Sunday, 9 May 2010

Ticonderoga Pencil, or else

"You're saved. Ticonderoga is here!"

Back in the mid-1930s the Saturday Evening Post carried a full-page advertisement showing the novelist Booth Tarkington, pencil in hand, at work on a manuscript, together with a testimonial from him to the effect that Dixon Ticonderoga pencils were essential to his writing. Doubtless this explained to numerous less prolific authors why they had been unable to get going on their books; they had been attempting to writing with Ebehard Fabers. I knew a newspaper columnist who fully intended to write a novel, but the typewriter he used at home was old and cumbersome, so before he could settle into the job he would first have to purchase a better machine. As far as I know he never did.

Louis D. Rubin, Where the Southern Cross the Yellow Dog: On Writers and Writing, U. of Missouri 2005

See reviews of the Ticonderoga in the excellent PencilTalk blog, or/and visit the Dixon website, Home of the  Ticonderoga No. 2 Pencil. Pencil Pages has got some great Triconderoga ads from the 1920s onwards.

 Photo by scaredpoet


  1. Ticonderoga's were one of the staples of American school life. Ticonderoga No. 2's were the pencils most usually prescribed by elementary school teachers. The pencils used to come in marvelous boxes illustrated with images of Ethan Allen (who took Fort Ticonderoga from the British). Stationery and even shoe stores used to give away complimentary Ticonderoga blotters (though they were pencils!) that also were illustrated with decisive moments in Ethan Allen's taking of the Fort, from the planning stages with his Green Mountain Boys to the moment of glory, when he stood facing the golden dawn, sword raised to the heavens.(These images were based on oil paintings commissioned by Dixon from fine artists. Can you imagine a pencil company going to that expense today? Times have certainly changed.) Ticonderoga's are no longer made in the USA, and the boxes have dropped all references to the American Revolution and the American flag. It isn't for patriotic reasons that I miss this, it is just that the boxes are boring now in terms of design and have lost any relation to the history and culture of the community of which they were once such an integral part. The quality of the pencils has declined drastically, though they are still ok as office pencils or for daily use. The old ones, though, have a rich, smooth, buttery lead.

  2. I would love to see these old illustrations! I suppose it's inevitable that marketing techniques change but I would expect a continuity in good design *and* quality from such a lengedary brand. Thanks for your contribution. Much appreciated.