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PRELIMINARY INVENTORY OF THE FRANK BROTHERS RECORDS, 1929-2005
2009.M.19  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Frank Brothers records
    Date (inclusive): 1929-2005
    Number: 2009.M.19
    Creator/Collector: Frank Brothers
    Physical Description: 21.4 linear feet (23 boxes, 7 flatfile folders)
    Repository:
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    Research Library
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    http://www.getty.edu/research/conducting_research/library/reference_form.html
    Abstract: The Frank Brothers records contain material from the Frank Brothers furniture company, an influential, Long Beach, California-based organization, active between 1930 and 1982, credited with defining and promoting mid-century modern furniture design on the West Coast.
    Request Materials: To access physical materials on site, go to the library catalog record  for this collection and click "Request an Item." Click here for access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in English.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    The Frank family's path toward redefining interior design in America began with a store named Cash Furniture, located at 219 East 4th Street in Long Beach, California, where Louis Frank sold modestly-priced, old and new furniture and resale appliances. In 1930, he joined forces with his son Maurice and changed the name of the business to L. Frank and Son. It was Louis's younger son Edward, who saw an opportunity to create a niche in the market by shifting exclusively to contemporary furniture sales, and when he joined the organization in 1937, Frank Brothers was born.
    Ed was the visionary and creative force of the operation, while Maurice handled the business affairs. The initial years of the company were difficult, as a result of the Great Depression and World War II. As the economy gained strength, however, Frank Brothers' scope of operations rapidly expanded to include furniture sales, the manufacturing of original furniture designs, upholstery, drapery, and on-site, interior design services. In 1947, the store moved to 2400 Long Beach Boulevard. The eighty-foot-wide corner lot featured two hundred feet of large, street-facing display windows. The organization eventually became a full service interiors company with a two-story showroom, warehouse, and factory all under one roof.
    In addition to the retail store, Frank Brothers operated a wholesale company named "Moreddi," a combination of Maurice and Ed's names. Moreddi imported furniture from Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, supplying the Frank Brothers store and various retail outlets.
    In 1960, Maurice died unexpectedly at the age of 51. His son, Ron Frank, then joined his uncle Ed and further developed the business. Because he was only thirteen years younger than his uncle, most new customers assumed that the two relatives were the original "Frank Brothers." In 1965, the business was split between the two partners. Ed took over the Moreddi import business and Ron led the retail store.
    Frank Brothers' critical involvement with Arts and Architecture magazine launched the company into the international design scene. Ed Frank met the magazine's editor, John Entenza, in the 1940s and eventually became a contributing member of the publication. By providing the furnishings for many of the Case Study House Program's innovative homes, including all of the carpet and drapery for the Eames House in Pacific Palisades, California, Frank Brothers became an extremely influential force in shaping the progressive aesthetic of mid-century modern design.
    The marketing and promotion of Frank Brothers was exceptional. Their unique and graphically bold advertisements published in Arts and Architecture helped to publicize the clean lines of the avant-garde furniture they sold in their store. Popular print advertisement campaigns and mass mailers announced upcoming sales, in-store exhibitions, and other special events. In order to attract customer traffic to the store in the late 1960s, Ron Frank curated and designed a furniture exhibition series. Topics included plastic, vinyl, and inflatable, "see through" furniture, and Italian designs featuring the work of Carlo Scarpa.
    The store diversified the audience for modern furnishings. With the advent of the freeway system, Frank Brothers' strategic and accessible location, midway between Los Angeles and Orange County, allowed the business to cater to a large geographic area. It also appealed to a broad economic range of customers. Frank Brothers sold "good design at every price." The store even sold less expensive copies of many of the contemporary designs they stocked, as well as allowing customers to pay for merchandise with a popular layaway program.
    In 1969 Ed sold his ownership of Moreddi and moved to New York, where he served briefly as the company's president. Ron Frank continued to run the Frank Brothers store until 1982, when he sold the business to the Danica furniture company. He retained ownership of the architecturally significant building at 2400 Long Beach Blvd., however, until it was burned to the ground during rioting in 1992.

    Administrative Information

    Access

    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Frank Brothers records, 1929-2005, Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 2009.M.19

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Ron Frank in 2009.

    Processing History

    Antonio Beecroft processed the collection in 2010 and made a complete inventory under the supervision of Ann Harrison, who also devised the arrangement and adapted the descriptive notes from curatorial reports.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Frank Brothers records contain material from the Frank Brothers furniture company, an influential, Long Beach, California-based organization, active between 1930 and 1982. With its retail store and related services and with its furniture importing company, Frank Brothers is credited with defining and promoting mid-century modern furniture design on the West Coast. The company provided, marketed, and sold the furnishings for many of the innovative homes featured in Arts and Architecture magazine's Case Study House Program. It also launched many of Charles and Ray Eames' revolutionary furniture pieces.
    Documentation of the Frank Brothers retail store comprises Series I and forms the bulk of the archive. It covers the entire range of operations of the retail aspect of the business. This documentation is primarily visual, including photographs, slides, trade catalogs, scrapbooks and various printed materials. Frank Brothers' committment to design in all its aspects is overwhelmingly evident, in the furnishings they sold, the ways in which they marketed them, and even in the store itself.
    The business enjoyed an especially productive and close relationship with a number of designers. Charles and Ray Eames launched many of their new chair designs in the Frank showroom, including the 1968 unveiling of the Eames chaise lounge. The archive includes at least five of Charles Eames' original photographs used for Frank Brothers’ print ads and mailings.
    Frank Brothers' "integrated interiors" were pioneering for their asymmetrical arrangement of objects and mix of different masses and colors. Well-respected in the industry, Ed Frank would travel to Europe to meet with designers and discover new examples of "West Coast style" contemporary furnishings that were warmer than the austere, Bauhaus machine aesthetic embraced on the East Coast. These interiors are documented in the archive in images by such leading photographers as Marvin Rand, Todd Walker and Julius Shulman.
    The forty-year collection of advertisements, mailers and exhibition invitations in the archive reveals the evolution of California modern graphic design. Art Shipman and Steve Madden were the graphic designers behind Frank Brothers’ popular print advertisement campaigns and mass mailers announcing upcoming sales, in-store exhibitions, and other special events. All of the marketing copy was written in-house by Ron Frank.
    The Frank Brothers store at 2400 Long Beach Boulevard also reflected this commitment to superior design. Edward Killingsworth, the noted Southern California Modern architect, was a close high school friend of Ed Frank and a supporter of the business. In 1963, he redesigned a new north entrance and interior for the store, for which extensive documentation is included in the archive.
    Two smaller groups of material round out the archive. Series II contains documentation of Moreddi, the wholesale, import division of the family business, run by Ed Frank, which supplied furnishings for the Frank Brothers store and other retailers. Personal material relating to family members, especially Ed and Ron Frank, comprises Series III. Of particular interest is the documentation of Ed Frank's home, Case Study House #25, designed by Ed Killingsworth.

    Arrangement

    Arranged in three series: Series I. Frank Brothers store, 1930-2002; Series II. Moreddi, 1957-1971; Series III. Frank family papers, 1929-2005.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Killingsworth, Edward

    Subjects - Topics

    Advertising layout and typography--United States--20th century
    Architect-designed furniture
    Architecture, Modern--20th century--California, Southern
    Furniture design--exhibitions
    Furniture--California--20th century
    Graphic arts--California--Los Angeles--20th century
    Interior decoration--California--20th century
    Modern movement (Architecture)--California

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Color slides
    Direct mail
    Gelatin silver prints--United States--20th century
    Photographic prints--20th century
    Photographs, Original
    Printed ephemera
    Scrapbooks
    Trade catalogs

    Contributors

    Frank, Edward
    Frank, Ron