Thursday, January 7, 2016

End of the Dynasty

Note: this is the third installment in a series of articles documenting the history of the Eberhard Faber Pencil Co.  Part one of this series is posted at

When Johann Eberhard Faber passed away in 1879, control of the firm he established in America passed to his sons, 21-year-old Eberhard and 18-year-old Lothar.  Under their leadership, the firm grew, weathered the schism from the German firm of A.W. Faber in 1898 and the legal dispute that culminated in the 1905 United States Supreme Court decision upholding the company’s right to use the name “E.Faber” on its products.

After that, it would appear, the company lived happily ever after, and the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company quietly hummed along under remarkably stable leadership, with the help of numerous long-term employees who celebrated 25-year veteran get-togethers periodically, as reported in the local press.

In April, 1943, after co-running the company with his brother for 64 years, Lothar took ill and was no longer able to work.  He died three weeks later:

While Eberhard remained active in the management of the company, Lothar’s son – who was also named Eberhard – was the vice president of the company and the heir apparent to lead E. Faber into the post-war era.  Unfortunately, tragedy struck on August 25, 1945, when the 51-year-old Eberhard was swimming in the ocean with his 8-year-old son, Eberhard Faber IV, near Point Pleasant, New Jersey.  Eberhard IV was swept out to sea by the undertow, and Eberhard III along with two of his brothers-in-law swam out to save him.  Eberhard IV was saved, but Eberhard III and one of his brothers-in-law were drowned.

One might have expected his uncle and namesake, Eberhard, to take over the job of President. The elder Eberhard remained Chairman of the Board, but for whatever reason, whether it be advanced age, grief or a combination of the two, he didn't.  For the first time since the American Fabers landed on these shores, family wasn’t tapped for the job.   J. Coburn Musser was elected President in September, 1945:

Less than a year later, on May 16, 1946, after 67 years of leading the company, Eberhard Faber also passed away.  His obituary records that he was married twice: his first wife, Abby, passed away in 1898, the year tensions with his German relatives boiled over into the establishment of a fully independent, American Faber pencil firm.  He was survived by his second wife, Roberta, whom he married in 1904, the year his German relatives sued him.

His death notice does not indicate he had any children.

Other family members would carry on the famous name, and many would be involved in the company’s affairs.  The direct lineage of control of the American firm from father to son, which started in Germany with Kaspar Faber in 1761, was over.

In 1956, Eberhard Faber left Greenpoint for greener pastures, closing the Brooklyn facilities and relocating to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  In 1973 Eberhard Faber IV, the young man who was saved from drowning in 1946, became the firm's chief executive officer and chairman of the board.  He held those positions until 1987, when Eberhard Faber, Inc. was sold -- to Faber-Castell.

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