Three Brothers

I have mentioned before that I’m interested in learning more about the three Faber brothers—Lothar, Johann, and Eberhard—and how in the mid-19th century they went from being in a family business to being competitors. And amidst that competition they would simultaneously provide each other with raw materials while they sued one another. Outside of the legal system it may be that they each took additional steps to foster customer loyalty and to prevent mixing and matching between the product lines. Take for example the waistcoat pencil, which was a popular item in the 19th century:


The metal sheath would come with a few refill pencils, but eventually you would need to buy some more. Each brother made his own refills, which were remarkably similar:


But upon closer inspection there are some slight differences in width and height. This means that two brothers’ refills would not fit the other brother’s holder (of which there were many different styles):


This is all very unscientific, but it seems too much of a coincidence that the dimensions are that close yet incompatible with the holders from a different company. Workarounds could be fashioned but I think the three brothers would have preferred for you to “keep it in the family.”

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13 Responses to Three Brothers

  1. Johnny says:

    I wish someone could bring a pencil like this back, although I suppose the market would be ten of us. 🙂 This would be even better than a bullet pencil, since they are far more pocket-friendly.


  2. Beautiful photographs, Sean. Reading this line — “they would simultaneously provide each other with raw materials while they sued one another” — I can’t help thinking of another family enterprise, the Beach Boys.


    • Sean says:

      I can’t imagine what it would be like having to compartmentalize those opposing aspects of the relationship—unless the lawyers and agents are paid to do that for you. 🙂


  3. Stephen says:

    Beautiful, remarkable post. The pencils/holders having different widths seems like the railway gauge issue of that same era.


    • Sean says:

      Thanks. I would need a larger sample space before I’d be willing to come to any conclusions, but in a craft where minute details matter so much I have to believe it was all intentional.

      I’d really like to get a few of the green Castell versions of this pencil.


  4. Gunther says:

    Marvellous! Your photos and the presentation of the details are great.


  5. Pingback: Crayons en bois de cèdre plats. № 4387. A.W. Faber. | Contrapuntalism

  6. Pingback: Not Any Old Faber Will Do | Contrapuntalism

  7. Pingback: Johann Faber Pocket Pen/Pencil | Contrapuntalism

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