Born in Sebring, OH to a potter father, Schreckengost studied cartooning at the Cleveland School of Art, graduating in 1929. He later enrolled at the Kunstegewerbschule in Austria. He loved music, and wowed Austrian students by playing his jazz saxophone.
In 1931 he joined the faculty at the Cleveland School of Art, now the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA), and worked part-time at Cowan Pottery Studio. At Cowan, he created his famous 28-inch diameter ceramic Art Deco “Jazz” punch bowl that had been commissioned anonymously by Eleanor Roosevelt, who later ordered several more for the White House and Hyde Park.
Schreckengost worked for a variety of other industrial and ceramic companies, and developed a pioneer industrial design program at CIA in 1933, which became well known for its automotive design. He became a consultant with the White Motor Company in Cleveland, and created an innovative new truck design with the cab over the engine, providing more cargo space in the back.
He created stage and costume designs for Cleveland theater productions from 1938 to 1943, and designed a number of streamlined tricycles for the Murray Bicycle Company in Cleveland, including his now-famous 1941 “Pedal Pursuit Plane.” He continued to produce award-winning ceramic sculptures for Cleveland Museum of Art shows.
In 1943 he joined the Navy as an officer in World War II where he worked in radar detection systems, battle models and watercolors of war devastation.
After the war, Schreckengost resumed his teaching career at CIA. He also designed many consumer products and conducted work in fine art, sculpture and painting. Murray Bicycle Company remained among his major clients. For Murray, he designed many children’s transportation products such as pedal cars, tricycles and banana seat bikes—well into the 1960s. In the early 1950s, he created monumental ceramic sculptures for the Cleveland Zoo (now Metroparks Zoo).
In 2000-2001 he was honored with a retrospective exhibition with catalogue at the Cleveland Museum of Art called Victor Schreckengost and 20th Century American Design. Soon after, the Viktor Schreckengost Foundation was established in Cleveland.
In 2006, the Viktor Schreckengost National Centennial Exhibition celebrated his 100th birthday by highlighting his work in 140 simultaneous nationwide exhibitions. That year he was also honored at the White House as a recipient of the National Medal of Arts for “enduring contributions to the artistic life” of the US.
A Life Member of IDSA, Schreckengost will long be remembered by many as one of the founders of the industrial design profession, and by many of his successful former students as the “father of industrial design.”100 Years of Design consists of excerpts from a book by Carroll M. Gantz, FIDSA, entitled, Design Chronicles: Significant Mass-produced Designs of the 20th Century, published August 2005 by Schiffer Publications, Ltd.