American Craftsmanship: A Q&A With A Modern Day Patriot

crane & co. engraving machine

One of Crane & Co.’s engraving machines, where workers personalize each piece of stationery. Some of the machines are more than 100 years old.

As a 200-year-old paper company that still calls the same New England town home after all these years, there are two things we here at Crane & Co. put at the top of our ‘important’ list: Writing (without it, we wouldn’t exist) and Americana (since 1801, remember?).

So we were quite excited to hear that a Seattle lawyer with a penchant for all things American was writing a book on businesses born and raised right here in the U.S.A., including little old us. It’s called Simply American: Putting Our Extended American Family Back to Work, and while a date hasn’t been set yet for publication, we decided to chat with the author, John Briggs, about everything from brooms and sneakers to the American Dream.

What inspired you to write this book?
Chronic unemployment in this country. We’ve had this alleged recovery, but we’re not getting people back to work. I started thinking about unemployment, and what struck me is we could create a lot of jobs in manufacturing. A simple errand started my thinking in this direction.

My wife told me we needed to get a new broom. The cheapest broom for sale was a Chinese broom, but next to it was a Libman broom. It was a dollar more, but I noticed it was made in Arcola, Illinois. I tend to be a cheap guy, but I realized the difference in price between the Chinese broom and the broom made by Libman was less than half the price of a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Even for me, this difference in price became irrelevant.

What’s the main focus of your book?
We Americans need to consider making our default shopping choice an American product. A report by ABC News said that if every American spent $66 more on American products each year, we’d create 200,000 manufacturing jobs in this country. And considering that Americans spend $8 trillion each year on consumer goods, we could create a lot of jobs in consumer goods manufacturing in this country if we bought more American made goods.

silver bordered stationery cards

Crane & Co. stationery is hand-bordered (with lots of love, of course) by skilled craftsmen and women.

What can people expect from this book?
The book will discuss the decline in manufacturing employment in this country over the last 30 years, will offer principles to help people understand the benefits of buying American made consumer goods and feature a host of outstanding manufacturing firms such as Crane & Co., Karen Kane, Hart Schaffner Marx, Wigwam Socks, Allen Edmonds Shoes and Fiesta ware.

How did you come up with the subtitle for your book, Putting Our Extended American Family Back to Work?
ince I began thinking about writing the book, I have been talking to all sorts of people about why they buy the products they do. Often I would be on the bus and see someone wearing a pair of shoes from overseas, so I would talk to them, and ask them, if buying American – even if it cost a little more – meant keeping a family member employed, would you buy that product? They always said ‘yes.’ At our best times, such as after 9/11, we Americans realize that we are all members of an extended family, the American family. The goal of my book is to have us all realize that fact on a daily basis, and to keep that fact in mind when we make our purchases of clothes, shoes, appliances and cars.

Why publish this book now?
The time is right for it. For most of our history, if people were willing to work hard, be it in a factory or an office, they were able to enjoy a middle class lifestyle, to enjoy the American dream. That’s far less available today, and I think that is in large part due to the dramatic decline in the availability of manufacturing jobs over the last thirty years. We need to reinvigorate our manufacturing employment in this country, and you and I can do that by making our default shopping choice American.

What was your first job?
I was a lifeguard when I was 15 or 16 years old. My father was a physician and we were well off, but he made it clear to me that he expected me to work to earn my own spending money. No free lunches.

Describe ‘Americana’ in one sentence.
A pride in the people of this country and the products produced by those people.

Want to read about the subjects John will be discussing in his book before the book is published? Visit his blog at simply-american.net.

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