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.

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