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From Pens to Particle Physics: The Story of a Birmingham Family Business by John Berkeley, OBE
Brandauer Holdings Limited, 2012, 36pp. Available to download for free here
Review courtesy of West Midlands History (www.historywm.com), written by Malcolm Dick
Brandauer celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2012. A long-established, family-run, precision engineering business in Birmingham, the firm has made the transition from manufacturing pens in the nineteenth century to making vital components in the twenty-first century for the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.
Two men, Joseph Petit, a Jewellery Quarter craftsman of French Huguenot origin, and the German Karl Brandauer, a merchant, formed the Brandauer partnership in 1862. Since then, the business has been in the forefront of communications technology. By 1890 it had won several prizes at international exhibitions for its pens, the company catalogue listed 424 individual designs and its products were exported around the world. The advent of the ballpoint pen and information technology effectively ended the Birmingham pen trade, but Brandauer diversified, producing many products in the second half of the twentieth century, including stylus arms for record players, hubs and shutters for floppy disks, integrated circuit frames and components for telecommunications industries.
John Berkeley has written a fascinating, informative and well-illustrated account, which interweaves company history, technical innovation and the experiences of the owners and workers. If one message emerges, it is that adapting its products to rapidly changing markets has ensured Brandauer’s success.
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