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October 21: Designer of the Trimline Phone

October 20, 2014
ZJ1DNRS4MLF8K96Industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss’ Trimline telephone was put into service (in Michigan) for the first time on this date in 1963. The Trimline moved the dial and a hang-up button away from the phone’s base and onto the handpiece, which made it possible to make calls without hovering near the phone. In 1977, Fortune magazine selected it as one of the country’s 25 best-designed products. Dreyfuss, born in Brooklyn in 1902, was responsible for the Big Ben alarm clock by Westclox (1939), the Twentieth Century Limited train (1938), the John Deere Model A and Model B tractors (1938), the Honeywell T87 circular wall thermostat (1953), two American steamships, and various telephones, vacuum cleaners, typewriters, cameras, and other appliances of the mid-20th century. He was also the first president of the Industrial Designers Society of America. In 1972, after his wife, Doris Marks, was diagnosed with a terminal illness, the couple committed suicide through carbon monoxide poisoning in their car. henrydreyfuss02“I have washed clothes, cooked, driven a tractor, run a Diesel locomotive, spread manure, vacuumed rugs, and ridden in an armored tank. I have operated a sewing machine, a telephone switchboard, a corn picker, a lift truck, a turret lathe, and a linotype machine.... I wore a hearing aid for a day and almost went deaf.” —Henry Dreyfuss