Blackfeet Indian Pencils

The classic Blackfeet Indian Pencil.
The Blackfeet Indian Pencil is a unique creation. It is a quality pencil that has a varnished natural wood encasing that was years ahead of others in recognizing that the natural beauty of wood grain could be embraced by the public, if presented properly. The varnish is thick and polished – it doesn’t look like (and isn’t) something one would find at a generic office supply store.

The original had black imprinting with a small horse and rider logo, and the words “THE BLACKFEET INDIAN PENCIL” and the digit 2 for the lead hardness. There is a silver ferrule and light pink eraser. It writes nicely and the lead doesn’t crumble or splinter. A later version had a black ferrule and dark pink eraser. Unfortunately, this later version doesn’t maintain the quality of the classic version – the varnish is thinner, making the pencil less pleasant to hold, and the black ferrule doesn’t match the pencil as well, and can distract the eye.

The pencils were made in Browning, Montana by the Blackfeet Indian Writing Company as part of a tribal owned economic initiative. I gather up to a hundred people may have been employed at the company’s peak, but it sadly appears to have been dormant the last few years.

94 Replies to “Blackfeet Indian Pencils”

  1. I mean no disrespect, but isn’t there already a website about pencils that talks about different pencils? Are you the same person or associated somehow? If not, why another pencil site?

  2. There are a few sites I know of that cover pens, pencils, art supplies, journals, stationery, etc. – does that mean there isn’t room for more?

  3. Can you please contact me if you know of any source to obtain some of these pencils? My boyfriend is 1/2 Blackfeet and he has long wanted some. Additionally, he is an artist specializing in pencil sketches so to find some of the Blackfeet pencils would be doublely special.

    Thank you in advance to anyone who can help.
    webmaster(AT)giveneyestosee.com

  4. To those seeking these pencils – they are no longer in active production, so I’m not aware of any retailer. I just looked at ebay and saw a wooden box sold for US$21.50 just today, so online auctions may be a potential source.

  5. I am holding one of these pencils in my hand now.

    They were wonderful. I bought them by the wooden box.

    Sad that they are gone.

  6. I love these pencils! I’m a pencil-olhic and these are by far the Best I’ve Used. I will try to get some on ebay. I found a few packages at a yard sale several years ago.

    When I mention how I love this pencil, people think I’m nuts.

    Any comparable substitutes for this sadly no longer available item?

  7. Reva – glad to hear you’re so fond of them. Thanks for your comment.

    I’m not sure what would be considered comparable today. In terms of it’s history, the Blackfeet is alone as far as I know. In the aspect of being a natural finish pencil, Musgrave makes a nice pencil, as do Forest Choice, though neither product is exactly in the Blackfeet style.

  8. Wow! I have a wooden box and a card board box of these pencils. They are very high qualify. I was about to give them away before I read this thread.

  9. Wow – so… what ever became of your pencils, Jeff. I too, have half a dozen Blackfeet Indian pencils in the original paper box, tucked nicely into a collectors cigar style box. Nice – very nice.

  10. I’ve got a box of eleven of them; perhaps there are more buried in my apt. somewhere. I included one in every box of the prototype of my computer-theme playing card design, Hexadec (www.hexadec.com), and encouraged folks to contact the company and purchase a box or so. I fear my original wooden box is gone; I mourn the company’s demise.

  11. My wife is an artist and has been using these pencils for years and is now using the small stubs she is left with. If any of you who happen to have some are interested in selling some please let me know.

  12. I just listed a box of 13 pencils on eBay: < ...> I wish I had seen this first. Anyway, they are there and if you would like to check it out, here is the url.

    thanks
    steve

  13. Steve, I have approved your post with the link deleted. Writing that “I wish I had seen this first” can’t be true if “this” is my blog – your Ebay ad quotes my blog extensively without attribution. Good luck with your sale.

  14. i was just looking to buy more. i’m down to my last pencil! i still have my wooden box, it has pens in it rite now. it is in perfect condition. didn’t think anyone would be interested in the box without the pencils. as i do crossword puzzles and mazes, these were the best! you can read them and the eraser actually works! so sorry my look with futile.

    luv, miss josh

  15. I have a pen I’m using marked “Swagger Stick” and “Blackfeet Indian Writing Company” marked on it. I got a whole box of these at a place I worked in 1972…and this is the last one I have. Is this pen (Ballpoint, not retractable) made by the same company? These were the most remarkable pens…always worked…until you ran out of ink, of course. As I can only find pencils on the site, I was just wondering…

  16. The Blackfeet Indian Pencils have become quite sacred to me, I hope the guy who said he uses them as kindling was joking. I have been an Artist for 35 years, Commercial Art then switching to Fine Art. I purchsed every box of Blackfeet Indian Pencils from my nephew’s Boy Scout fund raiser back in the 1980’s. They are the best drawing pencils ever made.

    There is something special about the lead and the feel of the pencil. I’ve done maybe five special pencil pieces of art, all with the Blackfeet Indian Pencil. The last piece i did was last year and the piece was acepted into the Midwest Museum of American Art Art Competition.

    I have two pencils left and no one gets to use them. I came on line to see where I could purchase more pencils and came across this site. I primarily use the pencils to sign my art prints. Finding out that they are not being manufactured any more is a travesty to the Blackfeet Indian Tribe, American history and Artists worldwide.

    These pencils have a magic quality to them, especially when used on high quality paper. I use D’Arches 140 bright white hot press paper. It has a very smooth surface, but takes the Blackfeet Indian Pencil lead as the perfect marriage.

    I know in life things don’t last, however, The Blackfeet Indian pencil should be brought back just like the White Buffalo. Some things are sacred in your heart, The Blackfeet Indian Pencil is sacred in your hand.

    Scott L. Hendrie
    scottlhendrie.com

  17. I notice that a box of these recently sold for about $100 on ebay. (Contrast with $20 in late 2005.) They seem to have become a very collectible pencil.

  18. I still have a handful, with gold-colored ferrules. I think Levenger was selling them for a while. They’re nice to write with, though the lead smears easily, at least with the ones I have.

    The Blackfeet Indian Writing Company also made the Tru-Arrow, a cheaper pencil, painted orange-yellow. I found some, years back, at K-Mart (of all places).

  19. Holy Lead Pencil Club! I didn’t know we were a choir, but rightly so. These are beautiful, righteous, and they work right–how often can you say that of anything?

    Has anyone actually contacted the Blackfeet Tribe to see if they are considering starting up again? Perhaps sending these messages would provide encouragement. We can hope!

  20. I have long loved the Blackfeet Indian pencil. I have two now and they are the last. I also love the Eberhard Faber Black Wing but only have a couple of stubs of them. My latest find, supposed to be replacement to the Black Wing, is the California Republic Palomino. Lacking an eraser, it still is a great pencil!! I love wooden pencils and also know the looks I get from other people who think you are crazy!!

  21. Tom, I think you can get Palominos with erasers. I’ve got one looking at me right now.

    I just bought a box of The Blackfeet Indian Pencil and am anxious to get them, although at this point they’re collectibles, not to be used (even for kindling!?!—yes, I know that was a joke!).

  22. I JUST SHARPENED 2 BLACKFEET INDIAN PENCILS FOR MY SON TO TAKE FOR HIS ACT TEST TOMORROW. NOW I’M THINKING I’LL GIVE HIM DIFFERENT ONES. I THINK I AM ONE OF THE LUCKY ONES THAT HAVE ACTUALLY VISITED THE PENCIL COMPANY BACK IN 1980. I WAS THERE WITH A VOLUNTEER GROUP FROM DE PAUL UNIVERSITY IN CHICAGO. I STILL HAVE THE ORIGINAL BOX. MY PENCILS SAY “BALL STATE UNIVERSITY” ON THEM, AND “SAY NO TO DRUGS, SUPPORTED BY K MART STORES. I HAVE FOUR LEFT TWO THAT I JUST SHARPENED AND TWO THAT ARE NOT. I AM VERY SAD TO HEAR THAT THE COMPANY IS NO LONGER. WHEN I WAS IN BROWNING, MONTANA THEY WERE VERY PROUD OF THE FACT THAT THEY AS A INDIAN TRIBE HAD THEIR OWN COMPANY ON THE RESERVATION. I KNOW BACK THEN THIS WAS THE HOPE FOR OTHER RESERVATIONS TO FOLLOW THEIR LEAD AND START UP COMPANIES, SO THEY WOULD SOON BECOME INDEPENDENT OF THE GOVERNMENT. I THINK I WILL HAVE TO CHECK INTO THIS FURTHER. IT SURE WAS INTERESTING READING EVERYONES COMMENTS. I HAVE OFTEN SAID THEY WERE THE BEST PENCILS, AND PEOPLE THOUGHT I WAS NUTS. I AM GLAD TO HEAR I HAVE COMPANY.

  23. Over the last few days, since I discovered your blog, i’ve read many of the articles and found them wonderful!

    I found your site when, after buying a new box of Ticonderogas, I noticed that they were made in Mexico! Americas Greatest Pencil? My arse!!! So I went to Google to see if anybody else was upset as I was…..And here you are!!!

    Since reading, I went out and purchased soem Mirado Black Warriors. I am upset with the quality as it could be better, especially where the eraser ferrule mounts to the shaft. One i’m holding is bent right out of the package!! The red stripe isn’t on centre either. Non-the-less it writes wonderfully for a 2 HB. I also am a fan of the double hearts. Now after surfing a bit more I have noticed pictures of a different looking Mirado Black Warrior and I suspect that the newest ones have had a face lift. I’m now looking for this newer style as the box I just bought was from 2005 and possibly doesn’t represent todays quality.

    Wonderfully entertaining blog, thank you kindred spirits …

  24. Wow, a few years after finding a box with six remaining Swagger Stick desk pens at some property I purchased in Canada, I finally run a search and find this. I love the box and have never used any of the pens.

  25. Recently I found a box of Vector #2 pencils from the Blackfeet Indian Writing Co. in my late father’s desk. I started using one of them at work the other day and have to say I don’t know when I’ve been more pleased with a pencil. It writes smoothly, maintains a point like nobody’s business, and makes a nice dark line. It may be the best pencil I’ve ever used. It’s a pity they aren’t around anymore.

  26. Can someone please tell me where I can purchase swagger stick pens. I cannot find them anywhere and I love them.

  27. My Dad worked for Travelers Insurance for 35 years. The Swagger Stick, from the Blackfeet Indian Writing Company, was the only pen he used. Great pens, I used them growing up — they even had a white eraser on top!

  28. As a Blackfoot native I have been giving these pencils out to clients and friends and am running low and really wish to find more. If anyone knows of where they can be purchased please let us know.

  29. I’ve bookmarked the link. When I worked at Martin Marietta near Denver in the 1980’s they bought lots of the Blackfeet Indian stick pens. We used them on the official paperwork all the time.

  30. I just found two Blackfeet Vectors and one Blackfeet Sundance at the bottom of a mixed bag of pencils (along with a Berol Black Warrior and an Eberhard Faber American and a blue Ticonderoga ). How do the these Blackfeet pencils relate to the Blackfeet Indian Pencil featured in this post?

    P.S. If anyone has information on the other three, it would be appreciated as well.

  31. Have been using these pencils for 10 years. A gift to my young son. Only now while looking to get more, find them gone. I have 3 left of the originals, which came in a nice wooden box. They just seem to write wonderfuly. Sad I can’t get more.

  32. Would love to buy them, but $100…. Can you do better after all their still pencils. Post here. Will take all for the right price

  33. It’s goood to see that other people recognized the quality of the Blackfeet pencils. I still have a box plus at least one part box, gold ferrule, pink eraser.

    Our division of GE (Information Service) bought them as office pensils about 1990 or ’91. When we ran out, I found the Blackfeet pencils were no longer in our office supplies catalog, so I called the company and got a person who reluctantly sold me a dozen boxes.

    I say “reluctantly” because they would not sell fewer than a dozen boxes, and would not suggest a store where I could buy fewer. Didn;t want to sell, period, I felt…but a few weeks later our receptionist had my shipment.

    I still have one Blackfeet pencil at work…using them sparingly, as I use my Eberhard Faber Mongol number 1, I figure they will last my lifetime.

    Sorry for the younger people who have not had the variety of pencils and fountain pens that I have seen.

    Oh, and thanks for having this site!

  34. it’s november 2009…i ONLY have 69 blackfeet pencils left….i’m very worried….i don’t collect anything…not china…not jewelry….not gold…not real estate….only…. blackfeet black ferrule pencils….i make my living by writing…. i am a wordsmith….do i covet them? maybe…i don’t like that word….i only use them one at a time…i don’t sharpen often… i write slow…deliberate….in case of a fire at my house…. i have moved 32 of them to my mother’s house…three states away…..it’s crazy…but i don’t like writing with any other pencil..it’s just not the same dark smooth clear mark……the words simply won’t come….i figure i only need 171 more and i will have enough for the rest of my life…..anybody want to sell??????

  35. I used these when I worked for Pacific Bell in the 80’s as an Operator. I liked them so much I wrote the company and sent them a dollar and asked for a pencil and weather or not it was really owned by an Indian Tribe . They sent me a 12 pack with a note saying they appreciated my interest and that her was more then a dollars worth as a gift. And yes it was actually a company owned and operated by an INDIAN tribe.
    Great three sided Pens also. I guess they switched to a Casino.

  36. I recently purchased a box of Blackfeet Indian Pencils with the Black Ferrule. After reading all of the hype, I was expecting a quality Pencil but was extremely disappointed after examining my first one. The quality of what I got almost leads me to believe that they are counterfeit. On a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being a Republic Palomino, 8 being a Blackwing 602). The Blackfeet are a 2-.

  37. Hello to all,
    I lived in Browning, Montana. My brother was in the EXCELLENT Indian parade in the ’70s.
    “Saturday night in Montana.” Oscar, Alice and Mike Doane. Art McKnight and all, I love you! ;p
    40 years later….I needed a pencil one day and I opened the “bosses” drawer and what do I see?
    Yes! Blackfoot pencil and marker. They worked fine.
    I’m in Arizona!!!!! Go figure…
    Thank YOU All!
    I miss ya…..
    Tim

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