Monday, November 22, 2010

Eagle Verithin display case

[Click and click again for a larger view.]

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in this case might go back that far; others are more recent production (Berol Prismacolors, from the company that superseded Eagle).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”):
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
747½Dark Grey
748Red & Blue
751Emerald True Green
755Golden Brown
756Dark Brown
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.

[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.]

Related posts
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
Fineline erasers
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

comments: 13

Gunther said...

This is a very beautiful item – thank you for showing it!

Anonymous said...

A thing of beauty!

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, everyone for the comments. Major props to the Red Circle Display Case Co.!

Stephen said...

Today, only chess scores, stock market reports, and pencil model numbers use the ½!

Thanks for sharing this delightful item!

normann said...

What a delightful rainbow of colored pencils! And such precise and evocative color names (Berlin and Kay, take note). Brings back memories. Three cheers for you and long live the dowdy world!

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks, Stephen and Normann. I’m happy to see these pencils have their day in the sun (after years and years in the back of a store).

Michael Leddy said...

For anyone who’s wondering: Berlin and Kay.

Elaine said...

OMG. Someone (or, two someones) wrote an entire book about 'basic color terms.' Life is strange and changeful...full of more things than one has dreamt of! That's just wonderful.

John said...

This is pretty amazing! I miss the old metal caps Verithins used to have. I use these pencils all the time for addressing envelopes, etc.

Michael Leddy said...

Elaine, I sometimes think that Normann knows everything.

John, could those caps have had any practical purpose? My guess is that they’re more about appearance.

John said...

Yup. I wish they'd do SOMETHING with those unfinished ends. : )

Anonymous said...

“Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a colored pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling.”

-G.K. Chesterton

Anonymous said...

I see at least one pencil display in this circa 1902 shop-window photograph.