A.W. Faber, 1897

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The original 1897 trademark for the firm “A.W. Faber” in America.

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Mongol, 1905

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The original “MONGOL” trademark from the Eberhard Faber Company, 1905.

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“New York’s Own Drink”

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From the International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 24, what follows are some details about Seeman Bros. Inc., of New York, N.Y.

There were originally five brothers, who founded their business in 1886 in New York City. Eventually two of the five, Joseph and Sigel, would emerge as partners in the grocery business. As branded products became more popular, the brothers created the White Rose brand and applied it to three products at first: corn, tomatoes, and peas. But as the article notes, it was their brand of tea that made them a “household name.”

From what I can tell White Rose, Inc. soldiered on until 2014, when it filed for bankruptcy and was then purchased by C&S Grocers, Inc.

I don’t know the exact date of manufacture for these pencils, but my guess is sometime between 1920 and 1930; both the shape of the pencils and the embedded erasers are clues, but not necessarily proof.

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I’ve always been curious about how tapered pencils like these were manufactured. Were they cut from slats like hexagonal and round pencils, perhaps with specialized machinery? The point starts at an averaged-sized diameter then becomes uniformly wider. Four sharp cuts form the back end and reveal the embedded eraser:

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Given that White Rose, Inc. was based in New York it’s reasonable to think that these pencils were manufactured by the Eberhard Faber Company. Their 1923 catalog shows they were still making tapered pencils:

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But many pencil manufacturers were making tapered pencils including Dixon and the American Lead Pencil Co., so it’s hard to say. However, I have one other pencil from the 1920s with the same “White Rose Coffee” branding; and it’s an Eberhard Faber Van Dyke with a clamp eraser.

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There is something about the typeface that reminds me of Coca-Cola.

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Diferentes Formas de Lápices

Diferentes Formas de Lapices

From El Lápiz: Historia de la Industria, Como se Hacen Como se Venden. Eberhard Faber Company, 1923.

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4 Refill Erasers, 1 Metal Clamp

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Faber-Castell Schnapszahlen

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It wasn’t until Matthias from Bleistift clued me in on Schnapszahlen that I began to understand many of the anniversary-related products Faber-Castell has offered over the years. Milestones such as their 250th anniversary made sense, but…their 222nd?

To be honest I was a little cynical when I first saw that 222nd anniversary set years ago. It gave me the impression of an overburdened marketing director sitting at a desk, missing out on Christmas dinner with the family, staring blankly at the big red circle around January 1st on the calendar, muttering over and over again: “I must think of something. I must think of something…”

As its turns out, in some parts of the world those types of anniversary numbers are worth celebrating every bit as much as the rounded ones.

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Schnapszahlen are an example of “repdigits”: numbers that enjoy a slightly elevated sense of privilege owing to their repeated digits. They are palindromes by nature and in certain instances, express symmetry.

So it all made perfect sense when I first saw this new Faber-Castell gift set, celebrating the 111th anniversary of the Castell 9000: the perfect National Pencil Day* gift for the pencil- blogging musician(s) in your life.

*March 30th.

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‘World Travelers Return’; the Fabers in Europe

While searching through periodicals from the turn of the twentieth century, I often come across travel notices: lists and lists of ships and the souls they carried onboard, with the occasional spotlight on the more well-to-do. It must have been very exciting for first-time travelers, and a point of pride for them to have had their names published in the newspaper.

The following notice from 1927 tells of a trip taken by the Fabers to Europe:Eberhard Faber World Travelers Return 1927

With Neumarkt so close to Stein I’m curious to know if Eberhard Faber stopped by A.W. Faber-Castell. He interned there as a young man (when he was still John Robert Faber), but had to return home to New York upon the passing of his father. Years of lawsuits between the two companies ceased around 1913 but I’m not certain if Eberhard Faber II ever came in contact with Count Alexander (who died the following year). Alexander’s son, Count Roland, took over the company in 1928.

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Pencils Never Complain

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An expression I like to use, Bleistifte sind geduldig (pencils are patient), is a variation of the more well-known expression Papier ist geduldig (paper is patient). I thought of both when I saw this pencil, but a third also came to mind: Bleistifte beschweren sich nie (pencils never complain).

The pencil above was fashioned by my brother, who is a pediatric physical therapist. I’m told that the added weight of the pencil helps with a child’s sense of proprioception, that is, the stimuli and responses related to the position and movement of the body. This is especially important with kids who have cerebral palsy.

Seeing this pencil strapped with the added weight is what brought about the notion of pencils never complaining—some metaphor I was going for about the weight we sometimes carry with our work. But what dawned on me was the silent burden that those children bear, and the remarkable way how they—and the people dedicated to helping them—do so without complaint.

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Mitsubishi 130th Anniversary

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Commemorating 130 years, the Mitsubishi Pencil Company has issued limited-edition sets of their Uni and Hi-uni pencils.

MitsubishiKatakanaThe quality of the finish is as high as it has ever been, though these are made a little more special with the inclusion of my name in Katakana. So if I happen to lose one of these on the train to Tokyo, the odds that it will be returned to me have now dramatically improved.

The Hi-uni art set has also received the anniversary treatment:MitsubishiSetBox

The range of this set encompasses 22 discrete grades of hardness.

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Each of the three sets comes with a small lined notebook, whose paper is incredibly smooth and rather thick—it’s a shame they are not offered separately.

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Special thanks to my friend Yumiko!

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A.W. Faber “Castell” Pocket Pencils 1906

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