By Yuriy Yedidovich CRC Member

This article originally posted on www.sfhobbies.com in 2003


OVERLAPPING     LAYER     STYLE
 
       In 1935-1937 Sears produced tons of radios. A small group of them required special attention. Why were they so special? They were special because they represented a new vision in radio cabinet style. This style was a step away from the traditional cabinet style, based on the view of the time; on shape transformation, liquid, soft, melted form. This cabinet style was not just a beautiful creation in itself, but it organically matched the function of the radio, radio's elements (dial, knobs), and all cabinet elements (lines, layers, surfaces, rails etc.). This not only meant something, its worked together to create a unique image for each model. All these radios are now very desirable and collectable.
       I don't know who the creator of this unique style was, but I'm sure he was a man with fantastic creative ability and an analytical mind. He was the "Salvador Dali" of radio art deco design. I call this the "Overlapping Layer" (OL) style. There exists two versions of the OL style: "One Way Overlapping Style" is used in the early models, and the more phenomenal "Cross Overlapping Style," used in cabinets made in 1936-1937.
 
Salvador Dali "The Persistence Of Memory" Fragment. 1931
 
       To better understand what was done is to look at what was on the radio market in 1935 -1937, before this style appeared.
       The primary cabinet material was wood. Tombstone console cabinets become traditional; cathedral radio production was halted in 1934, but there were a lot around; table models became more popular around 1936. Almost all radio cabinets were a reflection of traditional and modern architectural styles (Skyscraper, Gothic, and Victorian) or used some decorative elements taken from musical instruments (organ, violin, piano etc.,) and furniture.
       In 1935 many companies started using new cabinet material - bakelite. This new material brought unbelievable opportunity for radio art designers. It gave the ability to create infinite numbers of cabinet shapes and small decor elements.
       As a result, the OL style was a gorgeous combination of a new vision in cabinet design, which brought about bakelite, and modern art, implemented in wood, traditionally used for more conventional radio cabinets.

From Sears AD 1937
 
       Too few of us realize the important part the cabinet plays in improving radio reception. In addition to its sensory appeal of pleasant proportions, beauty of design and suitability to home furnishings, it is a sounding board that adds richness and sonority to every musical note you hear. Thus, to soothe both eye and ear, we have built the best into every Silvertone cabinet … selecting only the finest in genuine expensive woods, for their natural beauty … selecting only the foremost designers and skilled craftsman for the finest creations … selecting only the best in materials, construction and processes - to make the name of Silvertone your assurance of lasting beauty, character and satisfaction in fine cabinetry.


Silvertone models #1955 - (Fall series 1935), #1962 (Spring series 1936)
 
      
       This cabinet, used in two models #1955 and #1962, is the first cabinet, and only tombstone, made in OL style. A huge front layer (F) creates the cabinet body. The left and right sides of the front layer are covered by three more layers (H) and create the effect of "shifted pages". It makes the cabinet sumptuous. Not everything is perfect in this cabinet. The square top and speaker hole does not match the soft cabinet form. Sharp grill bars bring more disagreement (distortion) to the cabinet composition.


Silvertone models #4569 (Fall series 1936) , #4763 (Fall series 1937)
 
             
       This cabinet can be called a classic representation of the OL style. The first model, #4569, with this cabinet was made in 1936 with a gold, round dial. The radio was so impressive that Sears decided to continue production in 1937 with some small modifications. The gold round dial was replaced with a new dial, shaped like a rounded rectangle. The rest of the cabinet was used without any changes. Vertical (V) and horizontal (H) layers create the cabinet's body. The front layer (F) acts like a wide soft rag and covers the top and front of the cabinet. Truly, the most fantastic element is the decorative 3D molding. It fills a gap between vertical and horizontal layers and flows from the bottom right corner to the top of cabinet, creating a soft change of direction, it jumps under the front layer (like in a tunnel) and appears on the top front corner of the cabinet. Then it changes direction again and disappears into the created depth of the back of the radio. This design demonstrates that curvature is the pinnacle of "soft radios".


Silvertone model #4769 (Fall series 1937)
 
      
       The front layer (F), as is usual in OL style, still plays a main roll. The top flat layer (T) rests on the massive base, which is very finely matched with this cabinet and creates a secure platform for the horizontal part of the front layer. Horizontal layer (H) (most important decorative element in this cabinet) cuts just in the front of the front layer and opens a beautiful view of the instrument panel, which resides on the vertical part of the front layer. Double asymmetric design (DAD) creates a fantastic view from any point on this cabinet. What does DAD mean? From the front view, the front layer is shifted to the right side of cabinet (which makes a bigger 3D space for the speaker), and from the top view the radius of the front left corner is larger than the radius on the opposite side (which makes the speaker grill's residence on the horizontal layer softer and visually bigger). This is a massive radio and you feel it is full of thousands of tunes and with an unmatched quality of sound.
From Sears AD
"… Beautiful, unique and up-to-the-minute cabinet. …"


Silvertone model #4666 (Fall series 1937)
 
      
       The large front layer (F), from the left and right side, binds with the beautifully shaped rails. The bottom of it sits on an unusual wave shaped base. These rails (left and right) keep your attention on the instrument panel, which resides on the front layer. The radio dial is located on the round corner (the bent part) of front layer and makes the dial special and a very important element of the radio. The layout of the large central tuning knob, made in the style of a telephone dial, and rest of the plastic knobs, create an illusion of ease of use, in a manner of comfort and quality. The horizontal layer (H) is asymmetrically placed behind the front layer to create the body of the radio. The right side of the horizontal layer is larger then the left side and is decorated with a huge grill (much larger than the speaker behind it) to create the effect of potential quality, wealth, and the soft sounds that could be coming from it, which is not too far from reality. Two magnificently shaped elements located on the right and left top corners of the radio cement the horizontal and front layers into, on one hand, a solid piece and, on the other hand, a soft, rounded unit. If you look at this cabinet you cannot find any sharp corners, which would otherwise create chaos in the general design of this magnificent piece.
From Sears AD.
"One of the World's Leading Radio Cabinet Designers styled this cabinet … and it is gorgeous. Exquisitely grained stump and walnut veneers are used in the one piece front and top panel with band of figured stripe walnut. Gracefully rounded end for speaker section. Everything is so neatly proportioned and arranged. Lovely two-toned glossy finish.


Silvertone model #4766 (Fall series 1937)
 
      
       This cabinet inherited features from models #4666 and #4769. I don't know from which model it got more "genes", but this baby is very handsome. The front layer (F) is similar to that of model #4666, but with a minor change, the bottom being curved inward. The horizontal layer (H) is like that of the #4769, but symmetric. The fantastic elements on the left and right corner of the top of the radio are similar to model #4666, but with more of a concave surface.
From Sears AD.
"…Cabinet has been conceived to harmonize with European and American periods of furniture-art, as well as the contemporary modern mode. …"


Silvertone model #4764 (Fall series 1937)
 
      
       This model is a fantastic representative the OL style. The front layer (F) bears all the functions of the radio's interactive parts. It climbs to the top, and bends softly to lie upon the top flat layer. All of its hard work is rewarded with a beautiful ornate grill. The top layer (T) sports an unusually shaped edge. The horizontal layer (H) is a soft background for the front layer and it is like the theatre's curtains - covering the tubes near magic glow. The shape of the front layer and the location of input and output elements (knobs, dial, and speaker) show the exact sequence of how to use the radio (control, adjust, and listen). This is a perfect example of how the cabinet and radio component layout create a terrific friendly user interface. You can't remove or add anything - it is perfect.