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December 19, 2012

 

SUNY student creates Brockway exhibit

Brockway

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Jennifer Gibson, an assistant at the Cortland County Historical Society on Maple Avenue, looks over photographs of Brockway trucks put together by a SUNY Cortland student.

By NEIL BENJAMIN JR.
Staff Reporter
nbenjamin@cortlandstandardnews.net

SUNY Cortland student Juan Santana has worked with the Cortland County Historical Society on a new exhibit about the history of Brockway Motor Company’s advertising.
Santana, a Rockland County resident who will graduate in spring 2013 with a degree in history, did the exhibit as part of his final project for his curriculum. It was in conjunction with the Historical Society and the internship was the last part of fulfilling the requirements for graduation.
Over the last semester, Santana was given ample time to research Brockway’s history, which he said “sucked him in.” He instantly became hooked on what he called “one of the more interesting companies I’ve ever looked into.”
The exhibit is in a small room on the third floor of the Historical Society’s building at Homer and Maple avenues in the city.
The exhibit had its opening Dec. 8, and there is no timetable for when it will close. Mindy Leisenring, director of the Cortland County Historical Society, oversaw Santana through the process, helping him gather artifacts and other items that show Brockway’s history, especially from an advertising and public relations standpoint.
“He did mostly all of it himself,” Leisenring said. “He pieced everything together and came up with the idea himself. I can say it’s a different sort of exhibit, but Juan did an amazing job on this.”
Santana, who is back at home for the winter break from the college, said he could have chosen any angle for the exhibit. It was Brockway’s advertising that stuck out the most.
“The more research I did, the more fascinated I became with Brockway’s advertising,” Santana said over the phone Tuesday. “The Cortland County Historical Society was great in helping me find the things on display.”
Brockway’s history in the city goes all the way back to 1912, when George Brockway started the company, which the Historical Society said helped the city survive the Great Depression.
The company was in business through two world wars and even earned the reputation, “the most rugged truck on the road” before Mack Trucks purchased the company in 1956. In 1977, Mack closed the plant for good.
Mack and Brockway had been direct competitors.
The exhibit features Brockway bumper stickers from the 1940s, playing cards with the Brockway logo and even paper clips with the company’s logo on them, among many other things.
There is an advertisement on display that was printed on the back cover of Time Magazine. The date of the publication is unknown, as only the back cover is shown. Santana said he could not find the rest of the magazine in his search.
There are old Brockway license plates displayed, company tie clips and Brockway handkerchiefs.
“It’s a look into the rich history of the past of Brockway, and the way they branded themselves,” Santana said. “In my opinion, they were innovators of sorts in the way they got their name out in the public, especially during a time when this country was building to where it is today.”

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