The Brannock Device Company began with the 1925 invention of the Brannock Device, a tool to measure foot length and width at the same time, by inventor and businessman Charles F. Brannock. Early in his career Brannock worked as a shoe salesman at the Park-Brannock shoe store, and in 1962 he became the CEO of the company. This collection documents both the Park-Brannock store and the Brannock Device. Materials in The Brannock Device Company Records, 1925-1998, include 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, N.Y.
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.
Subgroup 1, The Brannock Device Company, 1925-1998
Series 1: Historical Background, 1928-1995
Series 2: Operational Records, 1926-1980
Subseries 1: Book for Recording Devices on Hand, 1927-1929
Subseries 2: Correspondence, 1926-1951
Subseries 3: Census, 1947-1980
Subseries 4: Insurance Inventory, 1956
Subseries 5: Royalties Accrued, 1946-1951
Subseries 6: Time Records, 1952-1958
Subseries 7: Notes, undated
Series 3: Product Development Records, 1925-1981
Subseries 1: Competitors' Devices and Other Products, c. 1928-1981
Subseries 2: Fitting Stool, 1936-1947
Subseries 3: Design, 1925-1975
Subseries 4: Manufacture, 1927-1959
Series 4: Advertising and Marketing Records, 1926-1998
Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1926-1998
Subseries 2: Mailing Lists, 1947-1950
Subseries 3: Ideas and Copy, undated
Subseries 4: Printed Materials with the Brannock Device Name (stationery, business cards, leases), undated
Subseries 5: Advertisements and Product Information, 1934-1980
The Brannock Device Company began with the 1925 invention of the Brannock Device by Charles F. Brannock. Charles Brannock was working as a salesman in the Park-Brannock shoe store, co-owned by his father Otis C. Brannock and Ernest N. Park, in Syracuse, New York when he saw the need for an improved foot-measuring device. The Brannock Device soon gained favor over size-sticks because it measured foot length and width at the same time. Additionally, it measured heel-to-ball length, a feature which aided in fitting heeled shoes.
Charles F. Brannock (1903-1992) was an inventor and businessman. He began tinkering with the idea of a new foot-measuring device while attending Syracuse University, where he would get up in the middle of the night and work on sketches and calculations. Brannock obtained a patent for the device on August 28, 1928, but by then manufacture and sale of the device was already underway. Brannock assembled the device in the Park-Brannock shoe store and gave the device a trial on the sales floor. In 1926, Charles Brannock began offering the device to shoe retailers first on a rental basis and then by sale through the use of salesmen who lived throughout the country and each covered a geographic area. By 1929, the company began to phase out salesmen because it offered quantity discounts to shoe companies which distributed the devices to their stores at a lower price than salesmen could offer.
Brannock sold his device internationally beginning in 1929 through Mr. I. Singer of London, England. In 1936 distribution rights transferred to Henry Maitland Marler of Feature Shoes Limited of London, an affiliate of the Selby Shoe Company. Renewing and protecting foreign trademarks proved to be a legal challenge. Due to some confusion, Brannock's British patent was allowed to lapse. In order to prevent other companies from using the Brannock name in England, H.M. Marler set up Brannock Fitting Device Limited in October 1937. The company began manufacturing Brannock Devices in January 1946, but royalties accrued through European sale by 1951 did not even cover a third of the cost of trademarks, patents, and designs.
Fortunately for the Brannock Device Company, these costs were absorbed by the Selby Shoe Company, with whom it had entered into agreements about foreign distribution in November 1941. Selby had exclusive rights to distribute the Brannock Device in South America, South Africa, and other countries, and assisted Brannock in securing trademarks in many foreign countries.
In 1933 a United States Navy captain asked a shoe salesman to find the source of many sailors' foot problems. The salesman, after measuring sailors' feet with the Brannock device, declared that the Navy shoe was not the cause of the problem; the sailors were simply wearing the wrong size shoes. The captain was so happy that he would not have to order special shoes for his men that he wrote an article in the July 1933 issue of United States Naval Institute Proceedings which described how the Brannock Device had eliminated foot troubles aboard the ship. This gave Brannock an opportunity to promote his device in the Navy by sending the article to other ships. He calibrated his device for use in other branches of the military and by World War II the Brannock Device was being used by most of the armed forces. Several articles were written about the greater foot comfort enjoyed by the military after the introduction of the device. Charles Brannock was proud of his small but widespread role in the war effort and in the comfort of America's enlisted men and women.
Through the years Charles Brannock developed many different models of his device, including the women's, men's, junior, growing girl's, athletic, ski-boot, and military models. In 1947, Brannock moved the device company to a machine shop at 509 East Fayette Street in Syracuse, where it remained for 50 years.
Brannock advertised both the store and the device in local papers, and the device in trade literature such as Boot and Shoe Recorder. He encouraged other shoe stores to promote themselves by using the device in their advertising. He also attended the annual National Shoe Fair in Chicago from 1938 to 1968 in order to promote the device as well as learn about shoe-fashion trends for the Park-Brannock shoe store.
Concurrently, Charles Brannock also played a significant role in the Park-Brannock shoe store. His father, Otis C. Brannock and Ernest N. Park founded Park-Brannock in 1906 in a small store at 321 South Salina Street, focusing on women's shoes. In February 1937, they moved to a three-story building at 427 South Salina Street. Finally, in 1946, a six-story store was built at 473-475 South Salina Street through 129 East Onondaga Street. While waiting for the newest store to be built, Park-Brannock temporarily moved to the Chimes Building at 510-512 South Salina Street and 113 West Onondaga Street. Park-Brannock gained fame in Syracuse for a wide selection of men's, women's and children's shoes, handbags, millinery, hose, and accessories. In an advertisement, the store declared itself "one of America's finest shoe stores." The design of the two newer stores was state-of-the-art, and Park-Brannock was featured in shoe magazine articles. For example, the men's department was designed to look like a great room inside a ship. Charles Brannock became the CEO of Park-Brannock after both his father and Ernest Park died in 1962. Park-Brannock closed its doors in 1981, after the Hotel Syracuse offered to purchase the property for its new Hilton Tower.
Charles Brannock died on November 22, 1992, at the age of 89. The company was purchased in 1993 from the Brannock Estate by Salvatore Leonardi. Leonardi continues to manufacture Brannock devices in a small factory in Liverpool, New York. Over a million Brannock Devices have been manufactured, and it remains the shoe industry standard
Materials at the National Museum of American History
Artifacts (several Brannock Devices and competitors' devices) are in the Division of Culture and the Arts (now Division of Cultural and Community Life) and the Division of Armed Forces History (now Division of Political and Military History).
The collection was donated to the National Museum of American History by Salvatore Leonardi on November 4, 1998.
This collection is open for research use.
Gloves must be worn when handling unprotected photographs and negatives.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Equipment and supplies Search this