“I, Lothar von Faber of Stein…”

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So begins a little-known handwritten document from 1882. It is an assignment of rights for the trademark “A.W.F.” to Eberhard Faber (the son of Eberhard Faber I, who died in 1879). It is signed by Lothar von Faber, head of A.W. Faber in Stein, Germany.

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The rights to “A.W.F.” were sold and assigned “in consideration of the sum of one dollar”, and applied only to its use in the United States. At the time, Eberhard Faber was the main distributor of A.W. Faber’s goods in the U.S.

At first glance it seems like this document was written and signed by Lothar von Faber, but a closer look at the handwriting suggests it was Eberhard Faber who wrote the document, and was only signed by Baron Lothar. For example, the name “Eberhard Faber” in the document looks very similar to Eberhard Faber II’s signature:

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Second, the ink used for Lothar von Faber’s signature and “October 7th” appears darker than that used for the main text of the letter:

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Here is where it gets interesting.

Following Lothar’s death in 1896, his widow, Ottilie, sought to secure a trademark in the U.S. for “A.W. Faber.” Her application was rejected based on a mark already on the books by Eberhard Faber:

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Apparently, Eberhard Faber had also applied for the mark “A.W. Faber” since at the time he was manufacturing low-grade lead pencils on behalf of the parent company. Through her attorneys, Ottilie von Faber submitted an affidavit attesting to her ownership and use of the mark “A.W. Faber”, and was granted letters patent for the same in 1897.

Ottilie von Faber also stated in her affidavit that Eberhard Faber, upon discovering (or perhaps being told) that he is not the rightful owner of the trademark “A.W. Faber”, assigned such to Lothar von Faber on May 10th, 1882. So why was the above assignment issued to Eberhard Faber in October of 1882? Perhaps it was a bit of a compromise: Lothar would permit “A.W.F.” on pencils manufactured and sold by Eberhard Faber, but would not go as far as allowing him the rights to “A.W. Faber.” Even in these early years of international patents and trademarks you can see how undocumented nuances, such as the difference between “A.W.F.” and “A.W. Faber”, could become the stuff of lawsuits.

But all of this was just a prelude. A few years later the Fabers would be engaged in a legal battle over trademarks that would last more than a decade. Eberhard Faber II ultimately put his experience to good use however, as he would eventually become the president of the U.S. Trademark Association—a position he would hold for more than forty years.

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Graf von Faber-Castell: Magna Cum Bleistift

Though this blog is devoted primarily to historical topics concerning the Faber houses, every once in a while a new or current product becomes the subject of a post. As a long-time user of the Graf von-Faber Castell Perfect Pencil (and the Bleistiftverlängerer), it’s interesting to see that the refills have been given the magnum treatment:

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Faber-Castell

They seem to be similar to the “Jumbo” version of the Castell 9000. What’s interesting though is that the diameter of the pencil has remained the same, whereas the Jumbo Castell 9000 has a larger diameter.

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Refills for the Perfect Pencil come only in one grade (B is my guess), but having a choice now between two lead diameters I wonder whether the larger leads might be softer/darker. (I wonder, too, whether the word “Jumbo” will be used or if that too will get an upgrade.)

Along with a leather wrap for their Polychromos pencils, this leather-covered set of pencil holders is also new:118857_Elephant made from natural leather, big

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To me at least, these pencil holders have something of the spirit found in accessories that were available during the first half of the twentieth century.

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Eberhard Faber’s Artist’s Pencil

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Offered individually as well as in sets, this early leadholder from the Eberhard Faber Co. is likely from the late 19th or early 20th century.

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This pencil is nearly identical in size and design to A.W. Faber’s Artist’s Pencil, from the polished rosewood body right down to the ivory tip:

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It’s likely that E. Faber’s Artist’s Pencils were manufactured by A.W. Faber in Germany, as the former was still importing high-grade wood-case pencils and leads from the latter up until the early 20th century. Though the Eberhard Faber Co. was manufacturing its own pencils as early as 1861, by agreement with A.W. Faber they were only of the “inexpensive” variety. (In fact, the Eberhard Faber Co. would continue to import leads for more than 50 years from companies such as Lyra and Staedtler.)

In 1898 Lothar Washington Faber (son of the first Eberhard Faber and the brother of Eberhard Faber II), visited pencil companies in the vicinity of Nürnberg—including that of his uncle Johann Faber—while concealing his efforts from his relatives at A.W. Faber in Stein. The American firm was about to dissolve its dependency on, and partnership with, A.W. Faber, about which Lothar Washington wrote to his wife: “The pencils we cannot make ourselves we can have made here as good as A.W. Faber for one half the price. We can work much more profitably without A.W.F.”

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As part of a company-wide makeover (and no doubt influenced by a lawsuit brought by A.W. Faber), the label of “E. Faber” would be dropped in favor of “Eberhard Faber” on all of the company’s pencils and packaging:

eberhard-faber-letter-about-name-1903

The Artist’s Pencil would continue on in the Eberhard Faber catalog at least until 1915 (I’m not certain yet as to the year it was discontinued), as the American firm gradually removed and replaced products that bore any similarity to or connection with those made by  A.W. Faber.

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Eberhard Faber: Erasers Display

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Some Box*

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Photo: Faber-Castell

For the completist is the newly-announced Karlbox. Only 2,500 were made so hurry! For me at least, I’m still holding out hope for a Bachbox (but would also settle for a Rachbox).

DSCF2100(These aren’t real products.)

The signature on the first drawer is a poignant reminder that this was likely a project the late Count von Faber-Castell was involved with—perhaps Faber-Castell might share some more of the project’s backstory in the future.

I wonder what other ideas and projects were begun by the Count that we might yet still see. Here’s to hoping a whole bunch.

*”Some Box” is a variation on a riff started here and continued here. In this case though, it’s meant in the sense of “Wow, that’s some box.”

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“The other [pencils] are a snare, a delusion and utterly useless.” —Eberhard Faber

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In an interview given to the Salt Lake Herald in 1906, Eberhard Faber II offered some sage advice to pencil users. While most of what he said borders on common sense it’s still illuminating to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth so to speak; like Bach himself telling you that sevenths should resolve downward by step, or Ted Williams telling you to keep your eye on the ball.

“Never bite the end of a pencil. It ruins the glue used in holding the pencil boards together causing them to separate.”

“Never place the lead point of a pencil in the mouth. It tends to harden and harm the lead.”

…no mention of possible harm to the person on the other end of the pencil.

“Never sharpen a pencil when in a hurry. The result will be that more points are broken and material wasted than if sharpened leisurely.”

As true today as it was 110 years ago.

“Buy only the best pencils. The others are a snare, a delusion and utterly useless.”

To be fair he didn’t say buy only Eberhard Faber pencils, but rather “the best” pencils. I wonder who makes those.

“When buying pencils select grades suited to your work. Too hard or too soft pencils never work well.”

There you have it, and remember, stay away from those delusional pencils.

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Isn’t It Time For An Eberhard Faber Postage Stamp?

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Not only is it time, I’d say it’s long overdue. Based on everything that the U.S. Postal Service asks of a stamp proposal, I put together a prospectus and created the samples pictured here. Should the proposal progress, I have someone in mind to help design the actual stamp; these are more proof-of-concept than final product.

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So many proposals are submitted each year that the approval process can take up to three years. But even if it’s selected you might not be notified as to when the stamp will appear.

Still worth a try, I think.

If you like the idea, maybe put a +1 or something in the comments section and pass along a link or two; perhaps a showing of support would help influence the committee.

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Basteln mit dem Musikaliker

The title of, and idea for, this post were inspired by stolen from some of my favorite posts at Gunther’s blog; a series called Basteln mit dem Lexikaliker.

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The nickel plating on the clamp erasers matches the hardware so well, it’s a wonder they’re not a stock option:

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The Eberhard Faber Mongol Gets Its Stripe

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The Eberhard Faber Mongol is an iconic pencil, whose origins date back at least to the turn of the twentieth century. Its most distinguishing feature is the black-and-gold ferrule — a design that the Eberhard Faber Company would eventually refer to it as “the characteristic Mongol band.” But it wasn’t always so.

The following passage, taken from the minutes of the February, 1904 meeting of the board of directors (L.W. Faber, E. Faber, and E.E. Huber), states that all #482 pencils should receive a new metal tip:

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It’s interesting to note that nowhere in any of the minutes (from 1898 to 1911) does the word “ferrule” appear. Instead, “caps” and “tips” are the most frequently used terms. This means that the word “ferrule” would become part of the terminology at a later time (NB: a ferrule is defined as something that either caps or joins).

Following the suggestion at the close of the minutes a trademark was filed for in June, then granted in August, some six months from the time of the board meeting:

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The characteristic Mongol band would eventually be found on a dizzying number of products, and would undergo a multitude of design changes over some 80+ years:

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Mongol Lengthener 1908

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Eberhard Faber: Cooperation Among “The Big 4”

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This was originally going to be a “this date in pencil history” kind of post, but I would have had to wait until October.

The letter above was written by George Smith, who in 1920 was the president of the Joseph Dixon Crucible Company. The letter is addressed to Emil Berolzheimer of Eagle Pencil Co., L. J. Reckford of the American Lead Pencil Co., and E. E. Huber of the Eberhard Faber Pencil Co. Together, they were referred to as the “Big 4” of the pencil industry.

The letter addresses an expressed interest in listing all of the pencil manufacturers in the world at that time:

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What followed was about eight typewritten pages of companies and their addresses, from North America, Europe, to Japan. There were no less than 15 pencil makers listed in England, and some 17 in Japan.

Smith closes the letter with a suggestion that the list be distributed amongst the members of the PMA:

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It is an interesting example of cooperation between competitors.

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