Brady was founded in 1914 manufacturing painted signs, promotional calendars and point of sale displays. The company made it through The Great Depression by manufacturing hundreds of millions of push cards.
Early Years — Brady’s first products were promotional calendars, painted signs and point of purchase displays. The company made it through The Great Depression by manufacturing and marketing hundreds of millions of push cards. These small paperboard cards with rows of perforated circles concealing numbers, fit into Brady’s already established business of printing, die cutting and laminating.
1940s — During World War II, Brady discovered the wire marker card, numbered cloth strips on an adhesive card. Electricians and assembly workers pulled wire-marker strips from the card and wrapped them around electrical wires creating a numbering system for identification purposes.
1950s & 1960s — Brady’s move to Milwaukee launched an era of explosive growth. Brady became known as an “identification specialist.” The company focused on both brand-new products and evolutionary improvements to its standard product line. In addition to new products, Brady developed machines that could laminate, die cut, print and cut to length in a single operation, boosting production volumes and reducing production costs.
1970s — While Brady had sold products internationally through distribution and mail order since 1947, the 1970s was when global expansion at Brady truly matured. The company established subsidiaries in England, Belgium, Germany, France and Australia. By 1980, international subsidiaries accounted for 20 percent of Brady’s sales.
1980s — The rise of direct marketing in the 1980s signalled a turning point in Brady’s business strategy. In 1981, Brady acquired Seton, a direct marketing business that purchased nothing from Brady, but sold nearly identical products. Seton’s catalogue mailings soared from 1 million in 1981 to 8 million in 1988 and in 1985. Seton installed the company’s first toll-free number, generating 600 calls in one day. Based on Seton’s success in the U.S., subsidiaries were established in England, Canada and Germany by 1988.
1990s — Brady’s business and product lines evolved with the evolution of technology. Throughout the decade, Brady introduced printing systems that enabled customers to print their own safety signs, labels and identification products on-site and on-demand. Software products along with printers, scanners and barcode labels launched Brady into the world of automatic identification and data collection. New high-performance materials could withstand harsh environments required for circuit board manufacturing and the advent of mobile phones opened a completely new market for Brady die-cut products.
2000s — Brady’s most recent decade was one of growth through acquisition. More than 35 acquisitions around the world helped the company to triple in size between 2003 and 2010. Brady was financially strong, weathered the great recession of 2009 and 2010 and used the downturn to invest in new product development, e-commerce, and productivity improvements while also refining its acquisition strategy.
As a specialty business-to-business manufacturer, Brady turns out products that consumers don’t typically see, but are virtually everywhere—inside manufacturing facilities, public buildings, computers, airplanes, mobile phones and many other places people don’t think to look. Some examples of this are the nameplates and markers that soared into space on the Gemini spacecraft in the 1960’s, the wire labels that are on more than 70% of commercial airplanes and even the signs in the Jurassic Park movie are all manufactured by Brady.