Rosemary – That’s For Remembrance

If you go to my search box, up there on the right hand side, and enter ‘Rosemary’ or ‘National Security’ as a search term, you’ll find some exceptionally beautiful pens, jade and lapis lazuli among them.  Those pens pose some interesting questions.

In a sense we know quite a lot about them.  They were manufactured on behalf of British Carbon Papers by Henry Stark, Son, and Hamilton and possibly Conway Stewart.  We know that ‘Rosemary, that’s for remembrance’ which appears on the pens and the boxes is a Shakespearean quote from Ophelia’s speech in Hamlet.  ‘National Security’ appears to be self-explanatory.  And yet knowing, those things, there seems to be a deeper mystery.  No one seems to know very much about British Carbon Papers, which must have been a company of significant size in the 1920s and 1930s, by time it could have these high quality pens made.  It would be wonderful to know who in the company was tasked with the creation of these pens.

It would also be enlightening to know who decided on the names of the pens and what the thinking was behind them.  After all, ‘Rosemary, that’s for remembrance’ and ‘National Security’ are quite unusual names for pens.  It is said, with what authority I know not, that Rosemary is in remembrance of the fallen in World War I.  I certainly wouldn’t dispute that.  It seems highly likely.  Why did the person responsible hold remembrance in such importance that he/she named a range of pens after it?  Were family members of the directorship of British Carbon Papers casualties of World War I?

And then ‘National Security’.  Isn’t that a rather odd thing to call a pen?  Wracking such brains as I have, I can’t think of another British pen that’s called after a concept, especially a concept that has nothing to do with writing.  Again, no one could sensibly suggest that national security isn’t important and, in a sense, it does tie up with the theme of remembrance in that the war was an extension of national security.  Those thousands of soldiers gave their lives to keep Britain secure.

We’ll never know with certainty but there seems to be a story there.  Someone in British Carbon Papers was still grieving a family loss when they sent out the order for the company’s pens, and they also wanted to emphasise the need for military readiness.  Of course, we know now how right they were, and that another conflict of immense proportions was only a few years away.

4 thoughts on “Rosemary – That’s For Remembrance

  1. BCP is a very interesting (but incredibly difficult) company to research – though several people interested in British pen history have tried, with little progress. BCP sold many inventive sets and pens under the Rosemary and National Security brand names for about 15 years through the 20s and 30s, but because they operated outside the Stationery Trades Association, there is virtually no advertising information to go on. To the best of my knowledge, the only existing advertising comprises two colour BCP Christmas leaflets, from the mid and late 1930s. Current perceived wisdom is that Henry Stark Son & Hamilton were responsible for much of the BCP early output, but this is only based on the fact that they shared a registered address. Even less is known about HSSH than BCP – there seems to be none of their own advertising, and I know of only a handful of actual pens bearing the HSSH manufacturer’s name.

    I did some research on BCP for my forthcoming book on the CS Dinkie (because of the popular Rosemary Dinkie look-alikes), and I would be fairly certain that CS (or the other major players such as DLR & Mabie Todd) were never involved with BCP, primarily because of the Trade Association issues. I think Langs, Wyvern and Jewel are the likely contenders for the source of later BCP pens, but this is no more than a vaguely educated guess.

    It has been said that a portion of the sales from Rosemary pens were donated to the WW1 war-widows fund. Though this belief has been held for many years, I have seen no firm evidence for this either, and it could just be another one of those many tenets that have become (incorrectly) entrenched in pen history over the years without the supporting evidence.

    More research on BCP and HSSH is on my ‘to do’ list if I can ever afford to give up the day job.

  2. While there is debate over the Rosemary’s there is little doubt that the later National Securities are Lang’s products. Most are identical to their Stephens and Summit contemporaries.

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