Throwback Thursday | Henry Dreyfuss: Designer for Humanity

A look at the contributions of revolutionary Industrial Designer and South Pasadenan Henry Dreyfuss

PHOTO: Mike Schafer Collection | Ed Nowak | News | The 20th Century Limited designed by Henry Dreyfuss

The celebrated American industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss maintained his primary residence and west coast design studio in South Pasadena.

PHOTO: Rick Thomas Collection | News | Cover magazine: The Measure of Man and Woman (1959)

Dreyfuss gave the world the Hoover vacuum cleaner, Bell telephone, Honeywell thermostat, John Deere Model A & B tractor, Westclock Big Ben, Polaroid SX-70 Land camera, etc.

The 20th Century Limited is considered by many to be the best-designed locomotive ever built. Dreyfuss was responsible for controlling every element of its design.

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He is known locally as an early freeway fighter.

PHOTO: Kuen Chang Photography | News | Westclock Big Ben designed by Henry Dreyfuss
PHOTO: Kuen Chang Photography | News | Honeywell T86 thermostat and Polaroid SX-70 camera, designed by Henry Dreyfuss

Dreyfuss offered his South Pasadena design studio as a meeting place during the early stages of the freeway fight. Dreyfuss said: “It would be suicide if we acquiesce to the California Department of Transportation to build a freeway through our city.”

Today, South Pasadena’s fight has become a national debate. Many agree that freeways are undesirable when they threaten a city’s right to exist and damage the quality of life of its residents.

PHOTO: South Pasadena Public Library | News | Henry Dreyfuss at his South Pasadena design studio (1966)

Henry Dreyfuss born March 2, 1904, New York City — died Oct. 5, 1972, South Pasadena, California. With his wife Doris Marks in failing health due to liver cancer, Dreyfuss ended his life with her at their home in their garage succumbing to exhaust fumes.

Throwback Thursday is written and produced by Rick Thomas 


Rick Thomas
Author Rick Thomas is the former museum curator and vice-chair of education for the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. He served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, helping to maintain a strict policy protecting the city’s great old-growth trees. Using touchstone photographs from his own collection—one of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest accumulations of historical images and artifacts—as well as national, state, and local historical archives, Thomas provides a window to his city’s past and an understanding of why its preservation is so important.