The Civil Service Pencil

The Civil Service pencil is a bit of an off-shoot from the HMSO pencils.  As such, I’ve found that normally they are also stamped with the Stationery Office lettering, but not always.

Stamping or not, they were procured and supplied by the HMSO. What I would say is that the Civil Service pencils tend to be quite a bit older than an HMSO pencil with a number identifier on them (for example ’48-75′ which was HB).

As an aside, the HMSO pencils post linked above is about to get a refresh, so check back at some point to see how that has gone.

J.W. Guttknecht isn’t a name you come across often, however, they had quite a considerable operation in Bavaria and were exhibiting and selling pencils within Europe, Australia and the USA.

They were also namedropped during a debate in the House of Commons, so even though this post covers a number of makers, I’d say they are good place to start.

The debate appears to have been started by Dr. Charles Kearns Deane-Tanner during the Parliamentary sessions during July 1891.  On 20 June 1891, the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette noted that the question of non-British made pencils being used by British Government offices was raised in the Commons.

Seems like a somewhat silly point of debate, but we need to keep the context of the time period in mind.

Dr. Tanner was an interesting chap.  According to the Church Standard, Dr. Tanner was “credited with the record of having been more frequently ‘suspended’ from the House of Commons for violent speech than any other member of the body“.

Rather interestingly, Dr. Tanner represented the constituency of Mid Cork, a division of County Cork in Ireland.  At this point in time the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was still in existence.

Whether or not this was regarded as a serious point, or just a curio by the press, it was still picked up by various newspapers.  The Derby Daily Telegraph from Monday 13 July 1891, as with the cutting above, latched on the the fact that not only were foreign pencils being used, but they were being used in preference to British makers who were also submitting samples for tender:

One such English maker was Banks & Co.

If you take a glance back at my Banks posts, you will note that there were technically two ‘Banks & Co’ entities.  So these could either date from the first entity (1851-1864) or the second, which has a bit of overlap, but carried on into the 1900s for a short time.

It’s really very hard to tell, however, the Banks Civil Service examples below look more like the first Banks & Co due to similarities in swirl design and finish, than the second.  We also know that British makers were supplying Civil Service pencils before the Guttknecht contract, so the timeline seems to line up right.

Either way, in my view these are extremely nice examples.  I actually have a couple of these pencils in used condition, so have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to write with them.

The Southern Echo from Monday 13 July 1891 continued the debate and raises an interesting point; If you look on the Banks examples there is no country of origin stamping, whereas with the Guttknecht and the Faber, they both state ‘Bavaria’.

Over to the Southern Echo for the explanation and how the Act plays a part in this debate:

I’ve set out an abridged version of the Merchandise Marks Act with the relevant section highlighted in red:

Of course E. Wolff & Son had to throw their hat in the ring. I have two different Wolff examples in my collection, both with the Stationery Office and Civil Service stamping (this is hardly surprising at this stage given my Wolff pencil fascination).

The bottom example has a particularly interesting crown stamp.  I prefer the 3 stars on the lower example compared to the multi-pointed stars in the top example.  I can’t be 100% sure which predates which, but if I took a guess, I’d think the bottom is older than the top, and with a 50% chance of being right, its not a bad bet.

The South Wales Daily Telegram from Tuesday 14 July 1891 features a great article because it actually makes reference to the Guttknecht brand.  However, it is clear from my research (and pencils in my own collection) that other foreign brands such as Faber and Hardtmuth were supplying various departments.

Perry & Co’s illustrated price list 1875 contains one of the few UK published advertisements for Guttknecht:

The London Daily news, again from 14 July 1891 recorded Mr. Jackson’s pretty straightforward response:

This A.W. Faber example below does not have the Stationery Office stamping, but instead it features a the V[crown]R stamping.  Clearly this is for ‘Victoria Regina’, so we know this was made for government offices during Queen Victoria’s reign.

That’s not to say the HMSO didn’t exist, it did, but it seems like the earlier HMSO pencils probably had this V[crown]R on them instead.

I have seen this particular stamping before on a number of pencils within my collection, for example this nice Hardtmuth below.  Note the lack of country of origin stamping; this suggests that this particular pre-dates the 1887 Merchandise Marks Act.

Clearly Dr. Tanner was taking this quite seriously and on On 17 July 1891, the Shields Daily Gazette noted that he had tried to pass a vote to reduce the salary of the controller as a direct result of the German pencils.

Needless to say it didn’t pass:

On 17 July 1891, the Scotsman set out Mr. Jackson and Mr. Caldwell’s more balanced view on the matter.  The UK is an island nation, not something to forget!

On 19 July 1891, Reynolds’ Newspaper expanded on the Government’s rationale behind ordering the foreign made pencils; in a nut shell, they were better and at a good price.

The West Morning News (20 July 1891) portrayed a less nationalist view of the situation and makes a some very valid points on the slight hypocrisy of the whole debate:

Dr. Tanner actually died on 21 April 1901 so didn’t see this one through, however, I had a quick check in Hansard to see how things progressed.

Sure enough in 1902 the issue was raised again:

The Western Daily Press picked up the story on 6 November 1902 gives us the final update on this matter.  Under the pressure, it seems like the Stationery Office was ordering more British made pencils than they had been:

Let’s wrap this post up with a nice group shot.  Do you have any other examples with the ‘Civil Service’ stamping?  If so, I’d be keen to see!

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