Monday, January 14, 2013

National’s et cetera

[A conference room at the National Pencil Company.]

“Pearl, would you see that Bill there gets an ashtray? Thank you.” [Then speaking to the group.] “And thank you all for stepping away from your desks for a little while. Boys, it looks like we have a winner here. Let me go point by point.”

[Appreciative laughter. Murmurs of “Good one, Ed.” ]

“This pencil is hexagonal — check. It sits nicely in the hand — check. It can be used by both righties and lefties — check. And most importantly, it has the colors we’ve been trying to put together now for what must be two whole years — check.”

[Dramatic pause.]

“Only problem I see is what to call the thing. Hank?”

“Well, we just finished work on the 515. How about National’s 516?”

“That’s a good suggestion, Hank, a good suggestion. But I think we need for this pencil to have something about it that is going to stick in the customer’s mind. I want something that will make a little light go on and make the customer think of National. Al?”

“How about ‘Fuse-Tex’?”

[Awkward silence.]


“No, ‘Fuse-Tex,’ with quotation marks.”

“Double or single?”

“Well, when we’re talking, single. But on the pencil, double.”

[Increasingly awkward silence.]

“Boys, guess what? I like it! It’ll set us apart from the competition. ‘Fuse-Tex.’ I can imagine a customer in a store: ‘Gimme a couple of them “Fuse-Tex” pencils.’”

“But Ed, what’s it mean?”

[A brief silence.]

“Ed, if I may make a suggestion, it needs something more. How about if we add a touch of color? How about ‘National’s “Fuse-Tex” Skytint’?”

“Nice handling of your quotation marks there, Ralph. Okay. But Skytint, well . . . that’d make me kind of think of sky. Can’t we get the red in there in some kind of way? Yes, Andy?”

“How about ‘National’s “Fuse-Tex” Skytint Red & Blue’?”


“I meant and.”

“Boys, now that’s a pencil that sounds like something! Yes, Hank?”

“Don’t forget the 516.”

[This post is the thirteenth in an occasional series, “From the Museum of Supplies.” Supplies is my word, and has become my family’s word, for all manner of stationery items. The museum is imaginary. The supplies are real. Skytint has a 1931 trademark. Fuse-Tex, first used in 1944, has a 1946 trademark. The names appear on a number of National’s pencils. If you liked this story, you should spend some time in the Museum.]

Other Museum of Supplies exhibits
Dennison’s Gummed Labels No. 27 : Eagle Turquoise display case : Eagle Verithin display case : Fineline erasers : Illinois Central Railroad Pencil : A Mad Men sort of man, sort of : Mongol No. 2 3/8 : Moore Metalhed Tacks : Pedigree Pencil : Real Thin Leads : Rite-Rite Long Leads : Stanley carpenter’s rule

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