February 8, 2007

Eberhard Faber

And the man behind the brand is...
Eberhard Faber

"If only I could sell one pencil to every American I could be rich." Well, that may not be exactly what Eberhard Faber was thinking when he arrived in New York City in the 1850s but he did come to America to establish an import business, including pencils.

His great grandfather Casper Faber had perfected the process of binding powdered graphite and encasing it in wood in 1765. Faber used the fine Bavarian clay in the ground around his home in the village of Stein, near the ancient German city of Nuremberg. They were the world's first commercially marketed pencils.

In 1861 Eberhard Faber opened the first United States pencil factory on the site of the present United Nations building. Fire destroyed the plant in 1872 and Faber relocated his plant to Brooklyn where it stayed for 85 years.

Until the Civil War the goose quill pen was the writing instrument of choice in America. But soldiers on the march needed something convenient to write letters home and demand for Faber's pencils literally exploded. By the time Faber died in 1879 the Eberhard Faber pencil was so well known that his 20-year old son John legally changed his name to "Eberhard" when he took control of the family business.

Eberhard Faber II ran the company for the next 66 years. In 1893 he introduced the Mongol, named after Siberian graphite which was considered the world's finest. Each pencil received eight coats of paint - yellow paint. Yellow pencils became the rage and outsold everything else.

Loyalty to yellow pencils was so strong that as an experiment 1000 pencils were once made exactly the same - only 500 were painted green and 500 painted yellow. The green pencils were returned with complaints that they broke and were not as durable as the yellow ones. Today, 75% of Eberhard Faber's two billion pencils, still manufactured by Casper Faber's direct descendants, are yellow.

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