Brunn and Company Archive, 1920-1985 (majority within 1928-1938)
Using These Materials
- The collection is open for research.
- Brunn & Co.
- Founded by Hermann A. Brunn in Buffalo, New York, Brunn & Company were designers and builders of automotive bodies from the 1920s through the early 1940s, and are best known for the bodies constructed for the Lincoln Division of the Ford Motor Company. Brunn also built automobiles for private individuals, many of whom were well-known members of American business and society circles, including J.C. Penney and J.P. Morgan. Hermann C. Brunn, son of Hermann A., produced numerous designs for the company, and then continued his career at the Ford Motor Company following the closing of Brunn & Company in 1941. The collection documents the work of Brunn & Company, Hermann A. Brunn, and Hermann C. Brunn, through engineering drawings, photographs, paint and upholstery samples, customer order records, correspondence, and research materials.
- 12.0 Linear feet (2 record center boxes, 2 manuscript boxes and 11 oversize boxes)
- Finding aid prepared by Brian Wilson (2010)
- Scope and Content:
The Brunn collection has been divided into four series: Correspondence, Design and Engineering, Images, and Sales and Marketing.
The Correspondence series is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and then chronologically within each file. The letters are primarily from customers to Hermann A. Brunn expressing appreciation for the work done on their vehicles. Letters that are circa 1970 includes material written by and sent to Hermann C. Brunn during his employment at Ford Motor Company, and in regards to modern restorations of Brunn vehicles. In cases where a specific vehicle can be identified, the correspondence has been filed with the photographic images of that particular vehicle. Some of the letters were part of a scrapbook and many letters are glued to the same page, as a result at the end of correspondence there are several letters listed together which indicates they are glued together and in the same folder.
The Design and Engineering series is divided into three subseries: Brunn & Company Drawings, Other Drawings, and Hermann C. Brunn. The material in the series consists primarily of drawings produced by Brunn & Company illustrating the various body designs produced by the firm, which are, for the most part, reproductions, or blueprints. The drawings show the left (driver) side elevation of the vehicle and, in some cases, include a plan view of the interior layout. Dimensions, if shown, detail the passenger interior space. The name, or initials, of the designer, customer name, and notes detailing specific vehicle configuration and trim can be found on many of the drawings. The drawings have been arranged alphabetically by make of chassis, then chronologically by date drawn and design number. Data for body style, model, chassis wheelbase in inches, engine configuration, order number, and customer name has also been included in the file title, where known. The Other Drawings subseries consist of a smaller number of drawings that originate from other manufacturers, including General Motors and the Ford Motor Company. The Hermann C. Brunn subseries consists of materials created by Hermann C. Brunn in the period after the closing of Brunn & Company, and includes a manuscript for an article describing the history of the brougham body style.
The Images series is divided into five subseries: Negatives; Vehicles, Brunn & Company; Vehicles Other, Non-vehicle, Brunn & Company; and Non-vehicle, Other. Image formats include black and white, and color, photographic prints and negatives. The bulk of the subjects are Brunn & Company vehicles, with images illustrating the exterior of completed automobiles. In many cases the prints and negatives are marked with the vehicle order number and many images are loose pages from a scrapbook. Images of body construction, interior, and body detail are captured for some vehicles. Non-vehicle subjects include the  Paris, France, Auto Salon. Non-Brunn & Company subjects include several of images of the Aqua Cheetah, an amphibious vehicle built for the United States Army by the Amphibian Car Corporation. Another group of photographs are labeled “Best of Brunn” I and II which are an assortment of photos from various car models.
The Sales and Marketing series consists of brochures, print advertisements, owner lists, price lists, and a number of large-format upholstery and paint samples. The series also includes a Customer Order Book for 1935-1937. This journal records all vehicles built by Brunn & Company during that time period, with entries for order number, order date, body style, model number, customer name, body number, trim and paint specification, intermediate construction dates, and vehicle completion dates.
- Biographical / Historical:
Hermann A. Brunn founded Brunn & Company in 1908. Located in Buffalo, New York, Brunn & Company was the second custom coachwork firm operated by a Brunn family member, with Henry Brunn, Hermann’s uncle, having opened Brunn Carriage Manufacturing Company several years earlier. The early years of Brunn & Company included a production program to build Sheltered Phaetons for the Seldon Company of Rochester, New York. The failure of this program resulted in the sale of 50 percent of Brunn & Company to William J. Weppner, who became Secretary-Treasurer of the reorganized company. The revised organization allowed Herman A. to direct the design and engineering portion of the firm, which included a number of talented engineers and designers, such Victor A. Lang, J. Herbert Newport, and Hermann A.’s son Hermann C. Brunn.
In  Brunn & Company was retained by Henry Leland to consult on styling and body engineering for Leland’s Lincoln Company. The relationship between Brunn and Lincoln continued after the sale of Lincoln to Ford Motor Company in 1923, with Brunn body styles becoming part of the Lincoln Custom line of automobiles. Brunn & Company continued to build bodies for Lincoln until Brunn went out of business in 1941. In addition to Lincoln, Brunn & Company customers included many well-known individuals both in the United States and in Europe. J.C. Penney, J.P. Morgan, Ralph Pulitzer, Eleonora Sears and King Carol of Romania are among those who purchased automobiles from Brunn in the 1920s and 1930s.
America’s involvement in World War II pushed many of the remaining custom coachbuilders out of business, and Brunn & Company was no exception, with operations ceasing in 1941. Hermann A. Brunn passed away the day after the company was liquidated. Following the closing of his father’s firm Hermann C. Brunn began a long career with the Ford Motor Company, working on vehicle interior design. Hermann C. also maintained contact with the community of automotive restorers, supplying copies of vehicle photographs and drawings, giving talks to groups of car enthusiasts, and attending classic automobile events.
Sources: 1) Brunn, Herman C. (1963, October). Brunn & Co.: Coachbuilder to the Roaring Twenties. Road & Track Vol. 15, no. 2, 47-50. 2) Biography provided by Margery Brunn, granddaughter of Hermann A. Brunn.
- Acquisition Information:
- Donated by Margery Brunn in 2006.
- Processing information:
Brian Wilson, 2010
- Rules or Conventions:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Antique and classic cars.
Automobiles -- Design and construction.
Industrial design -- Drawings.
Motor vehicles, Amphibious.
Ford, Edsel, 1893-1943
Green, E. H. R., (Edward Howland Robinson), 1868-1936
Morgan, J. P., (John Pierpont), 1867-1943
Penney, J. C., 1875-1971, James Cash
Pulitzer, Ralph, 1879-1939
Sears, Eleonora Randolph, 1881-1968
Using These Materials
The collection is open for research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Copyright has not been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan. Permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s).
- PREFERRED CITATION:
Brunn and Company Archive, University of Michigan Library (Special Collections Research Center)