Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Company Trade Mark

On 2 February 1876 C Brandauer Co filed with the Trade Mark office the new Company trade mark that was to be used on all pen boxes manufactured by the Company.  It is of a kneeling archer with wings, similar to a cherub and can be seen below. 

It is interesting to note that this trade mark was also used by Carl Kuhn & Co in Austria, Carl Brandauer's Father-in-law.  I do not know why two different companies were allowed to use the same trade mark, though in different countries.  Perhaps as Carl Kuhn had put a large sum of money into the Birmingham business and they traded for many years it was felt that they were somehow 'sister companies'.

Each trade mark is filed and checked that it doesn't belong to anyone else.  If it is satisfactory then the trade mark is published in the Trade Mark Journal as this one was on 31 May 1876.  Along with the trade mark the owner of it has to choose the correct class of goods or services.  The Brandauer trade mark is listed as:  Class 16 - Steel or metallic pens and penholders.  Below is a picture of a pen box label showing the trade mark incorporated in the artwork.

C Brandauer & Co Ltd still own this trade mark and it is up for renewal on 2 February 2012, our 150th anniversary year.  I sincerely hope that it is renewed for a further 10 years.

My Father, Mr Joseph Adrian Petit, was so proud of the Company trade mark that he incorporated a similar figure in our family crest.  The kneeling archer is facing the other way and is slightly amended but it is a marvellous connection with our industrial and family roots.  Perhaps the Company will incorporate the trade mark in its 150th celebrations.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Uncle Bunny

On Saturday 16 April 2011 Uncle Bunny passed away in hospital in Oban at the grand age of 90.  With my Mother and husband we had been to visit him the previous weekend.  Though frail he still had his very cheeky sense of humour which all who knew him will never forget.

Uncle Bunny, though actually I was his first cousin, twice removed, married into the Petit family in 1942 when he married Helen Maud Petit one of the grand daughters of Mr Joseph Letiere Petit who set-up Brandauer with Mr C Brandauer after he had bought Ash Petit & Co from him.  So, Uncle Bunny was the brother-in-law to the grandchildren who would have known the founding Petit, isn't that an amazing connection?  Auntie Nell (as she was known, or Peta) was born in 1900.  She met Uncle Bunny whilst helping out with serving food to military personnel as a volunteer and certainly surprised the family by falling in love with someone 20 years her junior.

Uncle Bunny was for many years a non-executive director of Brandauer Holdings when my Father was Chairman.  I remember him arriving one hot summer's day for a Board meeting dressed in shorts!  Several people currently working at the factory who knew Uncle Bunny have already sent in kind messages that he will be missed, that he was unforgettable and that he had a great sense of humour.

Auntie Nell passed away in 1981 and Uncle Bunny missed her for the remaining 30 years of his life.  He did remarry in 1987 but sadly it was not happy and ended in divorce.  A little while late he inherited a beautiful cottage on the banks of Loch Awe in Scotland to which he retired.  A couple of years ago we went to visit him and he greeted us wearing the McIntyre kilt and a Caribbean shirt, and a Scottish bonnet.  Life was always fun with Uncle Bunny!

It is hoped, though not confirmed, that his funeral will be in the historic Scottish Church very near his cottage and possibly a memorial service held down south in due course so his many friends and family will get a chance to pause in their busy schedules and reflect on all Uncle Bunny brought to each of us over the years.  With love, Marie-Louise

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Herr Carl Kuhn - more on the Austrian connection

There are many stories about the background of C Brandauer & Co Ltd which are not necessarily correct.  Therefore, I thought I would write a little about Mr Carl Friedrich Kuhn and how he began and how his business finished and passed to the Brandauer family.

In 1843, Carl Kuhn, originally a citizen of Ulm (born 1807), settled in Vienna and bought a special licence to allow him to manufacture steel pens and pen holders.  He began producing steel pens at 1 Stephansplatz (now no 6), Vienna.  It is understood that he trained in England in various areas of manufacture and thus knew about pen production.  He was the first to manufacture pens in Europe and tried to break England's monopoly of producing steel pens.  In 1845, at the 3rd General Trade Exhibition, the Carl Kuhn Company was given an Honourable mention.  During a period of revolution in Vienna in 1848 the Company was temporarily closed.

On 1 July 1860 Carl Kuhn's son-in-law, Carl Brandauer, also a Wurttemberg citizen, joined the business as an associate and the Company became known as Carl Kuhn & Co.  Sadly, Carl Kuhn's son died young so eventually the business was transferred to Carl Brandauer and his descendants.

As we know in 1862 Brandauer founded his own pen factory in Birmingham, UK, by buying my great, great grandfather's business - Ash Petit & Co.  Also, in 1862 Carl Kuhn & Co moved to 7 Theresianum-Gasse, Vienna.

Both C Brandauer & Co in Birmingham and Carl Kuhn & Co in Vienna produced pen nibs and shared the same trade mark, which C Brandauer still owns to this day.  (I will write about that in a later Blog as most people don't realise that we have one.) 

From the sources I have available it was not until the early 1870s that Carl Kuhn & Co produced pen holders especially for steel pens.  Some of these were very fine, and this part of the business was very successful - Kuhn increased the diameter of the pen holder to make writing more comfortable. He supplied them to C Brandauer & Co in Birmingham, too.  Initially, ivory, mother of pearl, bone or glass were used for the pen holders and only in later years was wood used.  All had the same pen sleeve, made of sheet metal, originally designed by Carl Kuhn.  

A rare 19th century Carl Kuhn pen holder, pen sleeve and pens.

With the increase in pen holder production in Vienna it is understood that Carl Kuhn & Co stopped making the initial stages of a pen and bought semi-finished nibs from C Brandauer & Co, which were finished and packed in Vienna.  This method continued until the outbreak of WW1.

In 1874 Carl Kuhn died in Vienna and as mentioned Carl H I Brandauer (1831-1899), his son-in-law succeeded him.

With the start of WW1 Carl Kuhn & Co started producing pens from scratch in Vienna.  At the end of WW1 the Brandauer's no longer owned the Company in Birmingham.  They decided to relocate Carl Kuhn & Co in 1920 to the countryside in Rotheau, Scheibmuhl, Austria.  In 1922 another change took place when a limited company was formed with Niedersterreichische Escompte and the name changed to Carl Kuhn & Co AG.

There is a mistaken belief that Carl Kuhn & Co AG made Nazi insignia during WW2, but this is not correct as the name of the company that produced these products is Karl Kuhn & Co AG. I understand that the Company ceased in the 1930s.

My thanks to all those who have helped with information so that I could write this Blog.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The 3rd generation - Mr Hermann Brandauer and Mr Sydney Petit

I have already mentioned that I am a member of the 5th generation of the Petit family to work at C Brandauer & Co Ltd and that we have a 6th generation non-executive director on the Board of the Company, and that my nephew did some work experience in the Company recently.

So far very little has been said about my Grandfather (a member of the 3rd generation) - rather the black sheep of the family - Mr Sydney Petit who was a Captain in the Warwickshire regiment during WWI.  Also, Mr Hermann Brandauer (3rd generation, son of Charles Henry Immanuel Brandauer). Today I have been reading the Board Minutes at the turn of the last century and found the following entries about them both and their brief involvement with C Brandauer & Co Ltd:

October 19th 1908

Mr Charles Brandauer raised "a most important question viz. that in the interests of the Company generally, it was essential that Mr Joseph Paris Sydney Petit, son of Mr Joseph H Petit, should in the near future, with the consent and approval of his Father, assist in the Management of the manufactory after his probation as Mr Joseph H Petit's pupil.  The matter was thoroughly discussed but no final decision was arrived at

January 4th 1909

The minutes state that Mr Joseph H Petit's son, Mr Sydney Petit, would probably be leaving for Germany at the beginning of the present year. 

However, this was not to be because in the Minutes of 22 March 1909 Mr Joseph H Petit reported that his son was now at the Manufactory acquiring a practical knowledge of the business.  The visit to Germany would be postponed for say two years.

May 8th 1911

That Mr Sydney Petit be given a salary of £250 per annum, as Assistant Manager dated from his 22nd Birthday and to increase £50 per annum until it reachs £500 per annum, the matter then to come before the Board for further consideration.

Later that same year the following is minuted:

October 11 1911
Suggested qualification of Mr Hermann Brandauer as a Director of the Company.  Mr Joseph H Petit in felicitous terms said that on behalf of himself and the other members of the Board he should welcome Mr Hermann Brandauer as a Director of the Company directly the necessary qualification (as set forth in the Articles of Association of the company) had been complied with.

However, it took nearly two years for the Board to decide the following:

March 27th 1913

That the Board considered Mr Hermann Brandauer too young and inexperienced to be appointed forthwith a Director of the Company.  They however trusted to have the pleasure of welcoming him in a few years time to a seat on the Board. 

But ...

May 4th 1914
... Mr Joseph H Petit in felicitous terms announced the wedding of Mr Hermann Brandauer which took place on April 28th last, and on behalf of himself and other members of the Board wished him all possible happiness.  He proposed with great pleasure that Mr Hermann Brandauer be elected a Director of the Company and in doing so he said that he had the cordial approval of the Chairman, Mr J L Petit, although seriously ill, and also the approval of his uncle Mr Frederick C J Brandauer.

However, with the outbreak of WWI Hermann Brandauer's appointment was sadly not to last long and at the Board meeting on 2 November 1914 both Brandauer directors, Uncle and nephew, were removed from being Directors of the Company, as well as all Brandauer family shareholders having to give up their shares within the Company.

Hermann Brandauer had two sons and I have met Mr Ernst Anton Carl Brandauer and his daughter Ruth who are most interested in the history and the future of the Manufactory begun by Mr Carl Heinrich Immanuel Brandauer in 1862.

Finally, it seems that in the minutes of the Board meeting dated June 3rd 1919 my Grandfather Captain Joseph P S Petit was recommended to be elected as a Director at the next AGM of the Company subject to his obtaining the requisite qualification in shares.  Finally, in the Minutes of June 22nd 1920 my Grandfather, Sydney Petit, along side his Father and his Uncle Mr Charles F N Petit, is listed as a director but it seems that perhaps the deed hadn't been officially done as the correct number of shares he required to enable him to be a Director only happened on June 8 1921.

Sadly, my Grandfather didn't remain a Director for long.  The last entry in the Minutes records him as a director on June 3 1924.  At that time my Father, Mr Joseph Adrian Letiere Petit, would have been three years old and his sister, Yvette, a little older.  Sometime in the 1920s Sydney Petit left for Rhodesia to train as a tobacco farmer, only to return in the 1960s when I met him as a small child.

WWI played a huge part in the lives of the 3rd generation of the Brandauer and Petit families.  It meant that Hermann Brandauer was not allowed to work for his family business as he was from Austria and it is thought that my grandfather Captain Sydney Petit, who fought in the war, was very much affected by it and perhaps that was part of the reason his Father, Joseph H Petit, thought him better away from England.  The Petit family were fortunate in having other 3rd generation sons to work at Brandauer, but alas, the Brandauers would never again work in the Company. 

Monday, 14 February 2011


Jean Petit decided in the early 1780s to move to Birmingham and the first mention of him being in the city is in The New Directory for the Town of Birmingham 1785.  He is listed as follows:

- John Petit Toy Shop  No 7 High Street

A similar listing can be found in each directory to the year 1811 after which no entries have been found.  Perhaps as he was well into his 60s he had retired.

It is interesting to understand that a Toy Maker in the 18th century was not someone who made toys as we know today.  From my Father's notes of 1981 he wrote as follows:

"The word toy derives from the French word 'toie' possibly a variant of 'tie' or 'tye' meaning a small metal box or casket.  In the context of 1785 it would cover belt and shoe buckles, chatelaines, snuff boxes, bonbonnieres, scent bottles etc."

The first steel-toy maker to go in for making pen nibs appears to have been Mr Gillott in 1822, who decided to add them to his products and turn them into a commercial product.  Prior to this time a steel pen nib had been extremely expensive and quills were generally used. In 1828 Mr Gillott invented a self-acting pen-machine driven by steam and by 1850 it was necessary for him to enlarge his factory in Birmingham due to the success of steel pens.

With the above information in mind it is not difficult to understand, how in time, an ancestor who was a steel-toy maker/seller would have a descendant who would also make pen nibs.

However, back to 1785 when John Petit was trading as a toy-maker in Birmingham.  In 1786 John married Elizabeth Jago (who was 35 years old) at St Peter's Church Harborne  Birmingham.  They had 6 sons, two dying very young.  It was their son Francis Petit who was to become the Father of Joseph Letiere Petit, my great, great grandfather who worked with Mr Brandauer in the 19th century.

It is a strange coincidence that approximately 100 years after John Petit married in St Peter's Church  Harborne his great grandson, Canon Oliver Petit (b 1872) was for many years vicar of the same Church in the early 1900s.  I wonder if he knew?

Finally, I am proud that my ancestors have been associated with living and working in Birmingham for 226 years, long may it continue.

Monday, 31 January 2011

A huguenot family - let's start at the very beginning ...

Born on 20 February 1748 in the small village of Beaurevoir, northern France, Jean Petit is the beginning of the Petit family story (so far).  He was the fourth son of Etienne Isaac Petit, a farmer and his wife Angelique Miniot and was a Huguenot.  Sometime in the late 1770s he left France for London.

French Protestants, Huguenots, were persecuted by French Catholics in the 16th and 17th centuries and many thousands left the country for safer places. It was not until the late 1790s that French Protestants in France were given the freedom to worship. By the end of the 17th century it is believed that as many as 200,000 Huguenots had left France for England, Dutch Republic, various parts of northern Europe, Switzerland, South Africa and North America.  It is believed that as many as 50,000 Huguenots fled to England during that time.   Jean Petit left France in the last 25 years of religious persecution to join his family that was already established in London.

The first mention of Jean Petit in London is as Godfather to his niece in 1779 at the Church in Threadneedle Street  London, a French Protestant Church.  In 1781, Jean, now John, formally renounced his Catholic faith at the same Church and was accepted into the Protestant Faith.  Unfortunately, the French Protestant Church at Threadneedle Street no longer exists but more information can be read and a picture of it found at the following link:    http://www.tevelein.net/Pages/FamilyRecThreadneedle.htm

For some reason, not yet known, Jean Petit decided that better opportunities lay elsewhere and in the early 1780s moved from London to ....

Monday, 17 January 2011

Brandauer Court

I thought an update about our old factory would be a great way to start 2011 and I have been fortunate enough to have been supplied with the following by the new owners, all subject to planning permission:

"We're in the process of clearing the rubbish in the building from top to bottom as we speak, and have yet to start any builders work as we are in talks with conservation architects re. what we can and can't do.

We intend to re-vitalise the initial intention of converting the front and middle section along with the 'new wing' into a hotel.  The back section of the building and boiler house we hope can be turned into a college of food and leisure along [with a] micro brewery where students will be taught to brew traditional beers and wine, as micro brewing is becoming more and more popular, as well as other areas like bar keeping, hotel management, licence holders, chefing etc.

Brandauer Court has a nice ring to it, but not sure if it's stuck yet ..."

Personally I am delighted that the new owners hope to incorporate various functions in the renewal of our old factory building and wish them loads of success with the project which I shall watch eagerly - it is just so exciting. 

I will post any further information I receive on this Blog to keep everyone up-to-date - so watch this space.

Happy New Year to everyone, too!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

160 years or 151 years young ...

As those who read this Blog will already know C Brandauer and Co Ltd will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2012 which is a fantastic achievement.  However, it has crossed my mind recently that this year, 2010, could be our 160th anniversary as a family of steel pen manufacturers.

It is understood that in 1850 my great, great grandfather, Mr Joseph Letiere Petit and Mr Robert Ash formed a partnership to manufacture steel pens.  Their factory was at 70 Navigation Street  Birmingham.  The partnership was dissolved in February 1862 as they were bought by Charles Brandauer and his partners.  If this is correct this year, 2010, is our 160th anniversary.

Though I am reliably told that 1850 is the date of the formation of Ash Petit I am not so sure.   From my research I know that Joseph Letiere Petit worked as a tool maker, learning his trade, at the well known pen manufacturers, Hinks Wells in Birmingham prior to forming his own company.  This is backed up by a Letters Patent document dated 20 November 1857.  The provisional specification was left by John Hinks, George Wells, and Joseph Letiere Petit.  Hinks and Wells were manufacturers and co-partners and Joseph Letiere Petit, of Aston, near Birmingham, Tool Maker.  The nature of their invention was "an improvement or improvements in metallic pens".  I find it difficult to believe that if Mr Petit had his own business he would have gone back to his previous employer to work on a new invention?  

There is another Letters Patent, dated 22 September 1860 left by Robert Ash and Joseph Letiere Petit stating that both are manufacturers, which is not the case in the earlier specification which makes me believe that their partnership was not formed in 1850.  However, in due course I may come across paperwork to confirm that Ash Petit was formed earlier. 

Colin Giles, of the Pen Room in Birmingham, has found an entry for Robert Ash and Joseph Petit in the city rate books for 1859 showing that they were based at 70 Navigation Street and comprising warehouse, shops, stable and premises.  A steam engine doesn't appear in the rate books until 1860!

The oldest ledger owned by the Company is one belonging to Ash Petit and dates from 1859.   It is a deep green ledger approximately 20 cms wide, 33 cms top to bottom and 4cms deep.  It appears to be a sales ledger listing the companies to whom they sold pens and pen holders.  The last entry is dated 31 January 1862 and is an order from Newey for black pen holders.  Interestingly, in 1858 Thomas Newey was based at 70 Navigation Street which is where Ash Petit were based from 1859...

It does make sense that the sales book closed at the end of January 1862 as Brandauer was busy buying Ash Petit and land for a new factory at the beginning of 1862.

So, has my family been trading/manufacturing pens in Birmingham since 1850?  Perhaps someone will be able to confirm this with some proof.  If so, we are 160 years old this year.  Or, as I rather suspect we began in 1859 and so only 151 years young!

Monday, 1 November 2010

At last, old factory SOLD!

Last week I received a phone call from one of the new owners of our wonderful old factory which was the most fantastic news.  We talked for quite a long time about the building and that the new owners had refurbished similar old buildings before and were looking forward to giving great, great grandfather's factory a new lease of life.

The new owner is most interested in the history of the building and asked me to find out what the large steel door in the basement was for which I have successfully been able to do. He is keen to learn more about the history and was fascinated to hear some of the stories from the past and would like to hear more as the project progresses.

Currently, there are lots of rumours going around about the old factory and our current one.  There was an article a couple of weeks ago in a local paper saying the current Brandauer factory was being turned into a Church.  This is totally wrong as I have seen the planning application for this project and the factory next door to our current site is being turned into a Church.  We are very much manufacturing product in our factory.

Yesterday, I received an email from a member of the Birmingham History Forum stating that there was a newspaper article saying that all but the front of the old factory was going to be knocked down and a new building put up behind it.  This was news to me as the new owners hadn't mentioned that to me last week but it is quite possible as this has been done with another pen factory elsewhere in the city.  The new owner mentioned the idea of glass walkways along the back of the old building so passages would not need to be placed in the old workshops which though long are rather narrow.  I shall enjoy learning and watching what eventually happens to the site; it can only be for the benefit of the building and the area in general.

As soon as I hear anything else I will put the information up on this blog, so watch this space...

Monday, 18 October 2010

Lorenzo Pansolin

A few weeks ago I received, via the factory, a request to buy some Brandauer 518 nibs by an Italian artist.  Unfortunately, we no longer make the nib but some years ago my Father agreed for another pen maker in Shropshire to manufacture our last dip pen.  This pen is still produced by them and so luckily I could help Lorenzo Pansolin and directed him to their website.  A week later he emailed to say that he had now managed to buy the pen nibs he needed and thanked me for my help.

Whilst corresponding with him about the pen nib he wanted for his drawings I asked him if he would be able to email me an example of his work.  I am delighted to say that he kindly did and it is wonderful.  Mr Pansolin's style is pointillism, so each drawing is made up of thousands of dots and is quite spectacular.  I have not asked if I can put one of his drawings on my blog yet but you can see his work on the following exhibition website:    http://www.ponentevarazzino.com/2010/08/13/22377/   If you click on Mr Pansolin's photo you will enlarge the picture and then you can see some of his drawings created using the Brandauer 518 pen, though they are still small.

At the family gathering and AGM at the Brandauer factory last week I had permission from Mr Pansolin to print off his drawing of a close-up of a fisherman's hands working on a fishing net.  The descendants of Mr Joseph Letiere Petit were fascinated and amazed at the work and enjoyed being able to see how a Brandauer pen can be used.  Everyone was interested to know how long it took the artist to complete the picture.  I will have to email him and find out.

Mr Pansolin is not the first artist to email Brandauer wanting to buy pens.  Over the years I have answered and helped several including caricaturists and cartoonists.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

From one small acorn!

C Brandauer & Co Ltd is a business whose current shareholders are all descendants (or husbands/wives/partners) of the original Mr Joseph Letiere Petit who was a partner with Mr Charles Brandauer during the start of the pen manufactory in the latter part of the 19th century.

Joseph Letiere Petit, (descended from a Huguenot family from Northern France) was born in 1827 and was married in 1852 to Martha Sheldon.  They had 11 children, 5 boys and 6 girls.  Sadly several died in childhood as was common in the period.  Of the 5 sons two died within their first year of life.  However, the remaining three were involved in the business.  Joseph Henry Petit was the first son to become a partner in the business with his Father, Mr Charles Brandauer and one of his sons.  Later Charles Frederick Petit became a partner and the third brother The Reverend Oliver Stanley Petit became a director in due course.  He was a vicar in Harborne, Birmingham. 

On Thursday 14 October 2010 the descendants, current, past and future shareholders and other family members, of Joseph Letiere Petit will be meeting for the annual general meeting and to spend the afternoon discussing business related subjects.  Five of Joseph Letiere Petit's children had children and by the time we get to my generation (number 5) there are 80 of us!  However, that does include partners but it is still a huge number from one couple.  Of direct descendants of the Founder in my generation our birth dates range from 1934 - 1974 which I find quite incredible.  It just depends if you are descended from the oldest son, Mr Joseph Henry Petit, or one of the younger sisters. 

Fortunately, the Company's drawing office can update and print the family tree which is currently 9 feet wide and I would like to thank them for all their help with the document each year.  The family tree shows 2 generations of the family below me and a further 4 before Joseph Letiere Petit, back to Etienne Petit born c. 1673.  It is quite a record for which I must thank my Father, Joseph Adrian Letiere Petit, who took many years putting it all together.  It is my pleasure to continue his work by trying to keep it up to date and continue the job that I started with him when a teenager in trying to trace the family even further back in France.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Wages - 1865

There is a fascinating report from 1867 called - Statistical notes on the industries and commerce of the United Kingdom and a small section, as follows, mentions the steel pen trade:

The centre of the British steel pen trade is at Birmingham, and according to a report made by Mr Timmins to the British Association held at that town in 1865, the actual number of steel pen manufactories was 12; the number of men employed 360; of women and girls 2,050; horse-power, about 330.  The weekly make of pens 98,000 gross [14,112,000!].  The quantity of steel used per week, from 9 1/2 to 10 tons.  The value of the ordinary pens ranges from 1 1/2d to 1s [5p] per gross; of barrel pens from 7d to 12s [60p] per gross, and other kinds of higher price according to size and finish.

Most of the processes of pen-making are performed by hand-presses to cut out the blanks, to pierce the holes, to form the nib, to emboss the pattern and to mark the name.  Self-acting machinery being only used for the commonest descriptions of pens.

The condition of the workpeople is satisfactory, the factories being very healthy.  The wages of girls range from 5s to 12s, some from 2s 6d to 3s 6d, while skilful and older workwomen earn from 15s to 20s per week.  Men earn from 18s to 25s; boys, 4s 6d to 8s, if skilful, 8s to 16s.  Skilled males, adult, earn 30s to 80s and even 90s to 100s per week.  The hours of labour vary from 52 1/2 to 57 hours per week.

Therefore, a girl could work for over 50 hours a week and earn 2s 6d which is 12p in current money.  I wonder what that would be if inflation could be added for the last 140 years! 

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Old Brandauer factory fire

As you will no doubt know by now there was a fire in the old Brandauer factory on Saturday morning.

The strange coincidence is that I was driving past with Graham at 10.45am on Saturday for a meeting in the Pen Museum in the Jewellery Quarter and couldn't believe my eyes. The road was blocked by police and two large engines were at the front of the building with a fireman up a high ladder pouring gallons of water into the first floor window slightly to the left of the large arch. Around the side of the building, where the car wash is, were a further 3 engines at least and a welfare unit. From this view of the inside of the factory you could see the water being hosed in from the front coming out into the yard.

We asked three fireman about the fire and were told that they had been called at 4am on Saturday morning (and it 10.45am when we were around) and up to 12 engines and 40 fire fighters had been used to stop the fire. They believe it was started by accident with some of the homeless who were in the building. As we were chatting we could see the firemen going through the rest of the factory to check, I presume, that it was safe.

On the way back from our meeting we drove infront of the building and you can now see all the way up to the sky from the ground floor - it really is just a shell in that part of the building. There were also two police officers guarding an open door on the far right of the front of the building, whilst someone may have been checking again about the state of the building.

A very sad day indeed as if the old factory wasn't derelict enough since it was sold by Brandauer in 2000. If only it was possible to do something ... Does anyone know anyone with the odd £5million?   It would be a fantastic project to convert it and I would be the first to join to help drive the project forward.  We need to do a 'Restoration' group project as in the TV programme of the same name. 

Anyway, I do have photos of the fire fighter on the long high ladder pouring water over the building as I was taking my camera to the Pen Museum meeting, which I will post in due course. It was all a rather horrid coincidence.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The next generation

Much of my blog to date has been about the history of C Brandauer & Co Ltd and I will be writing about future ideas and current items in due course.  However, I would like to mention that recently a direct descendant of Mr Joseph Petit (founder) has worked in the factory on work experience.  At 17, this 6th generation family member became the second of that generation to work for C Brandauer & Co Ltd which is quite marvellous.  We are fortunate in having a young family director who is also from the 6th generation already involved with the business.

My Father, Mr Joseph (Ian) Petit started full-time in the factory at the age of 17 in 1938 sweeping the yard (so I am told) and progressed through the ranks until he left, much to the disapproval of his three Uncles working in the business, to go to University in the late 1940s.  He didn't return until the early 1970s and was still Chairman of C Brandauer & Co Ltd when he died in December 2000 at the age of 79.

Maybe one day we will have family members from the 7th generation involved in the business?  Currently all the shareholders are family members and they stretch back to a 3rd generation family member and include 6th generation teenagers, too.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Small works of art

Recently, I acquired some beautiful pen nib box wrappers that had never been put around the boxes for which they had been made.  Below are a few:

In a world where there were many manufacturers of pen nibs it was very important to be noticed on the shelf in the stationer's or in a magazine.  A great deal of money was spent on product and advertising artwork so a Company and its pens would stand out.  As you can see from the pictures a great deal of gold has been used on all the box wrappers.  The name of the individual pen was also vital as it helped to encourage customers to buy the product.  The names here:
  • King's Own
  • Queen's Own
  • Prince's Own
  • Grace Darling Pen
are all named after prestigious and famous people, as if they are endorsing the product!  There is even a picture of Edward VII on the front of his box.  You will see on the King's group that the original trade mark of C Brandauer & Co is also printed twice on each box - the kneeling archer in a triangle.  This is still a trade mark of the Company today and originally came from Mr Brandauer's Father-in-Law, Carl Kuhn & Co as they used it on their products, too.

These pen box wrappers were all registered at the Stationer's Hall until the mid-1920s and are now held at Kew. I am looking forward to going and finding them all in the near future and will let you know how I get on.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Learning to write

What a beautiful place...  Up the drive we drove and were greeted by a mansion with a large porch and a setting to die for - what a place for a course.  West Dean College in Sussex is just perfect for a calligraphy course - you must go and take one of their many courses in an enormous range of subjects just to experience the house, views, gardens and courses.

We settled in on Friday evening and met all the others on the course - 12 in all and the tutor Gaynor Goff.  After dinner she gave an overview of calligraphy and what we would be learning the next day.  Sadly not Copperplate but a choice of either Uncial or Foundation .  If we worked hard she would let us start the Italic hand.

Saturday morning began at 8.45am in the College art shop for those who needed bits and pieces and we added to our collection, too.  Lessons started at 9am and with breaks and meals (very good food by they way!) you could carry on until 10pm at night.

It's strange (depending on one's age) how one doesn't remember how difficult it was to learn to write when a child.  As an adult learning a new script it was a real challenge and very rewarding, if rather frustrating! 

After dinner, on the second evening, when lessons had finished but the tutor was available to help and demonstrate writing in colour and dusting our beautifully (?) written quotes with chalks in rainbow colours, I asked Gaynor is she would look at a couple of the Brandauer pens I had with me.  One or two were not suitable for the scripts we were learning but one from the Clan series was perfect.  To watch a calligrapher writing with a Brandauer pen was quite amazing and then Gaynor used a different one to write in Copperplate which was a real treat.  To see something that is generally viewed as old-fashioned in the hands of a master creating perfectly formed letters with a Brandauer product will be something I shall always remember.

On the final day of the course I wrote using a Brandauer Clan series nib and was able to write in bright colours - pink, red, blue and purple.  What fun it was to write with a pen produced by my ancestors - though they probably didn't write in such crazy paint colours!

The weekend course was an inspiration and when you see what can be created by modern calligraphers it makes one want to learn more.  The course flew by as we practised our alphabets and slowly and carefully my Brandauer pen created words, phrases and meaning across the paper.

Go on - have a go...

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Buying pen nibs

So, we needed to buy nibs for the calligraphy course and the art shop nearest to us is A Boville Wright Ltd - so that was our destination.

In we go to this wonderful shop full of coloured sheets of paper, card, paint, ink, crayons, felt tips, pen nibs. The lady who helped us (I think the manageress) was brilliant and when we showed her the list of things we needed she retrieved a wooden box about 18" by 10" with a glass lid from the counter for us. In the box were various nibs with each section labelled and would you believe it one labelled - wait for it ... Brandauer! I couldn't believe my eyes, a compartment in the box labelled Brandauer. How incredible was that? However, I should add that the compartment had Leonardt pens in it, the one that they make that was originally a Brandauer pen.

We had such fun selecting the Leonardt nibs we required for the calligraphy course, one of each width, along with a pen holder (rather more colourful than they would have been in the 19th century), and choosing a small number of colourful paints, mixing dish, eraser, A3 paper and much more that were on a long list from the course administrator.  What a fabulous bag of goodies we came home with from our visit to A. Boville Wright Ltd and so excited about the course the following weekend.

My mind was busy thinking about the copperplate script I was going to start studying and learning more about the Brandauer pens I had decided to take with me to show the calligrapher presenting the course...

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Learning to write

As a direct descendant of a pen manufacturer and a collector of Brandauer pen nibs and memorabilia it crossed my mind that I had never written with a dip pen.  I remember my great Uncle's writing when he sent me letters as a child.  They always stood out from the rest of the post as he wrote using a fountain pen (I imagine, as I'm not that old!) and across the envelope were the most beautiful copperplate letters.  I still have his letters to this day.

Currently, I am busy sorting out the Brandauer business archive and all the 19th and early 20th century ledgers, legal documents and minute books are written using a dip pen (a Brandauer one, of course) and versions of copperplate writing.  I wonder how long it took to write a page in one of the large ledgers?  It is interesting, too, that they didn't make mistakes when writing so they must have been extremely careful.

So, recognising that I have never written with a dip pen I decided that an introductory course would be a good place to start and that is exactly what is going to happen.  With my Mother and husband (who has always been interested in hand-writing and fonts) we are off to Sussex to start learning how to use a dip pen and study the basics of calligraphy with a well-known teacher.  The course details sounds very exciting and last week we went off to the local art shop to buy the items we will need, and what an experience that was ...

Thursday, 20 May 2010

How wrong one can be...

On 20 September 1944 there was a normal monthly board meeting at the factory in New John Street West for the directors of C Brandauer & Co Ltd.  During the meeting  the Managing Director - Captain Garth Petit reported on the current trading position as the current MD does to this day.  During that meeting the Board discussed in detail the future development of the Light Pressings side of the Brandauer business.  It is understood that the pressings side of the business was mainly war work.

Captain Petit (Uncle Garth to me, who always arrived in a very large car when he came to stay when I was a child) gave his opinion as follows:
... that the outlook for light press work was such as to make it of definitely secondary importance to pen work and that in both reconstruction and construction lay-out and in production work for the present and probably in immediate post-war time pen work should be given priority.
Hindsight is a useful thing and had they been able to see into the future they probably would have decided upon a different plan as it was to be only another 21 years before pen production stopped completely.  Also, the 'light pressings' side of the business became the foundations of the Brandauer products that today are known globally and those beautiful pen nibs are now museum pieces!  However, even in the 21st century I am sometimes contacted by cartoonists and calligraphers for particular Brandauer pens and I do my best to find a few, though this is becoming more and more difficult.

Friday, 7 May 2010

The First Board Meeting

A burgundy coloured leather book stamped with gold letters:

 'C Brandauer & Co Limited'

begins with the first recorded minutes, written in perfectly formed copperplate, of the newly formed Company.  This first meeting of the Board of Directors of C Brandauer & Co Ltd took place on Tuesday 3 December 1901 at 11am at the offices of the Company, 401 New John Street West, Birmingham.  Those present were Mr Frederick C J Brandauer (Chairman) [generation 2], Mr Joseph Letiere Petit [generation 1], Mr Joseph Henry Petit [generation 2], Mr Mullard (Secretary pro tem) and Mr Smith.

The following points from the meeting are of particular interest:

Minute 2 explains that Mr Charles Johannes Immanuel Brandauer [generation 2] of Vienna was unable to attend and sent a proxy allowing his brother Mr Frederick Brandauer to vote for him during the following 12 months.

Minute 3 states that Mr J L Petit reported that the registration of the Company was effected on November 9th 1901, and produced the Certificate of Incorporation and Minute 4 adds that the registered offices of the Company were 401-414 New John Street West, Birmingham.

The original subscribers of the Company who held one share each, valued at £1, were as follows:

- Mr Charles J I Brandauer
- Frederick C J Brandauer
- Mrs Josephine Brandauer
- Rosine Brandauer
-Mr Joseph L Petit
- Joseph H Petit
- Charles F N Petit
- Mrs Jane Petit

Other information of interest is that the Company banked with the Bank of England (Birmingham branch) and during the meeting appointed as solicitors to the Company - Messrs Wragge, Holliday, Godley, Barrow and Horton and auditors to the Company - Messrs Howard Smith, Slocombe & Co.  Further shares were also allocated to the male subscribers, not including Charles Petit.  The Brandauer family held "A" preference and ordinary shares, and the Petit family held "X" preference and ordinary shares.  There were 120,000 preference shares and 120,000 ordinary shares in total.

The next meeting was to be held on 7 January 1902 when further share certificates were signed and sealed with the Company seal. 

I was a director of C Brandauer & Co Ltd for many years and the agenda of that first Board Meeting in 1901 covers many of the items to be found on the agenda of current Board meetings in the 21st century.  However, the appearance of those first minutes differ substantially to how they are now produced and saved for posterity on a computer.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

103 years of production

Each year the directors of Brandauer write a report on the trading year and we have ours going back many decades.  Each report contains very useful information on the 'life' of the Company during each financial year.  Particular interest to me is the information about the production and operations of C Brandauer & Co Ltd during each year.

On 1st March 1965 my Father (J A L Petit, Chairman) completed a re-structuring of C Brandauer & Co Ltd by creating Brandauer Holdings Ltd, of which C Brandauer & Co Ltd became a wholly owned subsidiary of the new Company.

On the cover of the Report of Directors and Statement of Accounts for the year ended 31 March 1965 the new company Brandauer Holdings Ltd is mentioned as 'Manufacturers of Light Pressings and Pens'.  Over the following years this changes as the business expands into new areas.  However, back to 1965 to find out what was important in that first year of trading for Brandauer Holdings Ltd.

The Chairman noted in the Report of the Directors for the year ended 31 March 1965 that the factory extensions, to include a new press shop and precision assembly shop, were nearly complete.  It is interesting to read that part of the assembly shop's output was already sold for indirect export to an American computer company.  Also, to remain competitive there had been a large amount of plant purchased for the toolroom and press shop.

During 1964/65 C Brandauer & Co Ltd concluded a selling agency and distributorship agreement with the Brush Beryllium Corporation of America so that it became their sole UK agent for Beryllium Oxide Ceramics.  At the time this was a new and unique material used in the electronics industry.  It is interesting to read that parts produced by Brandauer from this new material were to be used in the first UK satellite to be launched by the USA later in 1965. 

From reading the Report of the Directors for the year ending 31 March 1965 there is much excitement and enthusiasm for new materials and products but hidden away in the middle is a sad note, to quote my Father, as follows:

"The Pen making side of our business suffered a decline in sales and production during 1964/65.  It is abundantly clear that the overall market for pens can no longer support an economic operation.  Your Board, therefore, had to make the reluctant decision to phase out pen production by March 1966, after 103 years of pen making.  Our many customers have regretfully been informed and except for the No 518 Lithographic pen which stills enjoys a world-wide demand, no further pens will be produced after the end of the current year."

This marked the end of the Company's original reason for trading when it was set-up in 1862.  However, in 1965 one of the directors - Colin Petit (grandson of the original Petit) was requested to take special interest in the pen side of the business, which he did until his death in 1988.  I remember vividly 'Uncle' Colin in his office in the factory and the corner cupboard full of pen nibs so that when customers requested product he was able, for many years, to sell them the particular pen nib they needed. 

Brandauer pens are still used by calligraphers and cartoonists to this day and often I am contacted by them requesting product.  It is now much more difficult to supply customers but through various contacts I have in the pen world I can often help them out. So, production may have finished (not including the 518) 44 years ago but Brandauer pens are still the favoured product of artists and calligraphers due to their outstanding quality.

Monday, 29 March 2010

The Austrian connection

Carl Kuhn, originally a citizen of Ulm, settled in Vienna and being an entrepreneur set-up a factory for the production of pen nibs in 1843.  This company was the first of its kind in Austria and became well-known for its products and the quality of its products.

In 1860, Carl Kuhn's son-in-law joined his business as an associate and the company became known as Carl Kuhn & Co.  And guess what?  The name of the son-in-law was Carl H I Brandauer who was a citizen of Wurttemberg.  Unfortunately, Carl Kuhn's son died at an early age and eventually Carl Kuhn & Co became owned by the Brandauer family.

In 1862 Mr C H I Brandauer arrived in Birmingham in order to set-up his own pen factory (now known as C Brandauer & Co Ltd) in partnership with Mr Kohler, initially for 10 years.  Land had been purchased in February 1862 on behalf of the partnership.  Mr Kohler and Mr Brandauer financed the purchase of land and of my great, great grandfather's partnership, Ash Petit, which was the start of the C Brandauer, as follows:

  • £2,500 from Mr C H Brandauer and it was acknowledged that he had already made a payment of £1,972.9.0.
  • £1,500 from Mr F W Kohler who would pay a further sum of £500 in May 1862, and once his London shop had been sold he would, within 6 months, pay a further £500 and after 12 months another £500
The C Brandauer partnership was further funded with a loan from Mr Brandauer's Father-in-law, Mr Carl Kuhn, of £5,000 repayable with interest.  This loan meant that outside credit was not necessary.  The loan would be terminated when Mr C H I Brandauer left the partnership.

A contract of sale, dated 12 February 1862, purchased a piece of land in Birmingham, with its front on New John Street No 403-410, in total 2,238 square yards, at a purchase price of 9/ per square yard.  (9 shillings is equal to 45p), which would have cost £1,007.10p in decimal money.

It was also agreed that as soon as possible, a place of business should be opened on one of the busiest streets in the City of London, near the Royal Exchange, to sell the company products and the same in Stuttgart.

In 1872, Carl Kuhn & Co was also producing pen holders as well as pen nibs and factory space in Vienna was becoming difficult.  It was therefore decided that the Viennese factory would increase its production of pen holders and supply these to Birmingham and would stop the initial stages of pen nib production.  Instead it would buy semi-finished nibs from C Brandauer in Birmingham which were then finished off in Vienna.  This method of production in Vienna lasted for 40 years until the start of WW1 when full production of pen nibs once again started.  After the war contact was resumed between the companies of Carl Kuhn and C Brandauer (no longer owned by the Brandauers) but each continued to make their own products.  I believe that the firm Carl Kuhn stopped trading in the mid 1930s.  However, I am not sure of this and hopefully will be able to find out further information on this via documents and conversations with the current Brandauers in Vienna.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

C Brandauer & Co Ltd - one of many!

C Brandauer & Co Ltd was one of a large group of companies manufacturing pens in Birmingham during the 19th and 20th centuries.  In 1983 Mr Arthur Charles (Chairman D Leonardt & Co Ltd), though now sadly no longer with us, wrote a very interesting record of the principal manufacturers of steel pens between the years 1930-1980.  My Father corresponded with him for many years as D Leonardt & Co Ltd manufactured the last Brandauer nib under licence and still do - no 518 Lithographic and Drawing pen.

In the article, Mr Charles lists the principal steel pen manufacturers in 1930 (all in Birmingham apart from E S Perry) as follows:
- Baker & Finnemore - still manufacturing today, but not pen nibs
- British Pens Ltd
- C Brandauer & Co Ltd
- Joseph Gillott & Sons Ltd
- T Hessin & Co
- Geo W Hughes
- D Leonardt & Co
- Macniven & Cameron Ltd
- John Mitchell
- M Myers & Son Ltd
- Perry Pens Ltd
- E S Perry Ltd

Having obtained their steel the following operations took place in order to produce a steel pen:

1. Cutting or Blanking
2. Piercing
3. Annealing
4. Marking
5. Embossing
6. Raising
7. Hardening
8. Tempering
9. Scouring
10. Grinding
11. Slitting
12. Point forming
13. Polishing
14. Colouring
15. Lacquering
16. Looking over
17. Boxing

This list of operations is from The Steel Pen Trade (1930-1980) by Mr A A S Charles.  Mr Charles goes on to write that it was estimated that in 1930 the Birmingham Pen manufacturers produced 10 million gross pens per annum!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The sound of silence ...

They say 'silence is golden' but silence is also the sound of a factory no longer manufacturing goods, a factory that is empty of people, a factory that has lost its soul.

My Father, Mr Joseph Adrian Letiere Petit (the fourth generation) always loved the sound of presses thumping away in the factory as it meant a productive Company, the more thumps the better.  For the presses to run you need that magic ingredient - people.  It was those employed in C Brandauer & Co Ltd that gave the building its soul.

When the operators and technicians, office staff and engineers leave a factory for good, the presses, lights and heating are switched off.  All that remains are memories and ghosts.  These are joined by pigeons, weeds and anyone wanting shelter in an old derelict building.  This is the situation in which our old factory finds itself at the moment.

The Brandauer factory building, built by my great, great grandfather and Mr C Brandauer provided employment for hundreds of people and families whilst it was manufacturing pens and pressings for 140 years.  Now it stands forlorn, forgotten and neglected when once it was proud and bustling with people.

I remember walking round from our 'new' factory, just a block away from the old one, on the day we handed the keys over to the new owners.  It seemed unbelievable that I wouldn't walk around that well known Birmingham landmark again in its present form but looked forward to seeing it given a new lease of life.

For nearly 10 years it has stood empty and dejected, with broken windows and the contents from its workshops in a pile in the yard.  Lifeless, broken windows and trees growing out of the roof.  I am pleased my Father did not live to see it in the state it is now.

We need someone with vision and the money to invest in this well loved building and turn back on its lights and fill it with people once again.  Are you the one who could do that?  If I was able I would relish the opportunity of bringing life back to our old factory but alas it is beyond my budget (though I would love to be involved with the person who does take on the project).  What could it be used for - small business units, youth hostel, hall of residence, hotel, industrial units with or without living accomodation, a 'green' project, dance and drama studios, conference centre, creative arts units with a gallery and cafe, a college/training centre, appartments or a museum.  What would you use it for?

Converting the Brandauer building is not an easy option.  Whoever decides to bring it back to life needs great vision and plenty of money as it will be an expensive project, but so worth while.  I'm sure there is someone who will take on this project and once again give my great, great grandfather's and Mr C Brandauer's building back its soul by filling its rooms with that magic ingredient - people.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Pens and Light Pressings

C Brandauer & Co Ltd has been a precision pressings company for 148 years and over that time its product mix and markets has changed significantly.

The pen nibs that everyone knows about, in their beautiful boxes, met their match with the introduction of the fountain pen and in particular, the biro.  However, as I go through the Company papers there is very little information about the change from a pen nib manufacturer, selling its own products throughout the world, to one of producing precision pressings for others, also exported globally.

However, reading the Report of the Directors, for the year ending 31 March 1960, is extremely interesting and part of it is as follows:

"The pen side showed a satisfactory increase in trading which resulted in a small additional factory being opened at Atherstone, due to the difficulty of obtaining the necessary labour in Birmingham, which came into production early in January 1960.  The benefits of which we are now beginning to feel.

The light pressings department showed a high increase in order intake and as a result of an intensified sales campaign the number of new accounts increased satisfactorily.  The policy of servicing the electronics industry with precision pressings from precious and semi-precious metals continues and the reputation of your Company in this industry is being constantly enhanced.  Research into the possibility of developing proprietory lines and new production techniques is being actively persued."

I believe that it was in the mid-1960s that the last pen nibs were produced at C Brandauer & Co Ltd, though one was made under licence for many years by another pen manufacturer - the 518 pen.  Regarding the light pressings work, Brandauer went from strength to strength in that field and today is regarded as a world-class precision pressings company working with new ideas, production techniques, customers from around the world and exporting as far afield as the USA and China.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Joining up - WWII

It is generally agreed that World War II began on 1 September 1939 with the invasion of Poland by Germany.  This was followed by declarations of war on Germany by most of the countries in the British Empire, the Commonwealth, and by France.

Many employees and directors of C Brandauer & Co Ltd had been in WWI such as my great Uncle, Captain Garth Petit MC who had won his Military Cross in France.  

A letter, dated September 2nd 1939 was received by the Company Secretary, Mr G O Howard Smith, of C Brandauer & Co Ltd, as follows:

Dear Sir

We, the Staff & Workpeople of C Brandauer & Co Ltd would like to express the very deep admiration and regard we feel for our Director, Mr Garth Petit, who, by his ready response to duty has set us all such a wonderful example.  His calmness in the present situation, so characteristic of him in all difficulties which present themselves before him, has given us courage to carry on with our work as bravely as we can, as we know it would be his earnest desire that we should do.

With his customary thoughtfulness, Mr Garth has promised that any one of his employees who should be called up to serve his Country would not suffer in any way financially through his enforced absence from work, and we most sincerely trust that he, himself, will receive this same consideration.

On behalf of the Office Staff - [signed] J L Batcheloy
On behalf of Light Pressing Department - [signed] D H Edwards, Assistant Manager
On behalf of Workpeople - [signed] R G Berridge, Works Manager
[Also signed] M E Price - Works Engineer

This letter is referred to in the Minutes of the Board of Directors on Thursday 28th September 1939 as follows:

The Secretary submitted a letter from members of the staff expressing goodwill to Mr Garth Petit on his rejoining the Army. 

My great Uncle must have been a much respected Director for such a letter to be written to the Company Secretary and I am very appreciative that the words in it have been recorded for posterity. 

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Security that was made to last ...

In every age the security of documents and premises is very important. In the 21st century we protect buildings with alarms and computer files with passwords. Security in the 19th century was also vital and C Brandauer & Co was very conscious of protecting both the building and its patents and trade mark documents, ledgers and cash held on the premises.

In order to protect the building a two-up-two-down gate house was built into the fabric of the original building in 1862.  This was still in use in the 1960s and I have met the daughter of the last person employed to do the job and live in the gate house. You can see the gate house in the photo - just to the right of the arch. It had its own front door on to the road and another into the yard behind.

The security measures for paper documents, ledgers and cash were also put in when the original building was built in 1862.  A vault on the ground floor with a steel door behind a wooden one and no windows was designed with shelving.  I understand that at the end of each day the huge and heavy ledgers that had been used were removed from the offices and placed in the strong room over night.  In 1898 Mr Petit (no initial is given in the letter but I assume it would be Mr Joseph Letiere Petit) agreed to buy from the 'wrought iron and burglar resisting safe & door manufacturers' Frederic Whitfield & Co Ltd a very large safe. 

We still have the letter from F Whitfield and the hand-drawn design of the safe to be purchased.  Frederic Whitfield was the 2nd generation of Whitfields to run the business.  With help from a very interesting website - http://www.lockcollectors.eu/ and the entry by R A Beck, I have been able to discover that Whitfields is thought to have been established in the 1840s by Frederic's Father Samuel, described in the 1851 Census as a 'brass founder'. 

The specification of the safe from F Whitfield & Co, Oxford Street, Birmingham is as follows:

"May 11th 1898

One Wrought Iron Fire & Thief Resisting Safe, No 18 quality as on page 13 of List.  Outside measure 66 1/2 "[approximately 2 meters] + 31 1/2" + 25 1/2".  Inside measure 57" + 22" + 16".  Fitted internally with two Drawers 14" from top, and one shelf below Drawers.  Door to be hung on the left.  Locks fitted with 3 keys to each.  Painted and finished in best style and delivered into your Strong Room, price £49.0.0 net cash.  We understand that you will remove all the neccessary shelving which at present exists inside the vault."

So the safe arrived (and it is incredibly heavy) and was installed in all its finery in the vault and was in use until December 2000 when C Brandauer & Co Ltd moved to new premises in Bridge Street West.  I remember being shown the strong room for the first time in my teens and it being piled high with leather bound Victorian ledgers and minute books covered in a century of dust.  There was something particularly special about opening the outer door, turning on the dim light and the keys on the ring being turned over one by one as the safe keys were found.  Having unlocked the safe a handle was turned and the heavy door opened and inside were to be found the most precious things, both current and from the past.
So what happened to the safe?
After such amazing service it would have been impossible to leave it all alone in the empty factory and so just before Christmas 2000 I arranged, with the Finance Director, to have it removed from its vault/strong room and to be lifted by crane onto a transporter and re-instated in my archive room in the new factory.  She now sits in another small room without windows and is surrounded by many of the ledgers that have been with her for generations.
Little did Mr Petit or Mr Whitfield realise that the safe ordered in May 1898 would still be in use in 2010.  I call that 'worth every penny' of the £49 is cost!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Sad times

With the start of WW1, in the summer of 1914, the directors of C Brandauer & Co Ltd found themselves in the difficult position of being a Company half-owned by an Austrian family. The Brandauer family had with others founded the Company over 50 years earlier but due to the nature of WW1 they would now be seen as the enemy by the British.

The directors of C Brandauer & Co Ltd met every quarter for a board meeting and the first one after the declaration of war is dated Monday November 1914, at 12 o'clock. Minute 500 is indeed a very sad one and is as follows:

Mr Joseph H Petit [Chairman] reported that the War between England and Germany had necessitated the removal of the names of Mr Frederick C J Brandauer and Mr Hermann Brandauer from the Directorate of Messrs C Brandauer & Co Ltd on account of their nationality until the conclusion of the War as their positions as Directors interfered with the conduct of the business of the Company.

That Mr Frederick C J Brandauer and Mr Hermann Brandauer be removed from the Board of Directors until the conclusion of the present War. The Board found it expedient on account of competition to be in a position to declare themselves an entirely British Company.

I know that this decision caused great sadness and anxiety to both families as they had worked together for three generations and corresponded extremely regularly with each other. It took some years after WW1 had ended to sort out the complicated Company affairs between the two families and the War Office but in the mid-1920s C Brandauer & Co Ltd became totally owned by the Petit family as it is to this day.

However, communication between the Petit and Brandauer families did not finish in 1914 as the archive shows and lasted for many years to come. There was a gap in the 1950s, 60s and 70s but in the 1980s my Father, Mr Joseph Adrien Letiere Petit, found the Brandauer family, still in Vienna. Since finding the Brandauers I have met them at the factory and in Vienna and we share archival information, which is marvellous. Finally, we are looking forward to meeting the current generations of the Brandauer family at the 150th anniversary celebrations in 2012.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Job acceptance

As previously mentioned it was always thought that Mr Carl Brandauer and Mr Joseph Letiere Petit started C Brandauer together in 1862 as partners. As has now been establised my great, great grandfather was not a partner initially but may have been employed by the partners of the firm from the start. Mr J L Petit must have been of a certain position by the mid 1870s (and I look forward to discovering this in the near future) as his eldest son Joseph Henry Petit, at the age of 21, wrote accepting a job at the factory on 26 October 1876 as follows (presumably written with one of his Father's pens!):


I accept with much pleasure your kind offer of a situation in your employ, as assistant, for the period of six years, at the following terms, viz; £150 per annum from Oct 1st 1876 to Oct 1st 1878, £175 per annum from Oct 1st 1878 to Oct 1880, £200 per annum from Oct 1st 1880 to Oct 1882; after that to be increased to not less than £250 per annum. I shall at all times be happy to assist in any department. I shall make it my special study, to further the interest of the firm, to the best of my ability; by so doing I hope to gain your esteemed confidence. Trusting that I may be able to give you satisfaction and thanking you for your kind offer.

I beg to remain
Yours obediently
Joseph H Petit

To Messrs C Brandauer & Co

And in 1882, Joseph Henry Petit, now married, wrote to C Brandauer & Co accepting, again, his current position as an employee for a further six years. His salary began at £250 per annum and rose to £300 per annum in 1884, and to £350 per annum in 1886 to 1888. Joseph Henry Petit continues to be found in minutes of the Company for many years to come and we will meet him again at a later date when he becomes a shareholder and partner, joining his Father and Carl Brandauer's sons in the business which as noted in an earlier Blog became a limited company in 1901.

Saturday, 13 February 2010


Very few people know about the London premises that C Brandauer leased at the end of the 19th century (from approximately 1889) and the early part of the 20th century. The shop, with basement, was at 124 Newgate Street in the City of London and was next door to the Viaduct Tavern. The row of shops still exists today and no 124 is currently a hairdressers and the pub is still next door! Recently, I went to have a look. The shop and pub fortunately survived the Blitz in WWII.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


C Brandauer & Co Ltd has employed apprentices for more than a hundred years. It is interesting to read the Indenture of Apprenticeship from 1890 for John Hardie. The document itself is A4 in size and hand written with a dip pen (let's hope it was one of ours) on thick lined paper in copperplate hand writing and against each signature at the end is a small circle of red sealing wax. A very different looking document from those issued today to our current apprentices.

The apprentice mentioned above, John Hardie, was 16 and had to have the permission of his Father, Thomas, to "place and bind himself to Charles Henry Immanuel Brandauer, Gustav Sutorius and Joseph Letiere Petit of New John Street West". He was "to learn the art of business of a commercial clerk and to serve in their office from the day of the date hereof until he the said apprentice shall attain the age of twenty one years that is to say for the term of five years to be computed from the eighteenth day of February last and to be fully complete and ended."

Further on in the document it says that his Father, Thomas, will provide sufficient meat, drink, clothes, mending, washing, lodging, medical attendance, medicine and all other necessities for the term of his apprenticeship. John's weekly wages are also mentioned and for the first year it would be ten shillings per week (.50p), and would increase by two shillings per week (.10p) each year during his apprenticeship.

As a young apprentice clerk with C Brandauer & Co Ltd he may, eventually, have been allowed to write in the enormous ledgers that were completed daily recording all the sales and purchases of the Company. Therefore, perhaps, somewhere in the archive, within the pages of those remaining ledgers of the period, the handwriting of John Hardie is to be seen...

Friday, 5 February 2010

Products - the early years

When Mr C Brandauer took over the partnership of Ash Petit in 1862 he bought a dip pen manufacturing company. Over the next 100 years C Brandauer & Co Ltd produced millions and millions of dip pens which were exported throughout the world. The Company name was printed and on view on everything they produced from the pens to the beautiful boxes containing the nibs, and from stationery shop display boxes to adverts in the popular London magazines of the period.

The city of Birmingham was renowned world wide for manufacturing thousands of products including dip pens produced by C Brandauer & Co Ltd and its competitors. However, C Brandauer & Co Ltd is one of the few remaining companies established in Birmingham during the mid 19th century and to be manufacturing today in the same city during the 21st century. Further information about Brandauer products from more recent times will be written about in due course, so watch this space!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The Brandauer Building

Great news today - a 'For Sale' sign has gone up on our old building which we sold nearly 10 years ago. The link is as follows: http://www.gvagrimley.co.uk/prebuilt/brokerprop/birmingham/NewJohnStSummerLane.pdf

It would be really brilliant if someone was able to buy it and refurbish it before our 150th anniversary in 2012. Keeping my fingers crossed! At one time it was to be a hotel and then perhaps a hall of residence for a university.

If you look at the building you will see that there are two parts to it. The original, built in 1862 is on the left and the other half was built in 1881. As my Father would say to me when we were together in the factory "Just go and fetch this for me from the New Wing". This always made me smile as it was already a 100 years old!

Like many industrial buildings of the Victorian period a great deal of money was spent on it and inside there is a lovely wood and metal spiral staircase, though many of the other features may no longer exist. Hopefully, the spiral staircase will be incorporated into the refurbishment and something special will be done with the gate keeper's cottage built into the front facade. You can just work it out if you know where to look!

Monday, 1 February 2010


An agreement, dated 29 October 1901, was made between Charles Johannes Immanuel Brandauer of Vienna and Frederick Charles Immanuel Brandauer of 401-414 New John Street West Birmingham and Joseph Letiere Petit and Joseph Henry Petit of the same address and Joseph Smith of Handsworth as trustee for and on behalf of the company agreed that C Brandauer & Co would be turned into a Limited Company.

To make this possible it was agreed for the sale of the business of C Brandauer & Co and the assets and goodwill thereof to a Limited Company and to be named C Brandauer & Co Ltd with a capital of £240,000.

The two Brandauer names are the sons of the Founder Carl Henry Immanuel Brandauer, who had died by 1901. However, Joseph Letiere Petit who had been in partnership with Carl Brandauer was still working. His son, mentioned above, Joseph Henry Petit was the first of his sons to join the business, prior to this agreement, and my great Grandfather.

On 3 December 1901 the above mentioned parties and including C Brandauer & Co Ltd state that since the execution of the earlier agreement (29 October 1901) the Company has been incorporated as agreed and adopted by the first four names and that Joseph Smith from this time is discharged from all liability under the agreement.

It is interesting to read that it took nearly 40 years for C Brandauer to be incorporated and that by 1901 my great, great Grandfather had become a partner. In the near future I hope to write about when Joseph Letiere Petit became a partner as he certainly wasn't at the beginning in 1862 as many believed.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

How can you help?

There are lots of ways to help me with my search for information about C Brandauer & Co Ltd. Here are some ideas:

1. Do some searching on the web - see what you find and let me know or just leave the website address on this Blog and I'll have a look. Don't think that I'll know about it - I might not.
2. Ask friends and family - perhaps they know someone who knows someone - you get the idea?
3. Information on manufacturing in Birmingham during the last 150 years - what was it like to work in other industries? That kind of information would be most helpful eg the Cadbury family built a village.
4. Maybe you are or know a historian who could be of help?
5. Are there local Associations in Birmingham that could help me. My great, great grandfather lived in Hansworth Wood. I believe the house he built has or is about to be demolished.
6. I know that many people lived in the back-to-back houses - I would be interested to learn more about this
7. Old maps of Birmingham would be useful, too
8. Do you know anyone who worked for the competition?
9. Who currently owns our old building and what is going to happen to it?

That's just a short list but I hope it helps. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Big thank you Marie-Louise

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

How it really started!

Recently, an old German contract has been translated and gives very useful information about the formation of C Brandauer and Co Ltd in Birmingham. This marvellous document, dated 23 April 1862, states that Mr Friedrich Kohler, born in Schonberg, near Freudenstadt and Mr Carl Heinrich Imanuel Brandauer, of Stuttgart, have, by agreement, and on joint account, purchased the steel nib factory of Messrs. Ash Petit and Co in Birmingham for the abovementioned purpose. It goes on to say that they shall be joint partners for the period of 10 years which has already been in existence since 13 February 1862 and will continue until 12 February 1872.

Mr Petit is, of course, my great, great grandfather Joseph Letiere Petit. However, nowhere in the contract does it mention that Mr Petit would be involved in the new business. This means that the story about Mr Petit and Mr Brandauer setting-up business together is not completely correct. Further on in the document it mentions that Mr Brandauer is not required to personally participate in the management of the business, and that he may appoint a deputy for himself, with a salary of up to £200. As yet I have not found out who the 'deputy' was but perhaps it was my great, great grandfather? I shall let you know as soon as I do!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

How it all began ...

Stories handed down through the generations state that our family business began with my great, great grandfather, Mr Joseph Petit and his Austrian colleague Herr Charles Brandauer setting-up a joint business manufacturing pen nibs in Newtown Birmingham, UK in 1862. The firm was, and is still, called C Brandauer & Co Ltd. It was named after Mr Brandauer as legend has it as he supplied the money for Company and my great, great grandfather the technical knowledge.

My great, great grandfather had been in business prior to the formation of C Brandauer & Co Ltd with a partner called Mr Ash. Together they produced pen nibs under the name Ash Petit. This partnership lasted only a few years and the pen nibs from this era are now quite rare. Family gossip says that Mr Ash went off with all the money so my great, great grandfather was out of a job! However, I now know that this isn't true as the partnership between Mr Petit and Mr Ash was formally dissolved in Birmingham before Mr Brandauer started to build the new factory in New John Street West Birmingham UK.

This Victorian factory was used by the Company until the year 2000 when we moved premises, just a block away, to a more modern one built about 25 years ago.

So, this is the start of 'How it all began...'