Baroness Ottilie von Faber: Between Sun and Moon

I have mentioned before that to research the Fabers means to encounter a great repetition of names. One small example: The three most-frequently mentioned brothers—Lothar, Eberhard, and Johann—all share the same first name (Johann). Eberhard’s wife? Johanna.  Therefore, it would be prudent to reassert the disclaimer that my research aspires to be accurate to within one Lothar ± an Eberhard.

There are even two Fabers called Ottilie. First is Baroness Ottilie von Faber (née Richter, 1831-1903) who was married to Baron Lothar von Faber. Second, Countess Ottilie “Tillie” von Faber (1877-1944) who was Baron Lothar’s and Baroness Ottilie’s granddaughter. Tillie is the main subject of the film mentioned in the previous post.

Baroness Ottilie von Faber. Image ©Faber-Castell.

Baroness Ottilie is perhaps an under-appreciated and overlooked figure in the Faber dynasty; eclipsed by the extraordinary circumstances of her later years. Her only child (and heir to A.W. Faber) Wilhelm, died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 41 in 1893. Three years later her husband, Baron Lothar, died at the age of 79. With no other heir, Baroness Ottilie became the company’s sole owner.

Just one of the matters she was overseeing at the time was the dissolution of the partnership between A.W. Faber and the E. Faber Pencil Company in America, which was owned and operated by her two nephews: Lothar Washington and John Eberhard. Negotiations began in 1894 though the enmity goes back at least to the mid-1880s (and likely all the way back to 1879, when Johann Eberhard died.) While on a trip to Europe in 1884, Lothar Washington wrote the following to his wife about his Uncle Lothar:

“He is growing old and spleeny and has caused us a little trouble at the firm in New York. We are earning a little too much in his eyes, and that is something that he cannot stand.”

Not all was lost, however. The two nephews had a fine relationship with their cousin Wilhelm, whom everyone presumed would eventually take over the firm of A.W. Faber. But Wilhelm’s death in 1893 put an end to what hope was left for the two companies to move forward together.

By 1896, terms for the dissolution had been drawn up. Lothar Washington travelled to Stein not only to meet with Aunt Ottilie about the contract, but also to attend the wedding of his cousin, Tillie, to Count Alexander zu Castell-Rüdenhausen. Lothar Washington recounted to his wife that at the last minute, a stipulation was included in the contract regarding how the E. Faber Company labelled its products. A.W. Faber was concerned that there might be confusion between the identity of the two companies, especially now that they were transitioning from being partners to competitors.

An original copy of the March, 1896 proposal between A.W. Faber and E. Faber.

Lothar Washington felt that they were “playing [him] for a sucker” and left without signing the agreement. Though disappointed with the outcome he insists that his Aunt Ottilie nonetheless offered him “the gland hand of farewell” at their final meeting, after which he set sail for Brooklyn. The two companies would sue and countersue one another for the next twelve years.

The baroness encountered what must have been a surprise in 1897. While endeavoring to secure the United States trademark for “A.W. Faber”, Ottilie was informed that it wasn’t hers to register: it was already owned by Eberhard Faber.

There is no evidence to suggest there was any chicanery involved. The E. Faber Company had been the sole agent of A.W. Faber in America, and as such secured patents and trademarks in their name going all the way back to 1851. But given the emerging gulf between the two companies, a great deal of effort was required to correct the record so-to-speak. It must have been galling to Baroness Ottilie.

Two trademarks secured by A.W. Faber for the mark “A.W. Faber.”

Through the U.S. Consulate in Nürnberg, Germany, a declaration was filed on behalf of Baroness Ottilie von Faber whereby she stated, in part, that “…the trade-mark “A.W. Faber is, and always has been, the property of A. W. Faber of Stein, near Nürnberg, Germany.”

The appeal was successful, and the trademark was granted in April of 1897.

Baroness Ottilie lived until 1903. By that time she had successfully managed the company’s passage to the next generation of Fabers, and by extension, the transition to Faber-Castell.


In memoriam Edith Luther, archivist at Faber-Castell, Stein.

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