Charles Eames (1907–78) and Ray Eames (1912–88) gave shape to America's twentieth century. Their lives and work represented the nation's defining movements: the West Coast's coming-of-age, the economy's shift from making goods to producing information, and the global expansion of American culture. The Eameses embraced the era's visionary concept of modern design as an agent of social change, elevating it to a national agenda. Their evolution from furniture designers to cultural ambassadors demonstrated their boundless talents and the overlap of their interests with those of their country. In a rare era of shared objectives, the Eameses partnered with the federal government and the country's top businesses to lead the charge to modernize postwar America.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Charles Eames grew up in America's industrial heartland. As a young man he worked for engineers and manufacturers, anticipating his lifelong interest in mechanics and the complex working of things. Ray Kaiser, born in Sacramento, California, demonstrated her fascination with the abstract qualities of ordinary objects early on. She spent her formative years in the orbit of New York's modern art movements and participated in the first wave of American-born abstract artists.