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vintage cutaway illustrations
May 3, 2009 5:55 PM   Subscribe

Frank Soltesz was a master of fascinating cutaway illustrations depicting "modern businesses" in the '40s and '50s - from hotels and hospitals to breweries, grocery stores, and more. (via Telstar Logistics Blog)

See also: Frank Soltesz - Storyteller and a biographical site by his son, which includes examples of his other styles of illustration, too.
posted by madamjujujive (50 comments total) 108 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, these are great.
I love the sad fellow sitting alone in the boiler room in the basement of the hotel.
posted by billypilgrim at 6:03 PM on May 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you could slice through my eyes and back into my brain you would see how much I love this stuff. Insanely awesome.
posted by Elmore at 6:03 PM on May 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love these, too - they were great for playing pretend.
posted by HopperFan at 6:09 PM on May 3, 2009


If you could slice into the back of MY brain, you'd find corkboard there, keeping the temperature just right.
posted by orme at 6:09 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Having been born well after these ran, I'm not sure how they'd worked their way in to the back of my brain, but I recognized them right away. Maybe an old elementary teacher still had them up on her walls in the 70s. Whenever Bruce MaCall's done the cover of the New Yorker, I somehow knew he was evoking and playing off these illustrations. Also, Richard Scarry seemed to take some ideas from these. Really amazing pieces of visual communication.
posted by bendybendy at 6:17 PM on May 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nice post... this is what the internet is good at!
posted by HuronBob at 6:26 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow this is awesome.

And thanks for reintroducing me to telstar, I remember reading their post on work vehicle impersonation for free parking.
posted by mrzarquon at 6:29 PM on May 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Very cool. They're in my brain as well!
posted by carter at 6:40 PM on May 3, 2009


bendybendy:Having been born well after these ran, I'm not sure how they'd worked their way in to the back of my brain, but I recognized them right away.

Same here. I'm googling for proof, but I seem to remember seeing similar cutaways in MAD Magazine.
posted by dr_dank at 6:43 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Very nice. See also L. Ashwell Wood.
posted by tellurian at 6:48 PM on May 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


The hotel Necker cubed me at first.
posted by orthogonality at 6:58 PM on May 3, 2009


The cutaways are wonderful. Thank you for introducing me to Frank Soltesz.
posted by rmmcclay at 7:08 PM on May 3, 2009


These things are great, thanks. I used to try and draw stuff like this when I was a little kid.
posted by marxchivist at 7:10 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


These are pretty awesome, but I keep wondering if we will ever do cut aways with the same sort of zeal again. Businesses and buildings today seem so networked and distended that a telling, compact cut away would be rare.
posted by doobiedoo at 7:11 PM on May 3, 2009


Seconding the "reminded of Richard Scarry" comment, plus some of Mad Magazine's stuff.
posted by not_on_display at 7:46 PM on May 3, 2009


I like how, in the first link, way down at the bottom, in the basement, is one guy sitting in a chair in an empty room. I love this.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:49 PM on May 3, 2009


doobiedoo: there's always cruise ships.
posted by carter at 7:56 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


So wonderful! And clearly sources for ye olde skoole Mad Magazine and the ever-wonderful Jimmy Corrigan. Or so it seems to me.
posted by dogrose at 8:00 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


c.f. David Macaulay (`The Way Things Work`, 'Castle`, `Cathedral`. etc..)
posted by stbalbach at 8:05 PM on May 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Some material/a link dump related to the entities that commissioned or assisted in the production of the cutaway illustrations:

A history of Armstrong Cork
Selections from the 1944 Brewers Almanac [pdf], published by the United States Brewers Foundation, predecessor organization to the Beer Institute

A 1926 edition of the National Retail Dry Goods Association Bulletin
The history of the American Association of Meat Processors, successor organization of the American Frozen Food Locker Association

The history of the Building Owners and Managers Association International [pdf], successor organization of the National Association of Building Owners and Managers

The history of the International Association of Refrigerated Warehouses

After that it mostly gets kind of boring, with most of the organizations either still extant or not having very good history pages.
posted by jedicus at 8:13 PM on May 3, 2009


This is clearly nothing more than a Pepsi Blue astroturfication for ARMSTRONG'S INDUSTRIAL INSULATION.

Shame on you.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:14 PM on May 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


Great stuff. Thanks for the post, madamejujujive.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:22 PM on May 3, 2009


Oh I used to love this kind of thing. Although, now that I think about it, being born in '71, I have no idea where I would have seen them. I do remember just drinking in every little detail and trying to draw my own. Thank you so much for giving these back to me!
posted by dogmom at 8:26 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I came in to suggest a Richard Scarry mashup with these bwo see already that two others name dropped him. Why? Is it the isometric view or something?

(I so wanted to see gerbils diving little cars through that brewery)
posted by sourwookie at 9:12 PM on May 3, 2009


Def. reminds me of some Richard Scarry, plus I think there was a book called "What Makes It Go?" in the 70s from a different author that had cutaways of ocean liners and things that this puts me more in mind of. Or maybe it was a Scarry book that had the ocean liner. Anyway, I love these, esp. the grocery store one showing the butcher shop inside it. I met a meat dept. manager who reminisced about when he started out working in grocery stores there were halves of beeves hanging up in the back, and as the years went by they kept getting smaller portions of meat to cut. I look forward to looking more closely at some of the other ones.
posted by frobozz at 9:20 PM on May 3, 2009


These make me want to dig out my old copy of SimTower.
posted by jal0021 at 9:21 PM on May 3, 2009


I remember seeing similar things when I was growing up.

As for the Richard Scarry mashup idea, it's sort of already been done: Jill Barklem's Brambly Hedge books (particularly "The Secret Staircase") show cutaways of buildings made out of trees and tree stumps and inhabited by mice. I was totally fascinated by them as a child. The Angelina Ballerina books do cutaways, too, I think.

There. Your "small furry mammal" + cutaway fix should be taken care of now.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:47 PM on May 3, 2009


Holy cow, frozen locker plants... it boggles my mind that such places existed. I sure won't be taking my $150 chest freezer for granted anymore.
posted by crapmatic at 10:17 PM on May 3, 2009


I love the sad fellow sitting alone in the boiler room in the basement of the hotel.

That's Scruffy. The janitor.

Scruffy ain't sad. Scruffy's got his pornography.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:18 PM on May 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Wonderful pictures, and a great blog (Telstar Logistics) to wit. Thanks very much!
posted by stinkycheese at 10:27 PM on May 3, 2009


Scruffy would be a boiler room operator (a title that persists, although often in use for Glengarry Glen Ross Kevin Spacey roles). It may not have been full of excitement, but it was certainly full of ... pressure. If you don't keep a boiler in an optimal range, it can explode.

I really think that Al Jaffee took inspiration from these. They were instantly familiar to me, even though they were likely obsolete by the time I encountered them. The title plate, especially, seems to have inspired the MAD Fold-In title plates, at least in language.
posted by dhartung at 10:57 PM on May 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I also immidiately tought of that cruise ship link, carter!

As for cutaways of fictional stuff, see also Wil Huygen's and Rien Poortvliet's Gnomes for a few. That's a wonderful book overall, too.
posted by Harald74 at 11:34 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks for all the great in-thread links and comments.

Some of my favorite recent uses of cutaways are in Royksopp's Remind Me and this updated version of Little Red Riding Hood.

Cutaways are also often used in comics - see Inside the Baxter Building - and in technical illustrations - these wartime technology illustrations come to mind, such as this or this. Cutaways also have a long tradition in anatomical art

On another matter, I was just searching and found this post - coincidence that someone else would post this same topic tonight, and with the same verbiage! He also lifted Rumple's post pretty much verbatim ... grrrr.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:56 PM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was just searching and found this post...

RED ROOM: Where the witers plagiarists are.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:15 AM on May 4, 2009


Wow. That's pretty shameless.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:25 AM on May 4, 2009




Yes, Dennis Shay is a bit of a plagiarist. In fact, Dennis Shay's entire blog is pretty much lifted from metafilter. It doesn't really bother me that Dennis Shay copied my post without attribution but it might bother some people and since I am still up in the middle of the night I think I will just make this complaint about the author, Dennis Shay.
posted by Rumple at 1:17 AM on May 4, 2009


Dennis Shay's next blog entry: "Yes, Dennis Shay is a bit of a plagiarist. In fact, ..."
posted by pracowity at 1:32 AM on May 4, 2009 [8 favorites]


Seems that Dennis Shay may be a member named fautedemieux - this member has only made one comment in three years.
posted by madamjujujive at 1:45 AM on May 4, 2009


Neat, but in that grocery store one, just what did those truck drivers think they were doing when they parked like that?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:09 AM on May 4, 2009


Yes, Dennis Shay is a bit of a plagiarist.

Also:

All posts are © their original authors.

So ... has anyone tried talking to this guy?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:20 AM on May 4, 2009


MeTa

Shay is better discussed there, I think.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:59 AM on May 4, 2009


So. About them there cutaway pictures.

I love stuff like this. Cutaways from extinct white America. White men are everywhere in hats and coats, or they have their sleeves rolled up so they can work shoulder to shoulder with other white men. White women are dressed up (compared to today) for a trip to the grocery, or they're in hairnets (and still in dresses) and working shoulder to shoulder with other white women. White babies are quarantined. Black people don't get sick, don't shop, almost don't exist. Black men are waiters waiting obediently on white men and women in the restaurant but otherwise are absent. I haven't found any black women or children yet.
posted by pracowity at 4:11 AM on May 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


*hisses at Marisa, then grunts*

No talk ... only kill

*draws his thumb across his throat, then pads stealthily towards the Red Room*
posted by adipocere at 4:40 AM on May 4, 2009


I haven't found any black women or children yet.

That's interesting pracowity, when even the laundry workers in the hotel are white, it goes beyond a representation of some illustrator's normative views of the world.
posted by Rumple at 10:31 AM on May 4, 2009


I'm sure Soltesz was dishing out what he knew his corporate clients wanted. The Negroes may have been much more than token on the factory floors, but the Armstrong boss certainly didn't want his clients to associate Armstrong with anyone other than folk like the bread coming out of that cutaway bakery.
posted by pracowity at 11:47 AM on May 4, 2009


i want these as posters so badly i can taste it.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:47 PM on May 4, 2009


In Species of Spaces, OuLiPoian Georges Perec describes the apartment structure of his novel, Life: A User’s Manual. Inspired in part by a Saul Steinberg illustration of an apartment building with the facade removed, it is ten floors high and ten rooms, including stairwells, wide.

Dennis Cooper discusses Perec's use of the 10 x 10 grid, the Knight's tour, the concept of the infra-ordinary and other elements of Perec's work here.
posted by xod at 5:00 PM on May 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for those links about "Life: A User's Manual" xod. For those who have not read it the apartment he described had a cut-away front elevation like this and the knights tour - by which each successive chapter moved from one apartment to the other looked like this. The amazing thing to me is that the book is a great read in its own right: I only discovered about its hidden puzzles years after reading it (and never knew the sequence was a Knight's Tour).
posted by rongorongo at 3:15 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've never seen those diagrams before, rongorongo, thank you!
posted by xod at 10:00 AM on May 11, 2009


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