OUR BOHEMIAN ROOTS
Koh-I-Noor’s ancestry goes back to Bohemia, a region in the Czech Republic associated with some of history’s greatest creative minds like Alfons Mucha, Franz Kafka, Antonin Dvorák, Jan Neruda, and countless other artists, writers, photographers, and musicians. Since the 1850s, Bohemia has become synonymous with creativity. Our modern idea of Bohemianism, and even the boho chic style, comes from the very place that Koh-I-Noor began its production of art materials.
Today, our core values are derived from our Bohemian roots. We embrace diversity and social unconventionality, and a passion for art over all else. Our staff in Massachusetts integrates their artistic pursuits with their work in the office, bringing in ideas from the artists’ perspective when developing anything from a sheet of paper to an artist’s ink. We support a number of outreach programs that encourage artistic expression from a diverse range of people that may access art through homeless shelters or one of our country’s top art colleges. We believe everyone’s voice matters in art, regardless of social or economic status, because a varied tapestry of visual expression creates a richer, more interesting, and inspiring world.
Koh-I-Noor’s European roots go back to 1790 when Josef Hardtmuth founded an earthenware factory in Vienna. Clay would be the material from which his pencil empire would be born. Just 12 years later in 1802 he patented the first Hardtmuth graphite lead that combined clay and graphite to create varying degrees of softness. By 1848 he moved his growing pencil factory to České Budějovice, also known as Budweiss — the same town where Budweiser Beer was founded. It was in this Bohemian hamlet outside of Prague that Koh-I-Noor’s future would be forged.
The Hardtmuths set the standards for ingenuity in art material production. Franz Hardtmuth created the graphite degree system; H, F & B are still the standard designations for artist grade graphite leads. H was chosen to represent the Hardtmuth family name, B for the town of Budweiss where the factory is located, and F for Franz, the inventor of the system.
They continued to innovate and break barriers in pencil and eraser manufacturing and established a branch of the company in Bloomsbury, New Jersey in 1919.
The Region of Bohemia in the Czech Republic, and location of the Koh-I-Noor Factory.
With World War II came the division of Koh-I-Noor North America and Koh-I-Noor Europe. Over time, the two companies developed different art materials - Koh-I-Noor Europe manufactured fine art materials such as pencils and paints, along with office and school supplies. Meanwhile, Koh-I-Noor USA had developed some of the finest technical drawing supplies on the market.
In 1999, Steven W. Roth, president of Chartpak Inc., acquired Koh-I-Noor North America - famous for its world-renowned Rapidograph® Technical pens which are made in our plants in the United States, and partnered once again with Koh-I-Noor Europe and the Breeza family to bring a cohesive line of professional drawing materials to the USA, Canada and South America. The Koh-I-Noor line of drawing pencils has expanded from the classic graphite pencil to over 20 degrees of graphite, colored and aquarell pencils, pastels, blocks, watercolors, and a plethora of drawing accessories.
We are extremely proud to have participated in the reunification of this prestigious brand.