Oscar Statuettes Made in Chicago for Hollywood

Oscar statuettes are such a symbol of Hollywood, but they are actually manufactured right here in Chicago! On Sunday night in Hollywood, dozens of ecstatic filmmakers will slip their hands around a golden statuette. Known officially as the Academy Award of Merit, those Oscar statuettes are pieces of solid Chicago craftsmanship.

The work is done by R.S. Owens, an awards and gifts manufacturer. Owens makes the Oscar statuettes, as well as awards for the Emmys, Grammys, and many others. I don’t know when I first learned that the Oscar statuettes were made here in Chicago, but it’s always struck me as an oddity. It seems incongruous that these gleaming symbols of Hollywood glamour come from an out-of-the-way corner of Jefferson Park, on the Northwest side of Chicago.

Oscar statuettes R.S. Owens Chicago
Surprisingly, Chicago manufactures the Oscar statuettes.

R.S. Owens – History and Practices

R.S. Owens was founded 1938. Its founder and original owner, Owen Siegel, focused the company on the niche market of awards manufacturing. The firm works with existing designs, such as the Oscar statuettes, and can create original designs as well. Once the design is finalized, each award is manufactured through a process that R.S. Owens describes as “old world [in its] artistry and attention to detail.”

Every award has a mold and die created based off the agreed-upon design. The design for the Oscars is famously a bald man with a sword and has a very art deco vibe. The Oscar stauettes are made of a metal called Britannia. The base of each statuette is heated until it reaches a liquid state, which you can see here. Workers hand-pour the viscous metal into the molds.

The specific process varies depending on the award, but each award gets some amount of buffing before a shiny gold plating is applied. Each gets a base, usually made to give each statuette their 8.5 pound standard weight, and a customized nameplate.

Oscar Statuettes by R.S. Owens

The Academy Awards are the premier awards show in American popular culture. As such, the Oscar statuettes is R.S. Owen’s most prominent work. The firm originally won the contract in 1983 and have manufactured every one of the Oscar statuettes since then. According to that ABC 7 report, each award takes eight hours to manufacture. R.S. Owens ships the 75 Oscar statuettes deemed to be of the best quality from Chicago to Los Angeles for each year’s ceremony.

Only the vote tabulators at PricewaterhouseCoopers know who has won before Sunday’s ceremony. So R.S. Owens ships name plates for every nominee. The winner’s plate is attached after the announcement is made. The Emmy and Grammy Awards, also made by R.S. Owens, use the same ingenious method.

Despite the geographical and cultural distance, Chicago does have a long association with the entertainment industry. Innumerable musicians, actors, and artists honed their craft in our area before striking out to Hollywood or New York, and some of course stick close to home. Yet industry events like movie premieres or world-wide TV events like the Oscars hangs their hat in Los Angeles. So it was fun, and maybe even a little validating, to discover that Leonardo DiCaprio might not be able to lift his Oscar statuette high without some help from good old Chicago.

Update – After we wrote this post, it was announced that the statuettes are now being manufactured by a New York firm. It’s a shame to see a Chicago tradition end, but we’ll leave this up in commemoration of the decades of work R.S. Owens put in.

– Alex Bean, Office Manager and Tour Guide


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”


Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”


Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
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Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
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Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
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