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The Brannock Foot-Measuring Device

Michael Bierut celebrates the elegantly simple design of the Brannock Foot-Measuring Device.

Charles F. Brannock only invented one thing in his life, and this was it. The son of a Syracuse, New York, shoe magnate, Brannock became interested in improving the primitive wooden measuring sticks that he saw around his father’s store. He patented his first prototype in 1926, based on models he had made from Erector Set parts. As the Park-Brannock Shoe Store became legendary for fitting feet with absolute accuracy, the demand for the device grew, and in 1927 Brannock opened a factory to mass produce it. The Brannock Device Co., Inc., is still in business today. Refreshingly, it still only makes this one thing. They have sold over a million, a remarkable number when one considers that each of them lasts up to 15 years, when the numbers wear off.

Bierut also notes that Tibor Kalman was a big fan of the Brannock Device, once saying:

It showed incredible ingenuity and no one has ever been able to beat it. I doubt if anyone ever will, even if we ever get to the stars, or find out everything there is to find out about black holes.

The humble shoe horn is another well designed shoe-related device that may never be bettered.