Baron Lothar von Faber looms large over Stein, both literally and figuratively. In 1899, this statue of him was erected in front of the town’s Lutheran church (which he himself had erected). This trade notice from 1899 tells of the statue’s dedication:
Lothar Faber took over the family business at age 22, at a time when it’s said the company had a total of 22 employees. Hard work and determination not only transformed the A.W. Faber Company, but also Stein itself. Statue notwithstanding, the city would be monument enough to his life, work, and achievements.
With so much of the city owing its very existence to the Fabers and Faber-Castells few local residents would be likely to forget Stein’s rich heritage, even if some of the the details may have faded over time—after all more than 250 years have gone by. At some point however, a breech occurs between living memory and history: 100-year-old buildings, statues, and memories themselves eventually ossify, only to become the half-truths of travel books and guided tours.
There are no statues, monuments, or books of Eberhard Faber in America, or anywhere else for that matter. Though sections of the Brooklyn factory have been designated a historic district, they are being converted into housing, artists’ studios, and office spaces. The following color photograph is from the 2007 District Designation Report, the black and white photograph is of the same section of the building ca. 1930:
It would be nice if that corner space (or any place) could be turned into a museum, or at least house an exhibit of some sort.
There is a subtle irony in commemorating a pencil-maker: the very products meant to be honored are designed to be wholly consumed. Instead it’s the by-products of a pencil, e.g. music, drawings, poetry, and prose, etc., that are the more likely candidates for immortality, or at least for being remembered.
Epilogue: A Kind of Round Table
While the names “Eberhard Faber” and “Faber-Castell” are very well-known in America, it isn’t unusual for the average pencil user to be unaware that the two are related. Some even think the name “Eberhard Faber” actually refers to two people. But for more than 130 years, you could find an Eberhard Faber manufacturing writing instruments in America.
As mentioned in a previous post (as well as here, and on page 8 here), I had the pleasure of meeting with Eberhard Faber IV in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Both he and Count von Faber-Castell have known each other for decades of course, not least as family members but also as presidents of competing companies. After dropping a few suggestions here and there, I’m happy to say that an invitation has been sent to Mr. Faber and his family to visit Stein, which will likely take place during summer of next year. It will be Mr. Faber’s first visit to the company’s headquarters but more interestingly, to the city where his and Count von Faber-Castell’s common ancestor, Kaspar Faber, began it all in 1761. For fans of wood-cased pencils, that will be a meeting for the ages.
The imagery found in the Faber-Castell logo reckons the company’s long history. And given the motif, it may even imbue a sense of chivalry—a notion that seems hopelessly old fashioned today, yet something we’re not quite willing to completely forget. The same might be said of wood-cased pencils too, along with their history, and the story of the people who made them: Eberhard Faber and Anton von Faber-Castell—two knights to remember.
Thanks to everyone at Faber-Castell in Stein, Germany, for their time and attention. Thanks especially to Sandra Suppa, Antje Röder, Dr. Renate Hilsenbeck, Edith Luther, Cornelia Börner, Verena Kern, Drs. Bloß and Spreitzer, and Count von Faber-Castell for their hospitality and generosity.