Friday, August 18, 2017

Maybe Not Entirely Correct

Recently, The Pennant asked me to rework my series of articles concerning the history of the Faber houses of A.W. Faber and Eberhard Faber (I added some information concerning the third firm, Johann Faber, while I was at it).

Both here and in The Pennant arttcle, I addressed claims by the German A.W. Faber firm that Eberhard Faber was merely an American agent for its products, and specifically that Eberhard Faber sold nothing other than A.W. Faber products prior to 1894, when the German house terminated the American agency.

The evidence tends to support A.W. Faber’s claim: although Eberhard Faber was a prolific registrant of trademarks, the Eberhard Faber name was not registered for trademark protection until 1920, suggesting that Eberhard was not using his own name in commerce, but that of his German relatives instead.

I do, however, have a bit of evidence to suggest that the name “E. Faber” was in use much earlier than the trademark history suggests:

I’m pretty sure this one came from an online auction, because as plain as it looks, I’m not sure I would have taken the time to read the imprint otherwise:

“E. Faber.NY / Pat. Jan.25,1881."   A patent issued in 1881 would have been good for a period of 17 years, or until 1898 – that doesn’t quite get us back to before 1894, the date before which A.W. Faber claimed Eberhard sold only products marked with the German house’s name . . . but it’s very close.

Patent number 237,005 was issued to Bradley A. Fiske of Napierville, Illinois:

It was his second patent.  His first, number 226,607, was also for a pencil, issued on April 20, 1880:

The year after Fiske’s second patent was issued, in 1882, he relocated to New York, where his next patent, for a penholder (number 255,272), was assigned to Eberhard Faber.  In 1883, another Fiske patent, number 272,948, also for a mechanical pencil, was assigned not to Faber, but to a man named Bernard Hecht, and the patent indicates that Fiske had moved on to Newport, Rhode Island.

Based on Fiske’s history, it appears that his association with Faber was fleeting, and in 1882.  Would Eberhard Faber sit on a newly acquired patent for more than twelve years before putting it into production?  I don’t think that’s likely.

What I do think is likely is that Eberhard Faber was quietly bilding up its own reputation apart from (but derived from) A.W. Faber, and the omission of a trademark filing appears to be an attempt to fly under the radar rather than a historical testament to the accuracy of A.W. Faber’s claim.   By  the name “E.Faber” was finally registered as a trademark, on an application not filed until September 27, 1946, the coast was clear, and Eberhard Faber claimed to have been using the name on lead pencils since 1861:

. . . and on mechanical pencils since 1919.  Now we know that isn’t correct.

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