October 23, 2007

Have You Gotten Anything Bronzed Lately And/Or Ever?

This just in, from an email titled "RE: Cool Product," kindershoe.com is a "website that offer [sic] a unique baby shoe bronzing service ideal for baby keepsakes or gifts."

Really? Unique? Because frankly, nothing seems less unique or cool than bronzing a baby shoe.

I remember a baby shoe bronzing display near the entrance of the grocery store when I was growing up. When it didn't perplex me, it freaked me out.

Why do people bronze baby things? When did it start? Do people still do it? Is it to keep a memory of the joy of a newborn baby alive forever?

bronzed_baby_shoes.JPG

Because there are two pairs of bronzed baby shoes on eBay right now, dated 1970 and 1972. They're 99 cents.

Hmm. I just did a little digging.

In 1993, The NY Times took a brief look at the baby shoe bronzing industry, which began as a toxic, mom&pop, cut&run business that was consolidated in the 1950's into a single company, the Bron-Shoe Corporation in Columbus, Ohio.

Bron-Shoe was founded in the 1940's by the industry pioneer Violet Shinbach. The company sells the same bronzing service under different names and prices, depending on the distribution channel: The American Bronzing Co. for direct mail; Bron-Shoe for Striderite and department stores; Senti-Metal for sit-down appointments and consultation; Royal Bronzing for catalogues.

In 1993, they reported bronzing 400,000 shoes a year, which translated in to about $10 million revenue. The next biggest competitor mentioned in the article was doing barely 5,000 shoes.

Though the company tried, baby shoe bronzing flopped in Europe. It only continues to exist as a weird artifact of Vi Shinbach's crazy depression-era inspiration and post-war gumption. Last year, Bron-Shoe reportedly bronzed just 200,000 shoes, down 50% in 14 years. Some day, maybe the entire Columbus copper electroplating industry, all 85 of them, may have to move into a different line of work.

Bronzing Memories Happily [nyt]
Previously: They're bronzing umbilical cords in Asia, you know

13 Comments

Around here, people just hang the booties from their rear view mirrors. Classy!

I live in Michigan where our legislators recently agreed on a new tax for services in order to end a government (only hours-long, but still) shutdown. There was a long list of services affected and baby-shoe bronzing was on the list. I was like, "Who even does that anymore?!" Someone must, and now it'll cost 6% more in Michigan.

[I guess the industry lobbyists are losing their bronze grip on the politicians -ed.]

I *totally* want to bronze my tot's Robeez boots (not the shoes). But this got me thinking: http://www.abcbronze.com/pacifier.php
Wonder if you could get them to bronze other interesting baby accoutrements like... i dunno, a tube of first diaper rash cream, or first nose sucker thingie...

[they can bronze anything non-fuzzy, they say. -ed.]

I saw an episode of "How It's Made" (Discovery channel?) where they showed how shoes are bronzed. I won't go into details but it is in fact the actual shoe and not a casting.

They never show the company name if they can help it but it's likely that it was the Bron-Shoe company if it's the largest.

[we watched an episode of that one night in a pinch; they were making hockey pads. it was like an extended dance mix of Mr. MrFeely's roadtrip videos. -ed.]

creepy. i feel like it traps things, but maybe that's because of poor han solo.

[that's it! a SW action figure. perfect. -ed.]

I had my daughter's first shoes bronzed. They're Vans (checkerboard slip-ons) and she loves them (as does everyone who's ever seen them.) They turned out great that I want to get my harness boots bronzed!

Hi,

I'm the guy. Saw your blog and wanted to let readers know the facts about bronzing.

Yes, we're bronzing far less than before. This is mostly due to the high cost of marketing...advertising in magazines and direct mail has just become SO pricey that we're much less visible in the marketplace now.

Recent focus groups indicate the demand for bronzing is still strong. But sicne we're so "invisible," people just don't know how to find us any more.

That's why we set up our website, www.abcbronze.com. Everything about bronizng is right there.

And yes, it was our company featured on HOW ITS MADE recently. They never give much company name info on that show. But it WAS a good explanation about how we do our bronzing.

Bottom line, we're still very much alive. And if we can just continue to spreads the word, more and more sentimental parents can continue the American Family Tradition of having their babies' first shoes bronzed as lifetime keepsakes.

Any questions? Just let me know.

BTW...baby SNEAKERS look terrific when they've been bronzed.

Oops. My personal email address is ibronz@bronshoe.com. And the pics ARE pics of shoes we bronzed over a quarter century ago.

We're keeping up with the tradition in our family. My Mom's (born in 1939) first "walkers" were bronzed and mounted on the display with a picture frame...sad thing, my grandparents home burned, but for whatever reason, the shoes and picture made it through...mine were bronzed, however they've come up missing...my oldest daughter born in 1980 has her "walkers" bronzed with the jingle bells on them, second daughter born in 1982 has her Nike's bronzed...what's really cool is they have the picture frame holder like they're G'ma and the pictures for everyone, G'ma included is a picture with them wearing the shoes that were bronzed. You can't imagine the comments I receive from people noticing these in my home..."how neat", "how great to have those memories". Maybe I just have a soft heart or am very sentimental but everytime I pick them up to dust them, it brings back a ton of memories of when my girls were little and what wonderful times we've had through the years....thank you Senti-Metal....

Forgot to add...my first grandson was born 1/15/08 and his mom has already asked me who bronzed her baby shoes...

I will tell you from talking with my G'ma, she's 86...that to this day when she's dusting my mom's shoes it reminds her of a lifetime of memories beginning with my mom to her new great-great-grandson.

I was born in 1970 and I remember there being a baby shoe bronzing display at the hardware store when I was little. I asked my parents what it was all about and I thought it was kind of weird....but at the same time very disappointed that they had never bronzed a pair of mine. They did at least keep a pair of them somewhere, though....maybe I'll do it myself someday. Ha!

I have an urn that is made from polimer and or resin. I was interested in gathering quotes fro an antique finish. It is of Michelangelo Pieta, mary holding Jesus. There are no ashes in it yet, but the original order of this urn to be a bronzed finish is extrememly exspensive. Can you help me? Memorials.com shows the urn and gives measurements of 12x7x11.75

Thank you, I am located in Dayton. I wanted to find someone local to save on shipping costs. The family is very limited on money.

I want to bronze my penis and then stick it up on the mantle.

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