Massive pencil collection dating
back to 1874 still getting attention
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 5:18 AM
Henry Timm's hobby was to the point, but he never sharpened it.
Esther Evers shares her father's distinguished pencil collection during a program at St. John's Lutheran School in Wykoff. PHOTOS BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Oh, what it lead to....
"My father (Henry Timm) would trade pencils through the Farmer's Journal and the Successful Farmer magazines, and if people traded him pencils, he wanted them new and not sharpened. If they had used the eraser, if it was gone, or if they had sharpened the pencil, he would ask them to give his back," said rural Wykoff resident Esther Evers, unrolling the canvas bales that hold her father's extensive collection of advertising and novelty pencils, numbering over 2,300.
Her father, a native of Altura, is no longer alive, but his collection lives on through the efforts of Evers, who displays it for classes and organizations throughout the area. She has even started a collection of her own.
According to a Post-Bulletin article written in 1973, "Henry Timm, 82, houses a massive collection of round pencils, flat pencils, thick pencils, thin pencils, little pencils, big pencils - all sorts of pencils in the basement of his home in St. Charles. Timm is an avid collector of any pencil he can get his hands on. While this 'mania' has ballooned his collection to an almost unmanageable size, he is still searching for more, saying, 'I'm always one short.'"
Evers recalled that his pastime began during World War II, when he had "undulant fever, running a fever all summer but not in the winter, and had a bad back." Since he was a farmer, he needed help, and he had time on his hands once he got that help. "The only thing he could do was go to Whitewater State Park, where German prisoners were held during World War II, and pick up a load of prisoners to work on the farm and do the harvesting. My dad collected pencils because there wasn't anything else to do other than go to the doctor, where they used him as a guinea pig for streptomycin."
He kept collecting as he recovered, gathering new pencils to add to his array as he got out and about. The Post-Bulletin article related, "Most of them are the ordinary wood and graphite type with an advertisement or slogan printed on the side. These pencils comprise between 1,600 and 1,700 of the different varieties. Timm estimates that between 600 and 700 pieces of his collection - including the two oldest - are mechanical pencils. The uniqueness of the collection lies in its variety of individual, personalized pencils. Most are free pencils handed out to customers as business advertising. The diverse companies represented include banks, restaurants, gas stations, stores, feed companies, funeral homes, politicians, insurance firms, car dealers, lumber companies, railroads, states, cities, individuals, and even pencil advertising specialists."
Evers cited that her father was not shy about asking people for a pencil. "If he was out somewhere and someone had one in their pocket, he would ask if he could have it, and if they said 'no,' he would try to buy it from them."
She stated that his oldest one is a silver mechanical pencil from 1874, and there are girls' pencils with rings on them so that a lady could hang it on a chain around her neck. He had lots of pencils with things in the tops - his favorite one with something in the top was a Davis & Geck medical supply company pencil he got from his brother. It's from Brooklyn, N.Y., and it has surgical sutures in the top.
That's just the beginning, as his novelty pencils span from the Tom Sawyer Meat Products Company pencil with a miniature hot dog housed in the clear eraser end, a John Deere Company pencil with a curious red tractor floating in it, and Mr. Peanut wading through the water in one pencil's end to a pencil advertising Ruppert's Ale, complete with a tiny bottle capping it off. Take time to inspect them and there is much to discover, including one that has rings that float about and must be "tossed" onto the bottle's neck.
One of his advertising pencils proudly states, "Rust-Oleum stops rust. There is only one Rust-Oleum...distinctive as your own fingerprints," while another tells of the benefits of using "Diamond Crystal Iodized Shaker Salt." Timm's collection hailed from "north, south, east and west, from the District of Columbia to Germany, Canada and Russia," Evers noted, going on to point out that a good share of his pencils, be they mechanical, wooden, or "bullet" pencils - the preferred pencil of farmers everywhere - include quite a few from local merchants, such as bygone businesses owned by Wykoff's fine fellows. "Here's one from the Meyer Feed Mill, and another from Carl Kohlmeyer...that one's from the 1937 centennial of John Deere tractors. He also had one from Fred Gehrking's shoe store, advertising 'Red Goose Shoes for Girls and Boys'."
His favorite pencil of all was "the one with the mixed drink measurements on it, so he could make any drink with a twist," literally, as the top of the pencil turns to rotate the measurements listed on a drum inside the casing. Esther shared, "He was pretty proud of his collection. If anyone came to the house, he'd ask if they wanted to see it, and they'd go to the basement and spend time down there."
Timm died at 92 years of age in 1983, still proud of his bundles of pencils neatly categorized and easy to find when he wanted a particular one. Evers has made her father's 2,300 pencils into an educational exhibit for students at St. John's Lutheran School in Wykoff and also brought them for local organizations to look at. She observed that "pencils are hard to come by these days," and that "most people use pens, so they don't see things like this as often as they used to."
That said, she opened a vintage cigar box containing her own pencils - a fraction of the pencils her father's collection numbers, yet almost as significant in their historical value - and listed the places she'd traveled to by sorting through them. "I have one from Germany, London, Liechtenstein, Australia, San Francisco, 'The Queen Mary,' Alcatraz, the Tower of London, Alaska, the Golden Gate Bridge, Italy, one from Czechoslovakia that I don't know how I got it, Amsterdam, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Luxembourg and Canada. If I can't find a pencil, I buy a pen, and sometimes people bring them back for me, like my grandson Travis, who brought me a pencil from New York City that says 'The Big Apple.' There's one from Universal Studios, one from Arizona in a cactus shape, one from Disney World with Mickey Mouse ears shape, one from the Kennedy Space Center."
Though she knows she likely won't accumulate as many pencils as her father did, she's still engaged by the adventure it encompasses and the conversations that it starts when people ask, "What do you collect?" and she can honestly answer "graphite." She concluded, "I don't have as many pencils as my dad had, but I like collecting them. It's fun."