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George Nelson & Co., Inc. Records

An inventory of its records at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MFA
Date: Nov 1968

Biographical History

George Nelson (1908-1986) was an American writer, lecturer, teacher and designer. He is considered one of the founders of American Modernism, along with Charles and Ray Eames.

Although formally trained in architecture, over his career Nelson became known as a furniture designer, industrial designer, interior designer and exhibition designer. He was also an excellent writer and reporter; his series of interviews in the mid-1930s of important European designers (including Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Gio Ponti) was published in Pencil Points and led to a position as an editorial staff writer at Architectural Forum. By 1945 he had become co-managing editor of the magazine. After World War II he began a forty-year association with the Herman Miller furniture company. His own company had a client list of Fortune 500 companies and Nelson continued to write, lecture, travel and design throughout.

[Portions of this biographical sketch adapted from "George Nelson," an essay appearing on the website of the American Institute for Graphic Arts.]

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The George Nelson & Co., Inc. Records are divided into three series.

A small amount of Descriptive material about George Nelson and George Nelson & Co. is filed at the beginning of the collection.

Design descriptions and illustrations consist of photographs and printed descriptions of various industrial and interior designs by George Nelson & Co., Inc. These include offices, Herman Miller furniture, a United States Information Agency industrial design exhibit sent to the Soviet Union, and storage and module systems.

Design tracings consist of original drawings of Herman Miller furniture, offices, stores, a medical clinic, a ladder, showrooms, a traveling exhibit, a large number of clocks, a city hall, and other items.

Arrangement of the Collection

All material is arranged within each series alphabetically by folder title.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Special Collections Research Center has a substantial number of collections relating to industrial design. Please refer to the SCRC Subject Index for a complete listing.

Subject Headings


Nelson, George, 1908-1986.

Corporate Bodies

George Nelson & Co., Inc.
Herman Miller, Inc.


Clocks and watches -- Design and construction.
Industrial design -- United States.
Industrial designers -- United States.
Interior decorators -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Drawings (visual works)


Industrial designers.
Interior decorators.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

George Nelson & Co., Inc. Records,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Bulk, gift of George Nelson & Co., Inc., 1968.

Bruce Davidson photographs of sling sofa, gift of Ron Beckmann, 2011.

Table of Contents

Descriptive material

Design descriptions and illustrations

Design tracings