This story tells about how the world’s oldest and largest manufacturer of wood-cased pencils came to the USA to establish a presence in the marketplace.
In 1761, a cabinet-maker named Caspar Faber started a small pencil company in Stein near Nuremberg,Germany. The business grew under his son Anton Wilhelm Faber, but the next generation was not so successful. Georg Leonhardt Faber had to contend with the fact that German pencils did not have a good reputation, along with tariffs and restrictions that did not encourage trade between European communities.
In 1839, Lothar von Faber, a fourth generation family member, took over the small pencil business. Having been sent abroad to England and France by his father after completing school and apprenticeships in banking and the stationery business, Lothar quickly realized that quality products were crucial to the success of the family business. Lothar’s travels were cut short by the death of his father, which required his return to Stein to run the business.
Setting the Standards
Lothar proved to be a businessman full of drive and focus. Through hard work, inventive product enhancements, and innovative marketing, he positioned the A.W. Faber line as the world’s first branded pencils. Faber product innovations included developing a hexagonal shape pencil to prevent it from rolling, plus Lothar invented a system to designate the hardness of lead. Eventually other manufacturers in the industry adopted this system.
Having become a trend-setter in Europe, Lothar turned his focus towards the enormous untapped market of the United States. The expansion of school systems coupled with economic growth insured a steady demand for writing and drawing implements. Thus, in 1843 A.W. Faber began exporting to the United States. Then in 1849 the company opened its first U.S.subsidiary in New York City under the management of Lothar’s brother Eberhard. Soon after, offices were opened in Paris, London, Vienna, and St. Petersburg.
For years the relationship between the brothers was harmonious. The U.S. branch was successful and sold a variety of blacklead and coloured pencils in increasing quantities. At this time, in the early 1860’s, the A.W. Faber pencils were still being imported from Germany. However, Eberhard determined that producing the pencils locally would be more cost-effective. With assistance from Lothar, a pencil factory was established in New York City to handle manufacturing locally. Demand for pencils continued to rise, part of which was fueled by the Civil War and soldiers wanting pencils to use for writing letters home.
Eventually the interests of Lothar and Eberhard began to diverge. Eberhard increasingly wanted property of his own and so he began to produce pencils under his own name, "Eberhard Faber", although still using leads from Stein. The two businesses continued to be run side by side for a number of years, but Lothar grew increasingly displeased with the direction Eberhard was taking.
However, fate was unkind to Lothar, and upon his death in 1896 there was no one in his family prepared to carry on the business given that his son and grandsons had died before him. But, despite the dire situation, all was not lost. In 1898 Baroness Otilie von Faber (Lothar’s granddaughter) married Count Alexander Castell-Rudenhausen from an old German family, and a new company was born under the name A.W. Faber-Castell. Meanwhile, Eberhard’s company continued to flourish under the management of his son John Eberhard, and became a strong competitor of Faber-Castell in the United States. Eventually, in 1903, the two companies separated.
In 1917 the United States declared war against Germany and entered World War I. As a result of that action, in 1918 all U.S. subsidiaries of German companies were declared enemy property and thus forfeits. Thus, A.W. Faber-Castell was auctioned off and ended up in the hands of several shareholders. The Eberhard Faber company, however, was classified as American and allowed to continue doing business.
A New Start
In 1957 a prominent New Jersey banker, Gustave E. Wiedenmayer, acquired controlling interest in the American Faber-Castell company. Acknowledging his and the company’s German heritage, Mr. Wiedenmayer approached Count Roland von Faber-Castell to offer the opportunity for the Faber-Castell family to once again become shareholders in the company. Not only was a close business tie established, a family bond was formed through their two sons, Christopher Wiedenmayer and Anton von Faber-Castell.
In 1971 Christopher Wiedenmayer became President of Faber-Castell Corporation and made a series of acquisitions of other companies in the industry. The landmark acquisition came in 1987 when Eberhard Faber was reunited with Faber-Castell. From 1971 to 1994, the company grew into one of the largest office products and writing instrument companies in North America.
In 1994 Faber-Castell Corporation was sold to the Newell Corporation. In the course of these negotiations, Count Anton von Faber-Castell bought back the Faber-Castell trademark rights in the United States.
In 1996 Faber-Castell was once again established as a wholly owned company in New Jersey. The new Faber-Castell USA concentrates on high end markets. The Design writing instruments are noted for their use of wood and contemporary design. The world famous Art & Graphic line for professional artists is of the highest quality. With the launch of the exclusive Graf von Faber-Castell collection, a line of premium writing instruments and accessories, the brand continues its tradition of excellence.
Towards the Future
In November 1999 Faber-Castell USA expanded its operations with the acquisition of Creativity for Kids, a leading manufacturer of creative arts and crafts products for children based in Cleveland, Ohio. The merging of the companies opens up the potential for further worldwide growth of the Creativity for Kids brand, and helps facilitate the entry of the Playing and Learning line into the
specialty toy market.
Spring 2000 saw the move of the Faber-Castell USA headquarters from New Jersey to Cleveland, Ohio. This consolidation of facilities serves to streamline all aspects of operation from administration to customer service to shipping to product development and more.
More than 150 years after the company’s first appearance in the United States, Lothar von Faber’s legacy is nicely summed up in his own statement, "From the beginning, I was determined to rise to the highest position by making the best products in the world." This holds true today with Faber-Castell’s continued conviction to provide high quality products to consumers of all ages. Faber-Castell USA wants to be your lifelong companion. From childhood with Creativity for Kids, and Playing and Learning products, to adulthood with fine writing instruments, and at every stage in between, Faber-Castell USA is there to meet the need for creative expression. The future is certainly bright for Faber-Castell USA with its renowned brand names and exciting products.