Scholar's Companion Patriotic Pencil Box

image for Scholar's Companion Patriotic Pencil Box
Public schools encouraged the Americanization of newcomers with programs and images intended to inspire patriotism. In most classrooms, American flags hung alongside images of the American eagle and George Washington. Even the smallest of school supplies inspired patriotic thoughts. The lid of this Scholar’s Companion wooden pencil box has colorful illustrations of a globe, shield, American flag, and a bald eagle surrounding a stylized “ABC” motif. Other small containers such as stationery boxes, tobacco containers, and liqueur novelty boxes were also used to hold writing implements.
Scholar’s Companions were made in Germany from 1895-1915 and were imported to New York City stationery stores and school suppliers. They often had locks on them, as this one does, as supplies were costly. The boxes cost 10 cents each unfilled and the price would increase as accessories were added. They were marketed to parents or grandparents as gifts for students, and were advertised as equipment to lead to a student’s success, which would have resonated with many parents but particularly immigrants sacrificing to provide a better life for their children. Inside the box is a key to the lock, three patriotic slate pencils and a small glass ink well. On the bottom is an inscription written in black pencil, "Miles W. Umberger; Companion Box when he started school 6 years old." Miles Walter Umberger was born June 22, 1896. His father was a farmer, and he was a student in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania when he received this pencil box as a gift. Miles or Myles was drafted into the military in 1917 for World War I and again at the age of 46 in 1942 for World War II.
Credit Line
Gift of Dr. Richard Lodish American School Collection
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Cultural and Community Life: Education
Many Voices, One Nation
Many Voices, One Nation
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
place made
United States: Pennsylvania, Lebanon
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
paper (cover material)
metal (lock material)
brass (hinges material)
overall: 3.5 cm x 21.2 cm x 6 cm; 1 3/8 in x 8 11/32 in x 2 3/8 in
National Museum of American History
Object Name
pencil box