IIt’s such an early 20th century name: United States Graphite Company. It’s like Consolidated Tin or Amalgamated Jute – a large industrial operation devoted to one product, one commodity, one thing. But even then there were conglomerates; even then companies were diverse. USGC was a branch of Wickes, a company that sold lumber and boilers and sawmill equipment and, eventually, the stuff they stuck in pencils. In the early 20th century, 90% of the nation’s pencils used lead from USGC.

And why is there a fellow wearing a poncho and sombero – the international signs for Mexicans – on the back? That’s where the company had its mines. As the Wickes website puts it:

During the winter months in Michigan, Henry and Edward would frequently travel south to Mexico to enjoy the warm weather and hunt. On one of these trips in the 1890's, the brothers learned of a graphite mine in the desert mountains that was discovered in 1867. Because graphite was not considered a great find in those days (finding gold was a priority for most miners), the mine was abandoned.

"The Wickes brothers were entrepreneurs, and couldn't pass up an opportunity. Though at the time they had no idea what graphite might be used for, they set forth to mine the substance from the mountains of Mexico."

This is why some people succeed and others fail. If your attitude is “it ain’t gold, so screw it” you’re less likely to prosper than the fellow who says “someone will buy this, although I’m damned if I know why.”

The company is still around, and has a bad website to prove it. l around, and has a bad website to prove it.