Copper in the Arts

April 2008

The American Bronzing Company: Precious Today, Priceless Tomorrow

By Donna Dvorak

bronze shoes

Bronzing baby shoes at American Bronze

Photograph courtesy of Robert Kaynes, Jr.

Think twice before you ditch those adorable 'first' baby shoes, ballet slippers, boots, baseball and soccer shoes or even, perhaps, that special pacifier. Those childhood memories that your children or grandchildren have outgrown, can be bronzed in an illustrious solid coating as a keepsake or meaningful gift.

The American Bronzing Company, a direct marketing division of the Bron-Shoe Company, began in the early 1930's by Violet Shinbach who, while shopping at a department store in Cleveland, Ohio, noticed a pair of baby shoes that had been bronzed. She had her shoes bronzed, sent them to her friends and family and knew she was onto something special. With her keen business sense, she thought she could sell these wonderful keepsakes - and she did. In 1934, the Bron-Shoe Company was officially founded and by September 22, 1949, the company was incorporated. In 1952, the company delved into the direct marketing business, with the new American Bronzing Company Division.

Bron-Shoe is now in its third generation of family leadership. Robert Kaynes, Jr. serves as President and CEO.

"Violet was my grandmother and the mother of baby shoe bronzing," says Kaynes, Jr., proudly. "I'd say that more than 14 million baby shoes have been bronzed, and it's now coming back. Mothers everywhere are having their baby's first shoes or sneakers bronzed again. What changed the process is the Internet. It's made it more convenient and accessible, and people are realizing that for a very small amount of money (starting at $39.95) they can create heirlooms that will be cherished for a lifetime."

bronze shoes

Lining up bronzed baby shoes

Photograph courtesy of Robert Kaynes, Jr.

According to Kaynes, baby shoe bronzing is actually copper electroplated with a special antique finish applied after the plating process. All shoes are lacquered to prevent tarnishing.

"We have an in-state metals distributor from whom we purchase our copper," he explains. "The most requested baby shoe design is the one with the 8 x 10 picture frame. The second most popular one is having the shoes bronzed and mounted on a simple walnut finished platform. We can also add personal touches like an elegant nameplate decorated with a simulated birthstone, embossed praying hands, or zodiac emblem."

And, it's not just doting parents, grandparents, or other family members interested in bronzing. The American Bronzing Company created keepsakes for famous athletes.

"We bronzed Mickey Mantle, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire's baseball cleats," says Kaynes. "We also bronzed Jack Nicklaus's and Bobby Jones's golf shoes, and Doug Williams's football cleats from the Superbowl. We've bronzed cowboy boots for Roy Clark, racing headgear for AJ Foyt, Willie Shoemaker's riding books and Dr. Julius Erving and Bob Lanier's basketball shoes."

Although baby shoe bronzing is the main part of the company, other services are available. They can bronze almost anything, as well as repair or re-plate old damaged silver, polish, repair or restore damaged brass, copper or nickel pieces. If you're refinishing your home, they can restore door and window hardware, lamps, chandeliers, sconces, boilers, pots, kettles, churchware, fireplace sets, trays, vents and registers - all to their original finish.

"But, our baby shoes are our most important item," says Kaynes. "There's nothing better than a family heirloom."

Resources:

American Bronzing Company, 1313 Alum Creek Dr., Columbus, OH, (800) 423-5678

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