“New York’s Own Drink”

Whitehouse Coffee Pencils 0

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.

Whitehouse Coffee Pencils 1

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:

Whitehouse Coffee Pencils 3

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:


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.

Whitehouse Coffee Pencils 2

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

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3 Responses to “New York’s Own Drink”

  1. ninthwavedesigns says:

    Wonderful to read the back story on these interesting pencils – they have obviously found a good home. Thanks!


  2. White Rose tea (in bags) was everywhere when I was a kid in Brooklyn. The same distinctive lettering, reddish-brown on white paper. A 2010 New York Times article about the Cross Bronx Expressway had a moment of White Rose nostalgia:

    “For Mrs. Moore, the highway offers unexpected Proustian moments. As a White Rose truck drove past, she remembered seeing grocery store shelves filled with White Rose products when she was a girl. ‘We don’t shop anywhere where they carry White Rose anymore,’ she said, a note of wistfulness in her voice.”


  3. Andy Welfle says:

    Gorgeous! The opening couple bids on that auction were mine. I’m glad you got them, though — your research behind them is way better than mine would have been. 😊


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