Arthur Radebaugh, 1906-1974.
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The Future We Were Promised.
Radebaugh was a top-notch commercial illustrator who worked for companies as diverse as Chrysler and Coca-Cola. He was based in Detroit from the 1930s to 1960s, and much of his work anticipated design revolutions in the automotive and other industries. He once described his work as "halfway between science fiction and designs for modern living."

radebaugh artist easel

Arthur Radebaugh.

Radebaugh settled long-term roots in Detroit. He drew ads for major companies from Coca-Cola to United Airlines. As often as not, however, he left art directors and other potential clients utterly befuddled by his futuristic stylings.

His colleagues describe him as a bit of a loner, but also a kind and debonair man who knew how to be flashy and exotic. He once returned from a business trip in New York wearing a monocle, which he sported along with other outlandish garb: capes, jodhpurs and various strange hats.

Radebaugh's virtuosic airbrush technique created luminous illustrations which conveyed the sleek, streamlined look of the future. From flying cars to glamorous skyscrapers, his renderings were both pragmatic and fantastical, showing possibilities unimagined, derived from the technology of the day.

Radebaugh: The Future We Were Promised is a career-spanning overview of the recently rediscovered artist's illustrations, cartoons and biography.

Arthur Radebaugh, 1906-1974.
In the years before his death, Radebaugh slowly faded into obscurity. After he passed away, he was forgotten by all but a few curious individuals who saw his old ads or magazine covers.

In 2001, 25 negatives of Radebaugh's work surfaced in the collection of historian Todd Kimmell. Todd decided to track the elusive illustrator down, mounted an exhibit of his work, is writing a book, and continues to seek out information on this forgotten genius...

radebaugh van studio fo

Radebaugh had a 1959 Ford Thames van which he converted into a mobile studio, and he often worked on his cartoons while travelling around the country for sources and inspiration. With its quasi-futuristic accessories, it completed the spectacle of Radebaugh as eccentric avatar of the future. (source: azweasel).

van 1

These are the originals photos from April of 1959 of the Ford Thames van, where all of the lead work, windows, paint, interior mods where done at McElroy's Garage & Collision in Berkley Michigan. (source: azweasel).

van 2

These are the originals photos from April of 1959 of the Ford Thames van, where all of the lead work, windows, paint, interior mods where done at McElroy's Garage & Collision in Berkley Michigan. (source: azweasel).

van 3

These are the originals photos from April of 1959 of the Ford Thames van, where all of the lead work, windows, paint, interior mods where done at McElroy's Garage & Collision in Berkley Michigan. (source: azweasel).

motor 1935

Radebaugh's brief studies at the Art Institute in Chicago.

motor 1941

Radebaugh's rise as a commercial artist was interrupted by the US entrance into World War 2. He was enlisted into the Army Ordnance Department, where he headed up a Design & Visualization division. He worked with fellow artists and industrial designers (notably, Will Eisner was working in the same office!), designing weapons of the future.


His magazine work propelled him to some degree of recognition, and advertising art directors took notice not only of Radebaugh, but of the odd medium in which he worked, and began to respect airbrushing for the first time.


Radebaugh did many promotional drawings such as this one, from the collection of Jim Secreto, to attract art directors of local advertising agencies.

1937 futuristic auto

One of Radebaugh's early hobbies was drawing sleek, futuristic cars. Even after he had honed his airbrush technique and was doing a wide variety of work in the late 1930s, he continued to create luminous, streamlined cars for magazines and ads.

The increasing amount of work he was getting from the auto industry led him to settle in Detroit, car capital of the world.

rad chrysler 1951

This illustration was done for a Chrysler brochure. Of the Big Three, Chrysler was the most appreciative of Radebaugh's eccentric style.

rad imperial 1951 sedan

From the 1951 Chrysler Imperial brochure. The house in the background shows Radebaugh's continued interest in contemporary architecture, and is much different from his Deco-influenced structures in his earlier work.

-- Dan Heemstra, for his dedication to this project, and for access to his collection.
-- Rachel Mackow, for her diligent research, critique, and guidance
-- Hampton Wayt, for his expertise and extensive research
-- Jim Secreto, steadfast chronicler of Detroit automotive history
-- James Lewes, for his early input and for the exhibit title
-- Kristin, Thornton and Ellis Kimmell
-- Francis Purcell, for his support
-- Jonathan Sher, for his support
-- Henry David, for his support
-- Amanda Mahoney for her help in creating the first exhibit
-- Tom, for his help at Lost Highways
-- The Inn at Ferry Street, for deep discounts on our research trip to Detroit
-- Tom Nash and John Lypen at MoToR Magazine, for their generous permission to reprint some of Radebaugh's finest work
-- Mark Patrick, Laura Kotsis and the entire staff at the Detroit Public Library Automotive History Collection, for their extensive help in our research
-- Phil Mooney, Director of the Coca-Cola Archives
-- David Ryan, at the Minnesota Institute of Arts
-- Brandt Rosenbusch at the Chrysler Museum
-- The staff at the Hagley Museum

Radebaugh   Online exhibition.
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THE "1900's" BOOK.
Each decade seems to have its own stylistic language, and this issue showcases logos, ads, cars, companies and products (and their typographical sensibilities) from the early 1900s.

Jrop Roadside
Car Shipping Companies
Auto Transport Quotes
Vehicle Transportation


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