“Digging In” to a Company’s History

by Bob Schoone-Jongen
Black book cover with the title "Braen: A History Built in Stone"
Braen: A History Built in Stone.
This coffee table book commemorates the 115th anniversary of the Braen Stone Company.

During the spring of 2017, I received a request to help compile the history of the Braen Stone Company, headquartered in Haledon, New Jersey. The company has been in business since 1904, owned by the same family for five generations. The owners hoped to mark their 115th anniversary with a coffee table book on the history of the family and their company.

In an article published a few years ago, I had detailed the Braen company as an example of how Dutch immigrants in New Jersey had found an economic niche in the construction business. The first of the Braens was a shoemaker who arrived in Paterson, New Jersey in 1851 from the Netherlands. One of his grandsons founded the Braen Stone Company.

A page from the book, with a black and white image showing a group of miners in the stone quarry.
Sam Braen and some of his workmen. From the book Braen: A History Built in Stone

My assignment was to provide the narrative and help locate many of the illustrations. The book tells the company’s story in the context of both Dutch immigration and New Jersey’s transformation from a place of farms and forests to first an industrial hub and then a residential region.

To celebrate the anniversary and the publication of the coffee table book, Braen Stone Company put together a commemorative video. I had the opportunity to take part and share some of the Braen story, including some of my own memories of growing up near the quarry. The video was shot on location during November of 2019, and shown at the company’s celebration in December. Take a look:

 

Robert Schoone-Jongen is emeritus professor of history at Calvin University. Before his retirement, he worked with student teachers who hope to become high school and middle school social studies teachers. His historical interests are immigration, American social history, and the presidency. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s