A virtual mini-museum of the halcyon days of the Canadian pencil industry.
Sometimes it is hard to date vintage pencils and sometimes you get lucky and you can pinpoint a fairly exact date. The Canadiana Combo Set below is an example of the latter.
The great thing about this set is that it includes an entry for a back to school coloring contest that closes on October 30, 1976. The coloring sheet is the same as the design on the front of the package. It also states, "to enter color the black and white illustration of Berol's new package". From this we can assume that this packaging was new in 1976. I had previously seen advertisements showing this packaging in 1978 and 1981 but I didn't know when it was first introduced. So, do you want to try out a vintage coloring contest? I scanned the entry just for you!
Eagle Canadiana pencil crayons were made at the Eagle factory in Drummondville, Quebec. This factory operated under the Eagle brand from 1931 until about 1969 when the company changed its name to Berol, the shortened surname of the company's founder Daniel Berolzheimer. I've seen written that the first Canadiana pencil crayons were made around 1951.
The boxed set of eight pencils above is an early set. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautifully made sets of colored pencils to have been produced in Canada. Check out these photos of a similar set from the Pencils and Other Things blog. The pencils inside don't have the white imprint or area for a signature that the pencils below have.
The version of these pencils shown above has a spot for you to write your name on them just like the Laurentien pencil crayons. I believe that the stylized letter E trademark seen on the pencils below started being used around 1960.
When Eagle changed its name to Berol in 1975, Canadiana pencils continued to be produced but now with the Berol brand name. The pencil crayons from Eagle appear to start at number 501 (with Crimson Red) while the Berol versions seem to start at number 551 (also with red). I know that Berol had a set of 60 colours. I'm not sure how many colours were available in the Eagle sets.
The packaging above was used from about 1975 to the mid-1980's. The set of pencils shown below is a more modern version. The pencils are the same but the packaging and the gold lettering are changed.
Laurentian pencil crayons (later spelled Laurentien) were an iconic part of many Canadian students' school supply checklists and lots of Canadians fondly remember using them in school. These colour pencils were made in Canada by the Venus Pencil Company. They were also sold in the US under the brand name 'Paradise.' Each colour was labeled with a number for use with Colour-By-Number kits. Production of these colour pencils in Canada ceased in the mid-1990s. Laurentiens continued production in the US until about 2011 when the product line was discontinued.
Venus Pencil Company (1951? - late 1960s)
My oldest set of Laurentien pencils probably dates from the early 1960s. The pencils come in a box labeled Laurentian on one side and Laurentien on the other. All the pencils are stamped Laurentian. Later pencils were stamped with the French spelling "Laurentien" which was intended to help sales in Quebec. I'm not sure when Laurentien pencils were first made (I've seen the date 1951 but no evidence of this). Venus Pencil Company Ltd started in the early 1930s as the Canadian affiliate of the American Pencil Lead Company. American Pencil changed their name to the Venus Pen and Pencil Corporation in 1956 (after their most popular pencil line). In the early 1970s, Venus was acquired by Faber-Castell and the corporate branding on these pencils changed.
One way to date larger sets of pencils is to check the name of colours #14 and #21. In the mid-1960s or early 1970s, Venus changed the name of #14 from "Natural Flesh" to "Flesh" and then to "Soft Peach", and #21 was changed from "Indian Red" to "Roan Red".
Venus Esterbrook Canada (late 1960s - early 1970s)
In 1967, the name of the company was changed to Venus Esterbrook Canada Ltd. The case was changed to vinyl with a metal snap but the pencil crayon markings remained unchanged.
Faber-Castell (early 1970s - mid-1990s)
I have several sets of various sizes of Laurentien pencils with the Faber-Castell brand name on them. These were sold in a vinyl pouch and in several different sizes. Early sets has "Venus Canada" marked on each pencil and later sets are simply marked "Canada". In the mid-1980s, some packages advertised contests for personal computers (I've seen both Vic 20 and Commodore 64 contest packages). The sets I have below all have UPC-A barcodes which were in use starting around 1974.
Eberhard-Faber (mid-1990s to early-2000s)
Some early Laurentiens with the Eberhard Faber brand were made in Canada. Later ones were made in the US. The US made pencils were eventually branded with the Sandford name and then the vinyl pouch was changed back to a box. The set of 20 pencils I have shown below, has "Made in Canada" on the front but the pencils are all stamped "U.S.A."
Post-Canadian Production (early 2000s - 2011)
Sanford produced Laurentien pencils in the USA through the early-2010s. After several mergers in the pencil industry, Laurentien pencils eventually became the property of the Newell-Rubbermaid company. This multinational company had numerous other pencil brands in its portfolio including Prismacolor and PaperMater. Laurentien Pencils ceased production in late 2011.
Links and Resources
A few links with content about Laurentien pencils: