In honor of the recent 238th anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, I present to you a very special pencil produced for the 100th anniversary in 1876.
Appropriately, it is Centennial, from the American Lead Pencil Company.
The pencil is triangular, with red, white, and blue sides:
It shows a patent date of 1873:
I also have this Centennial 1876 made somewhat later by Dixon. But in my opinion, it’s not quite as nice:
Wallace Pencil Company, Missouri, USA (acquired by Dixon in 1982) —
Graphite and copying brands:
From Georg Büttner’s site about German pencil companies in the Nuremberg area, here’s what I gather (imperfectly — I don’t speak German) about the relationship between these companies:
G.W. Sussner founded a pencil company in 1846. Moritz Nopitsch founded a company in 1861, which was passed on to his son Gebrüder Nopitsch. Nopitsch and Sussner were joined in 1900. In 1925, the company was named Glocken (in English, Bell); the name was acquired from another company named Glocken. (Was that whole company acquired?)
M. Nopitsch and Sussner:
Some of the older hexagonal pencils have what appears to be factory sharpening in the form of six facets —
J.S. Staedtler is another (see Swan) German pencil company that had a manufacturing subsidiary in the United States. Hackensack and Monteville, New Jersey, are locations mentioned on the pencils.
Some of the brands have German counterparts, while many (Competitive, Deadline, Pinstripe, and others) are only American, as far as I know.
A round Eagle Mirado, paired with the hexagonal version:
While it’s fairly common for a particular brand of pencil to be made in different forms, usually the models are given different product numbers (Mongol 480 and 482, for example). Here, both are 174.
From time to time I’ll be exhibiting pencils with errors or odd features, grouped into categories, of course. This post will feature problems with pencil tips.
But does “tip” refer to the end of the pencil that may have an eraser (its usual meaning), or to the sharpened end (which seems better described)? The ambiguity of this term has always bugged me. I will mean the former, usually.
Mallard Pencil Company, Georgetown, Kentucky.
Some advertising pencils advertise themselves as models of ad pencils available from suppliers. They often have a brand name and product number, but collectors don’t consider them to be “brand-name” pencils. —
Here are wood-toned types:
These show some companies that produced ad pencils:
Indiana Pencil Co and Union Pencil Co also made brand-name pencils, as shown in my Obscure U.S. Pencil Companies post. Pencil Specialty Company was a division of American Pencil Co. It is often ambiguous whether or not specific pencil suppliers did more than the printing, but its pencil confirms that Wilkerson-Akers did manufacture pencils. Note that Cincinnati Pencil Company was located in Nitro, West Virginia.
One of the first wooden pencils I ever spent a chunk of money on was a very old and unusual one that I had never seen before, from the Clark Indelible Pencil Company of Northampton, Massachusetts. I obtained several varieties since then.
These specialized pencils were made for writing permanently on cloth and other materials.
The active part of the pencil is integrated with a protective tube:
A patent from 1866 (http://todayinsci.com/Events/Patent/IndeliblePencilPatent56180.htm) describes in detail how the pencil was made. The indelible ingredient in the lead is silver nitrate. I remember this substance from my high school Chemistry class because it gave us permanent (until the skin wore off) stains on our hands.
At first I thought that the leads were square. But the patent describes how round leads were made from paste pressed into a mold, then placed into sawed grooves and enclosed with a strip of wood (clearly visible in the fourth pencil insert). Hence, it’s a round lead (with cementing material) in a square hole.
Some of the pencils have second insert, a soft chalky substance in a paper tube. I think this is probably gypsum. The patent talks about gypsum as an ingredient of the lead, where it forms a compound that prevents softening due to atmospheric moisture. Instructions on the label seem to describe the substance being rubbed on a dampened area of the cloth prior to writing. Maybe it is gypsum helping to stabilize the mark. —
A box with French labels, showing that Clark’s pencils were sold by A.W. Faber in Paris:
The sixth pencil in the first photo is one of the newer ones. The label suggests some new uses, including marking toothbrushes (no more disgusting mix-ups!) and umbrellas. It came with this price list:
Hello, readers. Don’t worry, I am still around and have plenty more things to show and write about. I just haven’t had time to produce new images. I’ll be back!
Kapoff, from American Pencil Co., has a bottle opener on top —
The metal piece on this Eagle pencil says “Spark-Tip” —
I once thought it was for producing sparks (but why?) or lighting matches, but I couldn’t see how it would work. Now I think it is for testing spark plugs, although I don’t know exactly how.
My favorites of course are these Tape-Measure pencils —
The tapes go to 18 inches.
Philatelists are familiar with overprints on old postage stamps. Often they were used to alter the postal value. A similar concept was applied to a pencil —
You can see that the original No. 2 imprint was changed to 3 —
Apparently the manufacturer realized that the 2 was an error and made this correction. Another possibility: They made these to fill a rush order for No. 3s, hoping the customer wouldn’t notice anything suspicious.
You may have noticed that some colors copy better than others on Xerox and other copying machines that you’ve used. While this phenomenon is sometimes an annoyance, it has practical applications, such as not reproducing alignment lines and written comments.
There are, of course, specialized pencils for these applications. There have been many different copying technologies and purposes, and pencils designed for optimal performance in each situation were produced.
Dixon produced an extensive “Fax” line of such pencils. I have a set that came in a sales folder with information sheets —
Here are some double-ended varieties from other manufacturers:
(The No. 625 is from Richard Best.)
A sleeve with movable needle arm makes these pencils into a drawing compass —
United States Pencil Co., an American pencil company —
USCO 486 varieties:
USCO Electro 486, a “transitional species” between USCO Grafine Lead 486 and USCO Electro 100:
USCO Electro 100:
Three different expressions for 2-1/2:
The only other place I’ve seen 2-5/10 is on Ticonderogas.
Nearly identical Evergreen copying pencils made in Czechoslovakia and in USA:
An older ad showing that the Czech versions were actually made by L & C Hardtmuth:
I have seen an ad indicating that Our Drummer is also from U.S. Pencil Co. —
Some of the major German pencil companies had subsidiaries in the United States. The Swan Pencil Co., based in New York, was a subsidiary of Schwan. Swan produced several brands —
Othello and Fortuna are major Schwan brands.
Tiger 440 may be original to Swan —
As evidenced by the wartime plastic and cardboard ferrules, Swan continued to produce and sell pencils during WWII.
Often I’ll present pencils having unusual shapes and sizes. One of my favorites is the “tapered” shape. Tapered pencils all seem to be quite old —
I find them uncomfortable to hold. It feels like the pencil is getting squeezed backward.
This Egypt-themed one has a square cross-section, which makes the eraser end a pyramid —
This one is very special —
It is a Mongol 482, but very different from the standard model. It has a hexagonal cross-section that transitions to round and tapers down.
Advertising pencils could also be tapered —
I also have a tapered mechanical pencil —
A sliding tab pushes the lead forward.
The pencil I used for the header is a beautiful thing —
It is glossy black with gold lettering that likely has real gold, as there is little or no tarnish after 130 years. Its logo is the most detailed of the varieties that have been on Eagle pencils. And whatever sharpened it left a nice scalloped pattern.
London 1862, Paris 1867, and Phila(delphia) 1876 refer to international exhibitions at which Eagle pencils won awards.
Eco-friendly pencils with unpainted wood are popular (or at least produced) these days, but that’s not what these are —
They appear to be samples used to test pencil manufacturing processes. V.D. here stands for Venus Drawing, I believe.
The similar one below is apparently a test for an Autograph by Venus —
The Autograph brand was around for a long time, in many varieties. This one has a matte white panel where you can write your name — your autograph. Japanese “kakikata” pencils for children often have this feature.
Another pair, maybe also for testing —
Discerning collectors have noticed that some Eagle and Eberhard Faber pencils have a small dot added to the standard design. The dot may represent some aspect of the pencil’s production. An example of this variation for Eagle Turquoise Drawing —
On the reverse is what at first glance appears to be the common “dotted X” decorative feature. But it is missing one of the dots. In fact, a variety of strange symbols can be found on these pencils —
I’m pretty sure that they are used for quality control purposes. It looks like the various shapes with different numbers of dots are some kind of code, perhaps for different dates, equipment, and sources of material.
Here’s an interesting pair of old pencils. Although they are from different companies, their designs are too similar to be coincidental —
The Handy Pencil was made by American Pencil Co., while the Cock Pencil is from Staedtler. They both start with BBB in the same style.
Following that, they both have appropriate logos — the Handy Pencil has a nice pair of hands, while the Cock Pencil sports a handsome
rooster. If one is imitating the other, I’d say it is American’s Handy, which has “Register” (an error?) in place of the “Registered” printed on Staedtler’s Cock
These are dressmaker’s pencils, for marking patterns on fabric. The brush is for wiping the mark off afterward, as ordinary erasers would be inefficient.
The top three are somewhat vintage. I’ve got some newer Dritzs, but they are mint in package, and I wouldn’t want to limit their investment value by removing them. That’s tongue in cheek (an idiom, my foreign readers), of course. Yet I’ve always been reluctant to remove pencils from their blister packaging, even though I’d prefer to put them with my other pencils and save space. And eventually, the glue on those packages disintegrates and the pencils fall out anyway.
Herbert Hoover ran against Al Smith in the 1928 U.S. presidential election. Pencils topped with their likenesses, and others with broom-related slogans, were part of the campaigns —
The candidates battled head to head, but Hoover’s ultimately won.
In honor of the upcoming presidential and general elections in the United States, presented here is a collection of specialized pencils for marking ballots. All of them have (or had) a means of being attached to a voting booth — either a built-in string, or a ring or hole for attaching a string. Several have indelible leads, although they don’t say so.
Some of these special pencils came into my possession after being literally ripped off. I personally would never do such a thing.
The Amazing La-Stil Pencil is round, yet doesn’t (easily) roll! Novel, useful, and great for clever advertising slogans. Only $0.0435 each, in bulk —
Its secret is a piece of lead, embedded off-center near the end —
You can make a real LEAD pencil out of it! —
DO NOT EAT