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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6 Responses to Eberhard Faber-Castell (3)

  1. Popsy says:

    Thank you for this article, even if that quite doesn’t bring closure, cause now we want to know what happened after! With Sandford taking over. But a very interesting although sad part of Eberhard Faber’s history. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sean says:

      You’re welcome, Popsy. I have fewer details about the years following the sale of Eberhard Faber Inc., but here are some of the main events:

      It’s important to recall that in 1918 A.W. Faber-Castell’s property and patents were seized by the U.S. government, so Faber-Castell U.S.A. was separate from A.W. Faber-Castell in Germany (they were in partnership, but I don’t know the extent of it and how it developed over the decades). Around 1957, the German company acquired a controlling interest in F-C U.S.A., but it wasn’t until 1994 (!) that they fully regained their trademarks.

      Also in 1994 Newell bought Faber-Castell U.S.A., and owned it for about two years along with the Eberhard Faber brands, rolling out products under their Sanford label. By 1996, Faber-Castell U.S.A. was once again a separate company (I’m assuming as part of that deal, Faber-Castell U.S.A. relinquished the Eberhard Faber brands).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. memm says:

    Thank you for these details. That Fortune Magazine article sounds very interesting. Eberhard Faber IV must have been a great business manager if the company started to fail without him and if he managed to rescue the company.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like seeing the pencil cups full of Mongols in the first photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Gunther says:

    Thank you for your extensive research and for sharing these and the other details from Eberhard Faber’s history!

    Like

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