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Clark Britton Collection of Buckminster Fuller Materials

 Collection
Identifier: MS-2021-10

Content Note

This collection from Clark Britton, professor of graphic design at Wichita State University, contains materials from R. Buckminster Fuller’s work on geodesic domes, the Dymaxion Dwelling Machine, Fuller Houses, and the Dymaxion Map. All materials gathered by Clark Britton.

Dates

  • 1932 - 1974

Creator

Literary Rights

Literary rights were not granted to Wichita State University. When permission is granted to examine the manuscripts, it is not an authorization to publish them. Manuscripts cannot be used for publication without regard for common law literary rights, copyright laws and the laws of libel. It is the responsibility of the researcher and his/her publisher, to obtain permission to publish. Scholars and students who eventually plan to have their work published are urged to make inquiry regarding overall restrictions on publication before initial research.

Biographical / Historical

Richard Buckminster Fuller was born July 12, 1895 in Milton, Massachusetts to Richard Buckminster Fuller and Caroline Wolcott Andrews. He attended Harvard College, from which he was expelled twice for partying and not taking interest in his classes. He worked as a mechanic at a textile mill in Canada and then as a laborer in the meat-packing industry during his few years in college. Fuller joined the U.S. Navy during World War I and commanded the rescue boat USS Inca. He also served as a radio operator and an editor of a Navy publication. After his service, he returned to the meat-packing industry—this time as a manager.

In 1917, Fuller married Anne Hewlett. The couple had a daughter named Alexandra who died in 1922 of polio and meningitis. Fuller believed her illness was due to the family’s living conditions and began working on new ways to design houses. He and his father-in-law, James Monroe Hewlett, started their own business producing lightweight, weatherproof housing using a method they called the Stockade Building System. In 1927, they patented their method, but the company went out of business. That same year, Fuller’s second daughter Allegra was born. With no means to provide for his family, Fuller planned to commit suicide by drowning himself in Lake Michigan and let his family collect the money from his life insurance. However, while at the lake, Fuller claimed to have had a vision in which he was floating in a sphere of light and a voice told him that he belonged to the universe and his work had to benefit others. Following this vision, Fuller started working on designing the Dymaxion Dwelling Machine and the Dymaxion Car. His aim was to create more efficient homes and vehicles with fewer materials so they would be environmentally sustainable and affordable.

In 1948 and 1949, Fuller taught summer classes at Black Mountain College and served as the director of its Summer Institute in 1949. While there, he started designing the geodesic dome. While Fuller did not invent the dome, he did create a version that could support its own weight without limits and popularize use of the design. He started a company called Geodesics, Inc., which the U.S. government contracted to build small domes for the Marine Corps. The popularity of the domes took off in the 1950s and swept the world. Fuller started several more companies designing domes and houses, including Synergetics, Inc., Fuller & Sadao, Inc. (formed in partnership with Shoji Sadao and designed the Montreal Biosphere), Dymaxion Dwelling Machines, Inc., and Fuller Houses, Inc.

In 1959, Fuller became a research professor in the science of design at Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s School of Art and Design. He received promotions to university professor in 1968 and distinguished university professor in 1972 before retiring in 1975. During his work at the university, he received the Frank P. Brown Medal from the Franklin Institute, was elected as an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa, was elected a fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, was elected into the National Academy of Design, received the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects, and was named 1969 Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association. U.S. President Ronald Reagan later awarded Fuller the Presidential Medal of Freedom on February 23, 1983.

Fuller died of a heart attack on July 1, 1983. His wife, Anne, died of cancer just 36 hours later.

Clark Britton, professor of graphic design at Wichita State University, collected materials from Fuller’s companies, Dymaxion Dwelling Machines, Inc., Fuller Houses, Inc. and the Dymaxion Map, and donated them to Wichita State University’s Special Collections & University Archives.

Extent

2 Linear Feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials

English

Arrangement

Series 1 -- Communications, 1945-1957
Series 2 -- Drawings, 1945-1950
Series 3 -- Maps, 1943-1946; undated
Series 4 -- Newspaper and Magazine Articles, 1932-1974
Series 5 -- Notes on Designing Homes, undated
Series 6 -- Publications, 1944-1947; undated
Series 7 -- Stationery, undated

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Clark Britton, unknown date

Processing Information

Processed by ALM, 2020-11

Title
Clark Britton Collection of Buckminster Fuller Materials, 1932-1974
Author
ALM
Date
2020-11
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Wichita State University Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

Contact:
Special Collections and University Archives
Wichita State University Libraries
1845 Fairmount
Wichita KS 67260-0068