A virtual museum of the golden age of the Canadian pencil industry.
Every once in a while, a visit to a second hand shop leads to a special find. I was very excited to discover the set of colored pencils shown below recently. It is a like new set of twelve Canadian made Eagle Turquoise Prismacolor pencils (Art Set No. 952).
The set probably dates to the 1960s. Below is a Canadian school supply catalog from 1962 showing nearly the same set. It seems the selection of colors might be slightly different. The set I found has colors 901, 903, 909, 921, 924, 915, 935, 938, 931, 916, 910, 946. The set below appears to have slight variations... for example 902 Marine Blue instead of 901 Indigo Blue.
Vintage school supply catalogues can provide some great information about pencils produced and sold in Canada. Here are the pencil pages from a couple of Canadian school supply catalogues.
Moyer School Supply Ltd Catalogue No. 66 (1950)
The E. N. Moyer Company, Ltd. was a school furnishings and supply company that started in Ontario, Canada. The first catalogue was from 1884.
La Librarie des Ecole 1962-63
Located at 949 Rue Côté St. in Montréal, Québec. The building that this school and office supply store used to occupy is still there but no longer a store.
Stationery companies often gave out ink blotters which contain advertisements for products they sold. Some these advertisements are for pencils. I have shared some photos of ink blotters in the past. Below are three ink blotters from the Hay Stationery Company of London, Ontario.
The Hay Stationery Company was at 331 Richmond Street in London, Ontario in the early 1950s. I found a postcard printed by the company from 1939. It appears that this company was around until the early 2000s when they closed.
Dixon Viva-Tone colored pencils were made in Canada from the early 1950s. The Canadian trademark registration says the name was in use as early as September 25, 1950. They were probably made until the late 1980s. During this time, there were a number of different packaging styles. Below is a rough timeline of the different styles of packaging that I'm aware of. It is based mainly on old newspaper and catalog advertisements.
I only have packages of the first and last version. Bob Truby has a version of the second style of packaging from the early 1960s on his BrandNamePencils website.
My son and I are fans of the CBC television show Back in Time for Winter. The show follows a modern day family as they recreate life in Canada through several different decades (1940s to 1990s).
The show doesn't really address what school might have been like for Canadian children in these decades, so this is my attempt to fill in the gap. I did recently see that there is a BBC show Back in Time for School. I haven't watched it but there is an episode on The 1960s.
Below you can see a few supplies that Canadian kids might have taken with them as they headed to school in the 1960s.
Dating vintage school supplies can be difficult so I can be 100% sure all of these specific items were available in the 1960s but I think I'm pretty close with this small selection of items. Do you have any memories of these or other Canadian made school supplies?
While the focus of this site is vintage Canadian made pencils, it is fun to take the occasional side trip to explore other vintage office and school supplies. Nostalgia is a powerful force which inspires many people to collect a variety of objects. For just about every type of vintage object, you'll find a devoted group of passionate collectors. Vintage wooden rulers are no exception. I've recently found a few vintage wooden rulers made by the Acme Ruler and Advertising Co. of Toronto, Ontario. The Progress is Fine blog has some wonderful information about them.
The Acme Ruler and Advertising Company, Ltd. has a long history in Canada. It was established in Toronto, Ontario prior to 1925 and made a variety of office and school supplies including rulers. It was located in the east end of Toronto. In the 1940s and 1950s it was located at 512 Rhodes Ave. It moved a short distance to 600 Victoria Park Ave in the early 1960s (between 1960 and 1963) where it stayed until 1972 when the factory moved to Mount Forest, Ontario. The company was eventually purchased by Acme United, an American company which started off as the Acme Shear Company (there were lots of companies named Acme back in the day).
School rulers are the traditional 12" rulers that appear on students' back to school supply lists. Some have inches on one side and centimetres on the other. Most of these ruler have a metal strip so that you can draw a crisp, straight line. Below are Acme rulers of the same design in a variety of different lengths.
The ruler below could be some type of engineering or architects ruler. I'm not sure how to use the different scales that appear on the sides of the ruler.
A lot of the school rulers that I come across have students' names or other notes written on them. I think this is part of the charm of these rulers. They have been used and have story to tell.
Acme Ruler made hundreds if not thousands of different advertising rulers for a variety of different Canadian companies. Part of the fun of these rulers is the look into the past of these companies.
The Lunenburg Milling Company was established in 1917 at 388 LaHave Street in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. The company milled flour as well as selling feed and grains. By 1956 the company was operating under the name of Shur-Grain Feeds by Canada Packers Ltd. The building was torn down in March 1983 (now home to the South Shore Centre). This ruler doesn't have the "Acme Made in Canada" text so it is possible that this was made by some other company.
Model Craft Hobbies Ltd was a company from Toronto, Ontario that manufactured mainly model aircraft kits. They also made lots of other kits and toys. They were located at 56 Esplanade St until the mid-1940s when they moved to 66 Wellington St W. I've seen a number of these 6" advertising rulers online so they must have been fairly common.
In the News
Le Canada, Wednesday October 14, 1942
Toronto fire damages $20,000 TORONTO 12. (CP)
For the 2nd time in a year, firefighters have had to fight a two-alarm blaze at Acme Ruler & Advertising Co. establishments on Rhodes Avenue, at the eastern end of town. The damage amounts to $20,000.
The retail landscape is ever evolving. Once mighty chains are now like the "ghosts of Christmas past." There is a long list of once familiar department stores that are now gone (or nearly so). Retailers like Woolco (bought by Walmart and dissolved in Canada in 1994), Zellers (closed in 2013), Kmart, Simpson's, Sears and Stedmans were all once popular and now all but gone. Many of these stores sold their own branded pencils as well as other stationary supplies. Shown below are a few of these.
"The first store, in Brantford Ontario, started as a stationery store in 1907. During the 1950s and 1960s, there were over 1000 Stedmans and affiliated stores in Canada." (from Wikipedia). These stores were popular in Canada in the 1960s to 1980s.
Zellers closed in 2013. The pencil below is a typical example of the "yellow stripe" pencil manufactured by Dixon Canada for many Canadian retailers.
The example below is stamped "Made in Canada" but I've also seen other examples of Kmart pencils produced in other countries.
Wheatley & Wilson
Wheatley & Wilson Ltd. was a stationary supply company in Montreal, Quebec that is now long gone. I'm not sure who made these "custom made" pencils for them but I like the white stripe on the ferrule. There are also rulers with this company's logo on it. There is a bit more about Wheatley & Wilson on the penciltalk blog.
I believe that Pilon is a Pharmacy chain in Quebec.
Shoppers Drug Mart
Shoppers Drug Mart is currently a thriving company in Canada. These store branded pencils where made in Canada and probably date from the late 1990s.
Looking into the history of some of these retailers is really interesting. I'm sure I'll find a few more examples of this type of pencil to add to this collection.
An interesting "Newfoundland" pencil from Berol that I haven't seen before. Only the name Newfoundland and the grade HB are stamped on the pencil. While it does say "Shop Canadian" on the package, it doesn't say anywhere that it is actually made in Canada although that is my suspicion. (There was originally a Shoppers Drug Mart price tag on the package.)
Below is a closer look at the name.
In the 1980s, Laurentien colored pencils started including promotional offers with some of their sets. Pictured above are three such promotions. I've also seen promotions for Kinder Eggs and Blockbuster Video. I'm sure there are others that I've never seen. The contest dates and expiration dates for the offers inside are a nice clue to the dates that these sets were produced.
The VIC-20 and C-64 contests both included a scratch and win patch on the back of the front card. It is pretty rare to find these unscratched. The contest cards could be found on a range of different FaberCastell products including pencil and marker sets of different sizes as well as pens, pencils and glue.
In the Bubbilicious promotion, the purchaser could get a free pack of gum with the purchase of this pencil set from Shoppers Drug Mart. In order to get this pack of gum, the front card from the pencil case had to be turned in as a coupon. This makes these cards a bit more rare as when you see one, you know that the purchaser never got their free gum. I recently saw a very similar offer on a package of Laurentien pencils for $5 savings on Lynx Athletic Footware from Pharmasave.