“Still occasions arise when a woman must sharpen a lead pencil.”

From The American Stationer, 1889. Words would just spoil it, so:

(Thrusting? Moistening? Did I pick up the wrong magazine again?)

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Caution! A.W. Faber’s Lead Pencils.

The counterfeiting of pencils could be a lucrative trade, especially during the 19th century when laws protecting international trademarks and patents had yet to be written. Such was the case for A.W. Faber, whose growing presence and reputation in the market provided ample opportunity for fraud:

The American Stationer (1875)

As the article mentioned, fraud followed the Fabers to America, prompting notices like the following:

The American Stationer (1875)

Here are some examples of the Faber stamp and counter-stamp, from the late 1870s:

But, couldn’t they just imitate the counter-stamp, too?

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G. Henle Notenblock

Henle Verlag, who in my opinion publishes just about the most beautiful scores available, has added a new manuscript notepad to their catalog. This is in addition to their small notebook and full-size sketchbook.

This pad is A4 in size with 12 systems, whose spacing is a little larger than that of the sketchbook’s 14 systems. The paper is the same stock that is used for their commercial scores.

The pad is glued at the top but the cover opens to the left.

Best of all it has a very stiff cardboard back, so you don’t necessarily need a hard surface just to jot something down.

You don’t come across A4-sized binders in the U.S. very often, though there are options for buying them online. No matter—this pad format is, for me at least, more useful for jotting than for saving.

If you haven’t already seen the company’s demonstrations of music engraving, you can watch them here and here.

I have no association with G. Henle Verlag; I’m just a lifelong fan of their editions.

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Eberhard Faber’s 1856 Copybook

This Francis & Loutrel bookplate is from a letterpress copybook once owned by Johann Eberhard Faber (1822-1879). The book’s pages are very delicate and tissue-thin. There isn’t a great deal of content though, only about 10% of the pages have anything on them. What’s worse, some of that is only barely legible at best.

The first few pages however are clear: ledger entries that date back to 1856 (just seven years after Faber’s arrival in America).

previous post has photographs of a company ledger that survived the 1872 fire, and its earliest entry is dated November, 1857. Perhaps then these are pressed copies from an earlier ledger, which now is presumably lost.

There are letters also: personal and professional, both in English and in German, some of which bear a striking and familiar signature:

While some of the pages are clear and legible, the translucency of the paper makes it difficult to read those pages with writing on both the back and front. For example, here is a page from a lengthy personal letter written by Eberhard to his brother, Lothar:

Some of the words are discernible, but even with the aid of digitally processing the image transcribing the writing remains a challenge. Another example:

Much less is known about the earliest decade of the Eberhard Faber Company, owing to a paucity of documents and photographs. But these pages can’t hold onto their secrets forever.

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“The grief, the disappointment, yes, the almost abject despair…”

One cannot help but feel the pain of Walton Day, who in his 1894 monograph The History of a Lead Pencil (published by the Jos. Dixon Crucible Company), recounts the loss of a single unsharpened pencil during his youth.

Not just any pencil mind you, but one of the better grade. Scarlet Fever? Consumption? No. He’s lost his pencil…

The good news is Walton seems to have recovered quite quickly, singing the praises of Joseph Dixon pencils throughout the fifteen pages that follow.

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Lexivikinger

Photo: lexikaliker.de

Congratulations to Gunther of Lexikaliker and to Viking on the new Verso pencil. From the Viking website (translated through Google):

This is quite remarkable. Not only is it a technical achievement on the part of Viking, it’s also an example of writing-culture-in-action; a small part of the past has been transmitted to the future.

For more details about the story and some great photos, here is the post on Lexikaliker.

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1917: England, France, and Germany

The images posted here are scans of a monograph handwritten by John Eberhard Faber II, titled: The History of the Lead Pencil. Over the course of twelve pages Faber’s version of history begins in ancient Egypt and Assyria, wends through Barrowdale and greater Europe, then concludes in the borough of Brooklyn. I have come across excerpts from this essay in stationery trade publications of the day, which leads me to believe he may have been commissioned to write it. But whether there was a specific purpose in mind, it comes across as a document that was intended to be published either in whole or in part.

About midway through Faber stated the following with regard to, what he considered were, three pivotal contributions to the pencil:

So it came to pass that three countries contributed their share in the cause of the evolution of the present day lead pencil.

ENGLAND, who discovered the graphite deposits in Cumberland and exploited the first mine. GERMANY, who through Kaspar Faber’s efforts made practical the moulding of leads with a binder such as sulphur. FRANCE, who contributed the scientific process of the present day based on the principle of fusing with clay—the revolutionary invention of Jacques Conté.

There’s nothing new there (it’s the stuff that nearly every essay on the topic is made of) but what I find interesting is that it was written in 1917—that is to say, in the midst of the First World War.

The Eberhard Faber Company went to great lengths during the war to publicly attest to how “thoroughly American” the company was (his father Johann Eberhard became a naturalized citizen, John Eberhard II and his brother Lothar Washington—named after George Washington—were born, raised, and educated in America).

Journal of Education, 1918.

I wouldn’t expect Faber to turn his back on his German heritage by marginalizing or perhaps even excising Germany from his History. But given the sensitive political and cultural climate of the day, combined with years of effort made by the company to massage public opinion, it’s a curiously apolitical essay.

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Eberhard Faber History and The Pencil Museum on Staten Island

2018-faber-jackie-mock__5b43ccaf3174bPhoto: New York City Parks

Artist Jackie Mock has mounted an installation in Faber Park, Staten Island, which features pencils made by the Eberhard Faber Company.

Allison Meier, of Hyperallergic.com, has written a feature about it here.

Thanks to Micheal Leddy of Orange Crate Art for the tip!

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A.W. Faber Taschenstift No. 018

This pocket pencil and point protector were made by A.W. Faber-Castell. The point protector is nickel-plated and has a gold-plated tip and slide ring. Close inspection of the tip reveals a small imprint: “A.W. Faber Paris”

A.W. Faber Pocket Pencil 02b

I’m not certain of its exact age, but an example can be found in the 1909 company catalog among several varieties of Taschenstifte:

The pencil I have placed in it is flat (flach):

But its original pencil, though similar in color and length, is oval:

Pocket pencils like these were manufactured at least until the 1930s, perhaps even up to the Second World War (I’m currently looking into when the Eberhard Faber Co. stopped making them in the U.S.).

1909WK

The touch of gold on this model suggests it may not have been your every-day type of pocket pencil, but I wonder for how many years it was common—and expected—that you’d carry something similar every day.

Thanks to A.W. Faber-Castell for the scan of the 1909 catalog.

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Eberhard Faber-Castell (3)

Eberhard Faber IV (center) meeting with the board in 1971 (© Fortune).

This wasn’t the first time Eberhard Faber Inc. had experienced difficulty. Leading up to 1971, the company had lost money for three consecutive years and had experienced a twelve-week strike. The board hired a labor consultant to effect a solution with the workforce, but rather than the company having a labor problem the consultant discovered instead that there was a management problem.

From 1960-69 Eberhard Faber IV, grandson of Lothar Washington Faber and great-grandson of Johann Eberhard Faber, worked for the company in varying capacities: as an assistant secretary, an assistant treasurer, treasurer of the corporation, and by 1966 he became a company director. But by 1969 he decided to leave: the company was doing well, he was bored with his duties, and he wanted to pursue a writing career. He moved with his wife and two children to Belle Mead, New Jersey, just outside of Princeton. At the same time however, the company began showing signs of trouble.

The labor consultant recommended that Eberhard Faber IV be brought in as president of the company, and the board agreed. Faber began by reducing inventory and cutting the operating budget, allowing for the company to pay off their bank loan. Together, with the help of everyone at the plant, Eberhard Faber Inc. worked its way back to profitability.

Eberhard Faber IV addresses company employees in 1971 (© Fortune).

From 1971 to 1983 the company remained profitable, but the industry was due for consolidation: there were 17 pencil companies sharing a market of approximately 125 million dollars in the United States.

Despite successes in the commercial art market, including their Design brand of markers, 1983-85 were difficult years for the company. The move to Mexico of their packaging and assembly operations in 1986 was fraught with difficulties, and the specter of chains like Staples was looming on the horizon. Quietly, negotiations were begun with Dixon to purchase Eberhard Faber Inc., the result of which would be a combined company. Dixon, however, was driving a hard bargain—so much so that contact was eventually made with Faber-Castell U.S.A.

The German branch of Eberhard Faber Inc. was sold to Staedtler in 1978, so the sale would exclude any terms for Europe. Faber-Castell, having recently lost out in an attempt to acquire the Empire Pencil Company, offered generous terms for remaining stock, manufacturing equipment, and Eberhard Faber’s brand rights, including such iconic pencils as the Mongol and the Blackwing.

Faber-Castell 1989 catalog.

On October 5th, 1987, a purchase agreement was signed between Eberhard Faber Inc. and the Faber-Castell Corporation. After 138 years, Eberhard Faber would no longer be making pencils in America.


Sources for this series of posts include the article “What Happened When I Gave Up The Good Life And Became President” from Fortune Magazine, as well as conversations with those directly involved in the sale of the company.

Thanks to A.W. Faber-Castell for scans of the 1989-90 catalog.

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