Notes: A trade catalog of lamps designed by Ray See under the See-Mar brand name of mid-century modern furniture, featuring 25 original 8-by-10-inch black-and-white photographs of lamps in furniture showroom settings, followed by a three-page price list ($35 to $150). These contents are housed in a three-prong paper folder with title label affixed to the front cover.
The See family has owned and operated the F. Suie One Asian antique store in Los Angeles since 1888. Ray See (Fong Ming Fook, born 1900) and his brother Bennie See (Ming Loy) were part of the American-born second generation of the See family. In 1928, the two brothers opened See Manufacturing in one of the F. Suie One warehouses. Ray designed custom furniture and his brother built it. Many Hollywood film stars commissioned them to make pieces for their houses. In 1947, the brothers joined forces with Morris Markoff, a lamp manufacturer, and began marketing a line of what we would now call mid-century modern furniture designed by Ray See, often with Asian influences. The Markoff partnership lasted just one year; the See brothers took full control of the company in 1948. Ray and Bennie retired in 1958.
Ray See was one of the most successful Asian American furniture designers of the mid-20th century. His furniture is well documented but the more ephemeral lamps have not survived in great numbers. This collection of photographs offers an excellent survey of his work. Ray See was the great uncle of the author Lisa See, and his life and work are described throughout her book On Gold Mountain.
Your cataloguer was unable to locate examples of any other See-Mar catalogs. This portfolio of lamp designs may have been produced by Bolender and Company, which represented See-Mar in Chicago. It may have been prepared for a client named "Mider", whose name is written in red pencil on the front cover. This may be, therefore, a one-off selection of lamps produced for a particular project. In any case, original documentation of mid-20th-century Asian American designers is very uncommon.
Edition + Condition: Very good. Photos fine; price list frayed at margins.
Publication: Chicago: Boldender and Company, (ca. 1950).
Item No: #362498