Sanford UK has been formed by the amalgamation of six separate companies.

The origin and coming together of these units, along with the background of their parent organisations is given below. We hope that you find it interesting reading!

Eagle Pencils

The Eagle Pencil Company was originally founded by Daniel Berolzheimer, a Bavarian immigrant, by opening a pencil shop on John St in New York City and a manufacturing operation at Yonkers, New York in the U.S.A.

5 successful years later his son, Henry purchased the city's first iron framed building. This factory, which produced pencils, pens, pen holders and erasers, took a whole city block covering East 13th and East 14th Streets. The Showroom was on Broadway and Agencies were established in France, Germany, Russia, Austria, Norway and Cuba. To supply the wood slats, Cedar Mills were established in Florida, Alabama and Tennessee.

The earliest reference that we have to an operation in Great Britain is in October 1894 when a London office, Warehouse and Showroom was opened in the City of London at 14 Fore Street, London EC4 ( now part of the Barbican Centre development )

In 1897 the London branch issued a supplementary catalogue which confirmed the policy of selling manufactured goods " of superior quality and reasonably low prices ". Mention is also made of "Prize Medals" being awarded to Eagle Pencils at every exhibition where they had been shown.

1901's catalogue heralded the advent of " Turquois " pencils (note spelling) together with at least 30 different black lead pencils, and innumerable coloured pencils and pens including the "anti-nervous pen holders". The Tottenham factory foundations were laid in 1906 and the plant became operational towards the end of 1907. It is interesting to note that to all intents and purposes the outward appearance of the building remained unaltered since it was built some 80 years ago.

Few records remain covering Sales and Market share from those days, but one can deduce from contemporary catalogues that there was little automation as we know it today on the production lines and the extensive product range depended almost entirely on manual labour.

The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 saw the Tottenham factory temporarily cease pencil manufacture and instead go over to producing top secret military equipment to help the war effort. Pencil manufacture recommenced in 1946, but with plain unbranded products due to Government restrictions. In 1949 manufacture of branded lines was permitted and the traditional names of Turquoise, Verithin, Mirado reappeared on the market. It is interesting to note that Mirado had been called Mikado until Pearl Harbour!

1964 saw the United Kingdom operation take over L.& C. Hardmuth (G.B.) Ltd., one of the oldest pencil manufacturers in the Western Hemisphere. This acquisition also gained all of the Hardmuth Agents and Brand Names such as Koh-i-Nor and Mephisto pencils. 1964 also saw a move by Eagle into a product range away from the wood cased pencils; this being a Marker product the Eagle Boardwriter (the Mark II version of which continues today) and, a year later, the Eagle Watercolour.

Margros (details later) joined the fold in 1967.

Further acquisitions on a world-wide basis (see Milestones) meant that the Eagle Pencil name no longer fitted a Company with such a diverse product range, therefore 1969 saw a name change to Berol Limited.

Venus Esterbrook U.K. (see later) was taken over in 1971 along with that company's sister company in Mexico. Rationalisation took place over the following 9 months leading to the Venus pencil manufacturing equipment being moved to Tottenham to consolidate all pencil production at that site.

Senior Management was based at Ashley Road, Tottenham until the need for extra production area necessitated a move to a floor of Northway House, Whetstone, London. This continued until escalating rents caused the move of the Whetstone people and the Administrative people in the King's Lynn office to the empty Tenon Contracts offices in Oldmedow Road, King's Lynn in December 1978. This becoming Berol House and the Tottenham site Eagle House.

In February 1992 the intention to close the Tottenham operation was made, with relocation of some operations to King's Lynn.

Esterbrook Pens

The Esterbrook part of our organisation was created in 1856 by a Cornish Quaker, Richard Esterbrook. He was a stationer by trade and had seen in Britain the move from hand cut Quill pens to the steel nibs with their consequent advantages. He was also a wise businessman with an eye for opportunity and saw that there was no steel nib manufacturer in the U.S.A., a vast expanding potential market, and he therefore recruited 5 craftsmen from the John Mitchell factory in Newhall Street, Birmingham and set up operations in the town of Camden, New Jersey, U.S.A. (an early example of the Brain Drain ?)

The initial company was named the United States Steel Pen Manufacturing Company, later being changed to the Esterbrook Steel Pen Manufacturing Company.

Detailed attention to the Market's needs and a population explosion led the company from strength to strength until at the end of the Century Esterbrook vied with Perry & Co. as to who was the largest manufacturer of pen nibs in the world.

By 1896 the Company saw further expansion possibilities in the United Kingdom and thereby appointed as their U.K. agents Hazell, Watson and Viney Ltd. Development of the product range continued apace and whereas steel pen nibs had been used with the traditional ink wells, making the necessary accessories rather cumbersome, 1920 saw Esterbrook introduce a Fountain pen with, of course, its own self-contained ink supply.

U.K. Government regulations in 1928 led to restrictions on the import of products from the United States and a Licensing arrangement was made with John Mitchell's in Birmingham to make Esterbrook Pens in the United Kingdom. Mitchell's having transferred their operations to a new factory in Moland Street in 1912.

Hazell, Watson and Viney continued as Selling Agents and introduced the Esterbrook Fountain Pen into Britain in 1930. Although Fountain Pens had been widely available for many years, it wasn't until that year that Esterbrook felt that they had a nib material which would produce a truly practical pen and replace the Gold and jewel tips. This material was the precious metal Iridium used under the Trade Name of Duracrome. Again such an immensely successful product range that the company was reorganised to meet the demand as Esterbrook Hazell Pens Ltd.

War-time hostilities curtailed production to some extent and the night of November 19-20th 1940 saw the Moland Street factory struck by incendiary bombs on the Bagot Street side. (An anecdote of the time is that the fire-fighting party was having some success with a human bucket chain of water when inadvertently a bucket of paraffin used for degreasing nibs was passed along...

Unusually the wing was rebuilt while the War was still on, but on the condition that 50 % of the premises were given over to Government Departments. One being rather appropriately The Stationery Office and the other the Defence Dept. where ammunition from the Kynoch Works at Witton was assayed.

In 1947 the Company bought out John Mitchell (this company having been established in 1822 as the World's first manufacturer to cut nibs by machine) and the American Esterbrook Company acquired Hazell pens, the total organisation becoming The Esterbrook Pen Co.

1953 saw Esterbrook America take over Cushman & Denison, who had launched the Flo-Master refillable marker in 1951, and in 1960 Esterbrook Pens and Cushman & Denison in the U.K. were merged. The post war years had seen a decline in particularly the Export Trade to the traditional markets of the British Empire, as those countries had gained independence and, due to American Aid, had more Dollars to spend in the States on products than Pounds in the United Kingdom. Development work continued to reverse the significant fall-off in business and the years 1960 to 1967 saw a steady introduction of the Mark I versions of the products we know today: Valve Marker, Watercolour, Colourstick, Notewriter and Permanent Pen, all under the Gem brand name.

1967 saw The Esterbrook Pen Company worldwide taken over by the Venus Pencil Company (see later) and the formation of Venus Esterbrook. Production continued in Birmingham, with a gradual move of administration and manufacturing to the much newer factory of Venus in King's Lynn. The Birmingham building was finally vacated in March 1972 but is still standing.

Margros Ltd

Margros was founded in 1952 by Mr. P.G.Hooley, who convinced a Merchanting Company that there was a future in Educational Art materials, a market long dominated by the big three :- Reeves, Rowney and Windsor & Newton. Mr. Hooley not only made Powder Colour (the only product in the range at that time) but he also sold directly to Schools. Shortly after this start business boomed and, on the only occasion during its history, the number of employees increased by 100%. One person manufacturing, the other selling. Expansion of the product range into factoring brushes, paper and other accessories took place.

Originally all of the products were hand filled. Powder Colour was filled from dustbins (literally) into 5-lb, 2-lb, 1-lb, 8-oz and 4-oz tins. Poster Colours were ladled into pots and Colour Tubs were mixed by hand in a batch and then hand filled.

Volumes continued to increase and mechanisation took place such that the original Margros plant became too small to use and an old water-mill was acquired. Further expansion took place and the company continued to grow and in 1963 the company separated from its parent company and moved to brand new premises in Monument Way, Woking, Surrey.

The business expanded so much that it outgrew the ability of the original owners to adequately finance the operation and Margros was taken over by Eagle Pencil Company in 1967. 5 years later Mr. Hooley, who had been Managing Director, left the Company to take up the Hotel business.

In 1973 Margros (now part of Sanford UK) moved to King's Lynn and the Woking site was sold.

Osmiriod International

The name Osmiroid International is quite a recent name for a Company whose roots go back to the early part of the nineteenth Century.

It started with James Perry who was an educationalist in advance of his time. He lectured throughout the country on his method, based on what seems to have been a revolutionary idea then, that the pupil's interest be aroused in order to pursue their studies with enthusiasm. In order to test his theories, he ran two private schools, one for each sex, in London, where it can be assumed that the making and mending of quill pens was burdensome and time consuming and where a pupil remembered "the tedious waiting for the patient usher, who passed from desk to desk with his penknife, mending pens, and paying little attention to anything else."

No doubt this irked the energetic and methodical James, who invented a method of slitting a metal pen to give flexibility and ink flow. Metal pens of sorts had been in use since very early times, but won no popularity on account of their rigidity. While James did not patent the perfected nib until 1830, in the reign of George IV, pens made under his directions were in use as early as 1824, while it is recorded in 1819 he was giving metallic nibs of his design as rewards of merit in his schools.

It must be remembered that this was the age of the Scribe, in business, in the Law and in Schools. The typewriter was yet to come, and men spent their lives working for long hours, six days a week copying documents. The custom was that Law Scribes were allowed one quill per day, and a day's writing wore out the longest quill, so it can be imagined how much time was spent in trimming and mending and the difference the metal nibs must have made. One Robert Griffin, a Law Scribe, records that he wrote for eight weeks, eight hours a day, with a pen made by Perry, in 1824.

In that same year, James was joined by his brother Stephen in starting a business in pen-making and pens were made for this, the first "in Manchester, Birmingham and London. In 1828, Josiah Mason, was manufacturing pens for Perry & Co. and joined the Company. The excellence of their products swiftly raised them to the forefront of the new industry, exporting pens all over the world. By 1876 when the firm became a Limited Company, they equalled Esterbrook as being the largest manufacturers of pen nibs in the world.

James Perry died without issue and Stephen was succeeded by his sons John and Lewis. The former became Managing Director and then Chairman. In the course of time, Edmund, the second son of John became Joint Managing Director under his father's Chairmanship, a position he held until 1918. By this time the Company had diversified extensively, making not only carbon steel pens, pencils, rubber bands etc. but also bicycle accessories and light cars. Even today vintage Perry cars are still to be seen.

On the death of his father, Edmund decided to leave the Company and to manufacture pens in North London, which he did very successfully working on the techniques of stainless steel pens which were perfected under his direction. E.S.Perry, the Company he founded in 1918 was incorporated in 1921 and continued in North London until the outbreak of the second World War, when pen making ceased "for the duration" and the Company made armament components.

In 1944 Edmund died and his widow and a daughter were appointed to the Board, as his sons James and Michael were still on active service. On their return they both joined the Board and Mrs Perry retired.

With the coming of Peace, the demand for what were now called "dip nibs" was enormous and "Iridinoid" and "Osmiroid" nibs were exported all over the world. However it became obvious that the future of the Company lay with making fountain pens. Between 1948 when a pilot factory was built, and 1953, the Factory was moved to Gosport to obtain much needed room for expansion and better working conditions. The "Osmiroid 65" fountain pen was developed, chiefly for school children whose special needs for writing instruments had always been a matter of prime concern. A large range of nib units were made to suit right and left handed users and the several types of handwriting being taught, particular attention being paid to the Italic style. This pen was followed by the 75, Slimline and others. Components for lifebelts, computers and other such articles were also made.

In 1949 Miss Francesca Perry was elected Chairman and later Michael Perry was appointed Managing Director succeeded by Geoffrey Nockolds in 1965. During 1971 the Company embarked upon the production of a range of teaching aids, following the traditions of the Company's founder 150 years before. These met with great success in the U.K., Australia, America and the Far East.

By 1987 the Osmiroid brand had become so established and well known that the Company adopted that name as its own.

1989 saw the acquisition of Osmiroid by Berol Ltd.

During Christmas 1990 the Warehousing and Despatch of the Osmiroid products was relocated to King's Lynn along with the non-manufacturing administration functions. January 1991 saw the announcement of the relocation of the remaining Osmiroid operations to King's Lynn and thus closure of the factory around Easter of that year.


It was in 1928 that rotring launched the Tintenkuli or Inkograph with a patented ‘sturdy tubular tip’, enabling smooth writing at fixed line widths to take place. A design feature of the pen was a red ring (rotring) which continues in many products to this day.

Continued development expanded the product range and in 1936 the first pen to combine a pencil and two coloured ink tips into a single barrel was launched. This was the ancestor of the many rotring multi-pens which continue to this day.

The Rapidograph technical pen became the standard against which all other technical pens are judged and was announced in 1953. Subsequent expansion of the product range added the first rotring roller pen with a ruby tip just two years later giving superb writing quality.

The first of the Tikky fine lead pencils were added in 1979 bringing the quality, performance and precision of technical writing instruments to everyday writing. Although the calligraphy fountain pen ‘Art Pen’ was originally intended for artists, when launched in 1984 it immediately became a sales hit with the general public.

The development of the multi-function pen continued and in 1988 consumers were included in the design loop leading to the development of the eye-contact tip selection method.

In 1989 the hexagonal Newton writing instruments set new aesthetic standards in the higher value writing instrument market.

The approaching millennium led to the launch of the first rotring millennium product in 1994 with a fresh product being added each year until the turn of the century. These have already become collectors items and are appreciating in value.

The 1928 pen was launched in 1998 and has been created to celebrate the 70 year history of rotring started by the legendary Tintenkull so many years ago.

Venus Pencils

The Company was founded in Hoboken, New Jersey in the United States in 1861 by Edward Weissenborn who had learned the art of pencil making in Switzerland and realised that there was a great future in the U.S.A. for quality pencils, many of which had hitherto been imported from Germany.

In 1865 the Company became the American Lead Pencil Co. and was the first firm in the U.S.A. to manufacture a complete range of graded lead pencils. Edward Weissenborn designed and built all of his own machinery and took out over 28 Patents for pencil making machinery.

The Reckford family acquired the Company in 1885, Reckford's previously having pioneered the importation of German pencils.
In 1905 the Venus de Milo statue in the Louvre was adopted as the Company's Trade mark. This required a certain amount of behind the scenes manoeuvring as the French Government had always forbidden the photographing and commercial use of Michelangelo's work of art. About this time the distinctive crackle finish was adopted. This unique design came about quite by accident but has remained a feature immediately recognised the world over and is undoubtedly the envy of other pencil makers who have searched incessantly for some similar distinctive feature.

By 1895 Venus Brand pencils were already being used in Great Britain and in 1906 a London Sales Office was opened in Farringdon Road, with a view to selling more Goods within the British Empire, direct sales from the U.S.A. being restricted due to Tariff Barriers.

Manufacture of Venus pencils in the U.K. started in 1910 at the newly acquired factory in Lower Clapton Road in East London, the London Sales Office also being relocated to that site. From 1915 to 1918 the plant and workforce were employed on the production of munitions and pencil production recommenced at the end of the First World War. In this same year the British Company was incorporated as Alpco Pencil Company and so remained until 1933, when the name was wisely changed to Venus Pencil Co. to ensure that Overseas buyers were aware that the goods being sold to them were entirely British made.

1946 saw Venus commence to produce the newly invented Ball Point Pens.

The British Company continued to expand and, up to 1958, it remained in the ownership of the Reckford family. However the male adult family members had all deceased in the late 1950's leaving their shares in trust to their widows and children and this led to the sale of the entire Company Worldwide to a cosmetic corporation - Charles of the Ritz. This was an unsuccessful ownership and in *9Venus was acquired by Laird & Co. of New York.

Negotiations with the Greater London Council and the King's Lynn Borough Council in 1966 led to the move from London in June 1967 to a greenfield site and a purpose built factory on the Hardwick Industrial estate.Production of Fibre Tips and Markers were transferred from Birmingham in the Summer of 1971. The takeover by Eagle Pencils at that time saw the move of pencil production to Tottenham early in 1972 to free space for the move of the Injection Moulding equipment from Birmingham.

The move of the Margros Art and Craft materials production equipment from Woking to King's Lynn in 1973 meant that work space again became very limited and an extension to the original building was opened in early 1974 becoming the Finished Goods Warehouse. A rapidly expanding market share led to a further addition to the building in 1980, this being an enlarged Warehouse, the vacated space being given over to Pen Assembly and Packing.

In October 1986 the Chairman of the Berol Corporation, Kenneth Berol, announced the family's intention to sell the entire group in the absence of a 6th Generation family successor.

April 1987 saw the announcement that the Berol Corporation had been acquired by the Empire Pencil Corporation of Shelbyville, Tennessee, with final completion in September of that year. (It was at Shelbyville in 1991 that he world's longest pencil was produced, 332 metres long, weighing 12.25 kilogramme, it had the potential to write from here to the Sun - 93,000,000 miles.)

At the time of writing the latest member to be adopted into the Sanford UK family, is Osmiroid International.

November 2nd 1995 was the date that the Newell Brands acquired all of the shares in the Berol Corporation with Berol becoming a member of the Sanford division..

Newell Brands

Sanford UK Limited has become a significant partner in an international group with strengths in writing instruments, school supply, office products, houseware, hardware and home furnishing products.

The recent tie up with the Rubbermaid group produced a powerful international force with world wide products and presence.
Although this brings us up to date, it is certain that it is not the end of the story...