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General Pencil Co.
Jersey City, NJ
1889 - Current

 

Aliases

 

Pencil Exchange, 1889-1923

General Pencil Co. 1923-Current

 

Locations                                                                                         

 

Jersey City, NJ

History

 


 

General Pencil Company is a family owned business. It has been owned and operated by the Weissenborn family since 1889. Edward Weissenborn, a brilliant mechanical engineer, founded one of the first pencil factories in America. He learned the art of pencil making in Germany while working for the I.I. Renbach Lead Pencil Company. In 1854, he came to America to establish his own pencil factory. In 1860 he accomplished just that.

 

After assisting in the design and construction of the Civil War battleship, the USS Monitor, Edward set up his pencil factory in Jersey City Heights, New Jersey. It was called the American Pencil Company.

 

The American Pencil Company quickly earned a reputation for producing quality pencils. They received hundreds of letters praising their products, including letters from four members of President Lincoln's cabinet. In 1866, letters of commendation were received from the Governor of New York and the Mayor of New York City.

 

In 1885, the American Pencil Company was sold to the Reckford Family so that Edward could pursue his love for naval engineering. Four years later, in 1889, Oscar A. Weissenborn, Edward's son, followed in his father's footsteps by founding his own pencil company. He began making pencils in a large room of the family home in Jersey City, New Jersey. He set up his own machine shop because at the time it was impossible to buy pencil making equipment. The following year Oscar rented a floor over a grocery, and in 1891 he rented an old mansion for a factory. He called the operation the "Pencil Exchange". In 1914 he moved into his own factory in Jersey City.

 

World War I nearly killed the fledgling Pencil Exchange. The British blockade made it impossible for pencil manufacturers to get lead from Germany. The British put into effect an Orders-in-Council prohibiting American importers from obtaining any German products - even if they were paid for with American money and lying in neutral ports awaiting shipment. An emergency meeting of importers was held in 1915 in New York City where Oscar Weissenborn took the lead in presenting the views of the pencil industry. He called the British order:

 

"The most outrageous invasion of the rights of the United States of America in its peaceful trade relations in non-contraband articles, being a curtailment of the commerce of the sea, contrary to all international law and custom."

 

His speech was widely quoted in the American Press, and it came to the attention of the British authorities. Oscar went to Washington to plead his case at the British Embassy, but the British were adamant. This left the American pencil manufacturers unable to get their leads out of Germany. Oscar experimented and came up with a way to make his own leads. Many of General Pencil's unique drawing formulas were created in those years.

 

In December of 1923 his operation became General Pencil Company. In 1927, his son, Oscar E. Weissenborn, entered the family business. Later his three sons, Oscar A., James, and F. Hill entered the family business.

 

In 1965, General Pencil expanded operations into California to become closer to the incense cedar supply and to the Western markets it was developing. Oscar A. Weissenborn took over as President in the 1970's, and James Weissenborn became CEO in 1979. James expanded the product line, and increased the sales and distribution capacity of General Pencil to become a worldwide supplier of fine art and craft products. James has led the company since then, and continues to inspire creative and innovative products for the fine artist. While selling pencils and managing the company, James has managed to pass along his passion for pencils to the fifth generation of the Weissenborn family.

 

James has taught the art of pencil making to his three children, with his daughter Katie Weissenborn joining the company in 1991. Now James and Katie work side by side selling General's® Artist Pencils and sharing their passion for art.  

 

Along the way they have also done crayon products.

 

Known Crayon Boxes

                                                                                                                                                                                          

Product Name

ID

Box

Colors

Crayons

Box Color

Design

Variation

Years

Rarity

Value

General’s Lumber

GPC0001

TT

1

12

Brown

Line Border

Octogon logo, black text

Unknown

9

$7

Glass-Metal-Cellophane Marking

GPC0002

ST

1

12

Brown

Line Border

Black text

Unknown

9

$4

 

Photos

 

 

 

GPC0001

 

 

 

GPC0002