Saturday, 7 June 2014

Pencil Archaeology

The General Pencil Company of today started off as American Pencil Company in 1889. It was founded by Edward Weissenborn who learned the art of pencil making in Germany  and set up his own pencil factory in New Jersey in 1860. It is an interesting story with ups and downs with the pencils surviving it all and being ushered into the 21st century. A small chapter in this big story is the pen holder that has been rescued from oblivion. It is a pen holder made from a pencil.

"American Pencil Co" inscribed in Mariage font

The wooden shaft is inscribed with the name of the American Pencil Company in golden lettering. The font is Mariage, a blackletter typeface designed by Morris Fuller Benton in 1901, chosen by the American Pencil Co. probably in a bid to "espouse tradition". A faint shape which looks like a crest is inscribed between "American" and "Pencil".  It is possible that there has been a series of different dip pen nib holders of this type as this one is called "Fairy No. 2" a title perplexingly followed by "Glass - Finish" 102. Glass finish? Is it perhaps "Class finish"? Nope. I think this is definitely a G. Where is Mr Weissenborn to explain all?

The mysterious "Glass - Finish" inside a rectangular frame.

"American Pencil Co London" inscribed on the metal tip.

The nib holder which is a pencil!

But what is perhaps not apparent at first sight is that this pen holder is actually made out of a pencil. Yes, it is a cylindrical shaft and at the top the graphite is clearly visible. As for the metal tip, this is inscribed "American Pencil Co London" which leads one to inquire when was the London branch of the American Pencil Co. opened in the British capital.

Ah the joys of pencil archaeology. 


  1. I'm guessing a varnish or shellac for the "glass finish"? There's a glass shot (or glass bead) peening process used in metal working, but I don't know much about it.

    General Pencil's products are well-liked by their fans as quality wood-cased pencils at maybe two-thirds or half the price of equivalent Staedtlers or Mitsubishis.

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