The Fisher Body Craftsman Guild -- An Illustrated History, By John L. Jacobus published by McFarland & Company, Inc., July 2005. Contains 171 period-vintage photographs, 330 pages, hardbound.

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ISBN: 978-0-7864-1719-3
[Old ISBN: 0-7864-1719-6]
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  A B O U T   B O O K
Table of Contents
Content Description
B O O K    O V E R V I E W
By John L. Jacobus

This book describes the history, memorabilia and people of the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild (1930-1968) which consisted, initially, of contestants constructing miniature model Napoleonic Coaches (1/18 scale) from 1930 to 1948, and then 1/12 scale, futuristic model "dream cars" from 1937 to 1968. The top scoring models won university scholarship trust funds for their creators, namely - teenage boys and college age young men. Initially introduced in the U.S., in 1932 the Canadians joined the coach competition through GM Canada Ltd.

It was begun by the Fisher family as a philanthropic project during the Great Depression, but evolved into a successful talent search and recruiting tool for General Motors Corporation. In the mid to late 50's and internal study by Fisher Body Division of the Craftsman's Guild's accomplishments concluded that, other than the 206 Guild graduates working at Fisher Body Central engineering, the youth scholarship program was an important source of design talent for GM Styling with 35% of GM Stylists being Guild graduates in 1957. A July 22, 1960 head-count showed at least 47 Guildsmen being employed by GM Styling with an average age of 30 years. By 1985, 25 former Guildsman would still be working at GM Design Staff, and today, only a few remain at the GM Design Center.

It started as a foundation and became an educational "movement" and successful design education program for youth as well as a highly successful public relations and advertising program which generated considerable public "good will" and huge corporate exposure. Although the relationship between youth and future GM customers was recognized, the overall purpose of the Guild program was to generate public "good will" and because the youth contestant's styling ideas were relatively amateurish in nature, the contest did not stock GM's inventory of new styling ideas. So successful and institutionalized were the tenets, values and virtues of the program that it continued for 34 years with the exception of World War II.

Beginning in 1965, the idea of the U.S. Craftsman's Guild program was exported. GM Overseas Operations Division got involved and Craftsman's Guild competitions were born at Vauxhall (UK), GM Suisse (Switzerland), Adam-Opel (West Germany) and at GM Holden (Australia). Although these were mostly short lived experiments, the Opel Modellbauer Gilde in West Germany, a co-educational program, was conducted from 1965-1979. A few girls finished among the top 40 model-makers in the Vauxhall Motors Ltd. and Adam Opel contests. On the average some 1,697 models were entered annually in the Opel Moldellbauer Gilde competition compared to an average of about 3,133 model entries in the U.S. Craftsman's Guild competition.

The educational "movement" that the Fisher Brothers had envisioned had become an international education program and talent search forum. It helped young people find their way in the world - perhaps an advocation became a vocation or industry design career. Maybe their vocational callings switched from auto design to product design to architectural design or from mechanical engineering to engineering architecture, but the Guild got them thinking about their futures and where they fit in. Some became career automobile designers working at GM, Ford, Chrysler, AMC, Nissan, Subaru and Volvo reaching, in a few cases, the Director of Design level. Others became top product designers in interior and exterior architectural design, home and office furniture and major appliances. Some guildsmen were so talented as artists, engineers, craftsmen, and/or designers, that without benefit of formal education, they became independent and successfully self-employed.

In 1968 all of this came to an end in the U.S. when the corporate Executives at West Grand Boulevard concluded that benefits of the Guild did not exceed the costs. Because the number of new GM customers, or the number of cars sold or the amount of "good will" couldn't be measured or quantified, the benefits side of the equation could never be determined. Perhaps because it was co-educational and formulated for the first phase of women's liberation, the Opel Modellbauer Gilde continued to flourish until 1979. This is consistent with education institutions which over the years shifted to co-education in order to survive.

As a tribute to the legacy of the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild, Automobile Quarterly magazine sponsored three Car Styling Contests (rendering/drawing contests), at various times in the late 80's and early 90's, for aspiring student and adult auto designers with the results being judged by leading industry design executives. In inaugurating their design competition, in which there were hundred of entries, Automobile Quarterly magazine stated the following:

"From 1930 to 1968, the Fisher Body Craftsman's Guild sought to harness and nurture the visions of American youth. Among its goals, of course, was corporate visibility, but the Guild also produced generations of designers, many of whom by dint of persistent creativity, rose to the top ranks of industrial design and today shape products for that more perfect world. We honor their energy and enthusiasm with a design contest that encourages the visionaries of today to share their dreams of tomorrow." (Automobile Quarterly, 1987, Vol. 25, No.2)

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