Eagle Polytechnic Pencils

Following the previous post on vintage pencils, Bob from Brand Name Pencils sent some correspondence. Bob owns a complete set of Eagle Polytechnic pencils from the mid 19th century, and was kind enough to share some images.

I’ll wager that not too many products have been marketed with the likenesses of both King Maximilian II and George Washington.

The box notes that the pencils were patented April 3rd, 1860.

Eagle Polytechnic Pencils

“Adapted to the use of schools and colleges,” the seven pencils range in grade from HHH to BB:

Eagle Polytechnic Pencils

Amazing condition:

Eagle Polytechnic Pencils

Berolzheimer, Illfelder & Co.:

Eagle Polytechnic Pencils

Note that unlike the A. W. Faber pencils, the narrow side of the rectangular lead is adjacent to the glued internal side of the pencils:

Eagle Polytechnic Pencils

The Polytechnic seems to be a direct competitor and response to the Polygrade. This particular set has survived in amazing shape.

My thanks to Bob for sharing these images.

A. W. Faber’s Polygrade Lead Pencils

A. W. Faber's Polygrade Lead Pencils

Lothar von Faber’s Polygrade is a historically important pencil. Launched in 1837, and sold until the early 20th century, the product offered pencils in a system of standard grades, and established the Faber name globally. The pencils were also the first by Faber to use the Conté/Hardmuth process of blending graphite with clay, an improvement over the use of raw graphite.

The particular box we see here is rather ornate, and reflects the price and status of the Polygrade pencils in the 19th century. 1851, 1853, and 1855 prizes are mentioned on the box. The pencils within are additionally stamped “E. Faber 133 William St. NY”. Eberhard Faber is known to have departed that address in 1877, so the pencils can probably be dated from 1855 to 1877, placing them closer to Faber’s 1761 establishment than the present. (2011 is Faber-Castell’s 250th anniversary.)

A metal push button mechanism to open the box is still functioning:

A. W. Faber's Polygrade Lead Pencils

Eight of the original set of ten remain. All are a bit worse for wear. The imprints of the softer grades are the best preserved.

The inside cover mentions, in French and English, the pencil grades:

BBBB and BBB: very soft and very black
BB: soft and very black
B: soft and black
F: less soft and black
HB: middling
H: hard
HH: harder
HHH and HHHH: very hard

A. W. Faber's Polygrade Lead Pencils

A. W. Faber's Polygrade Lead Pencils

We would call these 3B and 4B today:

A. W. Faber's Polygrade Lead Pencils

Though quite faded, the imprints are beautiful:

A. W. Faber's Polygrade Lead Pencils

The patina of the wood is certainly no less attractive due to the age.

A. W. Faber's Polygrade Lead Pencils

The previous owner performed some nice hand sharpening:

A. W. Faber's Polygrade Lead Pencils

What is perhaps most interesting is the other end of the pencil: these pencils have rectangular leads, and use the historic construction method of placing the square lead in a square cavity, then gluing on the remaining third of the pencil. This was the technique used prior to the use of sandwich slats.

Note as well that the leads vary in size – just like modern quality pencil sets, the cores of the softer grades are larger.

A. W. Faber's Polygrade Lead Pencils

Do they still write? Of course they still write! On a toothy paper meant for charcoal or pastel:

A. W. Faber's Polygrade Lead Pencils

And the HB on a good quality writing tablet:

A. W. Faber's Polygrade Lead Pencils

Well over a century after their manufacture, these pencils continue to impress.

Further reading and references:

The Pencil, A History of Design and Circumstance by Henry Petroski, has many references to this pencil. Two chapters in particular are relevant. Chapter 6, “Does One Find or Make a Better Pencil?”, discusses the history of pencil construction, and Chapter 11, “From Cottage Industry to Bleistiftindustrie”, focuses on the establishment of the pencil industry, driven by the Faber family and products such as the Polygrade.

Eberhard Faber’s Pencil Factory by Mary Habstritt at Archive of Industy. (PDF format.) A nice three page summary of the history of Eberhard Faber business.

Eberhard Faber Pencil Company Historic District Designation Report at City of New York. (PDF format.) Though officially about a municipal zoning matter, the report has an excellent history of the Eberhard Faber company, and is illustrated with maps and many photos of the historic Eberhard Faber buildings.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

The predecessor of Staedtler’s iconic Mars Lumograph 100 is the Mars Lumograph 2886. According to leadholder.com, this particular box may date from the late 1950s.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

The lid has some compelling graphics:

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

Half a century old, only the design indicates the age of these pencils:

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

The “A” in “STAEDTLER” appears to be formed like a compass. As well, reflecting the manufacturing processes of the era, there are slight surface differences between specimens.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

An element I love is the HB grade mark in vibrant gold colour. It is serious but not fanciful, like the painted gold markings that were once typically applied to wood surfaces such as office doors and library card catalogues.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

The factory sharpening, just like the modern version, is the best in the industry, with no “scrape marks” along the wood.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

Take a close look. Even the smallest graphical details are impressive.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

Overall, a classic pencil.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

Are “MARS” and “LUMOGRAPH” rendered the same way?

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

For me, the caps are a continuing delight:

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

A comparison with the modern version. In case you didn’t notice, this photo should make clear that the 2886 is a “left-handed” imprint, in contrast with the standard “right-handed” 100.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

Does anyone prefer the modern look?

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

A small delight after all these years is to find a paper insert.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

Slightly withered, it presents pencil grade recommendations for eleven different professions.

Staedtler Mars Lumograph 2886 pencil

I have tried and tested the 2886, and find it to be extremely similar to the modern 100 in graphite function and erasure. Given the half century between the manufacture of the two pencils, this demonstration of Staedtler’s ongoing commitment to their product excellence is remarkable.

Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil – continued

Continuing from the previous post, we open up the tin. I would say there is a lot of evidence of pride in the product:

 Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil

The paper flaps have all sorts of fascinating information about the MARS line. I like the list of the “most important” products:

 Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil

 Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil

 Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil

The pencils, finished in black, perhaps have less show than we might expect, yet still look great:

 Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil

 Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil

 Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil

Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil

Pencil packaging graphics were truly amazing some years ago. This post is more a look at some particular artwork rather an exploration of the pencils.

The seams of this box have largely disintegrated:

Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil

One side of the bottom has a label:

Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil

While the box itself has some nostalgic appeal, a gem is hidden on the inside lid:

Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil

Notice the “since 1662” phrase also. Staedtler now claims an 1835 origin.

The tins of pencils are themselves quite something:

Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil

I am glad to see the artist’s initials, “W.H.”

Staedtler 2957 colour copying pencil

Due to the relatively large size of these images, I’ll wait until the next post to show the inside of the box.

Staedtler Mars Duralar

From deep inside the pencil talk vaults, the Staedtler Mars Lumograph Duralar.

Staedtler Mars Duralar 1830 pencil

The box shows many signs of age. The half gross of 2830 pencils are in the K3 grade.

Staedtler Mars Duralar 1830 pencil

Despite many advancements in the ability to render images, modern graphics are less detailed than this 20th century beauty:

Staedtler Mars Duralar 1830 pencil

The box has some printed material:

Staedtler Mars Duralar 1830 pencil

No complaints necessary! We love these pencils.

Staedtler Mars Duralar 1830 pencil

Also an ad for a sharpener:

Staedtler Mars Duralar 1830 pencil

Unfortunately an overhead tree took away some of the focus:

Staedtler Mars Duralar 1830 pencil

The gold trim is very nice:

Staedtler Mars Duralar 1830 pencil

Nice lettering:

Staedtler Mars Duralar 1830 pencil

The insert is beautiful, and could probably be made into an excellent bookmark if printed on heavier paper:

Staedtler Mars Duralar 1830 pencil

The bottom piece of paper has tables of pencil grade recommendations:

Staedtler Mars Duralar 1830 pencil