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The Art of Clairtone: The Making of a Design Icon, 1958-1971
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The Art of Clairtone: The Making of a Design Icon, 1958-1971 Hardcover - 2008

by Nina Munk; Rachel Gotlieb


From the publisher

Includes bibliographical references.

Details

  • Title The Art of Clairtone: The Making of a Design Icon, 1958-1971
  • Author Nina Munk; Rachel Gotlieb
  • Binding Hardcover
  • Edition First Edition
  • Pages 171
  • Volumes 1
  • Language ENG
  • Publisher McClelland & Stewart, Toronto
  • Date 2008-04-22
  • Illustrated Yes
  • ISBN 9780771065071 / 0771065078
  • Weight 2.26 lbs (1.03 kg)
  • Dimensions 8.91 x 10.27 x 0.83 in (22.63 x 26.09 x 2.11 cm)
  • Library of Congress subjects Clairtone Sound Corporation - History, Electronic industries - Canada - History
  • Library of Congress Catalog Number 2008396989
  • Dewey Decimal Code 338.476

Excerpt

I was born under a falling star, in 1967, the year Clairtone Sound Corporation collapsed. My father remembers it as the worst year of his life. Clairtone was his first company, his “first love,” he once called it nostalgically. Measured coldly in dollars and cents, it was his smallest and least-successful company; yet nothing my father has done since then has affected him the way Clairtone did.

A few years ago, long after making a name for himself in the gold business, and decades after Clairtone had become little more than a quirky footnote in his career, he confessed to the New York Times: “Clairtone was the single most formative experience in my life because it was so traumatic.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Once upon a time, for a short time, Clairtone Sound Corporation was one of Canada’s most dazzling, most admired companies. It started in 1958 with four employees, $3,000, and a cramped, makeshift factory at 26 Sable Street in a Toronto suburb. The initial idea was simple: to merge contemporary Scandinavian furniture design with the latest in high-fidelity equipment.

My father, then 30 and an electrical engineer, made custom hi-fi sets for wealthy clients. His friend and partner, David Harrison Gilmour, 26, had a small business importing Scandinavian flatware, ceramics, and glass. Together, and inspired by a basic 1950s Danish sideboard, they came up with their first hi-fi model–a long, low cabinet in oiled teak with sliding doors and tapered legs. It was good-looking and functional, and it was unlike anything being made in Canada back then. Fitted inside the wooden cabinet were a Dual 1004 turntable, a Granco tube chassis, and a pair of Coral speakers hidden behind plain, wheat-coloured broadcloth from Knoll International.

In March 1959, less than four months after it was put into production, that first model, the 100-S, won a Design Award from the National Industrial Design Council. Other models followed, including the entry-level 400-S (“the Princess”) and the luxurious 1000-S (“the Signature”) with its wireless remote control. Then, almost overnight, it seemed, Clairtone’s stereo consoles were everywhere.

“Everybody knew about Clairtone,” my father would later boast to the columnist Joan Sutton. “The Prime Minister had one, and if the local truck driver didn’t have one, he wanted one.” Oscar Peterson, the legendary Canadian jazz pianist, officially endorsed Clairtone. Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Sinatra were avid fans. “Listen to Sinatra on Clairtone stereo. Sinatra does,” was one of the company’s most memorable tag lines.

During the company’s first five years, between 1958 and 1963, production soared from 350 units a year to 25,000 units. The pace was incredible. That year, 1963, Clairtone was listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. And nothing, nothing at all thrilled my father so much as seeing his upstart company listed alongside Canada’s old guard, the Establishment: Massey-Ferguson, Algoma Steel, Canadian Pacific Railway, Abitibi Power & Paper, Falconbridge Nickel, Walker-Gooderham & Worts. “In those days, the TSE was as WASP a club as you can get–it was it,” my father reminded me. “I was not only not WASP– I was Jewish, I was an immigrant, and I had an accent.”

So great was demand for the company’s products in the early 1960s that, for a time, at Simpson’s department store in Toronto, one Clairtone hi-fi was sold every three hours. In those years, throughout the December rush, Clairtone’s factory stayed open around the clock, with cabinetmakers and assembly line workers pushing out stereo consoles in time for Christmas. Keeping up with the orders was exhausting and exhilarating. “I worked seventy- and eighty-hour weeks,” the company’s former comptroller, David Pols, told me with pride, echoing other Clairtone employees I interviewed. “Sometimes, I recall, I worked all night.”

Remarkably, back in the day when about the only things Canada exported were natural resources and tractors, half of Clairtone’s stereos were being sold in the U.S., at “prestige accounts” like Abraham & Straus and Bloomingdale’s in New York, Marshall Field’s in Chicago, Halle Brothers in Cleveland, and J.L. Hudson’s in Detroit. For a Canadian consumer product to be featured in the windows of Bloomingdale’s was almost unimaginable–and yet, there it was.

In 1959, when fashionable men, including my father and David Gilmour, still wore three-piece suits, an article in the Globe and Mail trumpeted Clairtone’s success in the U.S. market: “Canadians would have popped a few buttons on their vests last week if they had attended the American Music Show in New York. A stereophonic set designed and manufactured by a Canadian company founded less than a year ago by two young Canadians was the centre of attraction.… This is perhaps the first time a piece of Canadian consumer-electronic equipment has aroused such enthusiasm in the U.S.”

As for my father and David, they were hailed as visionaries. They were “everybody’s darlings,” in the words of the journalist Alexander “Sandy” Ross. “They were treated as movie magazines treated Rock Hudson, with awestruck approval,” another journalist recalled. “Peter Munk was probably one of the most admired young men in Canada, the closest thing to a hero the Canadian business community has produced in this generation,” continued Ross. “Just contemplating the Clairtone phenomenon made us all feel smart and groovy and efficient, like the Scandinavians almost.”

Even my father seemed awe-struck by his own success. “There was a year when I had thirty-four speaking engagements,” he recalled wide-eyed on CBC’s the fifth estate in 1978. “I stood there, at the age of 30, lecturing the stalwart, establishment members of the Canadian business community. I used to go home … and pinch myself.”

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The Art of Clairtone:  The Making of a Design Icon 1958 - 1971 ( Peter Munk and David Gilmour ) (...
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The Art of Clairtone: The Making of a Design Icon 1958 - 1971 ( Peter Munk and David Gilmour ) ( Sound Electronics / Stereo and Cabinetry Design ) ( 100-s / Project G Series )

by Munk, Nina and Rachel Gotlieb ( Peter Munk [signed] and David Gilmour related); Foreword By Samantha Sannella (includes article on Carl Dair )

  • Used
  • Hardcover
  • Signed
  • first
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Edition
First Edition
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Hardcover
ISBN 10 / ISBN 13
9780771065071 / 0771065078
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This seller has earned a 5 of 5 Stars rating from Biblio customers.
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Description:
Toronto, Ontario: Toronto, ON: McClelleand & Stewart ( M&S ), 2008, 1st edition, First Printing, 2008. ------------( 1st printing of the First Edition ) ---hardcover, a Near Fine example, in a Near Fine dustjacket, looks new, 171 + 6 pages, photos throughout, ---this copy has been signed and inscribed by Peter Munk "To Garry with thanks and respect Peter Munk", Garry might be Garry Shutlak who is mentioned in the acknowledgements (cannot say for 100% sure though), ---"A fully illustrated, stylish look back at the story behind a Canadian design icon. ---For a decade, in the 1960s, Clairtone Sound Corporation captured the spirit of the times: sophisticated, cosmopolitan, liberated. From its modern oiled-walnut and teak stereos to its minimalist logos and promotional materials, Clairtone produced a powerful and enduring body of design work. ---Founded in 1958 by two young Canadians, Peter Munk and David Gilmour, Clairtone quickly became known for its iconic designs and masterful… Read More
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Art of Clairtone, The: The Making of a Design Icon, 1958-1971

Art of Clairtone, The: The Making of a Design Icon, 1958-1971

by Munk, Nina and Rachel Gotlieb

  • Used
  • Very Good
  • Hardcover
  • first
Condition
Used - Very Good
Edition
1st
Binding
Hardcover
ISBN 10 / ISBN 13
9780771065071 / 0771065078
Quantity Available
1
Seller
Middlebury, Vermont, United States
Seller rating:
This seller has earned a 5 of 5 Stars rating from Biblio customers.
Item Price
$150.00
$5.00 shipping to USA

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Description:
Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2008. 1st. Hardcover. Very Good/Very Good. A fully illustrated, stylish look back at the story behind a Canadian design icon. With 250 illustrations, including previously unpublished drawings, rare film stills, confidential memorandums, and original photography,The Art of Clairtone is a candid and in-depth look at the company's skyrocketing success and sensational collapse. Record # 351629
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