This small note is an interesting artifact: the sender, recipient, and the year in which it was written all bear significance in the history of pencil-making in America, and by extension, Bavaria.
The senders, Berolzheimer and Illfelder, were the founders of the Vera Pencil Factory in Bavaria, though the Berolzheimer in that case was Henry’s (Heinrich’s) father, Daniel. A house was established in New York around 1857, which was later incorporated as Eagle Pencil Company in 1868. In 1872, the company opened a plant in Yonkers, New York.
Joseph Reckendorfer was a businessman who famously bought Lipman’s 1858 eraser patent for $100,000. The patent would eventually be overturned and Reckendorfer would find himself filing lawsuits against several manufacturers, including Eberhard Faber in 1875.
The addressee is the Rubber-Tip Pencil Company, whose address was 133 William St.
You may recall that this was the address for the business offices of the Eberhard Faber Company—that’s because Johann Eberhard Faber was behind the Rubber-Tip Pencil Company. It’s a topic for a separate post, but I’ll mention briefly that the Lipman case wasn’t the only famous lawsuit regarding the attaching of erasers to pencils. J.B. Blair was issued a patent in 1867 for attaching an India-rubber head to a pencil, which was purchased by the Rubber Tip Pencil Company. This company would go on to sue one Samuel Howard for infringement in 1872, only to see Blair’s original patent overturned: like the interpretation of Lipman’s eraser—that it did not substantially constitute an invention per se—the same would be said of Blair’s attachable eraser.
1872 is also the year in which the Eberhard Faber Company’s factory burned to the ground.
Back to the note: it accompanied a payment to the Rubber-Tip Pencil Company, balancing the Eagle Pencil Company’s account. What did they buy? With Blair’s patent being overturned, perhaps it was time to stop paying for something they could make for themselves.
As innocuous and uneventful as this note is it nonetheless bears witness to what were auspicious times for the American pencil industry, such that it was. Everyone associated with this note would be affected by tremendous change in 1872; a time in which Bavarian masters and American innovators were both establishing their houses, competing in their attempt to influence, advance, and refine writing culture in the United States.
What a great find. Thank you for showing us.
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You’re welcome, Memm. Things like this stir my imagination and make me wonder what New York was like in the 1860s and ’70s. The Faber factory was opened the same year the Civil War started. What was important to these early pencil barons? Was Eberhard Faber driven by a desire to strengthen the family business and do right by his brother, or was he motivated by a desire to create his own empire and wealth in America from the start?
I wonder how many times he may or may not have travelled back to Stein between 1849 and 1879. When he first left Germany, did he think he was leaving for good?
These are a few of the things I’d like to know.