Today’s post is courtesy of my reader, KC. My previous writing on Fred Braun has developed a coterie, commenting on their fond memories of the iconic footwear. Everyone is mystified as to what happened to Fred Braun and why the brand disappeared. Several readers are even interested in reviving the brand themselves, and don’t know where to start. KC, a relative of Fred Braun, stumbled on my blog and shared the following information in the comment section:
I found this article looking for more information about Fred Braun the man and his history. There is very little online. I found a newspaper article about his and his shoe company from 1961 among my grandmother’s old pictures. Based on the information in the article and other pictures we have, I believe Fred Braun is an Americanized name and that he was originally Frederick Braunschweig, my grandfather’s brother. The family was all in the leather business (tanners, hide salesmen, shoe distributors) in Germany before fleeing the Nazis. I’d be happy to share the article and pictures I have of him and if you find any more information about him or the company, I’d be interested.
I contacted KC, eager to learn more of what happened to Fred Braun. He shared this New York Times article from August 15th, 1961:
Part of the cult-like following was due to Braun’s process. The entire shoe was made by hand, by one artisan. After going bankrupt once, Braun decided to listen to the customers. He opened a store in Greenwich Village, and looked to customers for the opportunity to test the market. And learn he did! He charmingly explained:
“I’ll never forget the woman who told me that a certain bag made her face look too square. Up until then, being a mere man, I had thought that handbags were only for carrying things.”
KC has been researching his family tree, and share this additional information:
This is assuming we’re right that he really is Frederick Braunschweig. He married a woman named Renate. We don’t know much else about her. The article claims his mother had 6 children. We only know about the 3 brothers but there may have been sisters we don’t know about, possibly they didn’t survive or were from a previous marriage. This photo is of Fred and Renate cutting their wedding cake (date unknown).
We do know that Fred’s brother Theo (my grandfather) was a chemist in a tannery and his father, Issac, owned shoe stores/distributors in Munich and was in business with his wife’s (Sophie Muhlhauser) family. Another thing we know is that Issac was killed in Munich. Most likely murdered in the street by Nazi SA. His grave is in Munich. Sophie later attempted to escape to France, possibly to meet Fred. The article says he went to Strasbourg, a city known for tanners, which is just across the border from Zweibrucken, where Theo’s wife was born. Sophie failed to make it to France and was later deported from Munich to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia and killed there.
Left to right: Theo, Ralph (KC’s father), Anna (Theo’s wife), Fred. Photo was taken in Lille, France circa 1940.
Please feel free to comment below with any additional information that you may have. Thank you, KC, for sharing this wonderful article and information!
Image and article courtesy of the New York Times.