Scope and Contents
The Brannock Device Company Records, 1925-1998, consist of correspondence, design drawings, United States and foreign patents and trademarks, advertisements, product information, sales records, photographs, and a film strip documenting the invention, promotion, and sale of the Brannock Device as well as the concurrent development of Park-Brannock as a leading shoe store in Syracuse, NY. The collection is useful to researchers for its stories of invention and entrepreneurship and its exemplification of the patent and trademark process in the United States and internationally in the early 20th century. The process of manufacturing and marketing in the shoe industry, and manufacturing of military supplies during World War II is also highlighted.
The collection is divided into two subgroups: The Brannock Device Company Records and Park-Brannock Shoe Store Records. The Brannock Device Company subgroup is arranged into six series: Series 1: Historical Background, 1928-1995; Series 2: Operational Records, 1926-1963; Series 3: Product Development Records, 1925-1981; Series 4: Advertising and Marketing Records, 1926-1980, 1998; Series 5: Sales and Distribution Records, 1925-1996; and Series 6: Photographs, circa 1930-1997. The Park-Brannock subgroup is similarly arranged into five series: Series 1: Historical Background, 1936-1963, 1981; Series 2: Operational Records, 1936-1972; Series 3: Advertising and Marketing Records, 1933-1962; Series 4: Sales Records, 1916-1918, 1927-1961; and Series 5: Photographs, 1934-1967.
Subgroup 1: The Brannock Device Company, 1925-1998
Series 1: Historical Background, 1928-1995
This series contains articles about Charles Brannock, the Brannock Device, the device in the military, and shoe-fitting in general. The series provides an understanding of the company and the shoe industry as shown both through trade magazines, popular magazines, and newspapers.
Series 2: Operational Records, 1926-1963
This series contains bookkeeping, correspondence, census, insurance, and financial records which account for the company as a whole. It is organized into seven subseries: Book for recording devices on hand, November 1927-January 1929; Correspondence, 1926-1951; Census, 1947-1963, 1980; Insurance Inventory, 1956; Royalties Accrued, January 1946-March 1951; Time Records, 1952, 1954, 1958; and Notes, undated.
The correspondence between Charles and Otis Brannock reflects the strong business relationship which existed between father and son. Charles Brannock put Florence Williams in charge when he was vacationing each July from 1928 to 1931. The often humorous correspondence between them reflects daily business at the factory. Correspondence with Dr. Joseph Levyfield, chairman of the National Foot Health Council, pertains to children's foot exams in schools. For sales analyses of the Brannock Device, see Series 5: Sales and Distribution Records, United States--Private Sector, Direct Sales, under Sales analyses, 1964-1973.
Series 3: Product Development Records, 1925-1981
This series documents the process from invention to manufacture of the Brannock Device. It is divided into four subseries: Competitors' Devices and Other Products, Fitting Stool, Design, and Manufacture. Patents and Trademarks are included in the Sales and Distribution series because they were granted after sale of the device had already commenced and the foreign patents and trademarks are intricately linked to foreign sales.
The Competitors' Devices and Other Products subseries is further refined: Competitors' Devices; Other Products; Correspondence, 1928-1981, and Memos and Reports, n.d. The subseries provides documentation on the other devices Brannock considered while designing and making modifications to his own device. It also includes sale or manufacture negotiations for other inventors' products. Most of these devices were designed later than the Brannock Device and had attributes of the Brannock Device. Charles Brannock liked to keep abreast of new developments in order to protect his own interests.
The Fitting Stool subseries is a product development file on the fitting stool Charles Brannock designed to accommodate his device which enabled salesmen to measure the foot while seated instead of kneeling or squatting. It consists of design drawings and correspondence with American Fixture and Showcase Manufacturing Company, Thonet, and Commonwealth Shoe and Leather Company about negotiating its manufacture.
The Design subseries is further divided: Drawings and Ideas; Specifications; Correspondence, 1935-1975; Customer Comments; and Case of Child Cutting Finger on Device, July 1961-January 1962. The drawings and ideas are rough sketches done by Charles Brannock. The specifications include descriptions of materials used and assembly instructions. They were shipped with military orders for devices and are included in the text of patent applications. The design correspondence consists of actual and proposed modifications to the device. Of particular interest are the unsolicited modification proposals the company received. Customer comments were always appreciated and taken into account in the design process from 1946-1961. The case file of a child cutting her finger on a device resulted in a legal settlement in 1962.
The manufacture subseries contains correspondence with, and pamphlets about, companies that manufactured the device. Of particular interest are the Brannock Device Company's investigation into making plastic devices due to the shortage of aluminum in World War II, as outlined in the correspondence with the Eclipse Moulded Products Company. Also, a number of sample shoe company name plates and instruction plates which were screwed into free sections of the device are in this subseries.
Series 4: Advertising and marketing Records, 1926-1980, 1998
This series contains records from the company which contributed toward the goal of making a sale. It is divided into seven subseries: Correspondence, 1926-1974, 1998; Mailing Lists, 1947-1949; Ideas and Copy; Materials Printed with the Brannock Device Name; Advertisements and Product Information, 1934-1980; Measuring Device Instructions; and Advertising and Merchandising Plans, 1938, 1956, and undated.
The Correspondence, 1926-1974, 1998, contains letters between Brannock and various advertising agencies, printers, and magazines.
The Mailing Lists, 1947-1949, are partial listings of stores Brannock sent advertisements to.
The Ideas and Copy subseries consists of advertising ideas sketched by Brannock or proposed by the Proctor and Collier advertising agency or others. Also included are preliminary versions of advertisements and product information booklets.
Printed Materials with the Brannock Device Name, provides examples of stationery, business cards, and leases seen by potential customers.
The Advertisements and Product Information, 1934-1980, subseries contains various advertisements which appeared in magazines, newspapers, and displays, and product information leaflets which were mailed to customers. Also represented are advertisements by shoe stores which feature the Brannock Device and examples of the Brannock Device being used to advertise other products such as insurance, apartments, magazines, carpets, floorings, and die castings.
The Instructions subseries contains: Ideas and Copy, and Completed Instructions. Ideas and Copy are preliminary versions of the instruction sheets of individual models, including the Bran-X-Stick and a Sock-Measuring Device. The Completed Instructions are finished copies of the instruction sheets of many models.
The Advertising and Merchandising Plans, 1938, 1956, n.d. subseries contains information on three promotional schemes employed by the company: an early advertising plan, a Brannock Device Company merchandising campaign in 1938, and a cooperative effort with Miles Shoes in 1956.
Series 5: Sales and Distribution Records, 1925-1986
The largest series in the collection, the sales and distribution series documents Brannock's sales, partnerships he entered into, and the legal measures he took to ensure his company's success. The series is divided into three subseries: United States--Private Sector, United States--Military, and Foreign.
The United States--Private Sector subseries is further divided: Patents and Trademarks, 1928-1971; Direct Sales, 1926-1973; Salesmen Files, 1925-1935; and Shoe Fairs, 1938-1968.
The Patents and Trademarks, 1928-1971, contains patent and trademark certificates; correspondence with Brannock's lawyer, Theodore E. Simonton, and others in reference to obtaining patents and trademarks; and sales inquiries from those wishing to buy Brannock's patents.
The Direct Sales, 1926-1973, contains customer information and form letters; rental contracts, 1926-1927; customer correspondence, 1927-1989; customer service endeavors, and sales figures.
Arranged alphabetically, the Salesmen Files, 1925-1935 document the enthusiasm for the device experienced by shoe store owners across the country as they inquired about selling it followed by their disappointment with commission percentages and the fact that large shoe companies were getting the device at a discount and distributing it among their affiliates, and therefore not buying from salesmen.
The Shoe Fairs, 1938-1968, contains trade literature, visitation reports, and correspondence from Charles Brannock and his employees while attending the National Shoe Fair and the National Safety Congress and Exposition in Chicago from 1938 to 1968. It is organized chronologically by event. The information learned at the fairs was also useful in keeping abreast of the latest in shoe fashion for the Park-Brannock store.
The United States--Military, 1928-1972 subseries contains correspondence, contracts, and orders relating to the sale of the Brannock Device to the military. The subseries is arranged into seven smaller series: Army, 1939-1962; Coast Guard, 1932-1945; Marine Corps, 1943-1956; Merchant Marine, July 1944-August 1944; Navy, 1928-1970; Women's Army Corps, 1942-1944; and Miscellaneous Military Branches, undated. Arrangement within each smaller series is chronological.
Additional documentation on the Brannock Device in the military are in the following series: articles can be found in the Historical Background series; competitors' designs, drawings, specifications, and materials employed to make military devices are in the Product Development series; instructions and military-theme ads are in the Advertising and Marketing series, and photographs of military fittings and military devices are located in the photographs series.
The Foreign, 1937-1986, subseries documents the complex legal relationship between the Brannock Device Company, the Selby Shoe Company, the Brannock Device Company's lawyer, Theodore E. Simonton, and others as the companies strove for protection and distribution of the Brannock Device in foreign countries. It is arranged into five smaller series: Foreign Trademark Listings; Correspondence about Patents, Trademarks, and Distribution, 1928-1986; Patents and Trademarks; London Speech about Shoe-Fitting and the Company History; and Film Strip.
The foreign trademark listings were compiled periodically by the Brannock Device Company to keep track of their patents and trademarks. The correspondence is arranged chronologically. The actual patent and trademark certificates are arranged by country, and some folders also contain accompanying correspondence. This series does not contain all patents and trademarks issued to protect the Brannock Device internationally; some of the trademarks listed in the container list are renewals and therefore would not be the date of first issue. The London speech is a file of notes Charles Brannock used when giving a speech on his company's history and success in London, England. The sound-slide, instructional film strip is entitled "The Key to Repeat Sales." This series contains a transcript with a frame-by-frame description of each slide and accompanying narration.
Series 6: Photographs, circa 1930-1997
This series is divided into five subseries: Personal; Foot-Measuring Devices; Military; Employees and the Factory, 1949, 1997; and Negatives of Brannock Device, 1933-1958. The series contains black and white photos of Charles and Otis Brannock, competitors' devices, the Brannock device in window displays as well as in use and alone, the Women's Army Corps and various military men being fitted, employees, and the factory. There are also color photos, circa 1997, of the employees, the factory, and devices. Black and white, labeled negatives, 1933-1958, are also included here.
Subgroup 2: Park-Brannock Shoe Store Records, 1916-1918, 1927-1981
Series 1: Historical Background, 1936-1963, 1981
Newspaper and magazine articles about Park-Brannock anniversaries, moves into new stores, and the 1981 closing dominate this series. These articles are useful in understanding the rise of Park-Brannock as a leading shoe and accessory retailer. Photo-laden articles put the industrial design-influenced decor of each store into context.
Series 2: Operational Records, 1936-1972
This series is arranged into six subseries: Financial Materials, 1936-1972; Memos, December 1937-April 1944, January 1949, May 1958-May 1961; Business Course Tailored to Park-Brannock, undated; Store Planning, 1935-1961; New York City Business Trips, January 1949-August 1952; and Miscellaneous Notes, undated.
The Financial Materials, 1936-1972 subseries contains all available financial information for Park-Brannock. It is arranged into five smaller series: Correspondence, May 1937-December 1972; Annual Reports, 1945-1972; Department Sales Figures, 1957-1961; Merchandise Budget, August 1939-January 1941; and Miscellaneous Reports, 1936-1944.
The Memos, December 1937-April 1944, January 1949, May 1958-May 1961 subseries contains a limited amount of general internal correspondence. For correspondence between Charles and Otis Brannock, see the Operational Records series of subgroup 1, the Brannock Device Company. For other internal correspondence, see the correspondence with Alice Buxton in the Advertising and Marketing Records series in subgroup 2, Park-Brannock.
The Business course Tailored to Park-Brannock, undated is a file on how to be successful in the shoe business with advice specifically for Park-Brannock. The author is unknown, but it appears to be a commissioned service.
The Store Planning, 1935-1961 subseries contains architectural drawings for a proposed but not undertaken renovation of the original Park-Brannock building in 1935, and files containing store planning advertisements and correspondence used in the moves to new stores in 1937 and 1946.
The New York City Business Trips, January 1949-August 1952 subseries consists of a chronological file of notes taken by Charles Brannock on business accounts during trips to New York City.
The Miscellaneous Notes, undated, subseries contains various notes made by Charles Brannock.
Series 3: Advertising and Marketing, 1933-1962
Like the Advertising and Marketing Records series in the Brannock Device Company subgroup, this series contains records from the company which contributed toward the goal of making a sale. Correspondence documents the arrangements made by the company to create and post advertisements. Ideas and copy display early moments of this process. Materials printed with the Park-Brannock logo represent what the customers were given to remember their purchases: stationery, receipts, gift cards, bags, and box designs. Printed advertisements, radio advertisements, and form letters brought customers into the store. The Junior League of Syracuse file documents photographic advertising campaigns surrounding this group of fresh-faced young girls, as well as Park-Brannock's efforts to edge into this consumer group with advertisements in their newsletter. Correspondence with and reports from Alice Buxton have to do with her visits with doctors and nurses to promote the store along with evaluations of the company's advertising campaigns. The "Betsey Budget" lawsuit resulted from Park-Brannock copyrighting a commissioned advertising booklet which the artist would rather have had in her own name.
Series 4: Sales Records, 1916-1961
This series is arranged into seven subseries: Customer Correspondence, 1928-1944; Supplier Correspondence, 1927-1944; Florsheim Sales Instruction Manual; Inventories, 1961; Promotions; Receipts, 1916-1918; and Sales Floor Management.
The customer and supplier correspondence consists of mail orders, returns, and repair requests. An interesting aspect of the customer correspondence is the amount of shoe orders customers placed through the mail. Customers often received several pairs of shoes matching their descriptions, selected a pair, and mailed the remainder back to Park-Brannock. Sometimes customers would send in an outline of their foot to be sized or color swatches to match the shoes to a dress. Often the purchasing negotiations would require several letters between store and customer. The most prominent shoe supplier to correspond with Park-Brannock was the Selby Shoe Company, followed by Brown Shoe Company; Marshall, Meadows, and Stewart, Inc.; and LaValle, Inc.
Series 5: Photographs, 1932-1967
This series contains labeled, black and white, 8" x 10" photographs from each of the three stores as well as a booklet celebrating Park-Brannock's 50th anniversary in 1956, window displays from Park-Brannock and other stores, and labeled 8" x10" negatives.