From July 9th to October 19th 1986, there was an exhibition at the Faber-Castell castle (schloss), celebrating the company’s 225th anniversary. This book accompanied the exhibit.
The bookmark in the following photo didn’t come with the book, but seems as good a place as any to keep it. NB: The young boy in the left-hand corner of the photo is Count Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell:
There are some great period photos from the ’20s and ’30s of the manufacturing process:
I’ve mentioned the Newark branch of A.W. Faber, which was confiscated by the U.S. government under the aegis of the Alien Property Act in 1918. Here is a period photo of the premises (+1 for the period after “FABER” on the sign):
There are also some color reproductions from 19th-century catalogs:
The book is written in German except for the captions, which are also written in English.
Thanks to Matthias for scoring a copy Das Bleistiftschloss for me.
This pencil by Eberhard Faber is another reminder that there must be hundreds (if not thousands) of great pencils that are lost to history.
The Public 2500 No. 2 is unfinished as far as I can tell, comes without a tip, and if its name is any indicator perhaps they were meant for general use.
Like some older No. 2 Mongol pencils, the lead seems closer to a modern No. 1 pencil. It writes very nicely and the barrel seems a bit thinner, similar to Faber-Castell’s Bonanza pencils.
I don’t have an exact date for these pencils, but based on the logo I would guess they are from the 1940s at the latest.
Pencils without an eraser tip could still be fitted with a removable eraser of course, such as the one featured in this 1921 stationery trade notice:
I don’t know if any of these erasers go back that far, but here is a selection of early Eberhard Faber eraser tips:
Up until this point I’ve only ever tried Tombow’s MONO 100 but there are several others in the same line, including the MONO, MONO-R, MONO-J, and the MONO-RS to name a few. I can’t speak to the others but the MONO-R is a great pencil, just as you would expect from Tombow.
Everything about this pencil is high-quality, and I would be hard-pressed to describe the difference between the MONO-R and the MONO 100, Tombow’s masterwork. I suppose you could say the MONO-R is a little less smooth, but it is negligible.
Going by the rule of thumb that Japanese pencils tend to be about one grade darker than American pencils, this HB is a little closer to what I would call a No. 1 pencil. Even so, it retains its point very well—great for writing and for music.
Thanks to Tombow USA for sending the MONO-R pencils.
I don’t go in much for mechanical pencils but of the four or five that I own, these flat-lead pencils (sometimes called “flat-ribbon lead pencils”) are very interesting.
They are both examples of the A.W. Faber-Castell TK 9600: The one in the foreground was made in the U.S. and has “Patent Pending” stamped on one side, the other was made in Germany. They are distinguished both in terms of weight (the former is considerably heavier) and by the mechanism which holds and propels the lead.
The American 9600 resembles the design found in this patent:
This patent was assigned in 1955 to the General Dynamics Corporation, but the German 9600 was designed by one Harald Bachmann, whose patent was assigned to A.W. Faber-Castell the following year. Several other companies issued flat-lead pencils, including Caran d’Ache, Tombow, and Alvin to name a few. If the design itself wasn’t impressive enough, you have to wonder how the lead was manufactured—I imagine there was a need to fabricate new machines out of whole cloth to produce them.
If regular, round graphite cores are passed through a die under tremendous pressure I suppose the same holds true for these flat leads. But how do you keep them flat and straight? Were they made of larger sheets and then cut to size? If so, were they printed on before or after that?
Here is another example of flat-lead refills from A.W. Faber-Castell: The tube is made of glass and topped with a cork:
Looking at this packaging creates an image in my mind’s eye: A factory employee asking a harried coworker, who is poring feverishly over a phone book, whether he’d like to go to lunch. . .
“Berthold, come take a break—it’s lunchtime.”
“Not now, Gerhard; I must find someone who makes very small corks.”
If the flat-lead pencil was invented in the mid-1950s then it didn’t have a very long life, and I don’t know whether their discontinuation had to do specifically with this design, or with the general decline in the use of drafting pencils. But if you consider everything that had to be invented just to manufacture them, I bet there is an interesting story waiting to be told.
There’s a pronounced inequity when it comes to the two components of a tipped wood-cased pencil: The pencil itself could survive for centuries and still work as well, while the eraser would have long-since become part of the fossil record. The replaceable clamp erasers of vintage Blackwing and Van Dyke pencils often suffer from this petrification, and in a chemical process unknown to me, actually bond to the metal clip. Removing them safely sometimes requires an extended soak in water, but they still tend stick to the sides.
At this point though they’re just for show anyway, but I wonder just how well they worked in the first place. The erasers from even the last Eberhard Faber Blackwing pencils are rather poor; instead of lifting marks off from the paper the eraser tends just to distribute them in an ever-widening smudge. In fact, in many of the photos I have come across of people using Blackwing pencils it’s not uncommon for the erasers to have been removed, or for a replacement to have been fitted on top of the ferrule.
In its early advertising, the Eberhard Faber Co. stated that their clamp erasers would “outlast the pencil” (which is true I guess if you never use them to begin with). Even so, the company produced replacements for their clamp-tipped pencils:
Each box came with four erasers and an extra metal clip—pretty handy since that clip is easy to lose. I’m not certain about the date for these boxes, but since they are still using the word “clamp” (at some point the name was dropped) and still listed the patent date, I’m guessing somewhere in the 1940s, possibly the late ’30s (but it’s just a guess).
This later version has a change in packaging and a change in contents. The erasers themselves are a much deeper red, and I think that has to do with Eberhard Faber’s Red Ruby line of erasers, i.e. they were made from the same formula. Based on the typography, I think this box might be from the late ’40s or the ’50s. And it looks like they were stretching their production dollars, too: Above the word “Erasers” on the box is the word “mechanical” but it’s been blacked-out, so has the original catalog number which was replaced by “No. 1281″.
As the erasers dry out over time, they become smaller. And even though you can pinch the enclosure to make sure they stay snug, it’s not unusual for the very old erasers to fall out of their ferrules. So it is interesting to see what the proper and original dimensions of the eraser were supposed to be:
Inserting a replacement takes a little effort, but these erasers are remarkably pliable for their age. Once fitted together, you get to see how the design was originally and authentically meant to look, feel, and function:
From 1911, a notice from a Canadian stationery trade magazine announcing the 150th anniversary of A.W. Faber. Two things of interest: the absence of “Castell” in the firm’s name, and the veritable symphony, of commas, found in, the first, sentence (that is some virtuosic punctuating).
To mark the anniversary, the company issued this anniversary tin:
A.W. Faber 150th anniversary lithographed tin, 1911.
The underside of the lid has a family tree, leading up to Alexander Graf von Faber-Castell and his wife Ottilie:
The tin came filled with special packs of either indelible pencils or No. 2 graphite pencils (not pictured). I’m uncertain as to the number that were made, or if there was more than one production run. There is a similar tin that is identical on the outside but with a different lithograph on the inside.
The “new” Salvador Dalí Museum is one of St. Petersburg’s greatest treasures, and I’ve been visiting there for more than 20 years. I hadn’t been in a while, so upon hearing that they are hosting a Warhol exhibit—the first time someone else’s work is being shown alongside Dalí’s—it was time for another visit.
Below are a few photos of the exterior of the new museum:
There are a lot of great reasons to visit St. Pete, but this one might just be the best.
I can’t say with any certainty that this is the first mention of the Castell 9000 in North America, but the way this article from 1908 reads, it’s easy to think so. The only strange thing is that the Castell 9000 was introduced in 1905—but that was in Germany; I’m not sure how soon they were made available in America, or perhaps how soon the company might have advertised the pencils. Maybe it was something closer to what we call a “soft opening” nowadays: Quietly selling the product and getting it into the hands of influential consumers before it’s officially announced and advertised.
(Updated: the ad is talking about the Castell copying pencil rather than the 9000):
The factory in Stein was coordinating with the their recently opened factory in Newark, New Jersey. In fact some of the company’s wood supplies coming from the U.S., and the bulk of their rubber-based material were coming from The Garden State, but the whole operation ran like Tinker to Evers to Chance.
What I enjoy about finding early documents like this is that there was a time when everything—especially an item we’ve known for our entire lives—was once new. It’s hard to imagine a world without Campbell’s Soup, Coca-Cola, or Goodyear Tires, etc. And reading about the Castell 9000 like no one’s heard of it before indeed feels like time-travel.
There are a few brief histories and historical photographs available of the Castell 9000, but as far as I know there isn’t a definitive “biography” of this pencil yet. For now, I’ll just add that to my ‘books-I-wish-I-could-read’ list.
An article from a 1909 trade magazine tells of Count Alexander Graf von Faber-Castell’s visit to North America:
There is an interesting section that describes a gift from The Count which was presented to President William Howard Taft:
The article goes on to further describe the case, as well how the gift made it’s way to the president. (NB: 1909 was President Taft’s first year in office.)
A photograph of President Taft from around the same time, from the National Archives.
It’s customary for government officials to list the gifts they receive from foreign states and visitors. Hoping to find out some more information about this particular gift, I did some searching through the Office of the Chief of Protocol, Department of State, and the oldest records I could find go back only to 1929. Taft’s presidency also precedes the time when presidents built their own presidential libraries, so his papers and belongings are dispersed in a few places. I imagine though that a gift like this would likely have been handed down through his family, if it still survives at all.
Still, it’s very interesting. I wonder if Archiv Faber-Castell mightn’t have a visual record of this personalized, handworked, leather-covered and silk-lined case fit for a president (and if they mightn’t share a photograph with us if they did).