A leading 20th century industrial design and transportation historian (with specialization in automobiles), Hampton C. Wayt has acted as an exhibition curator, collections consultant, researcher, archivist, writer, and lecturer for numerous private collectors and public institutions including: the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum; Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY; The Wintherthur Museum and Gardens, Wilmington, DE; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN; Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, CT; collector and philanthropist George R. Kravis II; collector and philanthropist, Frederic A. Sharf.
At the forefront of design history preservation, Wayt has traveled the country in order to save the archives of dozens of retired and deceased designers whose life's work otherwise would have vanished. He is also a pioneer in the use of design preparatory artwork and models in the context of the creative process to generate new histories that often reveal facts that contradict accepted historical narratives.
Included among Wayt's scholarly interests are: the typologies of form and ornament during various artistic periods; the history of American industrial design education; the interrelationship of art, technology and culture; the design process and its effect on products; and the often curious nature of the fame and legacy of designers. He received his master’s in design history from the Bard Graduate Center in New York, NY, in 2012
2018 Chapter Essay In late 2016, philanthropist and design collector George R. Kravis II invited Hampton C. Wayt and Russell A Flinchum to co-author a chapter on 20th century transportation design for the Skira Rizzoli-published book on his collection, edited by Penny Sparke. Titled Industrial Design in the Modern Age, the publication's release date is April 17, 2018, and can be pre-ordered here.
2017 Exhibition Curator As a leading expert and researcher in American industrial design education history, the world renowned Pratt Institute of Brooklyn, NY, hired Wayt to curate a retrospective exhibition highlighting the school's extensive alumni portfolio. The exhibit, which ran from August 2017 through January of 2018, was co-curated with Constantin Boym, Chair of Industrial design, Pratt Institute.
2017 Discovery In 2017, Wayt uncovered a small, but seminal, grouping of 1930s documents from the Jaray Streamline Corporation of America. Founded in 1930 in New York by Paul Jaray, a Hungarian aerodynamicist who is considered the "father" of automotive aerodynamics, the materials reveal the promotional efforts and inner workings of this little known but significant company, which was one of the most important factors of streamlining being applied to automobiles worldwide during the Great Depression.
2017 Interview Included in the documentary, "Closer Than We Think," on mid-20th century futuristic automotive and science fiction illustrator Arthur C. Radebaugh, Wayt was the first to research the artist's life in-depth.
2016 Lecture and Abstract As an attendee of the Historical Vehicle Association's (HVA) "Driving History" Conference in Allentown, PA, Wayt debuted the first typology of automotive form from the pre-Second World War era, titled “Skin Deep: Automotive Form as a Determining Factor of Historical Significance," as developed by him over a many year period.
2016 Lecture The Winterthur Museum and Gardens, former DuPont family mansion and leading decorative arts institution, invited Wayt to give a lecture on luxury automobiles from before World War 2 for their annual Winterthur Invitational classic car event. His talk, titled, "Affluence at the Wheel: An Appreciation of Luxury Automobiles before the Second World War," explains the many factors including price point, engineering, materials, manufacturing processes and taste that affect car designs tailored for the rich as compared those sold to the average driver of the prewar period.
2014 Article Author In 2013, the world renowned Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance classic car show asked Wayt to author an article for their special class of Czechoslovakian-built Tatra automobiles -- the first such category in the event's decades long history. The result, published in the event program. was “Hans Ledwinka and Those Otherworldly Tatras," a history of the marque and myths surrounding the many sensational rear engine streamline automobiles manufactured from the 1930s through the 1950s.
2014 Discovery In 2014, Wayt found the archives of interior designer Paul Mac Alister, inventor of the Plan-A-Room kit (1941), which during the 1940s and 1950s became an invaluable aid for both educators and the general public for learning about spacial proportions when designing home and office interiors. In 1942, Mac Alister took the tool to the television airwaves, becoming the first TV interior designer, where he would continue to work for fifteen years, including on Arlene Francis's Home Show (1954-1956). During the 1930s, Mac Alister also ran the Permanent Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Crafts (PEDAC), the largest decorating showroom in the world, housed at the new Rockefeller Center. Information on Mac Alister's career is being published for the first time in 2018 by Danielle Charlap in the book, Shaping the American Interior: Structures, Contexts, and Practices.
2013 Exhibition Catalog Essay Featured in the catalog for the Heritage Museum and Gardens, Sandwich, MA, exhibition, "Driving Our Dreams: Imagination in Motion, Wayt's essay, “Coachbuilding’s Streamlined Death: How the ‘Dream’ Car Came to the Masses,” details how the smooth automotive forms of the 1930s were the catalyst for transferring custom car building from firms who catered to the wealthy to mass manufacturers who designed for the general population.
2010-Present Contributor to the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, NY Since his curatorial internship at the Cooper Hewitt, the museum's staff has often called upon Wayt's expertise and research abilities on design matters as needed.
2010, Summer Curatorial Intern, Department of Prints and Drawings, Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, New York, NY Under the guidance of respected Cooper Hewitt curator Gail S. Davidson, Wayt learned the ins and outs of the museum's inner workings and collection.
2010 Article In his article, “Streamline Automobiles: Styled by the Wind or the Machine?” created for the Fairfield County Concours d’Elegance, Fairfield, CT, Wayt argues that machine tool stamping technology -- rather than aerodynamics -- helped spur the rounded "streamline" forms of the cars of the 1930s that came to define the automobiles of the era.
2009 Lecture “Functional Aestheticism or Fashionable Nonsense? Streamlining in the First Half of the 20th Century,” Decorative Arts Council, Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford, CT
2009 Article Wayt's article, “Donald R. Dohner: The Man Who Designed ‘Rivets’,” in Classic Trains Magazine details the author's discovery that pioneer industrial designer Donald R. Dohner, not renowned industrial designer Raymond Loewy, was the primary designer of the legendary Pennsylvania Railroad GG-1 Class Locomotive. Prior to his time, for over seventy-five years of the locomotive's history, the GG1 was regularly credited as one of Loewy’s most famous and important designs.
2008 Discovery After much searching, Wayt found the archives of Donald R. Dohner, considered the father of American industrial design education in America (he was the founder of both Pratt Institute and Carnegie Tech's ID programs in the 1930s), in a barn in Indiana. The find, which, in 2018, aided Wayt's curation and writing efforts on his Pratt Institute retrospective exhibit (with Constantin Boym), challenges the decades-old narrative that the German Bauhaus was the primary influence on American industrial design education and production in the mid-20th century.
2006 Lecture The Minneapolis Institute of Art's Decorative Arts Curatorial Council invited Wayt to lecture on the historical significance of the Czechoslovakian Tatra T87 automobile he sold to the museum the year before.
2005 Sold Automobile to Art Museum In 2005, Hampton Wayt sold a rare Czechoslovakian-built Tatra 87 to the Minneapolis Institute of Art (MIA). One of the few automobiles in the permanent collection of any art museum worldwide, the controversial acquisition was named one of the top art acquisitions of 2006 by Art and Antiques Magazine and has become a focal point of the MIA's world-class art and design collection.
2005 Exhibition Curator and Author A three year effort, Hampton Wayt was lead curator of “Driving Through Futures Past," at the Petersen Automotive Museum, Los Angeles, CA. The large, pioneering automobile design art exhibit featured over 125 factory design drawings and scale models, as well as prototype and limited production advanced automobiles (co-curated with Leslie Kendall, Petersen Automotive Museum). Wayt also published an article on the exhibition in American Art Review in June of that year.
2003 Exhibition Contributor Wayt's pioneering research on futuristic automobile and science fiction illustrator Authur C. Radebaugh played an important role in the implementation of the traveling exhibit, "Radebaugh: The Future We Were Promised," curated by Jared Rosenbaum and Rachel Mackow. The show went to Philadelphia, France, and Detroit in 2003-2004.
2001 Discovery In 2001, Wayt found and acquired the original 1/4 scale design model for Preston Tucker's Torpedo automobile in a tobacco barn in Ohio. Thought lost for eternity, the model was created by George S. Lawson, the Tucker '48's first "chief stylist," who set the pace for the "production" car. Custom car builder Rob Ida of Ida Automotive is presently building the first full-size running version of Lawson's Torpedo, and Wayt, as the foremost expert on Lawson's career (owning his archive), has proudly consulted on the project.
2001-2016 Acquisitions and Research Consultant In 2001 Wayt met philanthropist and collector Frederic A. Sharf (d. 2018), beginning a 15+ year professional relationship surrounding 20th century design artwork, including automobiles, architecture, and fashion. As a consultant, Wayt was heavily involved in object sourcing, object research, collection goals, and acquisitions recommendations for a collection that now resides in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.