J.G. Braun Co. (Chicago)

Originally an all-purpose metal foundry in Skokie, Illinois, J.G. Braun Company exists today as a specialty metal and glass operation that is part of the Wagner Companies Group, which acquired J.G. Braun in 1997. The company manufactures tubing and pipe products, particularly in the area of handrails, brackets and metal ornaments. From the time the company was founded in 1887, J.G. Braun specialized in end-user products that were manufactured from flat steel plates or tubes. At first they forged their own steel, but as the years went by, they preferred to use pre-manufactured rolled steel and steel tubes to produce a wide array of consumer and commercial steel accessories, mostly for the interiors of homes and commercial buildings. When the Wagner Companies Group bought out J.G. Braun they continued using the company name because of its recognition and reputation. Today the Wagner Group consists of R and B Wagner, J.G. Braun and Wagner Industrial, with the divisions split as Architectural Catalog, Architectural Custom, and Wagner Industrial. Architectural Catalog division manufactures and distributes such specialty metal products as glass railing, LED lighted railings, pre-painted forgings, handrail brackets and bicycle racks. Architectural Custom division markets products in the area previously headed by the original J.G. Braun Company, especially custom bent and curved tubing products. The Wagner Industrial division focuses primarily on stamping, tool making and quality finish/polishing of fine metal articles. In 2002 the headquarters for the consolidated companies moved to a new location on Milwaukee's north side. This new facility consists of a number of presses, rotary benders, and polishing machinery. A tool and die shop on the main property manufactures custom tool and machine parts for a number of distributors nationwide, as well as smaller one-time orders for individual contractors. Until the 1980s J.G. Braun, like many production facilities that specialized in metals, used asbestos as an insulator against heat and as a flame retardant. Because of the extreme temperatures present in any forge or steel mill, asbestos became the most commonly used material to protect workers from burns and to shield them from the heat given off from molten metal. Asbestos is made up of individual fibers and is easily pressed into other materials such as wall panels to act as a barrier to fire. When these structures containing asbestos begin to age, the fibers escape and can be inhaled by workers. Long-term exposure to asbestos can result in a number of different health conditions including asbestosis and the malignant and dangerous mesothelioma.