“After a while I was quite astonished, when under the thick oxide layer suddenly a company stamp appeared.”
VFC says: Please enjoy this guest post by Gerhard about his investigation into two lesser-known German coppersmiths.
Several times here on VFC I have become aware of the German company Gebrüder Schwabenland. The company produced high-quality copper pots and also designed and manufactured commercial kitchens for hotels and restaurants. For the pots, they had developed a particular process to save material and thus weight in less-stressed areas. This gives them a very distinctive look that is unmistakable. Today, the company is headquartered in Berlin and manufactures only commercial kitchens. Martin wrote a wonderful article about this on VFC almost exactly two years ago. I would like to add a few additions here.
At a flea market in my hometown of Karlsruhe, Germany, I found an inconspicuous copper pot, placed under the sales counter, that looked as if it had been forgotten in a cellar for decades. It was oxidized a deep dark brown, but you could see the typical Gebrüder Schwabenland shape. That’s why I bought it.
Pretty soon it was clear to me that I wouldn’t get anywhere here with baking soda, because there was hardly any organic debris to remove. So straight to the polishing machine. In order not to remove too much original substance, I started with a medium grit for the polishing pastes. After a while I was quite astonished, when under the thick oxide layer suddenly a company stamp appeared, which was not visible before. It was only very lightly stamped and only partially legible.
The following could be read:
…LINGEN ᴀ N
The first line is certainly the company name.
The middle line definitely means “Metallwaren”, which means metal goods in English.
The third line is the city, but which one? Now the following helps here: Postal codes have existed in Germany only since 1941, and before that, in some cities, the name was supplemented with a clue to avoid confusion — almost always the name of a river on which the city is located. In our case, it says “ᴀ N”. The river must be large, so that even people who live far away know it. Therefore, I looked for a city that ends with “lingen” and is located on a river that begins with the letter N. At first Solingen came to my mind, where there are a large number of tool companies and especially cutleries. But in Solingen there is no river beginning with N. The only major river with N in Germany is the Neckar — and what do I see: Right next to Stuttgart is Esslingen am Neckar!
Now all that’s missing is the complete company name. Unfortunately, I can’t get any further with today’s business directories from Esslingen. I wrote to the local Esslingen city museum and asked if they can help me. The deputy director answered me that it is the company C. A. Braig, of which they have several exhibits in the museum. She also sends me two excerpts from the 1927 trade directory, in which the Braig company appears twice:
It is listed there as a metal spinning company and a metal goods factory. In her reply mail she also writes me that the Braig company is neither listed in the 1925 nor in the 1929 book — only in 1927! This could mean that it was only located in Esslingen for a short time or that it was taken over by another company. If I wanted to know more precisely, I should send an inquiry to the economic archive at the University of Hohenheim. Company documents can usually be found there. Unfortunately, the archives could not help me, as they had no documentation on this.
In the meantime, I was very interested in finding out what else C.A. BRAIG made. In Kleinanzeigen, a German classified advertisements site, it is very rare to discover something from the company. But at the beginning of May I found a silver-plated pot advertised — with no information about size and weight, only photos of the hallmarks on the bottom of the pot. But since it looked cute and was not expensive, I bought it.
When I opened the package, I almost had to laugh because the pot was so small — diameter at the rim 12 cm, pot body 10 cm, height 6 cm. I can’t say anything about the base material — the pot is a bit too light for copper. Maybe aluminum? It weighs only 333 g with a wall thickness of approx. 1.2 mm.
After polishing it looked almost like new:
And here you can see the hallmark on the bottom of the pot — before polishing:
Despite the small size, it has all the details of a larger pot, even three small rivets per handle. The seller told me that she had taken the pot to a jeweler to have its value appraised. He said that such small pots were occasionally made as anniversary gifts to deserving employees. Anyway, I can’t use it for cooking, but it looks fun.
At about the same time that I found the small silver-plated pot, an advertisement also appeared for four copper pots — two from Gebrüder Wagner, Esslingen and two from C. A. Braig, Esslingen. Interestingly, all four pots had the same material-saving design as the pots from Gebrüder Schwabenland described at the beginning.
Since the offer seemed too expensive and I was only interested in the two Braig pots, I waited. After a month, the price was lowered, and again two weeks later. I made an offer for the two Braig pots, which are the two small ones in the picture, and got the contract. I didn’t want the two larger Wagner pots because I already had my first Braig pot in similar dimensions — the Bain Marie. Both pots came in pretty good condition.
After polishing, they now look like this:
Both have a very similar straight handle shape to the bain-marie I found at the flea market. This handle may not look as elegant as the French handle shapes, but seems to me to be more ergonomic because you don’t have to bend your wrist as far when lifting. Martin has already written about this in his essay
Oddly, the handles on the two smaller pots are attached differently than on the larger one:
Here is the attachment to the smaller pots. The rivets are very large and certainly not prefabricated.
Here is the situation on the larger Bain Marie with much smaller (probably prefabricated?) rivets. But if you take a careful look at the close-up area directly around the rivets, you get the impression that there is room for larger “mushroom head” rivets. The completely different shape of the handle’s head plate is striking: narrow and rectilinear on the larger pot, heart-shaped on the smaller ones. Due to the higher weight, I would have guessed it the other way around.
These two pictures show my “Braig collection” — maybe it will grow on occasion.
A few numbers:
- Bain Marie: diameter 16 cm, height 18 cm, weight 2,788 g, wall thickness at rim 3.5 mm. This raises a question for me: Why does a bain marie has such a thick wall? What for? At the moment I can not use it because the tinning is very poor.
- Larger Casserole: diameter 16 cm, height 11 cm, weight 1.964 g, wall thickness at rim 3.0 mm. Tinning found in good condition.
- Small Casserole: diameter 12 cm, height 8.5 cm, weight 1.169 g, wall thickness at rim also 3.0 mm. Tinning found in good condition too.
For the sake of completeness, I have here a photo of the stamp on the two Bain Maries from Gebrüder Wagner:
To return to Martin’s essay: C.A. Braig and also Gebrüder Wagner, both surprisingly from Esslingen, can be added to the list of companies that adopted the construction method developed by Schwabenland. This also fits well with the excerpts from the Esslingen address book of 1927 — the year in which the patents of the “Gebrüder Schwabenland” expired. I have not yet researched the “Gebrüder Wagner”. It would be interesting to know what their relationship was to C.A. Braig.
VFC says: Gerhard, thank you so much for this research! These additional examples of German pieces provide yet more evidence that this straight-shaft handle style represents a consistent aesthetic across multiple makers. And of course the thicker bands around the rim and base as well.
I find the small silver-plated pot to be especially charming. As you note, it looks beautifully made and perfectly proportioned — I would not have guessed that it was so small in diameter! I agree that 333g is quite light and I also wonder what the base metal could be.