A virtual mini-museum of the halcyon days of the Canadian pencil industry.
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: