Today, June 26th 2006, Viktor Schreckengost celebrates his 100th birthday. If you are not familiar with Mr. Schreckengost and his work, you are not alone. In a June 06 article, Metropolis magazine calls him “one of America’s most important–and under-recognized–industrial designers.” Whether you know of him or not, you have probably used several of the products that he designed over the course of his 70 year career. He designed so many different types of products, more categories than I can list here, but the designs that I want to mention in this post are, of course, the bicycles.
In the late 30’s as the chief bicycle designer for Murray, Mr. Schreckengost designed the streamlined Mercury bicycle, which was later exhibited at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. During his 35 years with Murray, Schreckengost designed many other bicycles and pedal cars. In fact, around 100 million of his bikes and pedal cars were manufactured by the company quickly making Murray the largest bike manufacturer in the world. Later, in the sixties, Schreckengost’s designed a product that many of us remember fondly, the banana seat. He noticed that kids at the time were replacing their front wheels with smaller, lighter ones to make the bikes wheelie better. In an earlier Metropolis article, Schreckengost explained: “To wheelie right, you should be able to balance the bike. We made the banana seat so you could have two positions on the same seat. I was afraid kids would go over the back onto their heads. To protect them, I put this sissy bar on the back of the bikes with fringes on it–so it became part of the image.”
What an impressive life and career? 100 years is quite a milestone. I hope that Mr. Schreckengost has a great day celebrating this special birthday.
The picture above is from his website. Check out the bicycle gallery if you are interested in seeing more of his work.