Amid the depths of the Great Depression, Americans found a little brightness in the smooth contours and reflective surfaces of everything from automobiles to clothes irons.

Whether looking at these items for purchase in newspaper ads, on exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair or in the home, people had a glimpse of a future built on efficiency, sound economy and, above all else, progress.

Philbrook Museum of Art revisits another time when the U.S. economy took a grim turn in American Streamlined Design: The World of Tomorrow. The exhibit opens Feb. 5.

Streamlining developed out of the effort to make ships, trains, aircraft and other forms of transportation perform better by reducing wind and water resistance. Scientific studies revealed that vehicles with smooth, continuous surfaces were generally more efficient and faster.

That approach was soon adopted into the design of goods for sale to the general public. American Streamlined looks at the scope of this revolutionary movement in consumer and industrial design in the office, living room, kitchen, bath and in recreation and transportation. It also looks at the continuing impact today.

More than 185 objects, from household appliances to children’s toys, will be on exhibit. The works of Raymond Loewy, Henry Dreyfuss, Walter Dorwin Teague, Egmont Arens, Robert Heller and others will be shown in items reflecting three decades of influence. The collection, which draws primarily from the Liliane and David M. Stewart Program for Modern Design in Montreal, Canada, and the Stewart Collection of 20th-Century Design, will be on exhibit in Tulsa through May 15.

Philbrook Museum of Art is located at 2727 S. Rockford Rd., Tulsa. For more, go to or call 918.749.7941.

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