A virtual museum of the golden age of the Canadian pencil industry.
I don't get out to thrift shops as often as I used to. And when I do go, it seems I less often find something of note. Yesterday, I was surprised to find a bag full of unopened stationary supplies. I was pretty excited. The bag had several packages of pencils, a Venus hole punch, a couple of plastic ACME rulers, some erasers and a bunch of hole reinforcers. Much of this was made overseas but a couple of the pencils were Canadian.
I've seen the package shown above on Ebay in the past but never with the Commodore 64 contest. Contests are nice because it they provide a specific date. This contest closed on August 1st, 1985. The package has not been opened and so we don't know if this could have been a winner... there is a "scratch-and-win" patch on the card inside to see if you've won. I have several Venus Laurentien coloring pencil packages with the Commodore 64 contest but this is the first pencil product that I've seen it on.
The pencils in this FaberCastell package just say "Canada HB" on them. Otherwise, they are identical to the Venus 1600 pencils in the other package I found. Packages like this are sometimes the only way to identify mystery pencils they have no manufacturer or brand name. You may notice that one of the pencils is missing its eraser. The package is sealed and the eraser is not inside so it must have come from the factory this way... not a sign of high quality. The product code on the front of the package is CDAP-10-HB (the code on the other Venus package was VP-10-SW). I'm wondering if this package was a bugdet set of pencils made for a bargain retailer. This package had a price tag on it from Metropolitan. This was a Canadian variety department store chain based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The last of the Metropolitan stores closed in 1997.
Hear are a couple of recently found Canadian made Eberhard Faber erasers. They are ready for retirement... world weary and stiff. The Pink-N-Ink 127 eraser has pink on one side for removing pencil marks and blue on the other side for ballpoint ink removal. These remind me of images from Lisa Congdon's blog and book "A Collection a Day". Day 1 is a collection of erasers. A fantastic website to take a strole through.
This brings to mind an eraser mystery. At the Museum of the Atlantic there is an exhibit showing artifacts from the Halifax Explosion which took place in December 6th, 1917. One display shows artifacts from school children... pencils, an eraser and a marble. I've always thought that the Pink Pearl eraser looked out of place. While Pink Pearl erasers were made by Eberhard Faber in 1917, it appears that the EF logo and what remainds of the "Canada" printing on the bottom right don't seem right. Eberhard Faber made erasers in the US but not in Canada until the 1950s. and the EF between two horizontal bars logo also seems to be a 1950s or even 1960s logo.
In 1961 APSCO (Automatic Pencil Sharpener Co.) released a promotional free comic book. The Canadian subsidiary of this company was APSCO Products (Canada) Inc and was managed (and later owned) by Ralph Roger. The comic was Bozo the Clown and the Mystery of the Missing Point. In the early 1960s Bozo the Clown was a popular character appearing on many TV stations. The comic is just a 16 page advertisement for APSCO pencile sharpeners targeted to students (and teachers).
I'm not sure how these comics were distributed. Perhaps they were given away at schools. Inside was an advertisement for comic character themed pencil sharpeners. They had lenticular printed eye stickers for eyes that commonly fall off (and kids draw their own eyes). The eyes appeared to be looking in different directions depending on which way you viewed them. They didn't say APSCO on the sharpener so unless you see it in the original box you might not know the manufacturer.
I rescued this Eagle Neon pencil from a thrift store a few months back. It has seen some better days. It has a petrified wedge cap eraser on top and it had a bit of ink spilled on the side... possibly from an old fountain pen stored alongside it. It has also lost a bit of it's bright neon pink color and the white undercoat of paint is showing through. Despite its appearance, it still writes great. I'm currently doing a master's degree in mathematics and I did much of my work in my last course with this pencil. A great pencil makes doing homework a more pleasant experience.
Dixon's Eldorado is probably best known as a brand of drawing pencils. Dixon called it them the "master drawing pencil". The brand name Eldorado was also given to their copying pencils. The set shown below probably dates to the early days of the Canadian Dixon factory in Newmarket, Ontario which opened in 1931. I'm guessing these pencils date from the late 1930s or early 1940s... before cheap ballpoint pens were popularized.
The box for these pencils was made with a deep purple color and gold printing. This box is a bit worn but still in decent condition given its age.
"The convenience of copying pencils prior to the introduction of ball-point pens was widely appreciated. In 1916, Mitchell observes that “at the present time [copying pencils] are but seldom employed for copying purposes, but are commonly used for producing writing which cannot
be erased so readily as the marks of a lead pencil.” In many ways, these pencils can be viewed as a predecessor to the ball-point pen. They were convenient (no need to continually dip one's pen into the ink well), provided firm pressure (superior to fountain pens of the time), and generated relatively permanent markings. Their usefulness is demonstrated by the wide range of applications to which
they were enlisted." - Liz Dube, The Copying Pencil: Composition, History, and Conservation Implications
Picture a "Mad Men" style advertising agency conference room in the late 1960s. They are designing the packaging for a three pack of Venus Velvet pencils to hang from a rack on store shelves. They need to decide on what type of image to put on the card back... I can only imagine the conversation that led to this design.
This is the first time I've seen Venus Velvet packaged this way. I also haven't seen Venus Velvet with two blue bands instead of 1 (although some of the Venus "Super Color" colored penils I've seen have two bands). Thirty-three cents for 3 pencils sounds like a deal to me. I imaging unopened packages like this are fairly rare. This one has a price tag from a Gambles department store. I had never heard of this store before I looked it up. Look like they were around until the mid-1980s.
Sometimes you run across an old pencil that captures a specific moment in history. This is one such pencil. Raymond O'Hurley was a politician from Quebec. He represented the Quebec riding of Lotbinière from 1957 through 1963. This pencil was for the 1963 Canadian federal election that was held on April 8, 1963. Unfortunately for Raymond, this was the election when he lost his seat in the House of Commons.
Based on the ferrule, this pencil was likely made in Canada by the Eagle Pencil Company.
1963 was the year that Lester B. Pearson's Liberal goverment took power defeating John Diefenbaker's PCs. It was also the year that the Toronot Maple Leafs won their 11th Stanley Cup by defeating the Detroit Red Wings and the television series The Littlest Hobo first aired.
You could work in the rain with Dixon Thinex colored pencils... but why would you? This vintage ink blotter takes committment to work a bit too far. It turns out that this is the first Canadian ink blotter I've acquired that is not from Ontario. Nice to have a bit of variety. I tried to search for information about the Regina Typewriter & Stationery Company but only found a few mentions in local newspapers between 1937 and 1954.
I mentioned this ink blotter in a previous post, but that was before I had a Canadian example of one.
Several years ago, a reader of the blog sent me a couple of mystery pencils. They are marked "Made in Canada" but don't say what company manufactured them. Since then I've had a couple of readers contribute some stories and memories of these pencils but no real evidence of the manufacturer. They seemed to be a regional pencil sold in Newfoundland. This would not be surprising as Terra Nova is a National Park located on the east coast of Newfoundland. (Terra Nova is also the Latin name for Newfoundland).
Recently, a reader of the blog who lives in Newfoundland researched these pencils in the newspaper archives of Memorial University and found several advertisements... one of which identified the manufacterer as Northrite. About the time of this advertisement, Eagle-Northrite was the name of the Eagle Pencil Company after they had acquired Northrite.
There are a few other Newfoundland specific pencils. A very rare one is the Eberhard Faber Newfoundlander 1497 HB. A more common pencil is from Berol shown below. These also don't say the manufacterer on the pencil, only on the packaging.
News has been the news recently in Canada. The Canadian government passed the Online News Act (Bill C-18) in June 2023. The act required online companies to pay Canadian news organizations when someone reads their content on one of their sites. Unsurprisingly, online platforms are not happy about this. Tech companies that this is an unfair tax and the government thinks the bill will help support struggling Canadian news industry. Quite a debate with valid points on both sides.
A good opportunity to talk about a pencil perhaps? The Canadian Press pencil shown below is very similar to a Dixon Flamingo... soft, dark lead perfect for a reporter writing notes.
The Canadian Press (CP) has a long history in Canada, first being created in 1917 to report on news from the front during World War I. It is now a privately held independent national news agency. I turns 106 years old on Friday, September 1st, 2023.