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Robert Blakeley
Born Robert Wilson Blakeley
(1922-08-30)August 30, 1922
Ogden, Utah, U.S.
Died October 25, 2017(2017-10-25) (aged 95)
Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.
Known for Design of fallout shelter sign
Spouse(s) Jean Brown (1940s; div.)
Dorothy McArthur (m. 1952; died 1992)
Irene Allan Davis (m. 2003–17)
Children Dorothy Carver
Robert Blakeley
Military career
Allegiance  USA
Service/branch Marine Corps
Years of service 1943–45, 1951–52

Robert Wilson Blakeley (August 30, 1922 – October 25, 2017) was an American graphic designer, known for making the fallout shelter sign. He served with the U.S. Marine Corps and worked for many years for the Army Corps of Engineers.

Born in Ogden, Utah, Blakeley attended public schools, and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. He fought in combat during World War II, and was the president of Toastmasters International. With the Army Corps of Engineers, Blakeley designed the fallout sign as a civil defense measure during the Cold War.

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Blakeley was born on August 30, 1922, in Ogden, Utah, to Robert G. and Elsie Jean Wilson Blakeley. One of four children, he attended Weber Junior College and Utah State University.[1]

He married Jean Brown in the 1940s, and later divorced. In 1952, he married Dorothy McArthur, who died in 1992, with whom he had two children, Dorothy Carver and Robert. In 2003, he married Irene Allan Davis. Blakeley died in a Brookdale senior living community in Jacksonville, Florida, on October 25, 2017.[1]

Military service and career[edit | edit source]

In 1943, Blakeley joined the Marine Corps. During the 1945 invasion of Iwo Jima during World War II, Blakeley was a sergeant major of the 4th Marine Division. He later served during the Korean War in 1951 and 1952.[1]

At the University of California, Berkeley, he studied architecture, and graduated in 1954. He worked for two years with the Veterans Administration before joining the Army Corps of Engineers in 1956. With the corps, Blakeley led administrative work for over 60 construction projects as civilian manager.[1] He joined Toastmasters in 1958, and was its international president from 1976 to 1977.[1][2]

Fallout shelter sign[edit | edit source]

A fallout shelter sign at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

Major General Keith R. Barney tasked Blakeley with creating the fallout shelter sign in 1961. Blakeley decided that the signs should be made from metal to be most durable, and needed to be easy to find in the dark. He chose to use orange-yellow and black, with an image created by graphic design firm Blair Inc. and possibly based on Clarence P. Hornung's Handbook of Designs, consisting of three upside-down equilateral triangles on a black background and the words "Fallout Shelter" in large letters.[1][3] Blakeley also wanted the reflective paint to light up from a cigarette lighter.[3][4]

His design was approved by Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army Powell Pierpoint. Blakeley suggested a $700,000 production run, of one million interior signs by Alfray Products from Coshocton, Ohio and 400,000 exterior signs by Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (3M).[1][3]

Blakeley debuted the completed products at the Westchester County Office Building in White Plains, New York, on October 4, 1961. The signs became a icon for the anti-war protests and counterculture of the 1960s and were featured in popular culture, including Bob Dylan's album cover for Bringing It All Back Home (1965).[1] Blakeley recounted a story about the time when his children were young:

We'd go down the street, and one of the kids would say, "Hey, Dad, there's one of your signs." But, you know, other than that it's just like many of the other things that happen in life. It's just like one of those routine things.[1]

References[edit | edit source]

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