Mid-Century Marketing: How Bonded Lead Was Branded

Whether you’re an avid vintage pencil collector or a casual fan, you have probably noticed that many brands — particularly those made in the USA around the mid-century — are stamped with curious and sometimes clever names to describe their leads.

Eagle called theirs Chemi-Sealed. Dixon had Leadfast. Wallace had Lockbond, and so on. Other manufacturers such as Reliance, J.R. Moon, and Linton simply used “Bonded” or “Bonded Lead” to describe what was essentially the same thing: Lead and wood glued together during the manufacturing process. Today this may seem trivial, but 75 years ago the benefits were noteworthy. Not only did bonding prevent broken lead from slipping out of the wood casing, it added overall strength to the pencils as well.

Side note: Pencil “lead” is actually graphite, which is a form of carbon. Long ago, however, it was thought that graphite was a type of lead. The name unfortunately stuck, and confusion persists to this day. The truth is, pencils have never contained real lead, which is toxic to people and pets. (Unless we’re talking about lead paint found on old pencils, which is entirely possible.)

Today I scanned through my collection of more than 6,000 vintage brand name pencils looking for the various ways pencil manufacturers once gained (or attempted to gain) an edge over their competitors in marketing their glued-in leads. Here’s what I found.

Woodclinched by Eberhard Faber

It appears that Eberhard Faber printed the Woodclinched moniker only on select pencils with the diamond-star logo (yes, this includes the famed Blackwing 602). According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark database, the company first used the name Woodclinched in April of 1940 and received a trademark for it later that same year.

Ebony pencil by Eberhard Faber
Hevi-Write pencil by Eberhard Faber
Microtomic Pencil by Eberhard Faber
Commerce pencil by Eberhard Faber
Van Dyke pencil by Eberhard Faber
Colorbrite pencil by Eberhard Faber

Leadfast by Dixon

While many vintage Ticonderoga pencils carry the Leadfast moniker, Dixon also applied the brand to a small handful of other models including the very nice Leadfast Flamingo 303.

An early 1950s ad by Joseph Dixon Crucible Co. made it clear what the “fast” in Leadfast was all about: ”With Dixon’s exclusive Leadfast process the lead is held fast in the wood. Lead and wood are unified! You get true sharpening without splintering or burring!

The company received a U.S. trademark for the name in 1953.

Vintage Dixon Leadfast pencils

Lockbond by Wallace

St. Louis-based Wallace Pencil Company slapped Lockbond onto just about all of their mid-century-era pencils. Here are some examples:

Wallace Invader Pencils
Wallace Apprentice Pencil
Brown Zephyr pencil by Wallace
Yellow Zephyr pencil by Wallace
Green Lockbond pencil by Wallace

Chemi-Sealed by Eagle Pencil Co.

Eagle stamped both its Turquoise and Mikado (aka Mirado after WWII) pencils as being Chemi-Sealed. A 1940s-era Mikado magazine advertisement listed two U.S. patents involved in Eagle’s “super bonding process“ resulting in lead and wood being “inseparably welded to combine their strength against breakage.”

The company first received a U.S. trademark for the name in December of 1933.

Blue Chemi-Sealed Turquoise pencil by Eagle
Chemi-Sealed Turquoise pencil with Eraser by Eagle
Two purple Mikado copying pencils by Eagle
Yellow Mikado pencil by Eagle
Mikado pencils by Eagle
Mirado pencil by Eagle
The Mikado was renamed Mirado after the Japanese bombing of Peal Harbor.

And then there’s this little gem — an early (very early) Eagle Turquois with a yellow finish marked with “Compressed Lead” in a similar script font as Chemi-Sealed in later models. Note the alternate spelling of Turquois as well.

Turquois pencil by Eagle
Eagle Mirado advertisement
A portion of a post-WWII Mirado pencil ad equating Chemi-Sealed with being “Super Bonded”

Pressure Proofed by American (Venus) Pencil Co.

The American Pencil Company, which changed its name to Venus in 1956, called their version of bonded lead Pressure Proofed. “Venus Velvet pencils are strong because the lead is PRESSURE-PROOFED,” boasts a pre-1956 matchbook ad featuring two little men tightening clamps onto a pencil. “This means that the lead is actually bonded to the wood,” the ad (pictured below) proclaimed.

Scientific pencil by American
Diploma pencil by American
Utility pencil by Venus
Autograph pencil by Venus
Senator pencils by Venus
Matchbook advertisement for Venus Velvet pencils
Tiny matchbook advertisement for Venus Velvet pencils with “Pressure-Proofed” lead. Curiously, few if any Venus Velvet pencils are actually marked as such.

Anchord Lead by Empire

Shelbyville, TN-based Empire Pencil Co. not only chose a clever name for their bonded lead, they gave it a logomark as well. Note the unique spelling (Anchord vs. Anchored) in the examples below.

Husky pencil by Empire
Park Ave pencil by Empire
White Pedigree pencil by Empire
Green Pedigree pencil by Empire
Vintage Speed pencils by Empire
Speed pencil by Empire

And there’s more

Time doesn’t permit me to go into detail about every bonded-lead pencil brand in my collection, but here are some additional examples with interesting names.

Dyno Bond by Atlas Pencil Corp.

Dyno Bond by Atlas Pencil Corp.

Lektrofused Lead by Richard Best Pencil Co.

Futura pencil with Lektrofused Lead by Richard Best Pencil Co.

Flexabond by Blaisdell

Flexabond example by Blaisdell

Fuse-Tex by National

Fuse-Tex by National Pencil Co.

Triturated Bonded Lead by Indiana Pencil Co.

Triturated Bonded Lead by Indiana Pencil Co.

And last but not least …

Carbo Weld Lanolized Lead by General Pencil Co.

General Pencil featuring Carbo Weld