“Speculating” is a very handy word. If you end up being right you can still take some of the credit. And, if it turns out you were wrong, you can always say “I was only speculating.” So remember in the previous post, where I suggested that changes in the Blackwing’s length and imprint could be linked to the company relocation in 1956? Well, I was only speculating.
Behold—the Blackwing page from the 1956-57 Eberhard Faber catalog:
The Blackwing pictured above resembles the three oldest versions, not the later ones.
I was disappointed the idea didn’t pan out but there still might be some life left in it, because there’s not only a flaw in my thinking, it turns out there is a flaw in this catalog, too.
In an earlier post, where I was trying to date the pencils by matching their ferrules to catalog ilustrations, I wondered if camera-ready artwork mightn’t have been recycled between catalogs. It seemed like a long shot because like in this post, I was attempting to put a band-aid on some inconsistent evidence. Now I think I have something closer to proof. This scan shows what I refer to as the fourth Blackwing (shorter + transitional), notice the change in the logo:
The problem is, this illustration is from the 1954 catalog. If the 1956-57 illustration is accurate (i.e. having the imprint from the earliest three pencils), it suggests that in 1956 there was a switch back to a design used previous to 1954. Otherwise, it’s the artwork that was recycled in the 1956-57 catalog, which means that the earlier catalogs could be suspect in some way as well.
Compare the 1956-57 illustration to this one from 1949:
The 1956-57 illustration is a bit darker, which may have been the result of clipping the artwork out of a previous catalog and re-shooting it for the newer one. But there are all kinds of other possible explanations, too.
What could explain the switch? One possibility is that the relocation was so disruptive that in making the new catalog, previous artwork found its way in. And to that end, just because Eberhard Faber relocated in 1956 doesn’t necessarily mean that they were up-and-running with new product at that time. Who is to say they didn’t stockpile their inventory the year before, knowing it would be some time before the new factory was producing? Even if they were up-and-running, how much time would have been needed to manufacture the new products then shoot, lay-out, and publish the new catalog? Wouldn’t the new catalog have needed to be ready by January or February? (Admittedly, I’m generally unaware of what time of year stationery manufacturers released their new catalogs. Having the dates 1956-57 may suggest a schedule that went from Fall to Spring rather than from Winter to Summer.)
It’s still possible that the first of the longer Blackwing pencils were made during the inaugural production runs of the new factory, and if so, then they were likely made available in the years immediately following 1956-57. The catalogs from between approximately 1958 and 1963 would be the better place to look, except those illustrations may be just as unreliable. At this point, I’m thinking that the whole idea of establishing a timeline through comparisons to catalogs is just about a lost cause.
But, I’m only speculating.
Special thanks to the Brooklyn Historical Society,
for their help with the 1957 catalog scans.