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Warren McArthur

Warren McArthur

Warren McArthur, circa 1913. Photo courtesy of Franceska Peake via geni.com © W.T. Kirkman, 2002.

From Chicago to the Southwest

Designer Warren McArthur was born in 1885 in Chicago. His was an affluent family for whom Frank Lloyd Wright built a home in the Kenwood neighborhood in 1892. McArthur studied engineering at Cornell University and then moved to Phoenix to work with his brother Charles selling Dodge automobiles and starting a radio station. Older brother Albert Chase McArthur, a Wright-trained architect, soon joined them and the trio worked to develop the Arizona Biltmore Hotel.

Tubular Aluminum Furniture from the Warren McArthur Corporation

Warren McArthur was tasked with creating furniture for both indoor and outdoor use. His solution was to employ tubular aluminum with prominent external joints and internal steel rods for extra support. When the Arizona Biltmore closed after the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, McArthur relocated to Los Angeles and founded the Warren McArthur Corporation. He soon marketed a limited line of sleek desks, tables, chairs, and other pieces that appealed to Hollywood luminaries such as Clark Cable and Marlene Dietrich. In 1932, McArthur opted to shift operations to Rome in Upstate New York before moving again in 1936 to Bantam, Connecticut.

1930s Jet Set Designs & World War II Airplane Seats

Throughout the 1930s, McArthur was an influential figure in New York City, setting up a showroom there, and his firm made furniture not only for celebrities, but also for Chrysler’s executive offices, Marshall Field’s hair salon, and dining cars on the Union Pacific Railroad. During World War II, the Warren McArthur Corporation crafted lightweight aluminum seats for airplanes. An unsubstantiated rumor held that McArthur’s artful designs were melted down for war mobilization, but they were simply difficult to produce on a large scale given their intricate mechanics and delicate upholstery.

Posthumous McArthur Revival

In the postwar years, demand plummeted and the Warren McArthur Corporation closed in 1948. McArthur passed away in 1961 and only after his death did interest in his bold innovations rekindle. In recent years, various architects, dealers, interior decorators, and famous clients have sought to acquire McArthur furniture, which is now regarded as ahead of its time. Independently, McArthur implemented tubular aluminum and steel prior to Bauhaus designers Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier, and Mies van der Rohe.

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Warren McArthur
Warren McArthur
Warren McArthur
Warren McArthur