A 1953 New Yorker “Talk of the Town” item recounts a visit to Abraham H. Berwald, director of marketing for the Eagle Pencil Company, in the course of which Berwald begins to slam colored leads “all over the place,” demonstrating their flexibility and resistance to breakage. He must have been very proud. The leads must have been Verithins.
None of that went through my mind when I bought this Eagle Verithin display case, the larger and more colorful sibling of an Eagle Turquoise case also housed in the Museum of Supplies. This Verithin case, like its sibling, sat in an office-supply store that slowly gave up the ghost. I wish this case had been better cared for: the scrapes on its rainbowed corners appear to have resulted from price-stickers (for pencils, not the case) being removed and replaced. I removed seven or eight price stickers from this case — two from those corners, two from the sliding glass front, and a three- or four-layer mess from the plastic top (I added not a mark to the damage). If you’re wondering where the glass went: I removed it to eliminate reflections and make the pencil display more visible.
I left one sticker in place, a beautifully designed one at the back, from the case’s manufacturer:
The Red Circle Display Case Co. remains a mystery. The lettering seems to say “1950s.” Some of the loose pencils in this case might go back that far; others are more recent production (Berol Prismacolors, from the company that superseded Eagle).
Dig the array of colors, identified on a printed strip inside the case. This strip features a spelling error (“Tetta Cotta”), a handwritten strikeout and revision (“True Green”), an enigma (“Green” v. “True Green”?), and a reminder that pencils, like crayons, may carry traces of a culture’s unexamined assumptions (“Flesh”):
There’s little in the case that is of practical use, unless one is looking for a lifetime supply of yellow. I’m happy to see three orange pencils in this jumbled, holey spectrum.
734 White 734 ½ Light Grey 735 Canary Yellow 735½ Lemon Yellow 736 Yellow Ochre 736½ Orange Ochre 737 Orange 737½ Sea Green 738 Grass Green 738½ Light Green 739 Green 739½ Olive Green 740 Ultramarine 740½ Sky Blue 741 Indigo Blue 741½ Azure Blue 742 Violet 742½ Lavender 743 Pink 743½ Rose 744 Scarlet Red 745 Carmine Red 745½ Tetta Cotta [sic] 746 Sienna Brown 746½ Tuscan Red 747 Black 747½ Dark Grey 748 Red & Blue 750 Vermilion 751 EmeraldTrue Green 752 Purple 753 Silver 754 Gold 755 Golden Brown 756 Dark Brown 757 Flesh
[This post is the tenth in an occasional series, “From the Museum of Supplies.” The museum is imaginary. The supplies are real. Supplies is my word, and has become my family’s word, for all manner of stationery items. Photographs by Michael Leddy.]
A visit to the Eagle Pencil Company (1953)
Eagle Turquoise display case
“This is the Anatomy of an Eagle”
Also from the Museum of Supplies
Dennison’s Gummed Labels No. 27
Illinois Central Railroad Pencil
A Mad Men sort of man, sort of
Mongol No. 2 3/8
Real Thin Leads
Rite-Rite Long Leads
Stanley carpenter’s rule