Faber-Castell activities went back to the eighteenth century, and the company is still known mainly for its work as a producer of pencils, carried out continuously from its origins. But also if pencils production has always been the main activity of the company, it can be put in the list of the main German fountain pen producer thanks to its acquisition of Osmia done in 1935, a trademark that was used up to the beginning of '60s, when the disposable ball point pushed Faber-Castell into production of economical models.
While there are some fountain pens produced before the Osmia acquisition, Faber-Castell quality production is almost identified by this brand. Later production from '60s is quite insignificant, and it was interrupted in 1975 when company underwent a rebuild, erasing this section to concentrate in its pencil core business. But fountain pen production was restarted in recent years, when the interest for this unique writing instrument arise again.
Faber-Castell origins are traced back to 1761 when Kaspar Faber began a production of pencils in Stein, a village located close to Nuremberg. The activity was developed by his son Anton Wilhelm, who created the A. W. Faber company, and then passed to his son. The real architects of the company success, however, was the grandson Lothar von Faber, which took the direction of a declining company and with the invention of modern wooden pencil, remained unchanged to this day, built the success of the A. W. Faber brand.
In the mid of 1800 Faber-Castell was already a large international company, directed by Lothar von Faber with the help of its brothers Johan and Eberhard Faber. Both Eberhard and Johan created their own companies, the first in New York, where he went to direct the U.S. subsidiary of the mother company, who in 1861 founded in Brooklin the Eberhard Faber Pencil Co., always producing pencils, the second in Nuremberg, where in 1879 he founded a personal company, which in 1885 became a family limited partnership, the Johan Faber A. G. With Eberhard Faber's death in 1879 his company passed to his sons and his brother Lothar.
Johan Faber started also a production of fountain pens around the '20s; they were mainly safety hard rubber pens but a button filler was also produced; also some metal models were produced. The company logo consisted of two crossed hammers, and on the hard rubber models caps was imprinted the name Johan Faber, also reported on the clip. In the late '20s a piston filler series was produced, with rounded ends and up to four band on the cap.
The main branch of the company remained under Lothar Faber direction until his death, after that his wife took over the management and then, in 1898, the count Alexander zu Castell, who had married his niece. He renamed the company using the name under which its is still known today, transforming it into the A. W. Faber-Castell. The production, however, remained focused on pencils, and the first fountain pen, a hard rubber safety pen, is traced back to 1908. The pen was imprinted with the words A. W. Faber-Castell and given the similarity of its filling mechanism, is quite probable that it had been produced by Kaweco on commission.
After the death of Alexander Castell in 1929 the company became a family limited partnership. His son Roland obtained between 1931 and 1932 the reunification between the A. W. Faber-Castell and the Johan Faber A. G., giving life to the actual Faber-Castell. In 1935 Faber-Castell began to buy shares of the Osmia A. G., that at that time was between the major German fountain pen producers, taking control over the company in order to have a strong starting point in pens manufacturing.
Despite the acquisition of Osmia, Faber-Castell also produced some model with just its brand, in 1936 was produced a model with the Faber-Castell name engraved on all parts of the pen, available in four colors, the pen was a piston filler with and finishes (band and clip) in 14k gold, and bore the logo of the company, a balance that represented trade integrity.
After Osmia acquisition pens were just marked adding an A. W. Faber-Castell Dossenheim inscription, keeping the original trademark. In the late '30s, because of World War II, like all other German manufacturers the company suffered major difficulties, but despite the production was reduced for the call to arms of most of the employees, it remained active. After the war, not having the facilities suffered significant damage, production was resumed at full speed from 1946, proposing the same models of before, but with only with a piston filler and with the explicit endorsement (in addition to the Osmia brand and logo) of A. W. Faber-Castell.
Since 1949 Faber-Castell also began producing ballpoint pens, and in 1950 introduced a torpedo shaped model, called Gentleman in black or gray pearl and silver. The pen had revolutionary features like a butterfly shaped clip and a particular piston filler which contained part of the mechanism in the knob, allowing a greatest dimension of the tank; it was made with a transparent body covered by an opaque plastic cylinder with a regular series of etchings that at the same time had the role of facilitating the grip of the pen and allow viewing the ink level.
In the early '60s the Osmia trademark was no longer used; a number of hooded nib plastic models were introduced, they were thinner than previous one and marked A. W. Faber-Castell, with a transparent section for ink level view. The luxury line was called 66, with body in black, red, blue or green plastic, rolled gold cap and gold nib, the mid range models were called Faber-Castell Progress and produced in three versions: the 77S in plastic with a steel nib, the 55S with silver cap, plastic body and steel nib, the 55G with gold nib. It was also produced a student model called 54VT, because the Vest Tank, with a secondary reservoir usable through a valve.
In the late '60s, as for most of the other fountain pens producers, having also completely erased a prestigious brand that enjoyed a wide popularity, sales had an irreversible decline, holding only partially for the students pens. In 1975, during a corporation restructuration, Faber-Castell completely eliminated the entire field of fountain pens production, resuming today, with the return of interest for this popular writing tool.
The table below lists pages devoted to Faber-Castell models, with a production start date and a discontinuation date; keep in mind, however, that in many cases these dates, particularly the discontinuation date, may simply be indicative.
|1761||Kaspar Faber starts a pencil production in Stein, is the origin of the company|
|1878||Johan Faber starts the Johan Faber A. G., part of what will be the Faber-Castell|
|1898||Alexander Castell renames the A. W. Faber in A. W. Faber-Castell|
|1931||A. W. Faber-Castell and Johan Faber A. G. start to join|
|1935||Faber-Castellbegins Osmia acquisition|
|1936||the company introduces a Faber-Castell marked model|
|1949||the company began producing ballpoint pens|
|1950||the company introduces the Gentleman|
|1951||Faber-Castell complete Osmia acquisition|
|1955||the company introduces the Osmia_88x|
|1955||the company introduces the Osmia_44x|
|1975||the company retires from fountain pen market|
-  Faber-Castell history, from official site (archive)
-  an Eberhard Faber history
-  An article on pen construction centered on the American subsidiary of "A. W. Faber".
- These dates are derived from what is reported at this page.