New York Today: Our Past in Pencils


Good morning on this brisk Tuesday.

With school back in full swing (except, that is, for all the days off recently), let’s sharpen our knowledge of New York history.

Today’s lesson: How our city was once the capital of pencil manufacturing in the United States.

In 1861, a Bavarian immigrant named Eberhard Faber established the country’s first lead-pencil factory — eventually named the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company — in a four-story building overlooking the East River near 42nd Street.

(This specific writing utensil ran in the family: The Faber clan began producing pencils in Germany as early as 1761, and the New York factory was a branch of that booming business.)

About a decade after it opened, the factory, which had grown to employ hundreds of workers, was destroyed in a fire that incinerated pencils and machinery then worth an estimated $250,000.

And so Mr. Faber set up shop in a factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where his company pioneered the invention of colored pencils. (The company also produced rubber erasers, in Newark, N.J.)

Other items in its repertoire: eyebrow pencils, eyeliners, fountain pens, thumbtacks and pencil cases.

In 1956, as many of Brooklyn’s manufacturing businesses fizzled out in the wake of World War II, Eberhard sold its headquarters in Greenpoint to move operations to Pennsylvania.

Nonetheless, it’s worth penciling in some time for a stroll along Greenpoint Avenue and Kent and West streets.

Among the mishmash of laundromats, graffiti-covered walls, boutiques and bodegas, you can still see the factory.

The company’s insignia — a large star inside a diamond — crowns several of the area’s red-brick buildings.

And larger-than-life, perfectly sharpened, golden-yellow pencils decorate the facades.

You can learn more from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which designated the two-block complex a historic district in 2007.

Write on.

Here’s what else is happening:

Things are getting chilly.

The last two nights have seen lows of 47 degrees, the coldest temperatures recorded in the city since mid-May.

And more sweater weather is on the way.

Today’s high is near 62.

Say hi to the sun, it will be out all day.

For homeless children in the city, getting to school is the hard part. [New York Times]

Despite his short tenure as Brooklyn’s district attorney, the agenda of Kenneth P. Thompson may endure. [New York Times]

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was wary of Mayor Bill de Blasio, a sentiment that dated back years and grew worse as the primary contest gained steam, according to emails released by WikiLeaks. [New York Times]

The Trump Taj Mahal closed after 26 years, the fifth casino to shut down in Atlantic City since 2014. [CBS]

By the end of the century, New York could be hit by 400-year superstorms as powerful as Hurricane Sandy every 20 years, according to a new study. [Newsday]

The city has dropped a plan to convert a Holiday Inn Express in Maspeth, Queens, into a homeless shelter, citing local opposition. [Gothamist]

The number of food vendor permits may be doubled. [New York Times]

The M.T.A. is testing cars on the Second Avenue subway line. [New York Magazine] …

… and garbage cans with nets designed to help drivers throw trash into them from their vehicles are also getting a trial. [DNAinfo]