John Vassos (1898-1985)

John Vassos (1898 - 1985)

Vassos was forced to leave his homeland in 1915 after drawing political cartoons of Turkish officials for his father's newspaper in Constantinople (Istanbul). After serving in the British Naval Support Systems during World War I, he immigrated to the U.S. He studied art and illustration with John Singer Sargent in Boston, but soon gained favor as a magazine illustrator for publications such as Harpers and The New Yorker.

Vassos' first foray into industrial design was in 1924, with a lotion bottle that quickly became more popular as a hip flask during Prohibition. A later milestone was his 1933 design of the ubiquitous Peevy turnstile that's still in use in many subway stations. Prior to the outbreak of World War II, he helped to form the American Designers' Institute and became its president.

During this period, he began working under contract to RCA, and ably assisted the company in the design and promotion of their 1939 and 1940 lines of consumer televisions. Vassos' only known television design marketed during the post-war period is the RCA 621TS, which he designed circa 1941. Delayed by World War II, this set was sold for a short period in 1946. Despite its streamlined cabinet, it did not sell nearly as well as the larger, squarish RCA 630TS, which is most often considered North America's first post-war television.


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