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Finding aid for the Karl Schneider papers, 1910-1962, bulk 1925-1945
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Material
  • Separated Material
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Karl Schneider papers
    Date (inclusive): 1910-1962 (bulk 1925-1945)
    Number: 850129
    Creator/Collector: Schneider, Karl, 1892-1945
    Physical Description: 45.0 linear feet (59 boxes, 10 flat file folders)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: German architect born in Mainz, Germany, who received his architectural training under Lussow and Kuehne (Dresden, 1911-1912), Walter Gropius (Berlin, 1912-1914), and Peter Behrens (Berlin, 1915-1916). After immigrating to the United States in 1938, he worked in Chicago for Sears, Roebuck and Company. The papers contain photographs, correspondence, original documents, glass slides, and many original drawings. About half of the drawings are his designs for consumer products produced by his employer Sears, Roebuck and Company.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in English

    Biographical Historical Note

    Karl Schneider was born in Mainz Germany in 1892. He trained as an architect under Lussow and Kühne (Dresden, 1911-1912), Walter Gropius (Berlin, 1912-1914), and Peter Behrens (Berlin, 1915-1916). After serving in the military from 1917 to 1919, Schneider established architectural firm in Hamburg, which he directed until 1933. His Villa Michaelsen, well-received by critics when completed in 1923, brought him numerous private commissions for domestic architecture. In the later 1920s Schneider joined a group of architects known as "Der Ring," whose stated goal was to reject past-enshrined forms and employ the latest technology to solve contemporary building problems. This group included among its members Otto Bartning, Peter Behrens, Walter Gropius, Erich Mendelsohn, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, among others. In 1926, Schneider's designs for the Großseidlung Jarrestadt-Barmbek, a city-sponsored competition, won first prize and brought further financial and artistic rewards.
    In 1933, the new Nazi government dismissed Karl Schneider from his professorship at the Landesschüle, despite the protest of students who petitioned the Bürgermeister for reconsideration of the termination. Due to continued pressure by the Nazi regime, Schneider left the Hamburg firm in 1933 and "Der Ring" was disbanded. In 1935, his wife, Emma Schneider, sought and received a civil divorce on the grounds of adultery. In 1938, Karl left Germany with his second wife, the photographer Ursula Wolff, and emigrated to the United States. Settling in Chicago, Schneider found work at Sears, Roebuck and Company where he remained until his death in 1945.
    At Sears, Roebuck and Company, Schneider was the head of the corporate design department, the first of its kind in America. He was hired on the recommendations of Walter Gropius, Lewis Mumford, and Walter Curt Behrendt. Schneider contributed to the progressive designs of Sears products, including "Craftsman" tools, mass-market furniture, home appliances, children's toys, and Sears retail stores. By creating products in the streamlined modern style, Schneider shaped the evolution of corporate architecture and retail product design in America. Through Schneider's work, Sears' stores may have introduced many Americans to streamlined and, what came to be called, "International Style" designs.
    In cooperation with the Chicago Housing Commission, Schneider participated in various urban planning projects. In fact, his relationship with the city aided in securing his position during the war years, when a paranoid populace raised questions, based on Schneider's nationality, concerning his loyalties. Beyond these endeavors, Schneider devoted his time to national competitions, including the Smithsonian competition in 1939. Although not selected, his designs for the Smithsonian's Gallery of American Art are illustrative of his technique, logic, style, and desire to shape the American architectural milieu.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Karl Schneider papers, ca. 1910-1962, bulk 1925-1945, Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 850129.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 1985.

    Processing History

    This collection was processed sporadically by several interns at the Getty Research Library, Special Collections Department. In January of 1995 Vanessa Walker-Oakes began re-processing the collection, and finished the correspondence and part of the photographic series by March. In July 1995, Michael Baker took over the processing and description of the collection. He completed the finding aid in mid-October 1995.

    Related Material

    Unpublished catalogue to the photographs, formerly in the collection of Emanuel Wolff, available in the repository.

    Separated Material

    Karl Schneider, Bauten. Berlin-Leipzig-Wien: Friedrich Ernst Hübsch Verlag G.M.B.H., 1929. Moved to Getty Research Library, catalog number NA 1088 S36 B35 1929.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Karl Schneider papers (c. 2000 items) contain photographs, correspondence, original documents, glass slides, and many original drawings. Most of the photographic materials (c. 850 items) document Schneider's first career in Germany (1921-1938), and the architectural achievements of his contemporaries. There are also a small number of official documents from both Weimar and Nazi Germany (ca. 1911-1933). All of the original drawings and sketches (c. 1000 items) date from after Schneider's immigration to the United States in 1938-39. About half of these are his designs for consumer products produced by his employer Sears, Roebuck, and Company (1938-1945). The collection, therefore, offers an interesting glimpse into an artist/designer's collaboration with commercial industry.

    Arrangement note

    The collection is organized into four series: Series I. Personal and Professional Papers; Series II. Sketches and Drawings; Series III. Photographs and Slides; Series IV. Glass Negatives.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Brunelleschi, Filippo, 1377-1446
    Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1475-1564
    Schneider, Karl, 1892-1945
    Sullivan, Louis H., 1856-1924
    Wright, Frank Lloyd, 1867-1959

    Subjects - Corporate Bodies

    Sears, Roebuck and Company

    Subjects - Topics

    Architecture, Domestic--United States
    Architecture--Germany--20th centory
    Architecture--United States--20th century
    Art museums
    Furniture design
    Household appliances
    International style (architecture)--United States
    Stores, Retail

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Design drawings--20th century
    Photographic prints
    Photographs, Original


    Gropius, Walter, 1883-1969
    Mumford, Lewis, 1895-1990
    Scheel, Ernst, 1903-1986
    Wind, Edgar, 1900-1971
    Wolff, Ursula