Category: Comics

Pen Pall: Alienated by a famous pen company’s anti-Semitic namesake

Visiting Barcelona, I walk into Vinçon, a cutting edge design shop. I peruse glass cases of gadgets, gifts and housewares. “Well, this is awkward,” I think to myself as I come upon a display of art supplies featuring a box of Caran D’Ache color pencils. “Here I am, a Jewish customer, and they want to sell me a product whose brand is named in honor of- whose logo is, in fact, an adaptation of the actual signature of one of the most vilely anti-Semitic illustrators in recent history.

It’s a lot of drama for a nice set of pencils and no one else in the store seems aware.

I first learned that the name Caran D’Ache was related to something other than art supplies in 2006 when I visited the Museum of Jewish Art and History in Paris. They were showing “Alfred Dreyfus: The Fight for Justice,” an exhibition telling the story of the “The Dreyfus Affair,” 19th Century France’s biggest scandal, through artifacts, correspondence and the press. Continue reading