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Koh-I-Noor: 1902

Detroit, Michigan, circa 1902: "Window display, art and drafting supplies." Our second look at Richmond & Backus, printers, binders and "office outfitters." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Detroit, Michigan, circa 1902: "Window display, art and drafting supplies." Our second look at Richmond & Backus, printers, binders and "office outfitters." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Koh-I-Noor: 1902 extended through at least 1959

I was a photo interpreter and photogrammetrist in the USAF during the years 1956-1960. Part of the equipment issued was a "P.I. Kit", offering most of the tools required for those jobs. Kit included a sheaf of Koh-I-Noor pencils. Very good for their purpose: Drawing precise lines on an acetate overlay that would eventually be photographed and printed as a (Sectional Aeronautical) Chart.

After my service, some folks presumed my "USAF" implied I was a pilot.

"What did you fly?"


Thacher's Calculating Instrument

The device at the center of the top shelf is Thacher's Calculating Instrument. It is a cylindrical slide rule, four inches in diameter and 18 inches long. The inner cylinder rotates and slides longitudinally within 20 scales. These give the instrument an effective length of 30 feet and an accuracy of up to five digits. Basically, it's a slide rule on steroids.

They are very desirable today and bring in excess of $2,000 at auction.


Would the device prominently displayed center top of the case be used to convert various measurements to drawing scale?

Sign of the times

In the upper left is Prang's Standard Alphabet - which, among other things, could be used as a standard for sign painting. If that copy still exists in good condition, it might be worth quite a bit (though possibly not as much as the linked first edition.)

E. Faber

The School Journal, Vol. 59, 1899

The lead pencil and paper has largely taken the place of the slate and pencil in school, and no wonder. Cleanliness is one consideration and not the only one. The pencils of E. Faber, New York, and Chicago, will be found of an excellent quality. He also manufactures standard sorts of pen-holders, rubber erasers, rulers and other articles in this line.


This picture is a perfect example of why I love this site so much. The small details and the memories they trigger are fascinating.

A Different Skill Set

How much "hand skill" went into drafting! We've all crossed the borders between eras in some way; I remember practicing my alphabet in college at 19 (or I should say relearning), and now it's point-and-click. I'm honest enough to admit that saying I miss the pencil and eraser sounds old, and watching a good CAD draftsperson is like watching magic, but producing a good drawing with your head, your eye, AND your hand -- a different skill set.

Railroad curves

I have a box like that sitting on my drafting table at work loaded with railroad curves. It even has the two hook latches to keep the lid closed. And it looks like engineering or architectural scales in a circular holder on top of the box. Leaning on the box is a range pole, with three Philly Rods and targets in the window. I still have my Koh-I-Noors in a drawer at work - but I haven't used them in years.

Dear Santa

With Christmas fast approaching, can you go back in time and get me that Thatcher High-Precision Slide Rule? It's the grooved drum in the top center of the display. In my time they cost one or two thousand, can we strike a deal on this one?

Library Paste ... Yum!

Some big jars of great smelling minty tasting paste there, just waiting to be nibbled on!

Office Implements

I have a cased surveyor's tape almost identical to the one on the far left; our son gave it to me some years ago (hand-me-up?), purchased from the Greenwich Observatory gift shop.

And it's been forever since I last saw those circular erasers, although these don't have the conveniently attached brush!


When I went into art school, Dad presented me with one of his sets of Koh-I-Noor drafting sets (he was a mechanical engineer - heating, cooling, and refrigeration). They had stood him in good stead for over 30 years. I gave them to my brother about 20 years ago and he's still using them for projects. Hopefully, his son will get them.

Take our brief survey.

Looks like surveying scales mixed in with the drafting implements.

Cuff Gaiters

That's what I need to keep the AutoCAD smears off my shirt!

Richmond & Backus ad

From the 1902 Detroit City Directory. Perhaps created in the "bohemian lair with lots of flair."

The Fox in the Hat

Hubba hubba!

Same in 1982 as 1902

Most of the items and brands in this window were still what we used in architecture school 80 years after this was taken. It's only in the last 15 or so years most of these drafting supplies became rare - everything's on computers now.

French Curves

Darn! Those sure are some sexy French Curves in that window!!!

Window Glass

Interesting reflections!I think the male reflection is the photographer.

The reflections are interesting

Beyond the scope of the photograph, the reflections in the window are intriguing. I see an Army recruitment center across the street. Is this enough clues for someone to come up with an address?

[111 Woodward Avenue. - Dave]

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