Shopping from the Movies: Pencil Sharpeners

Outfitting the new office in The Good Fairy (Sturges 1932)

If you’re like us, you’ve given up purchasing new desk accessories. Current offerings at stores such as Staples are uninspired. We prefer to comb thrift store aisles for tape dispensers, pen holders, metal files and the occasional typewriter.

Movies are an excellent source for office supplies. We recommend shopping from films of the nineteen thirties. Desk accessories from this era were well made with an emphasis on scientific precision and good design.

Case and point is the pencil sharpening “instrument” purchased by Dr. Max Sporum in The Good Fairy (Sturgess 1932).

“Ah, there it is! You don’t know how much this means to me.”

“Have you ever wanted something all your life and then suddenly it arrives?”

“This was my great ambition.”

“So smooth. It must have ball bearings.”

“Glorious! Like a needle. Have you ever seen such a point?”
“It takes all sizes.”

“If you paid a little more attention to pencil sharpeners, you might not work in a stationery shop all your life.”

Were his sharpener to give out after a decade, here are some options for Dr. Sporum:

From the Montgomery Ward catalog (1947)

11 thoughts on “Shopping from the Movies: Pencil Sharpeners”

  1. Boston sent all their production to China, or so I’ve read. They used to be the best, now, apparently, they are not worth the money. Typical MBA approach. Buy the name then destroy the reputation. Bastards.

  2. Ohhhhhh I love “The Good Fairy” and her “genuine foxene” stole.

    As a side note, my parents have had the same Boston pencil sharpener in the downstairs closet since they moved in. It’s worked for 40 years.

  3. Jing–

    Your best option is to search for a second hand sharpener…perhaps from the the parents of fellow blog readers. I’m pretty sure that there are still many archival sharpeners still bolted to the laundry room cabinets of our ancestral homes.

    Ebay is a good secondary source. Look for Boston models made in the U.S.A.


    You’re right to be angry. I did a spot check on pencil sharpeners and none seem to be made in the u.s. I was amazed by the component materials in the models available through the MW cat: stainless steel blades, chrome plated catcher, etc. Sounds nicer than my Subaru.


    I think the Foxine stole and faux furs in films might be worthy of a future guest post. Here’s a reference photo:


  4. hahahahahaha I love the fake animal head and legs on the fake animal product. By the way, lots of use of real fur on the latest discs of “Dallas”. I suspect it came out of their competition with those fox/rabbit/mink killers over on “Dynasty”.

    Sorry, Jing, no getting that sharpener away from my parents. At this point it’s concreted to the drywall.

  5. My parents have the old Boston Ranger with the suction base. No drilling required. It is older than I am and I hope to inherit it.

  6. I had a Boston pencil sharpener growing up that I loved. It mysteriously vanished. I scored a couple of excellent specimens off of eBay and absolutely love them. The design really can’t be improved upon.

  7. Most stores are stationary, but only a few are stationery stores. I like ’em, myself.

    Thanks for all this! I love it but for that typo!

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